THE JEWISH NEWS of Northern California
ENOUGH DEMANDING RACIAL JUSTICE
JUNE 12 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 25, 2020 | JWEEKLY.COM | $2.00
CELEBRATING OUR COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS Thank you to all who joined us in celebrating Jennifer and Tony Smorgon, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ, and Manny Yekutiel and our critically important work. We are equally delighted to have been able to honor the esteemed Rita R. Semel for her lifetime of outstanding leadership. Your engagement is helping us to meet the moment and we are profoundly grateful to our generous supporters who made virtual JCRC Behind the Scenes 2020 a great success! BEHIND THE SCENES CHAIRS: Col. Pete Gleichenhaus and Myrna Melgar JENNIFER AND TONY SMORGON
CHANCELLOR CAROL T. CHRIST University of California, Berkeley
RITA R. SEMEL
SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS PREMIER
Dr. Kathy Fields-Rayant and Dr. Garry Rayant The Friend Family Nancy and Stephen Grand John Pritzker Family Fund Laura and Gary Lauder Lisa Stone Pritzker Family Fund Roselyne C. Swig Ingrid Tauber and Frank Taforo Diane and Howard Zack Anonymous
The Dryan Felson Bernstein Family Koret Foundation Paul Resnick and Joan Karlin Marty Schenker and Sue Diamond Jennifer and Tony Smorgon Diane B. Wilsey
Sandi Bragar and Jerome Rossen Congregation Emanu-El Bruce Fisher and Marlene Litvak Marcia and John Goldman Michael A. Jacobs and Ellen L. Fuerst Nicholas Josefowitz and Tali Rapaport Rabbi Doug and Ellen Kahn Karen and Mel Kronick Alexander Fromm Lurie Varda Rabin
Carol and Harry Saal William and Jennifer Schwartz Tom and Denise Stern Neil and Adrienne Tuch Jennifer Wolfe and Nolan Zail
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Rabbi Ruth Adar and Linda Burnett Sara Aronson
Dale Boutiette and Alla Gershberg Rabbi Dennis Eisner Vicki and Scott Kahn Arlene and Steve Krieger Fred Levinson David and Ellen Newman Susan and Alan Rothenberg Gary and Dana Shapiro Michelle and Keith Tandowsky
Ina and Steve Bauman Riva and David Berelson Rachel Einstein-Sim Roy and Betsy Eisenhardt Steve Eskenazi H. Michael Feldman and Christine Glastonbury George Frankenstein Paul Gerard Mark Gilfix Lorrie and Richard Greene Dick and Siva Heiman Lyla Rose Holdstein Victoria Karp Frank and Linda Kurtz Mark Leno Doug Mandell Jacqueline Neuwirth and Stephen Swire Joni and Russ Pratt Margalit Rosenblatt David and Judi Rosner David Saxe Karen Schiller Deborah and Larry Stadtner Jon Yolles and Stacey Silver Gregory Zale
During this pandemic and time of striving for racial justice, our work to ensure meaningful relationships among diverse coalitions has never been more critical. Find out more about our advocacy and view the event site today at www.jcrcbehindthescenes2020.org. WWW.JCRC.ORG | WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/SFJCRC | TWITTER: @SFJCRC 1 10.19.2018 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
Inside J. 29
21 16 4 ON THE COVER: Photo of June 3 protest in downtown Oakland by Brooke Anderson (@movementphotographer)
BAY AREA 3 Jewish day camps preparing to open,
12 Quick thinking at Auschwitz saved
4 Floyd killing, anti-racism protests tighten
13 After mass testing, zero Covid cases
5 Jewish teen fundraisers in East Bay
14 Concord man who threatened
6 COVER STORY For Jews of color,
15 ‘Pride Seder’ honors liberation
with stringent safety precautions in place bonds for black-Jewish unity group
don’t let Covid stop them
protests are reminders of pain — even within Jewish community.
8 San Francisco rabbis ‘kneel for justice’ in City Hall protest
8 Relief fund launched for Jews of color and people of color working in Jewish community
9 Oakland school board votes to support
San Rafael man’s life
reported at senior home
Jews online is out on bail history of LGBTQ Jews
16 As long as it’s fun, virtually anything goes in online gatherings
18 Rock smashes window of lawmaker’s house in San Mateo
10 State bill would provide training to
CELEBRATE DIVERSITY 21 LGBTQ activist is new Federation chair 22 JFI has Pride in upcoming livestream
10 Koret awards $50 million in grants
24 New Jewish Pride Fund grants give
controversial ethnic studies curriculum before planned revisions better identify hate crimes to local universities
of comedic TV pilot
LGBTQ agencies hope
OPINION 26 Letters | Editorial 27 Views CULTURE 30 Memoir reveals past as anti-war activist and 19-year fugitive 31 A universe of great Jewish films is only a click away 32 Hidden family stories uncovered by two daughters of survivors J. LIFE 33 Torah | Celebrity Jews 34 Food 36 Lifecycles 37 Obituaries 38 Classifieds 40 Before You Go
THE JEWISH NEWS
of Northern California
jweekly.com 415.263.7200 firstname.lastname@example.org Vol. 124, No. 12 | June 12 – June 25, 2020
PUBLISHED ALTERNATING FRIDAYS NEXT ISSUE JUNE 26
PUBLISHER Steven Gellman EDITOR Sue Fishkoff
EDITORIAL MANAGING EDITOR NEWS EDITOR CULTURE EDITOR STAFF WRITERS
Sue Barnett Gabe Stutman Laura Paull Gabriel Greschler, Maya Mirsky, Dan Pine ONLINE EDITOR David A.M. Wilensky EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Rebecca D. Landau CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Andy Altman-Ohr, Alix Wall COLUMNISTS Rita Clancy, Michael Fox, Howard Freedman, Karen Galatz, Drew Himmelstein, Dawn Kepler, Faith Kramer, Esther Kustanowitz, Julie Levine, Dr. Jerry Saliman
PODCAST SERIES ON ISRAEL & JEWISH IDENTITY IN THE AGE OF COVID
EPISODE 1: Ha-Haydak Ha-Politi (The Political Bug) EPISODE 2: Coronavirus Lesson - How Jews and Arabs United to Fight a Plague in Ottoman Palestine a Century Ago EPISODE 3: A Coronavirus Recession in Israel EPISODE 4: Democracy, Religion and State: Israeli Constitutional Law Update EPISODE 5: Mental Health and the Politics of Trauma in Israel - A Nation on the Couch EPISODE 6: Emergency Law and Power in Israel - Where Are the limits? EPISODE 7: Technology, Surveillance, and COVID-19: The Israel Experience EPISODE 8: On Denisovans and Neanderthals Breakthroughs in Human Evolution
The full series is now available to stream online here:
EPISODE 9: Holocaust Museums and Memory EPISODE 10: Borders - Why Are States Putting up Fences? EPISODE 11: Haredi Communities and the Religion and State Divide during COVID-19 EPISODE 12: Talmudic Wisdom on Crisis EPISODE 13: Jewish Journalism and Reporting on Crisis EPISODE 14: Online Extremism in a Time of Global Pandemic
ADVERTISING & CIRCULATION ACCOUNT EXECS Nancy Beth Cohen, Meryl Sokoler OFFICE MANAGER/CLASSIFIEDS Diane Spagnoli ART & PRODUCTION DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR Antonio R. Marquez GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Michelle Palmer, Steve Romero BUSINESS SENIOR ACCOUNTANT ACCOUNTING ASSISTANT DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANT
Jackie Deng Linda Uong Allison Green Shauna Satnick
TECHNOLOGY IT SUPPORT
BOARD OF DIRECTORS PRESIDENTS Mark W. Bernstein, Lory Pilchik VP/TREASURER Harmon Shragge SECRETARY Carol Weitz MEMBERS Fraidy Aber, Rabbi Dan Ain, David Cornfield, Alexandra Corvin, Alia Wechsler Gorkin, Nadine Joseph, Steve Katz, Sabrina Keller, Charlie Kirschner, Quentin Kopp, Susan Libitzky, Patricia Rosenberg, Donna Rosenthal, Jane Springwater, Joelle Steefel, Jerry Yanowitz BOARD ADVISOR Steven Dinkelspiel PAST PRESIDENTS Marc Berger, Lou Haas, Jon Kaufman, Dan Leemon, Adam Noily, William I. Schwartz
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Bay Area NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
Jewish day camps preparing to open, with stringent safety precautions in place RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN | CORRESPONDENT After months of being stuck at home, with schools closed and programs canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, kids will be able to get outside this summer at several Jewish day camps that have decided they can open safely with protective measures in place. Camp Gan Israel, run by Chabads in several different locations, will be open throughout the Bay Area, including in Walnut Creek, Santa Rosa, San Francisco and Berkeley. Rabbi Ber Rosenblat, who operates Camp Gan Israel in the South Bay, said if the response from parents is any indication, opening camp has been a welcome piece of news. “We reopened our camp enrollment with our revised program at midnight on Monday, June 2, and by 9 a.m. we were over 30 percent filled up, with one age group on a waitlist,” Rosenblat said. “By Wednesday afternoon, we were at about 80 percent capacity.” What children learn and experience in the relaxed camp
and cooking classes, and high-contact sports. “On the other hand, so much will be the same,” Rosenblat said. “The friends, the fun, nurturing counselors and the exciting camp spirit and Jewish experience.” The JCC of San Francisco will hold its in-person day camp in July with safety precautions in place. Campers will have their temperatures checked each morning and will be required to wear masks when in public spaces. The furniture in classrooms will be arranged so campers can maintain social distancing. And counselors will make sure campers are washing and sanitizing their hands “frequently,” a notice on the JCC website says, and will “help them to avoid touching their faces as much as possible.”
