Longtime Jewish community leader Rita Semel was honored on Feb. 4 at the Institute on Aging’s 37th annual fundraising event, Dinner à la Heart, at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. 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. Semel is a longtime friend and supporter of Dr. Lawrence Feigenbaum, founder of the nation’s first adult day health program at Mount Zion Hospital. This program eventually became the Institute on Aging, now San Francisco’s largest nonprofit serving the senior community.
Chochmat HaLev, a Jewish Renewal congregation in Berkeley, honored its executive director, Dorrit Geshuri, at Shabbat services Feb. 15. “As leaders of the community, we work with Dorrit on a daily basis, and we are awestruck at how hard she works, and how much she has accomplished,” said Maggid Jhos Singer and Sheliach Tzibur Julie Batz in an email to the Chochmat community. They asked that community members contribute money toward hiring an assistant for Geshuri.
Slingshot, a national organization that creates guides to innovative and effective Jewish nonprofits, has included the Berkeley-based Jews of Color Field Building Initiative in its inaugural “10 to Watch” list of new organizations that “offer new, fresh ideas for addressing relevant problems.”
All the trappings that the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Émigré Gala is known for were there Feb. 8 at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco — vodka, champagne, caviar, zakuski, dancing and a live band. But the annual event, which is attended mostly by members of the Bay Area’s large Russian émigré community, also raised $1 million this year. Proceeds go toward Holocaust education, emergency services for families and individuals in crisis, lone soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces and other JFCS programs.
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev held a symposium on robotics and artificial intelligence at Google Cloud in Sunnyvale on Feb. 9. Presentations included “The ABCs of Robotics” by professor Yael Edan, “Helping Humanity and Protecting Public Safety” by professor Amir Shapiro and “Game of Drones: The Future of Human-Drone Interaction” by Jessica Cauchard. The event was followed by “Brews, Bots and Ben-Gurion,” a reception hosted by BGU alumni at Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company in San Carlos. The reception featured a panel of six BGU alumni who now work for Silicon Valley tech companies: Nir Peled of Intel; Alona Nadler of Elastic; Nadav Grossinger of Pebbles Interfaces, which was recently acquired by Oculus VR; Dor Abuhasira, founder of Percepto; Or Haviv, partner at Arieli Capital; and Dror Berman, partner at Innovations Endeavors.
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, attended an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, reported the National Herald, a newspaper that serves the Greek American community. The event was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s San Francisco office, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, and the consulates general of Israel and Greece. The event included a screening of “Life Will Smile,” a documentary about how the Jewish community on the Greek island of Zakynthos made it through the Holocaust intact.
The S.F.-based Israeli Consulate hosted Dina Dominitz, national anti-trafficking coordinator at the Israeli Ministry of Justice, from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3. National Council of Jewish Women and the S.F. Collaborative Against Human Trafficking co-sponsored her visit, which coincided with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January. Dominitz spoke about Israel’s efforts to stop human trafficking in talks at the University of San Francisco, the Commonwealth Club and the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. At the USF event on Jan. 31, she joined a panel including Consul General of Mexico Remedios Gomez-Arnau, German Consul Thomas Floth, Consul General of Israel Shlomi Kofman and moderator Susan Breall, a Superior Court judge; the crowd included USF students as well as Guatemalan Consul General Sylvia Wohlers de Meie, Belarus Honorary Consul Florin Ciuriuc, Australian Consular Officer Joel Willcox and Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
Seven teen organizations that are part of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s inaugural Innovation Accelerator cohort presented their findings and progress on Feb. 4 at Google’s Community Space in San Francisco. Each organization — the JCC of San Francisco, BBYO, Camp Tawonga, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Jewish Youth for Community Action, NCSY and the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto — was given funding by the S.F.-based Jim Joseph Foundation to create innovative programs for Jewish teens, a demographic that Federation CEO Danny Grossman says is especially in need of mentorship and community.
Comings & Goings
Rabbi Jeremy Morrison has been selected as the next senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. He will succeed retiring Rabbi Janet Marder. Morrison is leaving his current position as director of HaMaqom|The Place, formerly Lehrhaus Judaica, after less than three years on the job.
Jaimie Baxter and Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan have been named co-executive directors of HaMaqom|The Place. Baxter has been with the organization since 2018, serving as chief operating officer. She was also previously program director at Kevah. Wolf-Prusan has been with HaMaqom|The Place since 2010 as chief program officer. Previously, he was at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco for 20 years. As co-executive directors, Baxter will focus on finance and operations, while Wolf-Prusan will handle programming.
J. The Jewish News of Northern California’s board of directors is welcoming three new members: Patricia G. Rosenberg, Rabbi Dan Ain and Dr. David N. Cornfield.
Rosenberg, a San Francisco resident, is a partner with the firm Haas & Najarian in San Francisco, where she practices business litigation. A graduate of Brandeis University and the University of San Francisco School of Law, she is a past president of the Concordia Argonaut Club — the historic Jewish club’s first female president — and the Presidio Golf and Concordia Club. She lives in San Francisco. Ain is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco. Ordained a decade ago by the Jewish Theological Seminary, he served as the rabbi of the New Shul in New York City and director of tradition and innovation at the 92nd Street Y. With his wife Alana Joblin Ain, he co-founded and led Because Jewish, a cutting-edge Brooklyn organization bringing together religious and artistic conversations. Cornfield specializes in pediatric pulmonary medicine, which he also teaches at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He is director of the Center for Excellence in Pulmonary Biology at Stanford, and chief of the divisions of pediatric pulmonary, asthma, and sleep medicine at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He has served on the boards of several Jewish organizations, including day schools, a summer camp and a synagogue.
Arthur Slepian has been named the next board chair of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, effective July 1. Slepian is the founder, board member and immediate past executive director of A Wider Bridge, a national LGBTQ pro-Israel group that is headquartered in San Francisco. “Arthur will be the first openly LBGTQ board chair in the organization’s history,” said a press release about his Jan. 23 approval by the board of directors. His appointment “is a historic moment for our organization and is aligned with our commitment to increase our organization’s diversity,” Federation CEO Danny Grossman said in the same statement. “Arthur has already made significant contributions to the Federation, the LGBTQ Jewish community and the Bay Area Jewish community at large, including as a current member of the Federation board of directors, executive and governance committees.”