Thursday, April 30, 2015

NextGen Hosts Yappy Hour

On Tuesday, April 28, more than 50 Jewish young adults along with their canine friends gathered at DogHouse Bar and Grill in Hillcrest for another great NextGen Happy Hour event.

Once per month, NextGen hosts happy hours to bring Jewish young adults from all throughout San Diego together to mingle, nosh, and meet new people. This happy hour was certainly unique, as it was the first time that the invitation was extended to the four-legged friends of NextGen members. In addition to the 50 schmoozing humans, more than 25 dogs showed up to meet new Jewish friends! Laughter, L’chaims, and barks radiated throughout the venue.

According to attendee feedback, the event was a great way to build, unite, and bring together the NextGen community.

“Yappy Hour was an absolute blast, I had no idea how many NextGeners had dogs,” said Danny Fleischer, NextGen Manager. “Unfortunately, 828 Events – next week’s gala venue – doesn’t permit dogs, but I still can’t wait to see everyone at World of Good on May 9th.”

Click here to view the Yappy Hour photo album.

Click here to purchase your World of Good ticket – an event not to be missed!

Friday, April 24, 2015

2015 Yom HaShoah Commemoration Ceremony

On Sunday, April 19, hundreds of San Diegans filled the auditorium of the Lawrence Family JCC for the Jewish Federation of San Diego County’s annual Yom HaShoah commemoration ceremony, which was a collaborative effort on behalf of several local Jewish community partners.

The 2015 Yom HaShoah Commemoration Ceremony was a combined effort on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, San Diego Center for Jewish Culture, Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Family Service, New Life Club, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS, San Diego Rabbinical Association, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.

The theme of this year’s ceremony was From Auschwitz to Activism – 70 Years on From the Holocaust. The ceremony honored two local survivors, Lou Dunst – and his liberator, Bob Persinger – and Rose Schindler, who recently attended the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in Poland.

The touching ceremony commenced with a moving introductory speech from Yom HaShoah committee Chair, Barbara Ostroff. The program included captivating video footage and images, a color guard performance reminiscent of the concentration camps liberation, a musical presentation, and a candle lighting ceremony, where candles were lit by survivors and their families in memory of the 6 million Jews who were killed.

Several local Rabbis, including Rabbi Rosenthal, Lawson, Greenstein, and Kopikas conducted a meaningful prayer service, where eight candles were lit to embrace survivors through the fourth generation. The ceremony concluded with Lou Dunst leading a community-wide recitation of the Kaddish – the mourner’s prayer and local Jewish youth groups singing the Hatikvah – Israel’s national anthem, with heart warmth radiating throughout the entire auditorium.

Each year, a local ‘righteous gentile’ is selected by the committee to honor the many gentiles who helped to save countless Jewish lives during the Holocaust. This year, Bishop Sarhad Jammo, of the Iraqi Christian community lit the eighth candle.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Windmueller, discussed what it means when we say ‘never again’ and spoke about global anti-Semitism. He encouraged world leaders not to stand by during times when evil-doers are promoting present day genocide or planning future holocaust scenarios.

In the words of the Chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, “it is not enough to remember, we must take action; we are obligated to teach our children tolerance and to understand others,” said Chairman, Roman Kent at the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz in Poland. “Hate is never right and love is never a mistake. We don’t want our past to be our children’s future.

Click here, to view more photos from the 2015 Yom HaShoah photo album.

Toda Raba to all who attended and helped to make this year’s Yom HaShoah Commemoration such a remarkable and memorable ceremony.

Hundreds of San Diegans Remember Israel's Fallen Soldiers

On Tuesday, April 21, the San Diego Jewish community came together in solidarity to honor loved ones and close friends who lost their lives fighting for Israel’s independence and its continued existence for Yom HaZikaron—Israel’s Day of Remembrance. The national day of remembrance – observed by Jewish communities around the world – is dedicated to honoring soldiers who fell in Israel’s wars and as victims of terror.

Approximately 500 San Diegans attended the moving ceremony that took place at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center on the eve of Yom HaZikaron. This year’s memorial service hit close to home for many, as it gave special recognition to the soldiers who fell this past summer during Operation Protective Edge and the lone soldiers who died serving in Israel.

The Yom HaZikaron program commenced with the special recognition of soldiers who recently lost their lives, which pulled on the heartstrings of those in attendance. After the emotional commencement, the Israeli flag was lowered as a siren blared throughout the auditorium. The service included a special candle lighting ceremony, where members of our local community were invited to light candles in honor of family members that they’ve lost. During the candle lighting ceremony a candle was lit for victims of terror in Sha’ar HaNegev – San Diego’s sister region in Southern Israel, which is located just miles from the Gaza border and is constantly plagued by terror attacks, violence, and rocket fire.