“If we can provide a safe, fun, Jewish experience for our campers, then we must. If we cannot, then we will close.” Rabbi Ber Rosenblat
environment can sometimes be even more meaningful than what they pick up throughout the year, he said. And feeling a sense of community and connection is needed now more than ever. “Children have been isolated and confused. They don’t see their friends and classmates, they don’t have those [in real life] social experiences that make up normal life,” Rosenblat said. “This year, I think camp is even more relevant and important.” And yet, how do Jewish day camps operate safely in the age of Covid-19? It’s a question that has been given serious thought, according to camp directors, who have been doing a good deal of advance planning. “We started planning with a question — can we provide our motto of ‘safe, fun, Jewish’?” Rosenblat said. “If we can provide a safe, fun, Jewish experience for our campers, then we must. If we cannot, then we will close.” Camp organizers spent hours researching and studying guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the American Camping Association, and state and county health officials. “After much thought, we came up with a comprehensive plan, had it reviewed by both medical and camping professionals, and got the green light.” Campers will undergo a health screening each morning and get their temperatures taken. There won’t be any hugging or hand holding allowed, and swimming trips are canceled. The San Francisco location has eliminated field trips, baking
2017 Camp Kee Tov campers Jules Rabinowitz, Isabelle Keim and June Waggoner (Photo/Courtesy Emily Schnitzer)
After running a “Camp at Home” virtual program in June, the JCC of the East Bay will offer a four-week, in-person camp session in Berkeley starting July 6. The same goes for the Oshman Family JCC’s J-Camp, which will hold one four-week session starting July 6. Camp Shalom at the Addison-Penzak JCC will open camp on June 29 and hold two three-week sessions. Other JCCs have either decided to continue with online programming or are still exploring their options. At Camp Gan Israel in Berkeley, the directors are ready to offer what they call “out-of-the-box CGI.” In a letter to camp families, Rabbi Yehuda and Miriam Ferris said they are “committed to providing a warm, ruachfilled Gan Israel experience this summer and await final confirmation from the local authorities. “ There will be new dates, shorter hours and “an ideal location, out of doors at beautiful North Lake Temescal,” the letter said. “At this time, we are planning to stay at the park all day. We will not be leaving for trips or swimming. Parents will transport children to and from camp each day,” and no
extended care will be provided. “As we prepare for camp this summer, we will adjust camp to any new health and safety requirements that may be necessary,” the message said. “We are committed to creating the best and most vibrant version of Gan Israel possible within the legal and safety requirements.” In Berkeley, Camp Kee Tov will begin July 6, most likely offering two three-week sessions. One veteran parent said she trusts the leaders to get it right in terms of health and safety, and believes the benefits of having her three children in camp this summer outweigh the risks. Rachel Ostroy said her two teenage girls, Mimi, 15, and Lena, 17, will be camp counselors, and 11-year-old Leo will attend as a camper. “Leo has been going since the summer before kindergarten and he will be entering sixth grade,” she said. The girls also started as campers the summer before kindergarten, but a brief move to L.A. meant a couple of summers missed, she said. “However, as soon as we decided to move back, the first thing I did was sign up for Kee Tov,” Ostroy said. The children “need some continuity in their lives, the connection with their community, opportunity to be outside and be social, get out of the house, be off screens … I could go on.” The camp, a program of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, will “look very different” to returning campers and families, said director Beckett Sheeder. But the hope is that “the extra precautions we’re going to be taking will simply allow for kids to get outside, to resocialize and to have some fun this summer.” Like other regional day camps, overnights and field trips are out this year at Kee Tov, but a “fun and ruach-filled summer for our campers and their families” is planned, Sheeder said. “We feel strongly that the service we provide families is essential to the emotional and physical health of our community, not to mention helping to take some load off of parents and allow them to get back to work,” Sheeder said. “I hear from parents all the time about how desperate they are for something to do for their children. For us, creating safe spaces for children to socialize with their peers and get outside is also an urgent public health and education concern.” Many of the camp directors say the respite camp offers parents and children has never been more essential. “We are hearing from so many members of the community that access to safe child care is something they desperately need,” Sheeder said. “We have been willing to make big structural changes to the basic framework of camp in order to follow the most stringent health and safety guidelines, because if that’s what it takes for us to offer Camp Kee Tov this summer, then that’s what we’re going to do.” n
JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 6.12.2020 3
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
Floyd killing, anti-racism protests tighten bonds for San Francisco’s African American-Jewish Unity Group DAN PINE | J. STAFF With America convulsing from days of rage, protest and street violence, Malcolm Gissen says he feels “the same anger, hurt and despair as my black brothers and sisters.” How does Gissen, a white Jewish man who lives in San Francisco, know how they feel? As co-leader of the San Francisco African American-Jewish Unity Group, he has been in constant contact with the group’s black members, all reeling from the killing of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police, and the subsequent outbreak of civil unrest. His report is bleak. “My black friends are telling me they have no hope,” says the longtime financial adviser who used to work as a lawyer. “White people have to understand that.” Keeping in touch is routine among the 125 members of the group, which formed in 2016 and meets monthly, although the pandemic has forced the participants onto Zoom recently. It’s not new for Bay Area Jews and African Americans to collaborate. The S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council and the San Francisco Interfaith Council have been fostering such relationships for years,
Members of the S.F. African American-Jewish Unity Group at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in San Francisco, Jan. 20, 2020.
and economic justice,” says Howard Lindsay, Gissen’s co-leader and a minister at Grace Tabernacle Community Church in the Bayview-Hunters Point area of San Francisco. “People need opportunities. If you block them out of economic opportunities, you create this permanent underclass.” Among the group’s signal achievements was the passage two years ago of AB 2138, which allows ex-felons to be eligible to earn
from working,” Gissen says. “It made no sense that we parole people and then they cannot get a job or a license to work in occupations like cosmetology. We drafted a bill with the ACLU” and gave it to Chiu, whose district covers part of San Francisco. The bill passed both houses of the state Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2018. The unity group came together during
“We want to bring people together to talk about what’s going on in the community, how we can support what we like and change what we don’t like.” Malcolm Gissen, group co-leader
Visiting the “Soul of a Nation” exhibit at the de Young Museum earlier this year.
and a number of synagogues and black churches often engage in pulpit swaps. The unity group, however, was a purely grassroots effort from the get-go. And while forging friendships has always been a chief goal of the gatherings, the group (roughly half black and half Jewish) also has tried to effect real change. “We have a steering committee focused on criminal justice reform as well as racial
licenses in cosmetology and other professional fields. Unity group members saw the injustice of denying work opportunities to people with past criminal convictions, so they approached state Assembly member David Chiu, who told the group he would introduce the bill if they wrote the text. And they did. “We knew there were 200 occupations that ban anyone with felony convictions
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Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House, as the group’s progressive membership considered a Trump presidency a clear danger to Jews and minorities. Gissen says he has long felt a kinship with the African American community. While a student at the University of Wisconsin Law School in the late 1960s, he spent time in the South fighting for civil rights. From that experience he started Project Understanding, a program that brought low-income black children from Mississippi to Wisconsin for summer recreation. The program grew and continued for some 40 years, involving hundreds of children. Along the same lines, Gissen’s group co-leader, Lindsay, says, “Social justice has always been important in my life.” The son of Jamaican immigrants, Lindsay, 49, grew up in the Bronx, New
York, becoming an executive in investment banking and finance. But later in life he felt a calling to the ministry, and was eventually ordained at a multidenominational evangelical seminary. Today he serves as associate pastor for social justice ministries at Grace Tabernacle. After a pastor friend suggested he go to a unity group meeting, Lindsay got involved. He took on the co-leadership role with Gissen two years ago. As a student at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Lindsay studied the Hebrew Bible, but joining the unity group expanded his appreciation for Judaism and Jewish culture. “Repair the world, right?” he says, alluding to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam. “I never heard the phrase until I came to the group. It became so much more apparent that this justice angle is part of the reading of the Torah, and it’s how we can work together.” For Lindsay, the upheaval that followed the recent murders of Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia has been painfully familiar. But he keeps his eyes on the prize. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Lindsay says. “You remember people who gave up their lives in the march towards increased human rights. The Constitution, the preamble, the Declaration [of Independence], lofty ideals but not intended for all human beings to be included, but you have to hold them to it. Somehow we have to keep fighting, keep pushing, and we just can’t give up. If we do, then we are completely giving up on our calling, our divine right as beings created in the likeness of God.” Gissen says the friendships forged in the group have made a difference. “We just want to bring people together to talk about what’s going on in the community, how we can support what we like and change what we don’t like,” he says. “There is a great deal of affection and love between the people who participate.” Both Gissen and Lindsay say the group is not limited to issues of concern to the black community. Anti-Semitic violence, such as the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, have been the topic of many group discussions. (Details can be found at sfunitygroup.org.) Both men say the group members have each other’s backs. And in the process, they all learn more about each other’s cultures. “Last week,” Lindsay says, “I wished a friend a happy Shavuot, and she was really surprised.” n
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
Jewish teen fundraisers in East Bay don’t let Covid stop them MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF When 15 or so teens gathered last fall at a synagogue in Walnut Creek to discuss philanthropy, they didn’t know that social distancing was going to throw a wrench into their fundraising plans. “It’s been really hard,” said Sam Benabou, a junior at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill. “There’s a lot of job insecurity right now. It’s tough to ask people to donate.” But the young people involved in the Hamsa Fund, an ongoing program of Contra Costa Midrasha, didn’t give up on their fundraising goals because of Covid-19. Instead, they pivoted from their original plans, added Covid-19 relief efforts to their agenda and raised around $8,500 for four nonprofits. “We’ve certainly achieved quite a bit with what we had,” said Max Hess, a senior at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek. The Hamsa Fund is an all-teen Jewish philanthropy board that teaches East Bay teens how to fundraise, research nonprofits and make decisions about giving. It was set up five years ago, said Devra Aarons, executive director of Contra Costa Midrasha, and was inspired by a phrase from Deuteronomy: “You shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.” The teen fundraisers usually pull in around $20,000
each year, but this year it was harder because of the inability to meet potential donors face to face. They generally raise money via family and friends. “That direct contact with people is what raises a lot of our funds,” Benabou said. But the $8,500 raised in 2020 is a nice chunk to donate. Most of it is still going to organizations that support the teens’ original goal of boosting access to education — $2,000 each to nonprofits SOAR for Youth, College Track and Jumpstart. Max Hess “I think it’s amazing they were able to do what they did, because their fundraising campaign had just started,” Aarons said. The rest — some $2,500 plus — is going to Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay to support the agency’s new Jewish Community Safety Net program for
“It’s really just about putting in the time and building networks.”
