Home for the Holy Days

Ben Brandzel took a break from his political work at MoveOn.org, where he’s advocacy director, to chant the Kol Nidre and U’ntahnetokf at Aquarian Minyan in Berkeley, where he grew up. Karen Roekard reports that Brandzel learned the signature Kol Nidre prayer after seeing the film “The Jazz Singer” when he was 9 years old. He promised his grandmother that he’d sing it for her on her upcoming 80th birthday. And he did.

His mom is Aquarian Minyan member Malka Brandzel. (Don’t know about you, but I’ll give all the e-mails I get from MoveOn more attention now.)

Jewish joking

Speaking of minyans … KQED radio host Michael Krasny told an audience at San Rafael’s Congregation Rodef Sholom that he had occasion to ask Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Pa.) how many Jews there are in the Senate. The reply: “We have a minyan.”

Krasny, who often speaks on Jews and humor, was discussing Jewish contributions to U.S. life. He said he had spoken on the subject the week before to seniors living in Rossmoor and was glad to learn that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had sent a message to the group because it gave him an opening for a joke. And the joke is: What do you get when you cross Arnold with a Jew? Conan the distributor. Krasny also noted that he was a Sunday school teacher at Rodef Sholom in the 1970s, when he first moved to the Bay Area.

Big fish story …

Harvey Freedman of Orinda, Stan Ross of San Leandro and Rabbi Steve Chester of Oakland’s Temple Sinai caught three big ones — 18, 25 and 35 lb. salmon — on a pre-High Holy Day fishing trip off the coast of Bolinas. After Ross cleaned and filleted the fish, Freedman served his for a non-traditional Rosh Hashanah dinner (along with the pepper noodle kugel — prepared by his wife, Deana, from a recent j. recipe).

Moving stories

Temple Isaiah in Lafayette is now home to several new staff members, reports Rabbi Judy Shanks. Among them are Cantor Leigh Korn, a recent Hebrew Union College grad who grew up in Walnut Creek; Executive Director Michael Liepman, who formerly worked at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley and Kol Shofar in Tiburon; youth group and teen educator Jonathan Shugart, formerly at Berkeley’s Camp Kee Tov; and Ganeinu (toddler program) Director Denise Moyes-Schnur, formerly at San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El.

It’s all in the asking

The Progressive Jewish Alliance’s High Holy Days fund-raising letter sported the very clever and eye-catching phrase “To kvetch is human, to act divine.” The group was listed in “Slingshot,” a guidebook to North America’s 50 most innovative Jewish groups, published by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. Abby Levine is the director of the Bay Area chapter.

Short shorts

Teachers Evie and Howard Rachelson of Marin (she’s at the Osher Marin JCC nursing school) are taking a year off and traveling to Switzerland (Evie’s home), Israel and various and sundry other places … Yitzhak Santis and Emily Blanck of Jimena (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) were among the representatives from four continents to meet in London in September to plan for an advocacy campaign to be launched in March 2006 … Sarra Alpert of Ojai is a grand prize winner in the Young Jewish Thinker essay contest, co-sponsored by the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture … Amy Friedkin, former AIPAC national chair, was appointed to Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s Northwestern regional board.

Suzan Berns, a freelance writer and publicist, welcomes your submissions of cute, poignant or informational anecdotes about you and your organizations at [email protected].