The ceremony included a community-wide recitation of the Yizkor – a special remembrance prayer (read only on certain Jewish holidays) and the El Maleh Rachamim – a prayer for the souls of those who have departed; the reading of poems; remarkable video footage; and songs relating to Yom Hazikaron. The program concluded with the Hatikvah – Israel’s national anthem.

The aim of the annual memorial ceremony, which was a collaboration on behalf of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, Chabad, San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir, Tzofim of Shevet Galim, and the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, was to bring the entire San Diego Jewish community together to not only honor all soldiers who died while protecting our Jewish homeland, but also to connect as a one, unified Jewish community.

Toda Raba to all those who attended and helped to make this year’s Yom HaZikaron ceremony so extraordinarily memorable and remarkable.

Federation Connects with North County for Memorable Yom HaShoah

On Saturday, April 18, Federation joined San Diego’s North County Jewish community for their joint Yom HaShoah Ceremony. The North County Holocaust Commemoration Ceremony, in its fourth year, is an annual collaboration between Temple Adat Shalom and Congregation Ner Tamid. This year, Federation was delighted to have the opportunity to sponsor and partake in the moving community-wide ceremony.

The North County Commemoration was more than just a Yom HaShoah ceremony. This unique, collaborative effort came about more than four years ago when Rabbi David Castiglione and Cantor Lori Frank of Temple Adat Shalom and Rabbi Nadav Caine of Congregation Ner Tamid met to discuss the limitations they were experiencing in regards to serving the needs of the large Jewish population residing in North County San Diego.

“We realized that there was no one ‘center’ to the San Diego Jewish community, and that by having multiple centers as anchors to Jewish life and community in San Diego makes us stronger,” said Rabbi Caine. “After all, North County Inland has a large Jewish community with three major synagogues that are within walking distance from each other, and that was what led us to establish our first joint Yom HaShoah Ceremony almost five years ago.”

Since its inception, each year, the North County Yom HaShoah Commemoration Ceremony features a narrative of a local Holocaust survivor that is read by the rabbis; a sermon that applies the message of Yom HaShoah to today; and the lighting of ‘the seventh memorial candle’ – a candle lit to remember survivors who have since passed and joined their relatives in the next life. Every year, the service begins with North County Holocaust survivors being escorted to the front of the congregation by children to symbolize l’dor vador – from generation to generation, which is a major highlight of the ceremony.

This year, more than 200 San Diegans were in attendance for the annual ceremony. Dr. Steven Windmueller, PH.D., Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, delivered the sermon. Dr. Windmueller discussed what it means when we say ‘never again’ and spoke about global anti-Semitism.

This year’s narrative featured the memoir of Ner Tamid Congregant, Walter Steinweg z”ll.

Walter survived a grueling ordeal of labor for many years while working as a juvenile for the SS, mostly in the Riga Ghetto, where he watched both of his parents and family members die. After he was liberated, Walter came to the U.S., but was only granted citizenship upon agreeing to enlist in the armed forces to serve in the frontlines of the Korean War. Walter Steinweg passed away this past year, and his beloved wife Marilyn lit "the seventh memorial candle."

“The collaboration that is currently happening between North County Jewish communal organizations is incredible to witness, and I look forward to seeing such collaborations throughout the entire Jewish community of San Diego,” said Michael Sonduck, CEO of Federation.

Collaborative efforts and events between North County temples and synagogues have yielded impressive results. This year, both organizations teamed up for an annual “Global Day of Jewish Learning” event, where both religious schools and adult education programs are combined into a special curriculum for a Sunday morning celebration of Jewish education.

“This is the first year the Jewish Federation of San Diego County has sponsored this Saturday night service as the North County Inland Yom HaShoah service,” said Rabbi Nadav Caine. “ We hope to continue [such] collaboration by reaching out to other Jewish groups in Inland [and beyond] to join us.”

The North County Yom HaShoah Ceremony illustrates how Federation is actively building community partnerships to create a stronger, more inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable Jewish community.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Federation & JFS Prepare Community for Annual Advocacy Day

Ashley Harrington, Manager of Public Affairs and Young Adults Initiatives at Jewish Family Service San Diego contributed to this article.
In preparation for the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California’s (JPAC) upcoming annual Advocacy Day, San Diego Jewish community professionals hosted two community-wide training sessions.

