A healing message
“Thank you for the rabbi” was the simple message written on chalkboard and delivered by a patient who could no longer speak. Dr. Mary DeMay, chair of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center board of directors, shared this touching memory with some 200 supporters of the agency at its annual gala, “Hearts and Hands Together,” on Oct. 27. It was one of many poignant moments during the evening. Fred and Joanne Greene of San Rafael described how the annual Grief and Growing Weekend helped them heal from losses in their family, even as BAJHC president and CEO Rabbi Eric Weiss acknowledged that “grief camp,” as the program is called, sounds like an oxymoron. S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund CEO Danny Grossman also addressed the crowd, noting that BAJHC, founded in 1991, was the first agency in the country to provide a range of Jewish spiritual and other services for those dealing with illness and loss.
It’s been 90 years since the first campers spent their summer at Camp Tawonga. On Nov. 7, 400 former campers and community members gathered at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco to laud Tawonga’s leadership, celebrate the past and look toward the future. Current executive director Ken Kramarz and past executive directors Judy Edelson, Deborah Newbrun and Adam Weisberg were honored at the event, as were former directors Arnie Trombler (who wasn’t able to attend) and the late Marvin Bienstock. Associate executive director Jamie Simon-Harris, who will take the reins from Kramarz in 2017, was introduced, as were several future programs, including Beyond the Bimah for bar/bat mitzvah kids, and Kibbutz Tawonga for 21- to 35-year-olds.
Thelma Colvin accepted special recognition on behalf of her late husband, Ken Colvin, and the late Robert Heller, both campers in the 1930s and past presidents, who were instrumental in the purchase of 160 acres of land where the camp sits today. Thelma described how during the Depression, her husband’s family didn’t have $58 for summer camp. Ken, then 14, mustered his courage and asked for a scholarship, but it was denied. “I finally went to camp with a job washing dishes,” Ken wrote in a note to his grandchildren. Later, with that experience in mind, the couple set up the Colvin Campership Fund to provide a scholarship for at least one deserving camper in perpetuity. “I hope he or she will be stronger for the experience that so enriched my life,” Ken wrote. After the formal program, the group adjourned for a classic Tawonga song session and dance party.
‘The power of community’
Monica and Alan Zimmerman were given the American Jewish Committee’s Civic Leadership Award on Nov. 11 at the organization’s annual dinner. Dinner chairs Lynn and Paul Sedway presented the award to the Zimmermans, who are real estate professionals, philanthropists and (perhaps most important) grandparents, in recognition of their commitment to AJC’s mission: building bridges of understanding, safeguarding democracy and pluralism, and combating bigotry.
More than 150 people packed the Julia Morgan Ballroom, including the Zimmermans’ daughters (and their husbands) Jessica and Jonathan Graf and Sabrina and Stephen Bluestein, plus friends and colleagues of the honorees. “The evening was incredibly moving and served as a testimony both to the power of community and l’dor vador,” or generation to generation, reported AJC’s Gabi Kuhn. In addition to their involvement with AJC, one or both Zimmermans have served on the boards of many community organizations, including Congregation Sherith Israel, the JCC of San Francisco, AIPAC and Berkeley Hillel.
This columnist can be reached at email@example.com.