people impacted by the pandemic. “We decided to fund nonprofits that would provide immediate help and relief,” Benabou said. Hess, who has been in the program for four years, said he appreciates the way that the fund gives teens a deeper understanding of societal problems and offers them a way to be part of the solution. “The earlier we can get involved, the better, because it really empowers people,” he said. Hess said he plans to continue working with nonprofits and fundraising once he’s off to college in the fall at Purdue University in Indiana. “Anyone can do it,” he said. “It’s really just about putting in the time and building networks.” Though the teens handed out the allocations in a Zoom event on May 27, money continues to trickle in through the fundraising website or the mail. All of it will go to JFCS East Bay, Benabou said. Making personal pleas in order to raise money for worthy causes, Benabou added, has shown him it’s not only adults who can make a difference, and he credits the Hamsa Fund with showcasing that. “It definitely opened me up to a new world of philanthropy that I didn’t even know about,” he said. “They take it really seriously,” said Aarons, the Midrasha director. “And it shows.” n
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For Jews of color, protests are reminders of pain — even within Jewish community GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF It was a sunny Saturday morning in October 2011, and Avi Rosenblum, a freshman on the football team at Laney College, was at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station headed to school. Rosenblum, who is black and Jewish, was playing his music out loud when another passenger called the police on him. BART officers pulled Rosenblum from the platform, pushed the 6-foot-2 black, 200-pound football player against the wall and put him in handcuffs. A black BART police sergeant told the other officers to let him go, Rosenblum said. “I was scared, I’m not going to lie. God forbid I said the wrong thing. It just takes the wrong word. Everyone knows the Oscar Grant Fruitvale Station” incident, said the now 27-year-old Rosenblum, referring to the 2009 BART police killing of the unarmed black Hayward resident. Fear for one’s life at the hands of law enforcement is a story all too familiar to black Americans, who are now leading protests around the country after the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, as well
along with a call for deep reflection by white Ashkenazi Jews and action to identify and dismantle racism within the Jewish community. Some told stories of how they have been subject to that racism. Tova Ricardo, 21, of Clayton, an undergraduate at Columbia University, said that she’s been mistaken for the janitorial staff while at synagogue. Her own Judaism has also been questioned by white congregants. “There are people who doubt my Jewishness,” she said. “They’ll doubt my Jewish knowledge. They will assume I don’t know their stories.” Ricardo, who worked as a J. editorial intern last summer, thinks that her experiences, while personally painful, are damaging to the Jewish community in the long run. “I’m going to be honest, it actually makes the Jewish community look like they don’t know who they are,” she said. “You are supposed to acknowledge and treat me as if I was anyone else.” Avi Rosenblum in IDF uniform with mom Debby Graudenz.
“We as a people have wanted to be on the right side of history.” Shekhiynah Larks
Members of Jewish Youth for Community Action march in downtown Oakland, June 1, 2020. (Photo/Rachel Gottfried)
as the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of two local residents in Brunswick, Georgia. A few years after the BART incident, Rosenblum spent three years in Israel serving in the Israel Defense Forces. He now lives back at home with his parents in Albany. “When Avi was a teenager, one of things we said to him when he was going out the door was, ‘Be safe and sane,’” said Avi’s adoptive white mother, Debby Graudenz. “The fear is different when you send a big, black teenager out the door. We felt safer with Avi in Israel in the army than in the United States.” On top of the recent protests, America’s other current crises — unprecedented job loss and over 100,000 deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic — are affecting black Americans in dramatic ways. According to a revealing report published in the New York Times, fewer than half of adult black Americans are working right now. And they are dying from coronavirus at disproportionate rates. In interviews with Jews of color in the Bay Area, a portrait of anger, frustration, exhaustion and pain emerged,
“We as a people have wanted to be on the right side of history,” agreed Shekhiynah Larks. “And often try to do the things that will put us [there].” Larks, who is program coordinator and diversity trainer at Be’chol Lashon, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that advocates for Jews of color, said she has felt “overwhelmed” since the George Floyd killing and the start of mass protests. “I’m confused,” said Larks, 22, who lives in Oakland. “I’m crying a lot. I’m hurt that my city is torn up.” For the Jewish community to be on the right side of history, Larks said, white Ashkenazi Jews need to be just as serious about denouncing anti-black racism as they are about anti-Semitism. “This is one of those times where we need to take the same stance that we take on anti-Semitism and say, ‘This is enough.’ This racism, this anti-black racism, is impacting our community,” Larks said. When racism is discussed, she said, it’s often brought up as an external issue, but it needs to be recognized as an internal problem as well. Jews of color make up at least 6 percent
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of the Jewish community nationwide, according to a 2013 Pew study of Jewish Americans; a 2019 academic study overseen by the Berkeley-based Jews of Color Field Building Initiative found the number to be much higher, closer to 12 to 15 percent. “We need to address it both inside and outside of the community,” Larks said. “To be committed to the movement for black lives means to also be committed to the movement for black lives in the Jewish community.” Black Jews aren’t the only Jews of color who have had racist encounters. “I’ve had instances where I’m in shul and people came up to me and asked me, ‘Why are you here?’” said Gabrielle Kuhn, who is Chinese American. “It was very off-putting, someone coming up to you and questioning you. It assumes you must just be married to someone that is a white Ashkenazi Jew, because that is the presumption of what a Jew is.” Kuhn, who has worked in several San Francisco Jewish nonprofits and now splits her time between Israel and the West Coast, said she brought her 6-year-old son to a protest in Los Angeles; they took part in it from the safety of their car. “I am Asian, and because I am Jewish and because I have a son, I think it is important for him to stand up for what’s right and to teach those values to him,” Kuhn said. “I think there is symbolism in people who aren’t black showing up as allies.” The Jewish community can start committing itself to chipping away at its own internal issues by seeing anti-Semitism and anti-black racism not as separate forces, but as
COVER STORY NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE inextricably linked, said Ilana Kaufman, executive director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative. “When white Jews want to fight anti-Semitism but not racism, or first want to fight anti-Semitism then racism, they’re not seeing how anti-Semitism and racism are connected,” Kaufman said. “You’re not paying attention to the common enemies. They’re after all of us. Why would we make a hierarchy? We could be in a movement together.” Kaufman also said this is a time for everyone in the Jewish community to think about where they have power to help protesters. “Where’s my influence?” she urges people to ask themselves. “Do I work in the legal field? Am I a person of financial means? Do I have political power? Really do a personal inventory and explore what is it that you can contribute right now that will actually help dismantle white supremacy.” Kaufman said that the Black Lives Matter movement is just as important inside the Jewish community as it is outside of it. “We need to just be super-duper clear, like, unequivocally clear,” Kaufman said. “Black lives matter. We matter in the Jewish community. Black lives matter outside of the Jewish community. We have to shut down whatever system that has people thinking that black lives are disposable.” Batya Brose, who is Mexican American and enrolled in Berkeley City College’s biotechnology program, said rabbis and heads of Jewish organizations need to “do the hard thing.” “Say, ‘We understand our whiteness,’” said Brose, 25, whose family has been longtime members of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. “We want to know what it’s like for you. Have conversations with these black and brown Jews so they can make adjustments accordingly. What can we do as a community to make people feel more welcome? It requires a certain amount of consciousness.” There are examples of congregations doing just that. Lily Marylander, 18, who is Asian American, said her family’s synagogue has done a good job at reaching out to Jews of color. She said the leadership of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley sends out a survey every year to see if they are ever feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome. And Marylander says she’s seen the shul make efforts to place Jews of color in leadership roles. “Some communities are really proactive about that,” said Marylander, who just graduated from Oakland School for the Arts. Sarah Grace Gladstone, the East Bay program
“Do a personal inventory and explore what is it that you can contribute right now that will actually help dismantle white supremacy.” Ilana Kaufman
coordinator at Jewish Youth for Community Action, a youthled program that seeks to “educate, empower and inspire” progressive social action, suggests that the act of listening is just as important. “Follow the lead of black folks and black Jewish people,” said Gladstone. “Being able to not just react, and to really take a step back and to listen to what affected people are saying. It’s not always what feels the best to do.” A contingent of JYCA’s youth joined a protest on June 1 in Oakland, where 15,000 participants, led by black students from Oakland Technical High School, marched from the school to City Hall. About 100 stayed after curfew and marched to the police station to confront police. Marylander, who is not part of JYCA but has friends in the organization, took part in the protest and used her art-making skills to spray-paint signs of raised fists. “It was an amazing show of solidarity,” Marylander said. “I saw people with babies in strollers and old people. People of all races.” The outpouring of support among protesters from across the spectrum of race and religion does feel different this time compared with previous protests against police violence, said Marcella White Campbell, marketing director at Be’chol Lashon. When Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, Campbell said she saw “silence” among her friends on social media. “I would post about Ferguson and then someone would post about a cat,” she said. But with the most recent protests, that isn’t the case. “It gives me hope that some sort of critical mass is coming that could make some changes,” Campbell said. But she added that she’s still fearful for her 15-year-old son. “I had, in some ways, a different response when he was younger,” she said. “Today he is going out on his own. I have a very visceral feeling about all of this. Remember that this
Ilana Kaufman says Black Lives Matter is just as important inside the Jewish community. (Photo/Aviva Levine)
is a problem that’s all over the U.S. But [also] remember that this is a problem in the Jewish community. So don’t forget that when expressing solidarity.” Kenny Kahn, assistant principal at Monte Vista High School in Danville, is raising two young boys and wonders what kind of society they will inherit. “As they get older and become more aware of the world around them, I’m not always going to be able to be there for them,” said Kahn, who is a black and a longtime activist with Be’chol Lashon. “That creates fear and vulnerability for them.” He intends to raise his kids to see the best in others, but admits that it will be challenging. The story of George Floyd illustrates the reality his family faces every day, he said. A positive outcome of the protests sparked by Floyd’s death is the opportunity to pose critical questions to law enforcement — and to demand answers. “Did you lead with humanity?” Kahn said. “Did you lead with compassion? Or did you lead with seeing a black man and assumed the worst?” n
“It was an amazing show of solidarity. I saw people with babies in strollers and old people. People of all races.” Lily Marylander
Left to right: Tova Ricardo (Photo/Kara Fleishhacker); Sarah White Gladstone (Photo/Courtesy JYCA); Marcella White Campbell; Batya Brose (Photo/Courtesy Lydia Brose) JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 6.12.2020 7
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San Francisco rabbis ‘kneel for justice’ in City Hall protest GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF No tear gas. No stun grenades. No rubber bullets. With more than a dozen speakers and musical interludes blasting over a PA system, the June 1 “Kneeling for Justice” demonstration in memory of George Floyd and against police brutality, held on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, lasted well into the heat of the afternoon. Rabbis Beth Singer, Jonathan Singer and Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El stood by civil rights leaders, activists, public officials and those impacted by police violence, as the crowd tried (and often failed) to maintain social distancing standards.
