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Thursday, July 24, 2014 | return to: supplement, back to school


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back to school |  First job as synagogue’s youth director a natural fit for rabbi’s son

by abra cohen

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When Jory Gwasdoff landed his first job out of college at a synagogue, it didn’t come as any surprise to his parents, who certainly know their way around a congregation.

“I grew up having a very Jewish lifestyle,” said Gwasdoff, who is the son of Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff and cantorial soloist Lindy Passer in Stockton.

Jory Gwasdoff
Jory Gwasdoff
“We celebrated all the holidays, went to temple and were very involved Jewishly,” he said, explaining how Judaism has been intricately involved in his life at Reform Temple Israel in Stockton and Camp Newman in Santa Rosa.

Last month, the 22-year-old became the new youth director at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette.

He replaced Ira Rosenberg who left after three years as youth director to attend rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute for Religion.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Temple Isaiah community,” Gwasdoff said. “The youth programming here has such a phenomenal reputation and I’m excited to be joining the community.”

Gwasdoff says that his experience growing up at Temple Israel and Camp Newman helped solidify his Jewish identity. It was also the place he found his social circle.

“My closest friends were my temple friends and that was a big part of my pride,” Gwasdoff recalled. “We went to temple because that was where my best friends were. It was there that we’d plan what house we’d have a sleepover at that week.”

Gwasdoff graduated in June from the University of Oregon with a degree in social science. While a student, Gwasdoff was involved at Hillel and AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He also served as youth director at Temple Beth Israel in Eugene and spent his junior year studying in Jerusalem.

He plans to draw on those experiences as youth coordinator at Temple Isaiah. In that role, Gwasdoff will be in charge of overseeing programming for 619 kids from fifth grade to high school.

He will also be in charge of Camp Kefli, a summer camp for seventh- and eighth-graders, and the seventh-grade project, known as “the b’nai mitzvah fund.”

Seventh-graders collect donations from parents of bar/bat mitzvah students and donate the proceeds to such organizations as HaGal Sheli, an Israeli empowerment program for youth at risk, and Help a Life Foundation, which helps disadvantaged, gifted girls in Ethiopia.

Discussing his new post, Gwasdoff recognized, “It’s kind of a big job.”

What plans does he have in store? “I want to pass along to the next generation my love of being Jewish,” he said. And he already has some ideas of how he is going to do that.

First, he hopes to help kids to create strong bonds and build community. “You have to be creative with your programming,” he said. “I want the kids to have an experience at camp and temple where they embrace Judaism and they keep coming back.”


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