Russian-speaking Jews celebrate “Sukkot Under the Stars,” a fundraiser for the Addison-Penzak JCC
Russian-speaking Jews celebrate “Sukkot Under the Stars,” a fundraiser for the Addison-Penzak JCC

Honors, happenings, comings & goings — October 2019


Comings & Goings

After 12 years as CEO of Jewish LearningWorks, David Waksberg will retire in June. Dana Sheanin, the organization’s chief strategy officer, will take over the position.

Dana Sheanin
Dana Sheanin
David Waksberg
David Waksberg

According to a press release, Waksberg has shown strong support for educators, professional development and the Jewish Community Library, one of the organization’s signature programs. Formerly known as the Bureau of Jewish Education, Jewish LearningWorks sponsors a range of classes, workshops and other Jewish programs in the Bay Area. Sheanin has been at the organization since 2016. She has overseen professional development programs and created Voices for Good, a women’s leadership initiative.

Daphna Noily
Daphna Noily

Daphna Noily is retiring after 48 years working in the Bay Area Jewish community. She served for 14 years as Northwest regional director of American Friends of Hebrew University, and is now stepping down after 18 years at American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where she was Northwest regional director and, most recently, senior philanthropic adviser. She has led Israeli dance all over the Bay Area, served as principal of Congregation B’nai Emunah’s religious school, led Shabbat services and a Passover seder at San Quentin Prison, and served the community in a host of other capacities.

Ollie Benn
Ollie Benn

Executive director of San Francisco Hillel Ollie Benn will step down in December to become director of philanthropy and social impact at the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego. Benn won several awards from Hillel International during his five-year tenure and expanded the organization beyond the San Francsico State University campus, supporting revitalized students groups at University of San Francisco, UC San Francisco and UC Hastings. Rachel Nilson Ralston, who has served for nine years as S.F. Hillel’s associate executive director, will be the interim executive director.

Laurie Beijen
Laurie Beijen

Laurie Beijen of San Francisco has been elected to the National Board of InterfaithFamily.  She has served on the organization’s Bay Area Leadership Council for two years. She joins Paul Cohen of Mill Valley, currently the national board chair.


Honors

Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Michael Lerner

Rabbi Michael Lerner will be honored on Nov. 21 with the International Association of Sufism Humanitarian Award at the organization’s annual “Inspiration Dinner” at the Embassy Suites in San Rafael. Emcee will be Michael Krasny, host of the daily Forum current-affairs show on KQED. Lerner is the co-founder and longtime editor of Tikkun magazine, spiritual leader of the Beyt Tikkun “synagogue without walls” in Berkeley, and chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. The annual award is presented to “individuals whose life and work embody the highest values of humanity and offer a model of engaged creativity and outstanding contributions to our community and our culture,” according to the event website.

(clockwise from left) Michael G. Pappas, Rev. Ken Westray, Rabbi Allen Bennett, Bishop Marc Andrus, Steven Geiger and Rita Semel at the Mensch Award event
(clockwise from left) Michael G. Pappas, Rev. Ken Westray, Rabbi Allen Bennett, Bishop Marc Andrus, Steven Geiger and Rita Semel at the Mensch Award event

Longtime Jewish community leader Rita Semel was honored on Oct. 6 with the Mensch Award from the Mensch International Foundation, which seeks to create “a tolerant social order of values which respects minority rights and freedom of speech and worship.” Semel, 98, was director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, is a founding member and past chair of the San Francisco Interfaith Council and trustee emerita of the Graduate Theological Union’s board of trustees. She was also a reporter and editor at the Jewish Bulletin, as this publication formerly was known. The award program took place at St. Vincent de Paul Church in San Francisco and was hosted by Rev. Kenneth Westray. Speakers included Rabbi Allen Bennett, retired leader of Temple Israel in Alameda, Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California and Michael G. Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. The award was presented by Steve Geiger, founder and director of the Mensch International Foundation. Semel will be honored again prior to Friday night services on Nov. 1 at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

American Jewish Committee San Francisco will honor Kelly M. Dermody and Nanci L. Clarence at a dinner at the InterContinental in San Francisco on Nov. 6. Dermody is San Francisco managing partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and will be honored for her “dedication to diversity, inclusivity, and human dignity in the areas of pay equity, #MeToo, and unfair employment practices.” She will receive the Judge Learned Hand Award, named for Judge Billings Learned Hand (1872-1961), who was known for his defense of civil liberties. The award honors members of the legal profession who embody his values. Clarence is a founder partner at Clarence Dyer & Cohen. She will receive the AJC Pursuit of Justice Award for her “civil rights advocacy and embodiment of legal excellence.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will deliver the keynote address.


Happenings

Camp Tawonga kicked off its fourth cohort of 68 b’nai mitzvah students with an event on Sept. 22 at Urban Adamah. B’nai mitzvah program manager Meg Adler and Tawonga executive director Jamie Simon led the event with music by former longtime Tawonga song leader Isaac Zones. Students and their families created “sacred family timelines,” charting meaningful moments in their lives and in their families.

(Right) Tawonga program manager Meg Adler (left) with her b’nai mitzvah orientation staff. (Photo/Courtesy Camp Tawonga)
(Right) Tawonga program manager Meg Adler (left) with her b’nai mitzvah orientation staff. (Photo/Courtesy Camp Tawonga)

New Israel Fund held its annual Guardians of Democracy gala fundraiser on Sept. 22 in San Francisco, the city where the organization was founded 40 years ago. Some 500 supporters turned out, donating half a million dollars for NIF’s work promoting equality and democracy for all Israel’s citizens. Social justice icon Ruth Messinger, global ambassador for American Jewish World Service, delivered the keynote address, and attendees also heard from Gallanter Prize winner Maisam Jaljuli and honorees Laura Saunders and NIF CEO Daniel Sokatch.

New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch in conversation with Ruth Messinger (Photo/New Israel Fund-Flickr)
New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch in conversation with Ruth Messinger (Photo/New Israel Fund-Flickr)

Members of the Los Gatos-area Russian-speaking Jewish community gathered on Oct. 13 at the home of Lilia Gorshteyn for “Sukkot Under the Stars,” a fundraiser for the Addison-Penzak JCC. “We have a large Russian Jewish community here,” said Gorshteyn, adding that the money raised will be earmarked for expanding Russian-language Jewish programming at the JCC. Some 55 people crowded into her sukkah for the festivities, including Lael Gray, the JCC’s new CEO.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is the online editor of J. and "Jew in the Pew" columnist. He can be reached at david@jweekly.com.