26-year-old fatally shot by San Francisco police in 2015. The event was spearheaded by the local group Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community and emceed by its founder, Phelicia Jones. It followed the killing of George Floyd on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer in an incident captured on video, which went viral and sparked protests across the country. Curfews lasted all week in several Bay Area counties where vandalism and looting took place alongside the protests. “I did not want this protest to be like that,” Jones announced to those gathered. “I want us to come together, to mourn, to hear some music — because music soothes our souls — and to let you know that social justice is real.” The rally featured a star-studded cast of speakers, including the civil rights legend and president of San Francisco’s branch of the NAACP Amos C. Brown, Mayor London Breed and the Academy Award-winning actor and musician Jamie Foxx. “No weapon formed against you shall prosper,” Foxx crooned by way of opening his address, to roars from the crowd. His sweatshirt read “Busy making my ancestors Rabbi Jonathan Singer joins civil rights leaders on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to proud.” protest police brutality. (Photo/Gabe Stutman) “I just want to let you know I’m not Hollywood, Upwards of 1,000 people gathered at Civic Center I’m just a person,” said Foxx, who hails from the small town Plaza, wearing masks, chanting “Black Lives Matter!” and of Terrell, Texas. “But the one thing I can say — I was there holding signs including “Silence=Complicity,” “Love Ends in L.A. when there was the Rodney King beating. I watched Hate,” “Defund the Police” and “Justice for Mario Woods,” a that and I said, ‘If they get away with this now, what’s
going to happen later?’ And it continues to happen.” Brown invited Jonathan Singer to speak at the event. But with so many African American speakers slated to take the microphone, including Mario Woods’ mother, who gave an emotional speech, the rabbi said he felt it appropriate to let the collection of black voices be heard instead. “It was really important for the Jewish community to add our voice, and express our pain and our allyship,” Singer told J. “All of us are in pain over this.” Both Singers wore tallits, channeling images of the civil rights leader Abraham Joshua Heschel walking alongside
“We want to distinguish that we are representing parts of the Jewish community for whom this is a very serious tzedek [justice] issue.” Rabbi Beth Singer
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Selma march in 1965. That was by design, the Singers said. “We want to distinguish that we are representing parts of the Jewish community for whom this is a very serious tzedek [justice] issue,” Beth Singer said. Rabbi Jason Rodich and Cantor Marsha Attie were also present at the rally. Both Singers and Rabbi Mintz kneeled with others at the front of the demonstration, echoing the disturbing way Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck until he died (Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder). Jonathan Singer said it was important for the Jewish community to marshal its inner resources and reach out to others during this painful moment in history. “We need our faith and our values — and a extensive minyan with the greater San Francisco community — to come together to stand up against this kind of senseless violence,” he said. n
Relief fund launched for Jews of color and people of color working in Jewish community GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF The Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, a nonprofit formed in Berkeley in 2018 to support JOC in the Bay Area and around the country, has announced a new emergency relief fund geared toward Jews of color, and people of color within the Jewish community, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The “Jews of Color Initiative COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for Individuals,” announced via press release on May 26, helps cover basic necessities including housing, utilities and groceries, medical bills, and burial expenses. In announcing the initiative, executive director Ilana Kaufman cited systemic racism, which has been “amplifying the impact” of the pandemic on people of color. “We need to get funds into the hands of the most vulnerable, many of whom struggle daily to pay bills and put food on the table,” Kaufman said. Nationally, people of color have been disproportionately
hurt by a pandemic that has killed more than 109,000 people in the United States and has sent the economy into a tailspin. According to a recent report from American Public Media, the overall mortality rate for black Americans is about 2.4 times higher than for white Americans. In California, figures from the Department of Public Health show that racial disparities are most acute for working-age Latino adults. As of May 26, Latinos between the ages of 35 and 49 accounted for 74 percent of deaths in the state, despite making up just 41.5 percent of the population. The JFCBI cited the highly competitive and labor-intensive grant application processes that currently prevail, and is instead making the grant-seeking process a “light-lift” so as to be accessible and accommodating to working people and those with hectic life routines. “Minimal documentation related to finances is required,” the organization said. “The Relief Fund trusts the
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information the applicant provides.” “It’s our responsibility to provide an accessible [grant process] that reflects the urgency and equity that this moment demands,” Kaufman said. Applications are being reviewed in batches, with an effort to match funding to need. Grants of between $250 and $2,500 are available, and funds must be put toward the essential uses named above, the release said. Eligible applicants are people of color in the Jewish community living in the United States, “People of Color who self-identify as Jewish, People of Color who work or have worked for a Jewish communal organization, and People of Color affiliated with organizations in the Jewish community,” JCFBI said. The fund is currently open, and applications can be accessed via the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative website, jewsofcolorinitiative.org. n
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Oakland school board votes to support controversial ethnic studies curriculum before planned revisions DAN PINE | J. STAFF The Oakland Unified School Board has passed a resolution supporting a statewide ethnic studies curriculum for high school that came under heavy criticism last year for excluding Jewish history and the history of other ethnic groups. The draft curriculum, which is currently undergoing revisions, also omitted serious discussion of anti-Semitism; elevated the cause of BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel; and included references to the “nakba” ( Arabic for “catastrophe,” referring to the creation of the State of Israel). The vote, taken just before 2 a.m. on May 28 near the end of a marathon 10-hour board meeting, was four in support of the resolution, two against, with one abstention. Oakland, a diverse district that operates 13 public high schools, joined Castro Valley, West Contra Costa County, Hayward, Albany and San Francisco in voting to support the original ethnic studies curriculum. A similar resolution was tabled by the Vallejo school board on May 6. The draft curriculum, rejected last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond and other state government officials, is currently being revised and will be available for public scrutiny in August. As J. reported on May 22, state education officials told Jewish lawmakers that the revised curriculum will delete all references to BDS. With its May 28 vote, the Oakland school board did not actually adopt the original version but merely expressed support for it. That left room for some confusion going forward, according to OUSD board president Jody London, who voted against the resolution. “It’s unclear whether [the resolution supports] the original version being revised, or adopting whatever is ultimately adopted,” she said. “That was one of my criticisms. What is it we’re directing the superintendent to do?” The resolution language “affirms support of the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Draft as written by ethnic studies experts from across the state,” and further supports “maintaining its framing and language of the discipline,” though it allows for “additional scaffolding as necessary to be inclusive and supportive of multiple users.” It also affirms support of “the celebration of pre-colonial knowledge and worldviews, critical analysis of various forms of oppression, transformative resistance, and radical
“It’s unclear whether [the resolution supports] the original version being revised, or adopting whatever is ultimately adopted. That was one of my criticisms. What is it we’re directing the superintendent to do?” OUSD board president Jody London
healing toward our vision of social justice.” What any of this means in practical terms is unclear. However the board’s decision left some in the East Bay Jewish community unhappy. “It went terribly,” said Rabbi Mark Bloom of Temple Beth Abraham of the vote. “I was not surprised, but I’m very concerned.” Bloom was one of six Oakland rabbis to sign a May 22 letter to the school board urging rejection of the resolution. Although they strongly support the notion of a high school ethnic studies program, the rabbis’ letter referenced concerns by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus that the original curriculum “erases the Jewish experience, fails to discuss antisemitism, reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews, and would institutionalize the teaching of antisemitic stereotypes in our schools.” Some Jews supported the resolution, including Rabbi Dev Noily of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont. Noily’s support, along with that of Jewish Voice for Peace, was mentioned in the language of the resolution. Other named groups in support include the Arab American Studies Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, California State University Council on Ethnic Studies, the California Teachers Association and the Oakland Education Association. Noily told J. they were “gratified” that the board endorsed the curriculum. “I hope members of the Jewish community will look at the curriculum more closely, and especially will take time to listen to the many young people of color who are sharing about their life-changing experiences through engaging with ethnic studies in school.” Going forward, opponents of the various school board resolutions are calculating next steps. Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, AJC’s Northern California director,
told J. via email that adopting an ethnic studies curriculum “is too important for the students of California, especially the minority students, to let this opportunity slip away.” In that respect, she said she agreed
with the intent of the Oakland school board and others in promoting the value of ethnic studies. But, she added, “the original curriculum included materials that should be revised — as many have acknowledged, including the school board members, even as they voted to endorse the draft as written. AJC will continue to work tirelessly through our advocacy and coalition building to see that an ethnic studies curriculum is uplifting and inclusive, and implemented in ways that will benefit the diversity of our great state.” Opponents note that the original curriculum, with all of its controversial components, is nowhere near close to being introduced into classrooms. “There are many steps before anything is taught,” said London. “You have to adopt a curriculum, train the teachers, be sure they deliver it with fidelity. Adoption is a really long process. This [vote] is not the be all, end all.” n
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State bill would provide training to better identify hate crimes ELISSA EINHORN | CORRESPONDENT David Chiu’s personal background made him an ideal partner for a hate crimes-related bill authored by fellow Assembly member Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), vice chair of the California Jewish Legislative Caucus. Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco, describes it this way: “I was raised by a Protestant mother and Buddhist father, and schooled by high school priests and four Jewish college roommates.” It is his diverse upbringing, coupled with the recent rise in hate crimes against the Jewish community and his own Asian-Pacific Islander community, that led Chiu to co-introduce the proposed legislation with Gabriel and two others. Chiu said he and Gabriel “talk frequently about issues that impact our respective communities. Hate crimes are, unfortunately, high on that list.” If signed into law, AB 2236 will provide comprehensive training to law enforcement officers about hate crime trends, enforcement practices and identifying and tracking such crimes more effectively. Officers will be required to enroll in
a refresher course every five years. The bill has the support of numerous Jewish organizations, as well as a diverse coalition that includes members of the Asian-Pacific Islander, LGBTQ, Sikh, Hindu, women’s rights and disability rights communities. Gabriel, who serves as assistant majority whip, introduced the bill as a follow-up to AB 1548, which was signed into law in 2019 and established the California Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The program recently awarded $15 million in a second round of funding to protect houses of worship, schools, community centers and other vulnerable institutions across