JPAC is the largest single-state coalition of Jewish organizations in the nation, comprised of local Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Relations Committees and Councils, and other Jewish community advocacy groups from throughout California. JPAC advocates on behalf of Jewish social service agencies, traditional community concerns, and broadly shared values that affect the citizens of our State. Each May, during Annual Advocacy Day, Jewish community leaders, and professionals from throughout the state gather in Sacramento to network with legislators and administration officials and lobby their representatives on public policies that are of importance to the wider Jewish community.

This April, Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County hosted two impactful Community Advocacy Trainings. The first community training was at Congregation Beth El and the second training was at Temple Emanu-El, which was aimed towards Jewish community members residing in East County, in particular congregants of Tifereth Israel, Beth Jacob, Ohr Shalom, and Temple Emanu-El. The trainings were part of a Community Connections series – a JFS and Federation partnership focusing on community-wide education and fostering a greater connection to other communities – Jewish and non-Jewish – throughout San Diego.

For the first time, the series partnered with synagogues to offer advocacy trainings to their Social Action Committees and congregants. The trainings provided congregants, Rabbis, and administrative staff with best practices on how to advocate and inform participants about the many Jewish values and traditions that are behind advocacy work.

During the trainings Rabbi Gerson of Congregation Beth Israel and Rabbi Marcus of Temple Emanu-El discussed various Torah portions and traditions that require us to advocate on behalf of those in need. Rooted in the concept of inherent human dignity, much of the Rabbis’ impassioned support called on attendees to care for the well being of all vulnerable members of our community – locally and globally.

The trainings featured two local lobbyists—Kristen Byrne (Vice President of MJE Marketing) and Rachel Laing (Principal at Laing Strategic Communications)—who shared their decades of experience in messaging, communications, and advocacy work in San Diego. They de-mystified advocacy and boiled down lobbying to the essential elements—getting your message in front of a decision maker, sharing facts, figures, & personal stories, following up, and activating the media and community around your cause. 

Click here to view 2015 Legislative priorities. Click here to view the 2015 agenda. 

Are you looking to make a difference and put your advocacy skills to work? Join the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California on May 11 & 12 in Sacramento for Advocacy Day.

Click here to register now.  

Amsterdam Pastor Leads Jewish Solidarity Campaign

On April 21, The Jerusalem Post published an article titled “Israeli Flags Fly High in Amsterdam as part of Solidarity Campaign,” written by Michelle Malka Grossman. The article discusses the European Jewish Association’s (EJA) new solidarity campaign to fight anti-Semitism in Europe and highlights one Pastor’s journey as he leads the charge in the streets of Amsterdam.

EJA’s solidarity campaign calls on non-Jewish Europeans to wear Jewish symbols and film themselves walking down the street to show their opposition to rising Anti-Semitism, and that is exactly what Pastor Stan Kamps set out to do.

“The idea is to get an many non-Jews as possible to wear Jewish symbols and show solidarity and that they are a part of the silent majority that is not anti-Semitic,” said Pastor Stan Kamps. “ The idea is to do like the ice bucket challenge and get thousands to publish the videos on Facebook and Twitter.”

Kamps has a deep-rooted family history when it comes to standing up for Jews in Europe. In the article, Kamps recalls his uncle and father being arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews in their country farm. Kamp was inspired to join the campaign after reading a Jerusalem Post article about anti-Semitism faced by Holland’s Chief Rabbi, where he learned that in the past few years it has become commonplace for people on the street to yell anti-Semitic terms at the Rabbi and other Jewish community members.

“I hope this will encourage others to stand up for our Jewish neighbors and for Israel,” said Kamps. “ It has to start somewhere and I know that with God’s help we can make a difference. I say let it start with me. So many people believe the lies and the propaganda they are being fed about Israel. This is why I go out with my Israeli flag, to encourage Jewish and Israeli people, and to speak with others [who] will listen about the truth in regards to Israel.”

Click here to read the full article.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Federation’s First Cuba Mission

Two weeks before Passover, 30 loyal donors joined Federation staff, Miriam Norten, head of Legacy Society and Missions, and Michael Sonduck, Federation President and CEO, on a Mission to Cuba. The Mission was filled with several firsts, including the Jewish Federation of San Diego County’s first Mission to Cuba and most donors first trip to the country.

The aim of the Mission was to expose participants to Cuba’s Jewish life and community, its deep-rooted history, the country’s colorful culture, and its rich art. The other primary focus of the Mission was to deliver medication and money to purchase essential items and other goods specifically requested by the Cuban Jewish community. Prior to the Mission, a great deal of medication was procured thanks to donations from several generous health professionals in our local community.

