Receiving a standing ovation as he accepted the 1995 Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for outstanding young leadership, Rich Seiler said, "Not since my bar mitzvah, have I given a speech to so many Jews in one room at a time."
The Dinkelspiel Award, given annually to a federation volunteer age 40 or under, was one of several honors presented at the S.F.- based Jewish Community Federation's 85th annual meeting, held recently at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.
New officers were also elected and Community Awards of Excellence were presented, honoring the achievements of volunteers and staff, and recognizing innovative programs.
Seiler, 40, said he learned about the importance of giving back to the Jewish community through his parents' example. In fact, just four years ago, when his father, Don, a JCF past president and longtime Jewish community leader, was honored by the federation's Endowment Fund, Seiler was there to cheer him on.
An investment broker with Paine & Webber in Menlo Park, Seiler is a lifelong resident of the South Peninsula. Currently serving as chair of the JCF's annual campaign in the South Peninsula region and vice president of the South Peninsula Council, Seiler said having a family of his own motivated him to become fully active in the Jewish community.
"That's when I learned that living a life of Jewish quality does not happen by itself," he said. "There are a lot of Jews in need. It's one thing to talk about wanting to help them, it's another to actually get in there and do it."
Seiler and his wife, Susan, are the parents of Matthew, 9, and Alexandra, 4. An active member of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Seiler chairs the JCF South Peninsula region's planning and allocations committee, serves on the JCF board of directors and was a board member and treasurer of the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center.
In other news, Barney Cohen was named Volunteer of the Year for service spanning 13 years with the Holocaust Center of Northern California. As the center's primary archivist, Cohen catalogs and preserves personal memorabilia of victims and survivors, government documents and rare photographs.
The Professional of the Year award went to Anita Friedman, executive director of the Jewish Family and Children's Services. Friedman, who joined the agency in 1979 to head the emigre resettlement program and was named executive director in 1984, now oversees a staff of 140 in 14 locations from Palo Alto through Santa Rosa.
The Program of the Year was awarded to Art for Recovery, a joint program of the UCSF/Mount Zion Medical Center and the Marin campus of Brandeis Hillel Day School. Through this program, established in 1992, Brandeis students write letters and create art, which is then delivered to their pen pals — Mount Zion cancer and AIDS patients.
The Program of Distinction was given to the Feast of Jewish Learning. Created by the Bureau of Jewish Education, the program aims to boost participation in local Jewish education. And in a weeklong Feast involving 130 Jewish groups, 5,000 adults and children attended lectures, Shabbat dinners, day school activities, classes and special events.
The JCF Staff Person of the Year — the first award of its kind — went to Mairin O'Mahony, who has worked at the federation for some 20 years. Credited with helping to launch the Young Adults Division, she joined the JCF in 1964, left after five years to pursue a career in advertising, and returned in 1980 to work as an administrative assistant in the Women's Division.
The JCF, which projects that it will have raised $18.6 million by next week, also elected 1995-96 board members and officers, including first-term office holders Madelyn Carmel, Susan Folkman, Robert M. Levison, Jr., Rabbi Alan Lew, Dr. Donald Linker, Robert Newman, Janis Sherman Popp, Lisa Pritzker, Sally Steiermann, Sandra Schnitzer and Ronald C. Wornick. Outgoing members honored were Rabbi Richard A. Block, Neill H. Brownstein, John Freidenrich, Sally Gradinger, Barbara Isackson, Victor L. Marcus, Sora Lei Newman, Susan Scherman, Richard S. Seiler, Igor Tartakovsky, Women's Division president Kathy Williams and YAD president Karen Katz. Richard Swig was recognized for his achievement as 1995 campaign chair.
The event closed with a salute to Israel Consul General Jehudi Kinar, who will soon take a post in Toronto.