the state that are at risk for hate-motivated violence. Gabriel notes that with 500 applicants, the demand far exceeded the funding. “AB 2236 is a different approach, but getting to the same concern, which is hate-motivated violence,” he said. The bill is also in response to a 2018 state audit finding that law enforcement agencies routinely failed to report and respond to hate crimes, or improperly classified them, making Members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus attend a bill signing ceremony with Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 11, 2019. them impossible to prosecute. “What we’re doing is based on a recommendation by the “When we see incidents like that, permission has been state auditor to improve the response of what is probably given to speak in hateful ways,” she told J. “The ADL did a significant underreporting of hate,” Gabriel said. “The Departpresentation to the Jewish caucus where they spoke about ment of Justice estimates that hates crimes are between 24 the lack of data and reporting. We need that information and 28 percent more frequent than reported.” to know what’s going on. It’s critical for law enforcement to Chiu, a civil rights attorney and former prosecutor, added, know what they are seeing.” “We have to educate police officers about what is convictable All three legislators interviewed are disturbed by the rise and prosecutable. It is more of hate crimes in recent years and laid responsibility at the important than ever to pass feet of the current presidential administration. this bill to make sure hate “It was a scary and eye-opening moment in the [Jewish] crimes don’t go unreported.” caucus to see what happened in Charlottesville [in 2017], with According to the Anti-Defpeople chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us’ and people in posiamation League, 2,107 anti-Se- tions of power failing to condemn it,” Gabriel said. Two years mitic incidents were recorded later, the Chabad of Poway shooting “crystallized for my legisin 2019, a 12 percent increase lative colleagues how real it is for folks in the community.” from 2018 and the highest And with Covid-19, some marginalized communities are number of incidents since the feeling more vulnerable. Noting that the staggering unemADL began collecting data ployment due to the pandemic has created fertile ground for in 1979. California had the increased hate, Gabriel noted that “as history has taught us, third-highest number of incihate and bigotry increase in times of economic uncertainty.” dents with 330 behind New Referring to Jewish values that demand standing against Rebecca Bauer-Kahan York (430) and New Jersey hate for everyone, Bauer-Kahan mentioned participating in (345). Recent recorded incidents in the Bay Area include online a recent forum with Chiu to highlight the experiences of the death threats in Concord; swastikas, racist and homophobic Asian-Pacific Islander community, including references to graffiti on the Peninsula; and, in Marin County, posters claiming coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” that Jews masterminded the 9/11 attacks. Citing 1,700 hate incidents against his community in just For Jewish Assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan six weeks, Chiu said, “As far along as we think we have come, (D-Orinda), the Concord case hit home. Ross Farca, the more work needs to happen.” 24-year-old accused of making the threats, is facing felony Added Gabriel, “We would love nothing more than to wake counts in Contra Costa County on weapons charges and up tomorrow and live in a different world, but until then, our making criminal threats. Bauer-Kahan, a Bay Area native and caucus and our community will continue to work on this in a co-author of AB 2236, began receiving calls at her office after the coming years, because a fundamental aspect of governthe suspect was released on bail. ment is to protect our communities.” n
Koret awards $50 million in grants to local universities The Jewish philanthropic Koret Foundation has announced $50 million in grants to 12 Bay Area colleges and universities, including $12 million to UC Berkeley and $11.7 million to Stanford, the two largest dispersals. The foundation made a similar round of grants in 2016. The new grants will support programs that help colleges and universities recover from the coronavirus crisis, as well as build bridges between institutions in the U.S. and Israel, according to the San
Francisco-based foundation. At Stanford, $2 million is allocated to the Koret Young Israeli Scholars program over four years. The kosher food program will receive $1 million. A collaborative project between Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and Stanford Medicine will receive $1.5 million, and another partnership program with the Israeli state health service provider Clalit will get $200,000. At UC Berkeley, the Visiting Scholars from Israel program will receive $500,000 over
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four years. Grants outside the Jewish community will fund gender equity in women’s sports at UC Berkeley, research at University of San Francisco and veterans’ services at San Jose State University, among other programs. Some of the money is being directed to Koret Scholars, a financial aid program for 2,000 first-generation undergrads across several institutions, according to the foundation. In addition to Cal and Stanford, the
other grantee schools are USF and Santa Clara University; UCs San Francisco, Davis and Santa Cruz; CSUs San Jose, Sonoma, Monterey Bay and the East Bay; and City College of San Francisco. The Koret Foundation earlier this year granted $10 million to the USC Shoah Foundation for Holocaust education. The foundation was set up by Joseph Koret, who made his fortune in San Francisco through selling women’s apparel. He died in 1986. — J. Staff n
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Hebrew Free Loan stands in solidarity with those who are raising their voices against the deep injustices caused by racism. No one is safe until all are safe. JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 6.12.2020 11
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Quick thinking at Auschwitz saved San Rafael man’s life MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF It was a moment of quick thinking on the part of 15-year-old Herbert Heller. He was at Auschwitz, standing before the man who would decide whether he lived or died, a man he was told went by the name of Dr. Mengele. “I can work,” Heller said in German, and flexed what he now calls “nonexistent muscles.” He may have been scrawny, but it
“Life was totally interrupted, but it was bearable,” he said. Two years later, in 1944, the family was put on another train, this time to Auschwitz. Heller’s quick thinking saved him from immediate death, but life at the camp was unimaginably cruel and brutal. “People starved to death, or [were] beaten to death. They were so sickly,” he
Profiles of Holocaust survivors, refugees partisans in our community.
caught my eye on the left side of the road. As I got closer to it, it was a rucksack.” Again his quick thinking saved him. He grabbed the backpack, which proved to have a set of winter clothes — pants, a jacket, gloves. He put the clothes on top of his striped camp uniform and ran off, making his way to a nearby train station, which was full of Germans, including civilians fleeing the oncoming troops. “When I got close to the train station, to the train, I started calling out in German, ‘Mutti, mutti, wo bist du?’ — Mother, mother, where are you? — and and acted like I was one of the Germans who was
about the scar and everything else that had happened from an oral history Heller did that year. Before that, Cohen had known only about her father’s life in the United States after World War II. He came with his mother, who had also survived the Holocaust. The two left together for America in 1946. His mother’s aunt lived in San Francisco and sponsored them. Heller was 17. He spoke almost no English and had only a fifth-grade education. He quickly remedied that by going to night school and getting a job as a stock boy at Woolworth, then at Macy’s, where he worked his way up. One proud moment was receiving his citizenship in 1952. Another was when he married his wife, Annette, in 1956. (She died two months ago.)
“I still wake up at night and see the black boots in front of me.” Herrbert Heller
was enough, and he was sent not to the gas chamber but to the barracks of the camp. Heller, 91, said that moment has never left him. “I still wake up at night and see the black boots in front of me,” the San Rafael man said. It wasn’t the first time Heller’s quick action and ability to speak German would save him during the horrifying years of the Holocaust. Heller was born in 1929 in Prague. He was 10 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, and 13 when he and his family were put on a train to Theresienstadt, the so-called “model camp,” where the Nazis attempted to show how Jews were being interned in a humane way. It wasn’t so bad, Heller recalls. Though they were in barracks, his family — mother, father, Heller and his older brother, Heinz — was together.
Herbert Heller with his late wife, daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren.
said. “The place we stayed was surrounded by high electricity wires, and sometimes some of our people were just so desperate and sick that they ran to touch it and they were electrocuted. They just wanted to end their life.” He remembers in detail the hanging they were forced to witness, the cold they felt during winter, the lack of food and clothing, and the colors of the Nazi uniforms — green for the Wehrmacht and black for the SS, who he said “were the cruelest. They’d just as soon kill you as do anything else.” His father and brother were shipped away one day, never to return. Heller was still at Auschwitz in 1945 when the Germans marched the remaining inmates out of the camp, away from the approaching Soviet troops. An estimated 15,000 prisoners died along the way. Suddenly, he recalled, “Something
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going on the train with a family,” he said. He managed to get to Prague, where he sought out a Catholic family he knew from before the war. “They burnt the striped pajamas and put me to bed. I think I slept for two days,” he recalled. Heller knew sheltering a Jew was a death sentence, and he wanted to protect the family. And with his Auschwitz tattoo, he was literally marked. So he removed it by holding a rag soaked with cleaning acid to his arm until the tattoo was burned away. He still has the scar. Vivian Cohen, Heller’s daughter, knew all about that scar — or so she thought. “Dad told us he had burned himself … in a water-heater accident,” she said. “So every time I walked by my water heater in the garage, I was like, ooh.” Only in 2004 did she learn the truth
In 1958 he opened his own business in San Rafael: Heller’s for Children, which was a resource for generations of Marin parents. For almost 50 years, he ran a thriving business and raised a family (the store closed in 2018). “I always tell [people] how rich I am,” he said. “I had a wife, three daughters, 10 grandkids and a dog.” It was a long time before Heller was willing to talk about his past. “I never wanted to talk about it because I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me.” But once his daughters knew the story, they encouraged him to open up more, and soon he began to speak around the Bay Area. He remembers one young woman, who after hearing his story asked him if he was sorry that he had been born Jewish. “I said, ‘Not really,’” Heller said. “What I’m really sorry about is that Hitler was born.” n
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After mass testing, zero Covid cases reported at senior home GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF The San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living reported zero cases of Covid-19 after a mandated round of widespread testing by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Close to 900 tests were administered among patients, residents and staff members at the Jewish Home & Rehab Center, the long-term skilled nursing facility on the SFCJL campus, the organization said. Employees working from home were ordered by the facility to get tested at an offsite location; all of those tests came back negative, too, according to the facility’s website. “We credit this amazing result to the herculean efforts of our staff and our decision to act early and swiftly during this crisis,” SFCJL president and CEO Daniel Ruth said in a press release. The results are particularly significant as the senior home continues to take in recovering Covid patients released from local hospitals in compliance with a statewide effort to reduce the strain on regional hospitals. The decision to take in the Covid patients previously had caused concern among families of long-term residents over a possible outbreak of the virus. As of June 9, 12 of the Covid patients have been discharged and two remain at the facility. “We know that this has been a very difficult time for everyone associated with our organization,” Ruth said in the press release. “We hope they now see the value of what we
have been doing and that it was done out of love and caring for everyone including staff and their loved ones.” Prior to the city’s universal testing, a total of three staff members at the senior home had tested positive for the virus. The facility’s press release said that none of these employees had contracted the virus while at work. Irina Gendelman, whose 89-year-old mother-in-law Doba Gendelman lives at the SFCJL, said she was “very happy, relieved and thankful” about the testing results. “I still think that admitting Covid patients was [an] unjustified risk, but very happy that [the facility] was taking that with great responsibility and precaution,” Gendelman said. On May 1, San Francisco’s health department announced that it would start conducting universal testing within the city’s skilled nursing facilities. Tests were administered at the SFCJL for a period of five days starting May 21. Another round of testing at the Jewish senior home was scheduled for two to four weeks after the first, according to a city health department official. As of June 9, SFCJL had not reported on a second round. Daily updates are available at sfcjl.org/covid-19.htm. Another Jewish senior home in San Francisco, Rhoda Goldman Plaza, was not included in the city’s mandate to conduct universal testing because it does not have a skilled nursing facility, but it started administering tests to its residents and staff independently on May 18.