On March 18, the group left San Diego and arrived in Miami, where they boarded a group flight to Havana, Cuba to spend not a long, but a good time together. For five days, the group took in much of what the city had to offer, marveling at art in the many galleries and museums, touring the city’s historic streets, exploring architecture, and experiencing traditional cuisine. The enjoyment of Cuba’s lively culture was an experience shared by the whole group, and according to feedback, it made for an extraordinary and impossible-to-replicate bonding experience.

When not indulging in Cuban culture, participants spent the majority of their time during the five-day Mission learning about Jewish life in Cuba. Mission participants visited Jewish community centers, synagogues, and notable Jewish memorials in Havana. There, they had the opportunity to meet Cuban Jewish community members of all ages and to experience what it means to be a Jew living in Cuba today.

Exposure to Jewish life in Cuba was an eye-opening experience for many, as participants witnessed firsthand the vast differences — as well as the similarities — between our local San Diego Jewish community and this overseas, yet not-so-distant, Jewish community located just miles off the U.S. coast.

“It’s easy to see stark decay and issues in other stressed Jewish communities, but it’s more difficult to recognize such stresses and issues facing our own community,” said Selwyn Isakow. “In San Diego we have such low rates of participation in Jewish community; I left [Cuba] feeling that as privileged leaders in our community, it is our duty to build and not just to observe Jewish community. Otherwise, the trends outlined in the Pew research study will inevitably lead to a similar demise in our own community.”

Upon arrival in Cuba, San Diegans were presented with a grim statistic: only 10 percent of the Jewish population remains in Cuba, while the other 90 percent of Jewish community members have left! However, the general consensus of most participants was that the community was bright, tight-knit, sufficiently thriving, and indeed alive.

“I was surprised to see so many Jews, considering that the religion was banned for so long. It was a very unified Jewish community that all members work hard to preserve by being active community members, taking care of one another, contributing value to the community, and engaging youth,” said Esther Michan. “It’s amazing what the Jewish community as a whole has been able to accomplish — in such short time.”

However, as participants learned, Cuba is limited in resources, lacking critical supplies that we as Americans often take for granted, like access to life-saving medications. The group visited three synagogues in Havana, which also serve as community pharmacies that provide medication to Jewish and non-Jewish locals. After visiting the synagogues, listening to local leaders, and conversing with Jewish community members, participants were able to grasp the severity of Cuba’s medicine shortage.

Participants were shocked to learn that although Cuba’s healthcare system is advanced (more or less), intact, and provides citizens with well-trained doctors, access to basic medication –– even for the most common sicknesses — is extremely limited in the country. According to feedback, donors felt that bringing and distributing medication was not only the most fulfilling aspect of the Mission, but also an exemplary depiction of what Federation does to care for all Jews in need overseas.

“My one major takeaway was seeing how Federation dollars directly impacted Jewish community in Cuba,” said Lori Polin, Mission co-chair. “The impact that our dollars make was extremely evident, and the benefits seemed to be felt by the entire Jewish community, especially by youth and younger adults, which was a lovely change from previous Missions that have focused on providing care for elderly Jewish adults.”

 Thank you note written by leaders of Havana's Jewish community addressed to the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.
Upon reflecting on the Mission, a handful of participants mentioned some remarkable experiences that they shared with young Cuban Jews and expressed some highly intriguing outlooks about the future of Cuba’s Jewish community based on those interactions.

“It seems that the people are caught up in the excitement, especially young people, about change and potential equality,” said Liz Coden. “I witnessed a very involved and cohesive young Jewish community, where youngsters are exposed to American culture via participating in Maccabi Games, going on Birthright, and traveling to the U.S. Yet most young Cuban Jews choose to stay because they are motivated by hopes of improvement in the quality of life. Instead of making aliyah, like the majority of their peers, many young Jews plan to remain in Cuba, enthusiastic about future societal changes, which I find to be impressive.”

“I found that young people want to leave, but at the same time they want to preserve the Jewish community, which is an extremely interesting concept to me,” said Deborah Gerber. “People have the opportunity to leave and many are doing so, however, it surprised me how deeply rooted families were in not only being Cuban, but also in being Cuban Jews and members of the local Jewish community.”

Some participants, on the other hand, had very different impressions based on their personal interactions with youth. “On a few occasions, my husband and I engaged with young people, and upon pointing out what the future holds for them and all that is to come within the next 10 years, I could sense a lack of optimism felt by the youth in each scenario,” said Lori Polin.

In short, participant sentiment regarding the future of Cuba’s Jewish community and what it holds for young people was mixed. Regardless of the varied reactions, Mission participants painted a very vivid portrait of Cuba’s tight-knit Jewish community, which possess its own unique culture.

