a man and two boys pose while doing yardwork
Abe Leider, Leo Leider and Adam Leider (from left) volunteer at Chessed Day. (Courtesy/Shelley Zak)

Spotlight on the community, May 2017


Sonya Karchemskiy
Sonya Karchemskiy

Cpl. Sonya Karchemskiy, who graduated from Jewish Community High School of the Bay in 2011, was one of 121 Israel Defense Forces soldiers honored by the president of Israel at his residence in Jerusalem as part of Israel Independence Day celebrations. After graduating with a chemistry degree from Princeton University in 2015, Karchemskiy immigrated to Israel and joined the IDF, where she works with a canine unit.

Philanthropist and human rights activist Terry Winograd will be honored by American Jewish World Service at a June 11 luncheon at the Stanford Faculty Club. The luncheon will feature a keynote address by Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist and the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School science teacher Liat Baranoff received a Grand Prize Teacher Award at this year’s Synopsys Science & Technology Championships. Several Hausner students also received awards at the championships, which accepted 18 projects from the Palo Alto school. 


More than 200 volunteers from seven East Bay Jewish organizations participated in the first of two Chessed Days for 2017. The volunteers worked at 10 sites on May 7, doing everything from mulching at Urban Adamah to sharing root beer floats with seniors. The second day of work is set for June 25, when volunteers will gather at the Alameda County Community Food Bank and paint rooms at a homeless shelter.

Kertesz laughs with his wife sitting next to him
Rabbi Dean Kertesz and wife Carla Cassler at the Beth Hillel celebration (Photo/Courtesy Joel Rosenbaum)

More than 280 parents, friends and community leaders attended Contra Costa Jewish Day School’s “Postcards from Israel” gala on May 7 in Temple Isaiah’s social hall and raised more than $300,000 — with the fundraising focused on supporting Israel education, Judaica and Jewish life, Hebrew and the school’s service learning program.

Temple Beth Hillel in Richmond held a potluck dinner in late April to celebrate Rabbi Dean Kertesz’s 10 years of service. About 100 people attended the event, which also included Israeli folk dancing.

Kehillah Jewish High School’s annual gala raised more than $162,000 for the school’s Alison Ruebusch Scholarship Fund. The fundraiser, held in late April, included a panel discussion on “The Intersection of Technology, Education and Ethics.”

Grant Liffmann is co-hosting, along with former Golden State Warriors player Kelenna Azubuike, a new show on NBC Sports Bay Area called “Warriors Outsiders.” The show also is broadcast live on Facebook. Liffmann attended the Peninsula Jewish Day School (which later became Wornick Jewish Day School) and had his bar mitzvah at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame.

Comings & Goings 

Arthur Slepian
Arthur Slepian

Arthur Slepian, founder and longtime executive director of A Wider Bridge, the San Francisco-based advocacy group focused on building connections between the Israeli and North American LGBTQ communities, will be stepping down after seven years. He will be succeeded, effective Jan. 15, 2018, by the group’s deputy director, Tye Gregory.

Rabbi Mike Rothbaum
Rabbi Mike Rothbaum

Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, a regional co-chair of Bend the Arc, is heading to the East Coast to take over a pulpit at Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, Massachusetts. He had been the youth and family education director at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley and a rabbi-educator at Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville. With him goes his husband, Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell, a vocalist, composer and arranger who focuses, among other things, on the convergence of Yiddish and African American music.

BimBam, a nonprofit that uses digital media to raise Jewish literacy, has hired Jordan Gill as its new executive director. Gill has worked in the Bay Area Jewish community for years, including stints at Camp Tawonga and Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco. Sarah Lefton, BimBam’s founder, moves from executive director to creative director.

Jonathan Harris
Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris will take over in mid-June as the new executive director of San Francisco’s Congregation Beth Sholom. He’ll be moving across town from the Or Shalom Jewish Community, where he has been director of operations for the past two years. He also writes a regular advice column for J.

Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley has selected Darci Smith as its interim executive director.

Cantor Amanda Edmondson was installed at Temple Emanu-El in San Jose on May 12 in a ceremony that included the participation of Rabbi Marjorie Slome of West End Temple in Neponsit, New York. Edmondson first worked with Slome as a student cantor at West End Temple during her final two years of cantorial studies.

Emmy Wagner is the new director for Camp Chai, a summer day camp run by the JCC of Sonoma County. Two one-week sessions will be held in June at the Finley Aquatic Center in Santa Rosa.

After helping Congregation Beth David in Saratoga complete a capital campaign to renovate the synagogue, Bonnie Slavitt Moore is taking over as development director of the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival. Moore, an active volunteer for South Bay Jewish organizations, was principal of Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos in 1983-1992.

To suggest something for next month’s Our Crowd, contact Rob Gloster at rob@jweekly.com.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.