As of June 9, there were no positive cases at Rhoda Goldman, according to the state’s Department of Social Services website. The coronavirus has devastated senior care facilities in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic. About one-fourth of Covid deaths in the country are linked to senior facilities, according to the AARP, and experts say that estimate is almost certainly an undercount. The SFCJL will continue to restrict visitors from all of its units, despite a May 26 order by the San Francisco health department that loosens rules surrounding visitors at the senior home’s Acute Psychiatric Hospital. “We understand and empathize that visitor restrictions have been extremely difficult for everyone,” the SFCJL stated on its website. “Please be assured that we are engaging in ongoing conversations with SFDPH [California Department of Public Health] and other applicable agencies about the plan to reopen nursing homes to family visitation.” The SFCJL also announced plans to submit a “COVID-19 Mitigation Plan” to the state’s health department for review. If the plan is accepted, health department surveyors will visit the facility to ensure that protocols and policies are being followed. A timeline of this process was not included on the facility’s website, but the SFCJL said it would provide an update after a visit by the state was completed. n
To David Waksberg on the occasion of his retirement: David, Your impact on the Jewish community will leave a mark for generations to come. You have saved lives and you have nurtured souls. You have shared from your heart and you have inspired through your wisdom. As you retire from your role as CEO of Jewish LearningWorks, you leave a legacy of creativity, perseverance, and a commitment to elevating and amplifying the voices of others. Yasher Koach and Todah Rabah to a real mensch. Fondly, The current and past board and staff of Jewish LearningWorks
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Accused of anti-Semitic threats, Farca released from custody GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF Ross Farca, the 24-year-old facing felony charges in Contra Costa County after allegedly making anti-Semitic threats online and assembling an illegal assault rifle, was released from custody on June 9 after posting $200,000 bail. Farca’s release pending trial has worried members of the Jewish community, including the regional Anti-Defamation League office based in San Francisco. Posts linked to Farca on the website Steam showed a fascination with Nazism and included details about a theoretical mass shooting targeting Jews. Upon a search of his Concord home in June 2019, police found an assault rifle and 13 high-capacity magazines, in addition to “Nazi literature” and camouflage clothing, according to photos and a police arrest report. “ADL believes Ross Farca poses a potential threat to the community and should remain in custody pending the outcome of the criminal case against him,” ADL regional director Seth Brysk said in a June 3 statement to J. “The criminal complaint and news reporting detail Ross Farca’s alleged violent hatred of Jews. Further, he is charged with threatening to mass murder Jews and having weapons necessary to do so.” Farca’s release comes after the reinstatement of $125,000 bail on June 3 by Superior Court Judge David Flinn. The following day, after hearing additional arguments from the state prosecutor, Flinn increased bail to $200,000. Farca’s conditions of release from a recently resolved federal case prohibit him from possessing or having access to a weapon, or using a computer that does not have
government monitoring software installed on it. He is also subject to unannounced visits by probation officers, who can also search his electronic devices, and is prohibited from leaving Northern California without permission. A security professional in the East Bay Jewish community attended the hearings on June 3 and 4 at which bail was set. They were conducted in person, using masks and social distancing. Flinn’s decision to set bail was worrisome to the man, who asked not be named for his own safety. “He can go ahead and post bail. He can get out,” he said in a phone call with J. At the hearing on June 4, which was audio-streamed online, Deputy District Attorney Whitnee Goins argued for the prosecution that Farca remained a threat to public safety and asked Flinn to either set very high bail, or choose to hold Farca on no bail. Following his arrest last June, Farca was released on $125,000 bail. While out of custody, he was arrested in November on felony charges that he lied to the U.S. government in an attempt to join the Army. He pled guilty to that charge. In detaining Farca, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim wrote in an order signed Nov. 27 that “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety” of the community. Goins read aloud from messages Farca sent between last June and November to a “potential mass shooter,” later identified as a 17-year-old student at San Jose State University arrested in September for illegally possessing a firearm. One message read, according to Goins: “I
am currently charged with criminal threats, possessing and manufacture of an AW [assault weapon]. While there are no police physically tracking my movements, I do suspect that they are monitoring my internet access, which is why I’m currently using a VPN to send this message.” In other messages, Farca appeared to be planning to meet up with the person and discussed how to evade capture by police: “Countermeasures would probably be electronic, because no one would recognize me. Also an escape plan, if a bunch of officers appear from nowhere,” Goins read. Farca’s lawyers have outlined a slew of mental health problems including autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and said he did not intend to carry out the threats. One of the lawyers, Joseph Tully, said previously that
his client was “trolling,” or attempting to a get a rise out of people with provocative posts. One post dated June 4, 2019, which was reported to the FBI, made reference to the Poway shooter and read: “I would get a body count of like 30 kikes and then like 5 police officers, because I would also decide to fight to the death.” After last week’s bail setting, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said it was “extremely disappointed in Judge Flinn’s ruling.” “We have listened and heard the voices of the Jewish community and are in agreement that Mr. Farca represents a danger to the community,” the statement from public information officer Scott Alonso read. At the June 3 hearing, Farca’s defense lawyer Ashley Bargenquast, a young associate at the firm Tully & Weiss, urged Flinn to consider Farca’s release. She mentioned, among other factors, dangerous conditions at the Martinez Detention Facility. “The most important change of circumstance, the reason that we’re all wearing a mask today, is that there is a pandemic,” Bargenquast said. “Mr. Farca remains in custody, and the more individuals in custody, the higher danger it is to Mr. Farca, and the higher danger it is to individuals in the facility.” Flinn responded that if Farca could arrange to have bail paid again, as he did in June 2019, “that would get him out of custody faster.” The next hearing is scheduled for July 2 at 8:45 a.m. An audio stream of the hearing will be available on the Contra Costa County Superior Court website. n
Brush fire strikes Walnut Creek synagogue GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF A brush fire broke out on the property of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek around 6 p.m. June 7, the synagogue said. The fire was contained to the hill behind the synagogue’s main building, with some property damage to a nearby cell tower and outdoor gardening equipment, according to a community-wide email sent by president Tim Plattner. Contra Costa firefighters responded after a neighbor called. “I want to thank the Contra Costa Fire Protection District for responding promptly and bringing the fire under control,” Plattner said in his email. “We owe them a huge debt of gratitude and I will be writing a letter to them saying exactly that.” Plattner also thanked executive director Alyssa Faulkenberg, the synagogue’s office staff and the secretary/buildings and grounds chair Jim Solomon for deciding to preemptively remove overgrowth on the affected hill two weeks ago. “If that hadn’t been done at the proper time, this could have been much worse,” Plattner said. The synagogue has a yearly abatement program to clear away excess brush on its property, according to Faulkenberg. She said it is too early to determine total monetary damages from the fire, but was greatful the damage was not more severe. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the 2020 wildfire season in the state is expected to be more active than usual in June. On June 6, firefighters battled a 135-acre fire in Contra Costa County, southwest of Concord. n 14 6.12.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
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‘Pride Seder’ to honor liberation history of LGBTQ Jews DAVID A.M. WILENSKY | J. STAFF Amid all of the rainbows and parades and fantastic costumes for which Pride Month is known today, it can be easy to forget that the LGBTQ Pride movement was born out of the Stonewall uprising, a series of riots against police brutality in New York City 50 years ago — and lesser known events, such as the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco in 1966. But as demonstrations against racist police violence have sprung up across America in recent weeks, that history seems as present as ever. The struggle that birthed Pride Month will be palpable at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav’s 15th annual Pride Seder, which ritualizes the history of LGBTQ Jews in much the same way that the traditional Passover seder ritualizes the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Normally held at the historically LGBTQ synagogue in the Mission District, this year it will be held via Zoom on June 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. (tinyurl.com/pride-seder). Local dignitaries slated to appear include state Sen. Scott Wiener, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan. For the first time, the event is being co-sponsored by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council. Like the Passover seder, the Pride Seder uses a written haggadah as a guide. And it tells a story that stretches from the rainbow in the biblical story of Noah to Nazi Germany’s persecution of LGBTQ people alongside Jews, to Stonewall in 1969. The Pride Seder plate also includes a cup of coffee to
Rose Hayes lights a rainbow of candles at a Pride Seder at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav.
symbolize the Compton’s Cafeteria riot, the first known major act of LGBTQ resistance in the United States, in which transgender people threw coffee at police who were harassing them. Other symbolic items include an uncovered challah to remind participants “of the sensuous sacredness of our own bodies” and, in a poetic nod to the coronavirus crisis, a feather to recall “the way that birds are still flying over our heads.” The Pride haggadah used by Sha’ar Zahav is based on a number of earlier haggadahs stretching back to the Berkeley Queer Minyan in the 1990s, but it has been edited and revised
cinegogue SUMMER DAYS
over the years, primarily by maggid Andrew Ramer, who is one of the regular leaders of the Pride Seder. In addition to the written haggadah, the seder always includes an opportunity for people to share personal stories. “The first year was four hours long,” Ramer said. “People told their personal stories of what it was like to come out before Stonewall, what it was like to come to Sha’ar Zahav for the first time in the early years — it’s a highlight of the seder.” The protests against racist police violence sweeping the country resonate with the history of Pride, says Rabbi Mychal Copeland. “The Pride movement was born 50 years ago out of protests against police brutality. It’s very interconnected to what’s going on now,” she said. “In our community, we have a large percentage of Jews of color — queer Jewish communities tend to — so the connection is very much there for us.” Nevertheless, the celebratory spirit of Pride will not be missing from Sha’ar Zahav events this month. “I invite people to dress up as festively as they want,” Ramer said of the seder. Later this month, Sha’ar Zahav’s typically raucous Friday night Pride Shabbat service, which usually features decorations, rainbow challah and more than a few nods to Broadway camp, will take place on Zoom on June 26. “We need it, our community needs the celebration,” Copeland said. “It will be just as campy, as fun and as celebratory.” ■
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As long as it’s fun, virtually anything goes in online gatherings MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF If you’re stuck at home but yearning for Jewish community, there are plenty of ways to connect: virtual Torah classes, sing-alongs, book groups. But what if you’re looking for something different? From knitting circles to folk dancing to cheesemaking, synagogues and Jewish organizations are coming up with innovative ways to help people get through the days and keep in touch online. “We just all need a break,” said Rebecca Calahan Klein, a member of the women’s group at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland. “We all need some time to have a little fun and remember to laugh again.” There was plenty of laughter at the May 27 cheesemaking event that Calahan Klein set up on Zoom for the Women of TBA. She organized the somewhat complex event as a way for people to relax and take a break from the stresses of everyday life. “It was really fun, and you could see it on people’s faces,” she said. The original plan had been to make mozzarella, but it turned out it wasn’t easy to find vegetarian and kosher-certified rennet, an enzyme liquid that separates milk into curds. That meant mozzarella was off the table — literally. There needed to be a change of plans, Calahan Klein said.
