State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco has been named chair of the California Senate Mental Health Caucus, “which focuses on improving California’s resources for mental health and substance abuse disorders,” according to a press release from his office. Wiener has also been named Legislator of the Year by the California Marriage and Family Therapists for his work on Senate Bill 855, which “has made California a nationwide leader in mental health care,” according to the press release.
Zoe Fertik of Palo Alto has been accepted into the Jewish Women Scholars’ Writing Fellowship, a new program of Yeshivat Maharat, which is best known for ordaining women as Orthodox clergy, and Sefaria, the online repository of Jewish texts. “The shelves of the Beit Midrash are overwhelmingly dominated by books and articles written by men — we want to change that,” says the fellowship website. “The fellowship aims to elevate Jewish women’s scholarship by building a cohort of scholars, and providing the skills, support and resources necessary to produce new content, including a $1,500 stipend.” Fertik is associate director of Jewish content at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. She previously lived in Tel Aviv, where she founded a beit midrash program for secular Torah study in English at BINA’s Secular Yeshiva.
Dr. Jessica Beckerman and Dr. Ari Johnson of Berkeley have been awarded the Charles Bronfman Prize, which is given annually “to a humanitarian under the age of 50 whose innovative work, fueled by their Jewish values, has significantly improved the world.” Beckerman and Johnson are the cofounders of Muso, which provides health care in sub-Saharan Africa.
The S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council’s annual Behind the Scenes gala will be virtual for the second time this year. The April 13 event will honor Craigslist founder and philanthropist Craig Newmark, who will be given the Distinguished Leadership Award; Sue Diamond and Marty Schenker, who will receive the Jewish-Civic Leadership Award; and rapper and youth mentor Richard “Big Rich” Bougere and Danielle Banks, founders of Project Level, who will receive the Courageous Leadership Award.
Manny Yekutiel, well known in some pockets of the San Francisco Jewish community as the proprietor of Manny’s, has been appointed by Mayor London Breed to the S.F. Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors. He is currently on the S.F. Small Business Commission (but will step down from that position before he is sworn in on the SFMTA board) and is a board member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association. Yekutiel has gained a reputation for involvement in the civic life of the city for hosting events and talks of civic and political interest at his eatery-bookstore. “On this [SFMTA] board, my goal is to serve as a bridge builder at a moment when our City and its public transportation system sits at a crossroads,” he said in a statement from the mayor’s office. “I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”
The Bronson family of Moraga — including kids ages 14, 12, 10, 6, 3 and 1 — are the winners of the inaugural Contra Costa JCC Menorah Making Competition. The winning menorah was made out of boxes. Why? “We all feel incredibly boxed up now during the coronavirus. But it is very important to find the light in the box,” the family wrote in an email to J. “That is why all of us chose to take boxes and other scraps around the house and make them into something useful.” And what did they win? A Nintendo Switch. The competition was held Dec. 16 and was judged by Rabbis Jennie Chabon, Dan Goldblatt, Nicki Greninger and Daniel Stein, and teen Jordan Smith.
About 6,000 people tuned into “NorCal Virtual Chanukah Live,” a Zoom event organized by Northern California Chabads. There was a group menorah lighting, a performance by the Maccabeats and a number of guests, including the mayors of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland; Israeli Consul General Shlomi Kofman; San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer; 92-year-old comedian Jackie Mason; and Israeli basketball player Omri Casspi.
The city of Tracy in San Joaquin County is getting its first Chabad. Rabbi Levi and Faigy Meijers haven’t even moved to the area yet, but they’re jumping right in. “They began with a list of three contacts a few months ago,” according to Lubavitch.com, but have since distributed “Chanukah-to-go” packages to local Jewish families and held a Zoom party attended by 20 families. The Meijers plan to have a Hebrew school up and running by the beginning of the next school year.
After years as Reb Irwin Keller, you can finally call the leader of Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati Rabbi Irwin Keller. He was ordained recently through ALEPH, the Jewish Renewal movement’s rabbinic ordination program.
Comings & Goings
Marcella White Campbell is the new executive director of Be’chol Lason, the Bay Area-based organization that raises awareness of Jewish racial and cultural diversity. She takes over for Diane Tobin, the founding director, who served for 20 years. Campbell has been Be’chol Lashon’s marketing director for the last six years and is a Camp Be’chol Lashon parent.
The JCC of the East Bay is welcoming Aaron Atlas as its new chief operating officer. Atlas worked at his hometown JCC in Indianapolis for more than two decades, overseeing a wide range of programs over the years. For the last four years, he has overseen summer camps and other programs at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, New Jersey. Atlas will be joined in the big move by his wife Nicole, 3-year-old son Leo and Koufax the dog. He said in an email to J., “Jewish communal work is my passion, and community engagement is what makes me whole. Thank you for inviting me into your community — I look forward to serving you!”
After a six-year tenure as the spiritual leaders of Chochmat HaLev, a Jewish Renewal congregation in Berkeley, Julie Batz and Maggid Jhos Singer are moving on at the end of 2021. In a message to their community, they wrote, “It has been our honor and privilege to lead Chochmat HaLev over these years — we feel inspired and respected by this beloved community.” They added, “we are ready to open up space for personal and communal projects, including Jhos’s book and Julie’s teaching.” Chochmat board president Jeffrey Kessler wrote, “I want to express deeply my appreciation and gratitude for the many years of inspiring services, deep teachings, pastoral care and community building that Jhos and Julie have provided.”
On Dec. 18, Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco celebrated Mimi Greisman’s 30-plus years of service to the congregation leading baby groups, tot services and more. Though Greisman is moving on from Emanu-El, the Bay Area Jewish early childhood education legend is hardly leaving the scene. She currently is doing free “Mimi Music and Fun!” programs on Zoom every weekday for newborns through 5-year-olds, as well as Shabbat and Havdalah programs. Stay up to date at mimiandfriends.com.
Rabbi Aura Ahuvia is joining Congregations B’nai Emunah and Beth Israel Judea, two San Francisco synagogues that recently voted to merge, to help with music and prayer-leading during the transitional period. “Rabbi Aura is a gifted singer and musician, and former student of [Rabbi Sami Barth, transitional leader of CBE and BIJ] with broad experience,” the synagogues’ presidents wrote in a message to their communities. Ahuvia lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and will be joining services via Zoom.
Eytan Graubart is leaving his position as executive director of the JCC Maccabi Sports Camp on the South Peninsula to become executive director of Pinemere Camp, a JCC-affiliated Jewish summer camp in Pennsylvania. “While extremely sad to see him go, we are remarkably proud and excited for Eytan and this wonderful new chapter in his life,” JCC Maccabi Sports Camp senior director Josh Steinharter said in a statement.
Bay Area philanthropists Gladys Monroy and Larry Marks have made a gift of more than $5 million to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. The funds will establish the Monroy-Marks Center for Brain Disorders Research, which will be part of Weizmann’s Institute for Brain and Neural Sciences. Monroy and Marks have been Bay Area regional co-chairs of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute since 2012. In 2017, they gave $6 million to fund brain research at Weizmann.