“This was my fifth Mission, and what made this one different was that this Mission was about a happy group of people who want to be Jewish, desire Jewish culture, and are seeking outlets to practice religion,” said Dr. Lisa Glazer. “The Mission provided a glimmer of insight into what I first saw in Poland, a resurgence of Jewish life, but in a new form that is constantly evolving, yet one that works for Cuba’s Jewish community.”

Missions, irrespective of location, are about caring for all Jews in need, uniting Jewish communities, and fostering meaningful connections between Jewish communities, near and far. This is exactly what Federation sought to achieve when it brought together hundreds of Cuban Jews for a Friday night Shabbat service and community-wide Havdallah celebration, a highlight of everyone’s Mission. 

A young Jewish Cuban boy enjoying the Havdallah celebration with his new San Diego friends.
Federation and donors supported the community-wide Havdallah celebration by providing transportation for hundreds of car-less Cubans, to and from the event, and by offering a Saturday night meal. This allowed for more than 350 Cubans to share the special Shabbat experience with San Diego Jewish community members.

“This was my first time on a Federation Mission, and the entire experience was wonderful,” said Valerie Viterbi. “In my opinion, the best way to foster connections with other Jewish communities is to experience their everyday lives, wherever that might be in the world, and I now feel that Missions are a great way to accomplish such goals.”

Federation aims to provide donors with the highest caliber of Mission experiences in an effort to care for, expose, and connect San Diegans to Jewish communities all over the world. As you’ve just read and have most likely heard by now, Federation Missions are a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect not only with worldwide Jewry, but also as a means to connect or reconnect with your own personal Jewish identity.

Click here, to stay up-to-date on upcoming Missions. If you’re interested in participating in upcoming Federation Missions or have any questions, please contact Miriam Norten.

Local Holocaust Survivor Featured on KPBS

CLICK HERE to read the full story, listen to the audio recording, and to view the live footage.

From left to right: Heather Wolfson, Federation's Senior Director of Community Partnerships and Lou Dunst, 91-year old, local Holocaust survivor and anchor Peggy Picco.

In honor of Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, KPBS aired a radio and live tv segment featuring Lou Dunst, a local Holocaust survivor and Heather Wolfson, Federation's Senior Director of Community Partnerships. Both segments, which aired on March 16, discussed the what Holocaust Remembrance Day is, its significance, and featured Lou's incredible story of survival.

CLICK HERE to read the full story, listen to the audio recording, and to view the live footage.

CLICK HERE to learn about San Diego's Community Holocaust Commemoration Ceremonies, From Auschwitz to Activism - 70 Years on From the Holocaust, taking place Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Congregation Ner Tamid (the North County Ceremony) and on Sunday, April 19, at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center at 1:30 p.m.

Both events are FREE and open to the public. 

The entire community is invited and welcome to attend the commemoration to remember the 11 million innocent lives that were taken, honor  survivors, and to learn what it means when we say "never again."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Statement on Holocaust Remembrance Week from Juan Vargas

Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) issued the following statement in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Week:

“April 12-19, 2015 marks Holocaust Remembrance week worldwide. This is a time for us to reflect on the atrocities committed during one of the darkest periods in the world’s history. During these days, we take the opportunity to recommit ourselves to say: ‘never again’. Recounting the stories of Holocaust victims and survivors, serves as a reminder of the pain and suffering brought upon by hatred and violence.

“I invite my colleagues in Congress and my constituents of the 51st District of California to honor Holocaust Remembrance Week as we strive to foster a more tolerant world.”

Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District, which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire US/Mexico border. Vargas is currently serving his first term in Congress. He represented the 40th California State Senate District from 2010-2012, the 79th California State Assembly District from 2000 – 2006 and served on the San Diego City Council from 1993 – 2000.

Yom HaZikaron | Save the Date | April 21

Yom Hazikaron is a day dedicated to remembering all those have died fighting for the State of Israel in acts of terror. During this somber day, the entire nation of Israel express their gratitude to close family and dear friends who gave their lives for Israel’s independence and continued existence. Join the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, local partner organizations, and the San Diego Jewish community in honoring the fallen soldiers of Israel in this year’s memorial ceremony on Tuesday, April 2015.
CLICK HERE, to learn more. 

Community Advocacy Training | April 21

CLICK HERE to register for April 21st advocacy training. 

CLICK HERE to register for April 21st advocacy training. 

Join Us for Israel Fest 2015 | April 26

Attend this FREE community celebration. CLICK HERE for more information.

CLICK HERE to register for the Friendship Circle walk.

