by Suzan Berns


The secretary speaks

Luba Troyanovsky

Jewish Family and Children’s Services board of trustees president Susan Kolb, board members Marina Tikhman and Luba Troyanovsky and former federal judge Abraham Sofaer were among the celebrants at JFCS’ 13th annual Émigré Community Gala on Feb. 1, where former Secretary of State George Shultz received the group’s Distinguished Humanitarian Freedom Award. The elder statesman — he’s 93 — held his audience spellbound for 20 minutes as he recounted his efforts to facilitate the release of Jews from the former Soviet Union when he served in the Reagan administration. “You could have heard a pin drop,” noted several attendees.


True interfaith relating

The Osher Marin JCC’s opening of “Sacred Words: Finding Common Ground” last month drew 200 people, including some of the Muslim artists who are part of the exhibit showcasing work by 20 Muslims, Jews and Christians. Joanne Greene, director of the JCC’s Center for Jewish Peoplehood, the exhibit sponsor, writes, “Shortly before the opening, a few Muslim women asked for a quiet place to pray. I asked if they’d ever been inside of a synagogue and their eyes opened wide. They said they’d love to pray in a Jewish holy place and I took them into the sanctuary of Congregation Rodef Sholom. I opened the ark and took out a Torah and they approached it with great reverence, asking excellent questions. Then, I returned the Torah to the ark and the women spread their prayer rug onto the sanctuary floor to pray.” The exhibit is up through April 7.


Family kvelling and more

PJ Library, a national program that mails free high-quality Jewish books and music to young children on a monthly basis, recently distributed its 5 millionth book and my great-nephew, Jake Kotin, was the recipient. Jake, 4, lives with his parents, Erica and Mike Kotin, in the Boston suburb of Natick. The book was presented by the program’s funder, Harold Grinspoon, at a short ceremony at the Kotin home.

Here in the Bay Area, PJ Library is run by coordinator Vivien Braly through the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. A whopping 5,400 books are sent each month to families with children 6 months to 7 years old. Families can sign up at www.pjlibrary.org.


San Francisco ‘Idol’

MK Nobilette

Naomi Jatovsky writes that San Franciscan MK Nobilette, also known as Emkay (or Michaela Spatt Nobilette), was among 15 female finalists chosen last week on “American Idol.” MK, 20, who was bat mitzvahed at Or Shalom Jewish Community and is a Camp Tawonga alumna, competed on Feb. 18, when she became one of 10 finalists after judges cut five contestants.  “She was one of the kids from our lesbian Jewish moms’ group that has been meeting since the kids were born,” says Jatovsky, a family friend. In an interview on the “Idol” website, MK says that at her audition, judge JLo (Jennifer Lopez) gave her a lot of constructive criticism, which she plans to use to improve her craft.




Olympic stars

Berkeley residents Shira and Jordan Gill and their daughters Chloe, 5, and Emilie, 2, are part of a TV ad for the Chevy Traverse that’s been airing during the Olympics. The ad features families of various compositions, including one with two dads, with a voiceover stating, “While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has. This is the new us.” Notes Jordan Gill, “We had no idea what the theme of the ad was, nor that it would be such a big deal. We are thrilled with the message of the ad and feel honored to be a part of it.”

This columnist can be reached at faces@jweekly.com.