“Oh, got to pivot to ricotta!” she said with a laugh. In preparation for the session, which was led by Berkeley cheesemaker Nicole Easterday, Calahan Klein prepared 40 sets of the ingredients needed to make ricotta and handed them out in the parking lot of the Conservative temple, maintaining social distance. “At 7:30 we all dialed in [to Zoom] and for an hour we made cheese,” she said. “And it was hysterical.” With questions flying left and right, and camaraderie igniting all around, the event proved to be the perfect distraction from pandemic life, Calahan Klein said. “We were all like, aah, how do we deal with this!” she said. Another way people have been filling time is through exercise and movement. Bruce Bierman estimates he’s taught about 30 online Jewish dance classes since shelter in place began on March 17. He said a recent Hasidic dance workshop he led, which was presented by KlezCalifornia, drew about 130 people to Zoom. It took the longtime dance teacher and Berkeley resident a while to get used to the online experience, but he now feels like he’s able to connect with his students. “Zoom has actually surprised me,” he said. “I wanted to throw it out the window the first couple of weeks.”
“For an hour we made cheese, and it was hysterical.” Rebecca Calahan Klein, Temple Beth Abraham
Julie Solomon of the B’nai Shalom knitting circle with her current project.
While Jewish dance usually takes place in a hall of some sort, Bierman said it’s possible to make it work, “surprisingly, really well” through the medium of the computer screen. “Of course we don’t dance any more in circles, or in partners,” he added. Instead, he focuses on the complicated hand gestures found in Yemeni and Hasidic dance, perfect for the computer where whole-body movements would be hard to follow. “Jewish dance is really in the upper body, more than steps,” he said. An online event that’s more sedentary but just as enjoyable is knitting. Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek has been using its virtual knitting circles to share information about stitches as much as to socialize. Organizer Margalit Ir and a number of women from the synagogue have been knitting together online once a week ever since shelter in place went into effect. “I just wanted to connect with people,” Ir said. “I was a little lonely staying at home.”
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Bruce Bierman (seated) with husband Gilberto Melendez, preparing to lead a virtual dance. (Photo/Vaschelle André)
The knitters — people “on the older side of the age equation,” she said with a laugh — meet for an hour on Zoom, with knitting needles in hand and ready to chat. “We talk about different types of yarn, or sometimes a different stitch,” Ir said. The discussion does stray into other subjects, including politics, but at the end of the day, it’s about spending time with people who share a hobby. So far, it’s been B’nai Shalom members only, but Ir said anyone is welcome to join the sessions at 11 a.m. on Thursdays (for details, email email@example.com). “It’s really a number of women with — literally! —a common thread,” she said. “Of yarn.” Of course, cheesemaking, knitting and dance are just a few of the options. Jews are getting creative throughout Northern California. Temple Sinai in Oakland is offering guitar lessons. And Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel held a virtual discussion of the Netflix show “Unorthodox.” And then there’s rainbow challah. In honor of Pride Month, Keshet, a Jewish LGBTQ advocacy organization with an S.F. office, organized an online class for families with young children on how to make the bursting-withcolor braided bread, led by a baker who calls herself “The Challah Guru.” As different as these events are, they’re all ways to lift the spirits during dark times. Or, as one participant put it at the end of a KlezCalifornia dance class, “A hartsikn dank [heartfelt thanks]. This was a joyous antidote to the sorrow of this week.” n
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Rock shatters window of lawmaker’s house in San Mateo GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF An Asian American and Jewish member of the San Mateo City Council says she felt targeted and harassed after a rock was thrown through a bedroom window of her house on June 2. Amourence Lee, whose father is of Chinese-Hawaiian heritage, reportedly is the first Asian American woman to serve on the city council. Her mother, Litty Medalia, is the Jewish daughter of a former civil rights leader who supported school integration in Atlanta, and was subjected to harassment and discrimination as a result, Lee told J. Medalia now works for Jewish Vocational Services in Boston. The incident, which occurred just before noon on June 2, followed a string of vandalism in San Mateo targeting the Asian American community in recent months during the coronavirus pandemic. Video footage captured by a neighborhood security camera and published by a Bay Area TV station shows a man who is walking on the sidewalk pause to hurl a rock toward Lee’s house, followed by a crashing sound. In an emotional Facebook video recorded outside her home after the incident, Lee said she was “shaking with fear” and that she was the victim of a hate crime. “This is my home. I belong here. You will not take away my sense of belonging,” she said in a second video. A progressive, Lee is an outspoken supporter of Black
Lives Matter, and has been at the forefront of recent protests against police brutality. The day before the incident she helped raise a Pride flag at San Mateo City Hall for the first time in the city’s history. Lee said she was inside the house with her two children and husband when she heard the glass shatter. The rock was sent San Mateo City Council through a bedroom window member Amourence Lee. displaying an American flag (Photo/Facebook) emblazoned with the words “Dignity, Liberty, Justice for All.” “The first thing we were trying to figure out is: Is this retribution for some of her work on the city council?” husband Rich Lin said during the TV interview. In April and May, a rash of anti-Asian signs and slogans appeared in San Mateo, including graffiti with hateful messages like “F** China,” “Chinese Disease” and “Thanks China.” Police said they were still investigating those incidents. According to the Anti-Defamation League, reports of anti-Asian assaults and hate crimes have spiked along with
anti-Semitic and xenophobic conspiracy theories in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In an essay about her identity, Lee wrote that she did not have a bat mitzvah nor grow up with Jewish practice, but said she is “exactly 50 percent Ashkenazi” according to her genome and both she and her children are “100 percent” Jewish by Jewish law. She had an awakening in her late 30s after visiting a JCC to swim. Her children inquired about their heritage, and she was stumped when her son asked her, “How did the first person know they were Jewish?” “So I threw myself into reading Jewish books and met with three different rabbis to start my Jewish education,” she wrote in the essay. “I’m 38 years old and this is just the beginning of my story about being Jewish.” A spokesperson for the San Mateo Police Department told J. on June 8 that police were still searching for a suspect. He asked members of the public to come forward with any information they might have. The incident was classified as felony vandalism, according to Michael Haobsh, public information officer for the San Mateo police department. “We still need additional information to classify it as a hate crime,” he said. “However we’re looking into it. “We take instances of hate seriously in the city of San Mateo,” Haobsh said. n
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Lend Your Voice to a Child in Foster Care These challenging times carry additional obstacles for youth in the foster care system. While schools adopt distance learning and graduation policies, youth in the foster care system are often left behind. In addition to changing schools frequently, foster youth don't always have access to internet or devices that make distance learning possible. This spring, at least 3 high school seniors served by SFCASA volunteers were in danger of not graduating. Their CASAs intervened to get them the resources they needed, and cleared up issues like missing work packets, inaccurate transcripts and other administrative problems. Now all 3 of those youth are graduating this month and their CASAs are coordinating their celebrations. You can lend your voice to a child in foster care. Become a CASA Volunteer, or support the volunteers' work during this crisis with a contribution.
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CELEBRATE DIVERSITY LGBTQ activist is new Federation chair and believer in ‘brains, heart and courage’ DAN PINE | J. STAFF In preparing to become the next board chair of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, Arthur Slepian says he has been doing some “unlearning.” That’s because he now realizes the post he assumes July 1 will be nothing like what he signed up for back in January. “When I accepted the role, we had no idea there was a pandemic coming,” Slepian said, “and in about 10 seconds we went from a community mostly doing OK to a community in crisis. And we probably didn’t know until last week that racial justice would be front and center for our community.”
Much of that progress has been driven by Slepian himself. The native of Bensonhurst, New York, has been active in the LGBTQ movement for decades, starting with leadership roles at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, a mostly LGBTQ synagogue in San Francisco (he is today a synagogue vice president). He was instrumental in the work of the Federation’s LGBT Alliance, the first such task force of any Jewish Federation in the country. And in 2010 he launched A Wider Bridge, a groundbreaking nonprofit that links the gay communities of the United States and Israel,
“We don’t know how long the health emergency will last, the full long-term economic impact, or how deep the recession will be. This is what Federations are built for.” Arthur Slepian
Arthur Slepian seeks to “expand the tent.”