Friendship Circle Walk | Save the Date | April 26

CLICK HERE to register.

The Friendship Circle is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide programs and support to the families of individuals with special needs. In addition to offering fun social outings and events for families to enjoy, the Friendship Circle provides friendship to individuals with special needs through a network of teen volunteers who want to make a difference. In this way, volunteers discover the impact of selfless giving that will last them a lifetime.

Pre-registered walkers receive a FWSD 2015 tee-shirt.
Your own personal fundraising webpage is automatically created when you register. Raise funds and help make a difference in the lives of children, teens and adults with special needs right here in our community. 

Enjoy a beautiful morning at the park with hundreds of old and new friends. Run, jog, walk or roll on the wheelchair and stroller friendly 5k walk route. Stay to join in the celebration at "Israel Fest" sponsored by the Jewish Federation of San Diego

Sponsorships available. 
Business, family or individual walk sponsors or underwriters 
please call 858.487.4879 for details.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Women’s Philanthropy Welcomes 50 Newcomers for Passover

Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County is making sure everyone has somewhere to celebrate this Passover. The women launched a Passover Seder Matching program as part of Shalom San Diego – Federation’s new initiative that aims to transform San Diego into the most welcoming Jewish community in the nation.

The women collaborated with more than 25 local community partners and congregations to ensure everyone had a Seder to attend. They also launched a Passover Seder Matching program, which connected individuals seeking a more intimate Seder experience to the homes of host families.

Ten generous host families volunteered to host Seders in their homes, and a warm welcome was extending to more than 50 people – mostly new residents to San Diego and those seeking to become more involved in Jewish life.  Here’s what participants had to say:

“I was so glad that my son and I had somewhere to go for Passover,” said one program participant. We felt very left out on Rosh Hashanah and ended up eating dinner at Elijah’s in La Jolla. This holiday was much better, and I loved meeting the other families at the Seder.”

“Opening up my home and inviting families with no place to go for Passover was a total no brainer, it’s just part of being Jewish and embracing tradition,” said Silvana Christy, the program’s co-chair. “Hosting strangers at my Passover Seder table gave me a very warm feeling, and it was important for me because I was able to show my children that the Jewish holidays are about including others.”

One host, Cheryl Horn, an active leader and volunteer in the San Diego Jewish community, hosted 22 newcomers.

“I was pleased to host and be a part of such a pleasant Seder, which lasted until 1:30 in the morning!” said Cheryl. “Despite the various levels of affiliation and mixed age range – which I very much appreciated – everyone participated and expressed interest in learning about Passover customs, even the gentlemen who had never been to a Seder before. In fact, the unplanned educational component of the Seder was my favorite part, as my husband and I loved answering the outpour of questions that we received from our intrigued guests. All night, I witnessed meaningful connections being made, making for a unique and very special Seder.”

“The success of the Passover Seder Matching program is just the most recent example – one of the many – that demonstrates a strong desire and shared vision on behalf of our local community— i.e., the need to be a more welcoming, connected, and inclusive Jewish community, in order to maintain a vibrant and sustainable Jewish community for our children and for their children,” said Lisa Kalal, Director of Women’s Philanthropy. “ I want to personally thank all community partners, volunteers, hosts, and program co-chairs for opening your homes and hearts this Passover.”

All of this is only possible thanks to your generosity. Together, WE do extraordinary things.

JFS & JCRC Host Senior Policy Panel

This article written by Ashley Harrington, Manager of Public Affairs and Young Adults Initiatives at Jewish Family Service San Diego.

Have you ever wondered how you or your parents will be cared for when living on a fixed income and no longer able to live completely independently? So many San Diego families grapple with this question, and on March 27, Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Community Relations Council hosted a Community Connections event that addressed it head on.

The Community Connections Senior Policy Panel and Congressional Town Hall featured Congressmembers Susan Davis and Scott Peters, who discussed the work being done on the federal level to support San Diego seniors—which ranges from Older Americans Act to biomedical research funding and programs for aging veterans.

Did you know that San Diego County benefits from more than $14 million in Older Americans Act funding each year—and Jewish Family Service is one of the recipients of nearly $1 million of this funding, which supports important programs like Foodmobile? The Older Americans Act has not been reauthorized since 2011, but reauthorization is starting to gain traction in Washington. Congressmembers Davis and Peters encouraged event attendees to engage in advocacy to ensure reauthorization this year.

