Even if they don’t have a handy checklist of good qualities, most people know a mensch when they meet one — a person who’s honest, kind and hardworking. Someone with a sense of purpose, who doesn’t think twice about helping others.
Of course, the term is usually applied to men. So what do you call a lady mensch?
“A mensch!” said Dana Hall, 28, the creator of the Mensch of the Month calendar, now in its third year of production. “People kept asking me that question, and at a certain point, it seemed like, you know — why don’t we include women? We had always thought we would want to at some point, so why not now?”
The somewhat tongue-in-cheek calendar raises money for a San Francisco mentoring nonprofit, the SMART Foundation — last year it raised some $3,750. Until now, it featured a baker’s dozen of Jewish men who live in the Bay Area, all ages, professions and backgrounds welcome.
Now, for the first time, every month in the 2014 calendar will feature a pair of mensches — one man and one woman — with a blurb about each.
To make the cut, one has to be someone whose friends would describe them as a do-gooder — some kind of volunteer work is usually involved — and eligible. (The calendar’s tagline, after all, is “Chosen but not taken.”)The wall calendars, $20 each, can be ordered online; they’ll ship the last week of October. A launch party will be held Nov. 6 in San Francisco, organized by Hall and her co-conspirator Lauren Zabel, and most of the mensches will be in attendance to sign calendars.
Among them will be Jeremy Moskowitz, 28, a Santa Rosa native who lives in San Francisco and works at the patient advocacy organization HealthCPA in San Mateo. In his free time he plays rugby, and spent this past summer coaching a women’s powder puff football team that competed in tournaments to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association — they raised more than $30,000.
“It was kind of a lark, honestly,” said Moskowitz of his application. “I’d heard of the calendar before, but I’d never really thought to do it … and then I was joking around with friends and they said I should. One thing led to another. And the SMART Foundation does really great work, so I’m happy to help support such a fantastic cause.”
While he’s somewhat amused by being selected, he said his friends and family are delighted. Years ago, Moskowitz’s grandfather gave a speech at his bar mitzvah “that was basically 10 bullet points on how to be a mensch … so my family’s obviously just beaming.”
Moskowitz is the pin-up boy for March, along with pin-up girl Rachel Zack, 27, a New York native now living in San Francisco. A city planner by education, she does marketing for government programs including 511, the Bay Area’s transportation information portal, and previously worked on a program that aims to improve highway traffic flow.
Her calendar blurb boasts that she “has saved the Bay Area about 200,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions so far in her career!”
“I love the work that Mensch of the Month does,” Zack said of her decision to apply; her application focused on her passion for improving the Bay Area and her desire to “add a level of sophistication to public information” around transportation issues, she said. She also runs a skill-share group called Little Skill-it, in which members share everything from tech tips to carpentry skills to recipes; in her free time, she loves dancing to live music.
As for being one of calendar’s first lady mensches, Zack said, “It was a wonderful experience. I’ve met so many great people through it.
“I would definitely encourage people to apply next year,” she added, “if they think they’re menschy.”
Mensch of the Month calendar launch party 6-9 p.m. Nov. 6 at Southern Pacific Brewing Company, 620 Treat Ave., San Francisco. Free. Donations to SMART also will be accepted. www.menschofthemonth.com