Honors & Awards
Sheri Greenawald has been awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal in recognition of years of service. She made her debut with S.F. Opera in 1978 and went on to play a number of leading roles in the company. Since 2002, Greenawald, who is retiring this month, has been the S.F. Opera Center director and the S.F.-based Merola Opera program artistic director. “On Sunday, Nov. 11, 1978, a house debut was made by a young Marzelline in ‘Fidelio,’” Matthew Shilvock, the opera’s general director, said in a press release. “On that day a journey began that would encompass many roles on the War Memorial stage and a 20-year tenure leading two of the greatest opera training programs in the world. I wonder what that young Marzelline, Sheri Greenawald, would have said at that time if you had told her that 42 years later she would have made one of the most indelible impacts in the history of this Company.” The San Francisco Opera Medal is awarded “in recognition of extraordinary artistic service over an extended period.”
Jason Steckler will be part of the third cohort of students in iCenter and George Washington University’s graduate degree in Israel education. He is one of 31 Jewish community professionals admitted this year. Students will enroll in a one-year graduate certificate program that can be continued with a second year of master’s degree studies. Steckler is currently Bay Area coordinator for Onward Israel. He was previously an Israel engagement associate on the campus of San Francisco State University and is currently involved with the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, New Israel Fund, Israel Policy Forum and Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group.
The Workers Circle Northern California branch held a celebration for its 72nd anniversary on Dec. 13. The event also marked 120 years of the venerable progressive Yiddishist organization nationally. No fewer than 54 screens tuned in to the celebration, which featured musical performances, a talk on the history of the Workers Circle by University of Wisconsin historian Tony Michels, and recollections from branch leaders Diana Scott and Joel Schecter about past Workers Circle events. Music was provided by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Jeanette Lewicki and the klezmer trio Baymele, all of whom are recipients of grants from the branch. Pre-recorded messages of congratulations came from Zahra Billoo of the Committee on American-Islamic Relations, Ellen Brotsky of Jewish Voice for Peace, Rabbi David Cooper of Kehilla Community Synagogue, Howard Freedman of the Jewish Community Library and others.
The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto and the Tel Aviv–based group BINA: the Jewish Movement for Social Change held a virtual, intercontinental launch event Dec. 13 for their LEAP (Learning, Experience, Action and Peoplehood) program. The program, in which recent high school graduates from Israel and the U.S. will “explore together, for three months, Jewish tradition and identity and relevant social action projects in Israel and in Palo Alto,” was set to begin this fall, but now will begin in June 2021 because of the pandemic. Of the dozens who applied, 20 were accepted and given full scholarships. Speakers at the Hanukkah-themed event included Michael Biton, a minister within Israel’s Ministry of Defense; Dr. Kathy Fields and Dr. Garry Rayant, Bay Area financial supporters of LEAP; Zack Bodner, CEO of the OFJCC; and Tova Birnbaum, one of the founders of BINA’s secular yeshiva and now director of Jewish content at OFJCC.
Hadassah, the venerable women’s Zionist organization, is launching four new groups in the Bay Area aimed at the younger set. Each group is open to women in their 30s-50s “looking to connect with like-minded young women dedicated to making a difference in our community, in Israel and around the world,” according to a press release. One group will be in San Francisco. The other three are in the East Bay, each with a different focus. To get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chabad of Petaluma held a huge drive-through Hanukkah carnival at the Sonoma Marin Fairgrounds Dec. 13. Over 650 people came, Rabbi Dovid Bush told J. in an email. Video from the Press Democrat newspaper shows long lines of cars snaking past a boy spinning in a dreidel costume, stilt walkers and other assorted carnival performers.
Comings & Goings
Clara Allen will be the new executive director of the Reutlinger Community effective Jan. 4. She will take over from Jay Zimmer, who served as CEO of Jewish senior home in Danville for six years until he announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down. Allen, who currently lives near Petaluma, was most recently the executive director of a continuing care and retirement community in Santa Rosa. She is licensed in skilled nursing and assisted living, and studies gerontology and therapeutic recreation. The Reutlinger merged with Eskaton, a management group that oversees a number of senior homes, in April.
Jacob Blumberg has been named The Kitchen’s first artist-in-residence. Blumberg is a musician, filmmaker and “global arts macgyver” from San Francisco. He previously has produced a music video for the independent San Francisco synagogue and a video of a Torah scroll being taken all over the city, to visit with Kitchen members, that was shown during High Holiday services this year.
Cantor Amanda Edmondson has announced that she and her family will be leaving Temple Emanu-El of San Jose at the end of June 2021. “This was not an easy decision for us to make,” she wrote in a Dec. 15 email to the congregation. “But it comes as the result of much debate over how much or how easily we can afford, as a family of four, to live in this part of the country with the amenities and lifestyle we’d like to provide for our children.” They will be moving to Edmondson’s hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, where her husband accepted a job offer. Synagogue president Steve Krandel wrote in the same email, “While we are saddened that Cantor Amanda will be leaving us at the end of June, we will be forever grateful for the tremendous impact she has made in our congregation.”
Adi Hayun Perez is the new Bay Area regional director of the Israeli American Council. She replaces Sharona Israeli-Roth, who is now senior national director of the IAC’s Ofek online education program.
Rabbi Evan Rubin is the new spiritual leader of Kenesset Israel Torah Center, the only Modern Orthodox synagogue in the Sacramento area. “It is a distinct pleasure to join KITC as its rabbi,” Rubin told J. in an email. “Having spent 25 years serving other similarly sized and diverse communities, Sacramento and KITC present the perfect opportunity to continue my contribution to the rabbinate.” Rubin heads west after having served at Congregation Etz Chayim in Toledo, Ohio, for 20 years as the hazzan and then five years as rabbi after being ordained in 2015. Rubin also has served as an educator at Aryeh Kaplan Academy day school in Louisville, Kentucky. He also has worked as a mashgiach and an eruv checker and counts Rabbi Gershon Albert of Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland as a personal friend.