Now is your chance to tell Congress there is strong backing for the Older Americans Act programs that support millions of older adults’ independence, health and well-being, as well as supporting their caregivers. Call California Senators Boxer & Feinstein and ask them to reauthorize the Older Americans Act with a 12% funding increase. You can reach them at:

• Senator Barbara Boxer: (202) 224-3553

• Senator Dianne Feinstein: (202) 224-3841

The Community Connections program also included a panel of experts who educated over 80 attendees about healthy aging and innovative local programs that support the ability of seniors to age independently in community. We learned that by 2030 one in five Californians will be a senior citizen—today it’s closer to one in ten. The economic and social consequences will be huge, and San Diego is poised to be home to an even greater share of older adults.

This wave of seniors isn’t necessarily a crisis according to panelist Danielle Glorioso, Director of the Center for Healthy Aging at UC San Diego. She sees this population shift as a Golden Wave, and an opportunity for San Diego to develop innovative ways to support healthy aging through scientific research and advancement in our bio-tech sector along with creative service delivery mechanisms that support seniors to age in place.

Panelist Meredith Morgenroth, Director of Transportation at Jewish Family Service, described the innovative and impactful On the Go: Transportation Solutions for Older Adults—a nationally-recognized program—which exists because of the visionary leadership and support of Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation. On the Go has provided over 200,000 rides free of charge to seniors since its inception ten years ago.

Panelist Mark Sellers, Deputy Director of Aging & Independence Services at the County of San Diego reiterated the importance of Older American Act funds in addressing the nutrition, employment, and home safety needs of local seniors.

Kol HaKovod to Friendship Circle San Diego

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County has been a long standing supporter and partner of the Friendship Circle of San Diego. We are proud to support this year's Friendship Circle 5K Walk to raise community awareness and funds for children and adults with special needs. The event will kick off Federation's annual community-wide Israel celebration - Israel Fest

CLICK HERE to read the full heart-warming article about the Walk in the San Diego Jewish World

CLICK HERE, to register to walk!

The Friendship Circle provides inclusion programming, fun community outings and friendship for children, teens, and adults with disabilities throughout San Diego County.

Jewish Advocacy Fellowship Information Session | April 13

CLICK HERE to Sign Up Today

CLICK HERE to Sign Up Today

Yom HaShoah | Holocaust Commemoration | April 18 & 19

Both events are FREE and open to the public.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Passover in Ukraine

Despite ongoing conflict and a humanitarian crisis, thousands of Jews on both sides of Ukraine’s ceasefire line will celebrate Passover as a unified and resilient Jewish community, thanks to Federation’s partners at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

This year, JDC will be hosting Seder feasts, matzah baking classes, and Passover cooking workshops for thousands of Jews at their 32 social welfare centers located all throughout the region. The JDC will also be delivering approximately 48,000 packages of matzah to Jewish families in need.

“As we engage in our annual Passover activities around Ukraine this year, we are reminded of the holiday’s timeless message of deliverance and our duty to ensure a small taste of hope and joy to those facing despair and an uncertain future,” said Michal Frank, Director of JDC’s Former Soviet Union operation.

In Donetsk and Lugansk – cities severely damaged during fighting and now under separatist control – JDC will host matzah-baking classes for children, Seders for the elderly, and workshops on Passover customs and foods. In Mariupol – a town stricken by rockets located just outside the rebel-held area – children will make matzah together and a special women’s Seder will be held. Similar events are set to occur in Zaporozhie, Artyomovsk, Kramatorsk, and Krovoy Rog.

Farther away from the frontlines, thousands of Jews, including hundreds who have been displaced by the conflict in the separatist-controlled east, will also participate in Passover activities. Seders for the elderly will take place in Kiev, Kharkov, and Odessa at “Warm Homes” – apartments and other facilities where seniors gather to socialize, engage in cultural activities, and celebrate holidays. Kiev’s Beiteinu Center will host a Passover picnic for at risk families and for displaced Jews.

A special “Pesach University” in Dnepropetrovsk is being established to teach young people how to conduct a traditional Seder. At Odessa’s Beit Grand JCC, Passover cooking classes will be held as a part of the community’s Seder activities. In other cities, such as Nikolayev, Kherson, and Kirovograd, visits from young volunteers to isolated, elderly adults and displaced individuals are being arranged as part of the community-wide festivities.

Thanks to your support, thousands of Ukrainian Jews will receive respite from the harsh realities they continue to face every day. Your generosity is ensuring that Ukrainian Jews in need will be able to enjoy Passover celebrations within their communities.

Click here to read JDC’s full article that describes such Passover outreach efforts in great detail. 

You can still help. Federation is collecting donations for Jews in Ukraine. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Passover Federation and JFNA

Dear Community,

On behalf of the Federation Board and staff it is my great pleasure to wish you all a Chag Pesach Sameach - a Happy Passover.

Passover celebrates the great redemption of the past, our Exodus from Egypt, and provides context for expressions of hope for the future. On that note, I would like to share with you a letter from Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO, Jerry Silverman, as he reflects on our important work this Passover.

May your Passover be filled with love, blessings, and the joy of freedom.

Thank you, for all you do.

Michael Sonduck
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Dear Friends,

This Pesach, my family and I look forward to celebrating at home and in our shul with relatives and dear friends. To prepare, many of us will stop by the kosher market to get shmurah matzah, fresh horseradish and many other foods that make this holiday so special.

But this year, there may be a security guard by the door of the market. Friends at my shul may also be volunteering to keep watch.

In Europe, our fellow Jews will be on higher alert still. In France, home to the third largest Jewish community in the world, wearing a kippah while walking down the streets of Paris is now an act of bravery. When Jews sit down to a group Seder at a community center in Denmark, they may keep one eye on the door, and not just for Elijah.

Federations have an important role to play during this turbulent time. Sharing our security expertise, showing solidarity and ensuring that Jews can live safely and securely wherever they choose—whether in France or Denmark or Israel—is central to our work.

Thankfully, European governments have unconditionally condemned the recent anti-Semitic attacks. But it is undeniable that European Jews are less secure today than a decade ago. A recently released Pew study confirms that harassment of Jews has reached a seven-year high. Our Jewish family in Europe is questioning their future.

Should Jews abandon Europe? In the past year, more Jews moved to Israel from France than from any other country. But it would be tragic if every Jew left Europe, abandoning communities that have worked so hard to rebuild in the 70 years since the Shoah.

It is Federations’ role to help both those who choose to move to Israel and those who choose to stay. Support for aliyah is a mainstay of Federations. But so is ensuring that Jews are confident and secure wherever they live.

One of the most important ways we can support Jews in Europe is simply by telling them, “We haven’t forgotten you.” During the JFNA mission to France in February in the aftermath of the attack there, Jewish leaders told us how grateful they were for our presence, our letters of support and our rallies.

Indeed, this past year has truly reminded us of how uniquely positioned Federations are to mobilize in a crisis to support Jews around the world.

When thousands of rockets rained down on Israel last summer, Federations raised $55 million to help Israelis recover and rebuild. Federations have already raised and allocated $4 million to provide food, medicine and financial assistance to the thousands of Jews caught in the crosshairs of the conflict in Ukraine, and are now mobilizing to provide additional help.
As we sit down at our Seder tables to celebrate our annual festival of freedom, let us keep in mind our fellow Jews throughout the world, and remember the difference that Federations make in their lives.

Next year in Jerusalem. Or Paris. Or Kiev. Or wherever Jews choose to live.


Jerry Silverman
President & Chief Executive Officer
The Jewish Federations of North America

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Operation Exodus | 25 Years Later

As Passover approaches, the Jewish Federation of San Diego County would like to take a moment to reflect on Operation Exodus, as this week marks the 25th anniversary of this remarkable moment in history – with significance to our local and international Jewish community.

Just 25 years ago, Federation teamed up with global partner— Jewish Agency For Israel, the leading organization responsible for bringing Jews to Israel, both then and now. Together, they helped more than one million destitute Russian Jews make Aliyah. Just like we come together today, the San Diego Jewish community pulled through in the 1990s – at a time when we were needed most - to make a major impact on the lives of Jewish communities around the world.

Our local Jewish community came together to garner a great deal of charitable support to aid exodus operations, as well as to collect donations for thousands of new immigrant families and to assist refugees in building their new lives – with hundreds of refugees resettling in San Diego.

“This was one of the best moments that I’ve witnessed in our local Jewish community, even to this day. It truly is a highlight of my 18-year career with Federation,” said Miriam Norten, head of Legacy Society and Missions. “Almost everyone in the Jewish community got involved. Donations of pots, pans, sheets, blankets, and all household items imaginable poured in from concerned community members who were eager to help.”

Serendipitously, Federation’s involvement in Operation Exodus 25 years ago spurred the beginning of our deep-rooted relationship with Sha’ar HaNegev, San Diego’s sister region in Israel. At that time in Sha’ar HaNegev, there were unprecedented amounts of youth living on their own in youth villages, called Ibim, without family and with limited access to resources. Federation stepped in to help the young Russian Jews in need; the first juncture that led to a long-standing relationship with our sister city.

This Passover, we reflect on both the ancient and modern-day exodus, and the power of our amazing community. thank you for all you do.

See below note from Jewish Agency for Israel President, Misha Galperin.