This may be a time of multiple crises, but that should not overshadow the historic nature of Slepian’s appointment. He is the first openly LGBTQ president in the history of the S.F.-based Federation. As the region celebrates Pride Month in June, Slepian’s appointment is, well, a source of pride. “There’s been a lot of discussion about me being the first openly LGBT president of the board,” he said. “I don’t want to downplay that, because I see that has been a source of great pride in the Bay Area and around the country. But the deeper significance about my being chosen is the experience and perspective I bring because I’m a gay Jew. I’ve been here 40 years, and I’ve seen a lot of progress.”
for which he served as executive director until 2017. All that experience should make his transition into his two-year term as board chair a smooth one. “Arthur is ideally positioned to lead our board at this unprecedented time of challenge and opportunity for our community,” said Federation CEO Danny Grossman. “He has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to navigate complicated terrain, not least in founding A Wider Bridge, which is expanding LGBTQ inclusion in and engagement with Israel.” As for leadership style, Slepian indeed has developed one, but, as he says, “It’ll give away that I’m gay because it’s based on ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Brains, heart and courage. That’s what I look for in leaders, and it’s the standard I hope to live up to.” In terms of the Federation’s goals for the Bay Area Jewish community, Slepian said job one is to “expand the tent.” He acknowledged a measure of diversity among the Federation board members in terms of gender, geography and sexual orientation, but he does point out one
Slepian with husband Gerry Llamado in Jerusalem on the JFNA Pride Mission to Israel.
glaring problem: It’s all-white. “We need Jews of color as leaders among all boards and staff,” he said. “I am old enough to remember what it felt like to be on the outside of this community looking in, and wondering if I would ever belong. There are still members who are not sure they belong. There are trans Jews, Jews of color, people who still feel they are on the outside looking in. We can’t somehow have these conversations and make decisions without those voices at the table. It was important a month ago, but it is critical today.” And, oh yeah, that pandemic? It’s still going on, and so is the economic hardship it has caused. Slepian applauded the Federation’s pledge of generating $15 million in total relief funding, stemming from donor-advised funds, an emergency fundraising effort and other sources, but he knows this work will go on for a long time. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far in addressing both humanitarian and
organizational needs,” he said. “It feels like we’re still at the beginning. This is not like a wildfire that left town and we can assess the damage. We don’t know how long the health emergency will last, the full longterm economic impact, or how deep the recession will be. This is what Federations are built for.” When he’s not presiding over board meetings, Slepian will be enjoying time at his Glen Park home with his husband and partner of 20-plus years, Gerry Llamado, along with their mini bernedoodle Dexter. But the work he has devoted his life to is never far from his thoughts. “When I think about building [the community], this is our moment,” Slepian said. “It goes well beyond raising funds. It’s about convening the best and brightest thought leaders in the community, making decisions with best possible data, and thinking of new ways of making Jewish life more accessible and affordable.” n
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JFI has Pride in upcoming livestream of comedic TV pilot FILM | LAURA PAULL | J. STAFF In 2019, Italian film scholar Margherita Ghetti joined the S.F.-based Jewish Film Institute — the entity that puts on the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — as its programmer for younger audiences. One of her goals was to spark conversations about love and relationships. Little did she know that a global pandemic would completely up the ante for young people, or anyone, looking to “meet” someone. In her second JFI Next Wave screening, Ghetti has scheduled a 26-minute made-for-TV comedy that follows a newly out lesbian as she negotiates dating and work. The pilot of “Lady Liberty” was scheduled long ago for Pride Month, but now the screening will take place on Zoom — as will a post-screening discussion likely to veer toward the challenges of love in the time of coronavirus. Ghetti says dating and building relationships are “a deep concern” right now among young people in a world of social distancing. “Everyone is talking about it,” says Ghetti, 35. “Lady Liberty,” however, should offer some comic relief when it is presented on June 25. Created and written as a TV pilot by N.Y.-based comic actor Julia Lindon, the script draws on Lindon’s experiences as a production assistant on “Saturday Night Live” and as a personal assistant to former “SNL” actor Jason Sudeikis (who has a role in the pilot). Lindon also draws on some of her other experiences: co-hosting the podcast “Happy Campers,” her role on the
short-lived Comedy Central series “Detroiters” and being part of the production team on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” In “Lady Liberty,” Lindon, a New Yorker who is in her late 20s, plays an aspiring comedian in the Big Apple seeking to
Julia Lindon (l) with Julia Greer in a scene from “Lady Liberty.” (Photo/Courtesy Classy Kid Productions LLC, 2019)
forge her societal “labels” of nice Jewish girl, entertainment professional and queer woman into an authentic identity. “‘Lady Liberty’ is very relatable,” Ghetti says. “It’s funny and light, but goes deeply into questions of what it means to navigate your identity, both sexual and cultural.” While the formula isn’t exactly groundbreaking, Ghetti says, “What’s new and special to me is that this [episode] is very tender and heartfelt, in a way that passes through the
screen to the viewer, showing the blossoming of this new period of her life. It captures a sense of urgency that I think is very relevant. It is also very well done cinematically; it is good television.” The screening on Zoom originally was scheduled for June 4, but JFI postponed it in response to the nationwide upheaval over race relations and community policing. Now it falls two days short of Pride weekend on June 27-28. “There will be no parade this year,” Ghetti says. “All the events are virtual.” “Lady Liberty” premiered 13 months ago at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, but June 25 will mark its first online screening and is being billed as its virtual premiere. Along with JFI, it is sponsored by a number of entities, including Frameline (presenter of the S.F. International LGBTQ Film Festival) and Sketchfest (an annual comedy festival). It’s also part of the online series “JFI Cinegogue Sessions,” all curated, themed presentations of Jewish films, shorts and other features. People will have access to “Lady Liberty” about three days prior to the event, or they can watch it, along with others, when it livestreams June 25 on Zoom and the JFI Facebook page. The episode will start at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed at 6:15 p.m. by a Q&A with Lindon and director Taylor Lee Nagel, a comedic monologue and an open discussion (with a cocktail in hand, if desired). The event is free. For more details, visit jfi. org/ladyliberty. n
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LET’S CELEBRATE OUR PRIDE TOGETHER
COMMUNITY PRIDE SEDER A Virtual Celebration of Queer Freedom
Pride Seder* is a ritual that chronicles the liberation of LGBTQ people, much like the Passover Seder, which retells the story of the liberation of the Jewish people. Each year, members of Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco come together to celebrate our emancipation from oppression, to commemorate our freedom, and to recommit to our activism remembering that none of us are free until all of us are free.
MONDAY, JUNE 22 • 7–8:30 PM REGISTER FOR FREE ONLINE AT JEWISHFED.ORG/PRIDESEDER Haggadah readers include:∆ Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín • Dan Bernal, Chief of Staff - San Francisco to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Rabbi Mychal Copeland of Sha’ar Zahav • Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King of Grace Cathedral • Lynn Mahoney, President of SFSU Rev. Will McGarvey, ED of Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County • Michael Pappas, ED of San Francisco Interfaith Council Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf • Senator Scott Wiener • Manny Yekutiel of Manny's ∆
in partnership with
as of June 9
Visit JewishFed.org/events for additional listings of virtual Pride festivities. JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 6.12.2020 23
New Jewish Pride Fund grants give LGBTQ agencies hope ELISSA EINHORN | CORRESPONDENT Four years ago, Sam Goldman, a development professional in San Francisco who serves on the boards of some big-name Jewish agencies, made a decision to give back to his LGBTQ community in a way that would empower members of that community to directly support one another.
she manages venture philanthropy and giving circles. “Sam felt he and his friends who were in positions of privilege should give back.” And so the Jewish Pride Fund Giving Circle was formed. According to its mission statement, it
David Rak (left) and his husband Oren Henry (far right), with Beit Dror staff and volunteers.
Thousands demonstrate in Tel Aviv in 2018 during a protest organized by Ma’aravim following the stabbing of Maya Haddad, an Israeli Arab trans woman.
Goldman had just returned from an eye-opening trip to Israel with Jewish Federations of North America. “They were able to visit a lot of organizations in Israel that support LGBTQ communities. It was powerful,” said Danielle Meshorer of the Jewish Community Federation, where
supports “the intersecting needs, values and interests of the LGBTQ and Jewish communities in the Bay Area, nationally and in Israel.” Meshorer said the fund/giving circle also came into being in response to individuals who identify as both LGBTQ and Jewish, but who feel uncomfortable showing up as “their
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whole self” even in progressive spaces. “That’s how we came up with the name,” she explained. “It says, ‘I am proud to be Jewish and I am proud to be LGBTQ.’” David Rak, current chair of the fund, was also on that 2016 JFNA trip. “When I think about my identity, two of the most significant aspects are being Jewish and gay,” he said. “I want to give back to those communities where we can have the intersection of Jewish values and life and the LGBTQ community.” The fund is now in its third year, and the 10-member giving circle recently announced grant awards of $7,000 each to four LGBTQ organizations, two in Israel and two in the United States. The Israel recipients are Ma’avarim, which advocates, educates and provides information about the transgender community, and Beit Dror,a shelter that supports teens who have been alienated because of their sexual orientation. The U.S. recipients are San Francisco Congregation Sha’ar Zahav and N.Y.-based Eshel (which works closely with Orthodox synagogues, mostly in the Northeastern U.S., as part of the Welcoming Shuls project). Sha’ar Zahav, founded as an LGBTQ-normative synagogue in 1977, counts among its 350 families (and its greater community of some 2,500 people) many who are vulnerable to Covid-19, and, as such, the synagogue has been addressing the impact of the virus on these populations. The grant from the Jewish Pride Fund will allow the continuation of programs that began prior to (and as a response to) Covid-19 and sheltering-in-place restrictions. These include the Hineni Calling Project, which looks out for those in the community who are elderly, immunocompromised, newly unemployed, living with AIDS/HIV or otherwise vulnerable. Hineni means “I am present.” Synagogue members have been providing
assistance with technology, grocery shopping, picking up medications, or simply offering friendship and connection. Another Sha’ar Zahav program that will benefit from the funding is Adult Orphans, which reaches out to isolated individuals and those who might be estranged from their families. It has now stepped up its efforts to meet virtually. Rabbi Mychal Copeland said the support from the Jewish Pride Fund is especially meaningful in June, which is Pride Month. “Many synagogues do a Pride Shabbat, but for us it’s all year long,” she said. Ma’avarim was founded in Israel six years ago with the belief, according to co-founder Elisha Alexander, that “supporting the trans community benefits the entire society by breaking gender stereotypes and bringing acceptance for LGBTQ women and men.” These days, Alexander said, Ma’avarim is the biggest knowledge center in Israel for the trans community, which traditionally had always been “last on the list,” even within LGBTQ organizations. Alexander said Israel’s estimated trans population of 150,000 is likely higher than that because many trans people are still in the closet. Also, he added, there’s a large population of sex workers in Israel who have been hit hard by Covid-19 both economically and physically. “There are many [employment] programs [in Israel] for haredim, Arabs, Bedouins and Ethiopians, but one-third of trans are unemployed,” Alexander said. “And 68 percent of those employed face discrimination.” The Jewish Pride Fund is providing one of the few opportunities to support Israel’s trans community, Alexander said, which is especially impactful during the global pandemic. “It’s nice to know people who live far from you care about you,” Alexander said. “It gives us hope that change is possible.” n
JOIN US JUNE 14—18, 2020 To sign up for more information and register, visit: AJC.org/virtualglobalforum2020
Join us for a Special Briefing on the Ongoing Struggle for Racial Justice in California with California State Assemblymembers Sydney Kamlager (Los Angeles), David Chiu (San Francisco), Monique Límon (Santa Barbara), and Jesse Gabriel (San Fernando Valley), moderated by Manny Yekutiel. Live on June 12 at 11:00, or find the recording on our Facebook @AJCSanFrancisco
In honor of the 75th Anniversary of American Jewish Committee (AJC) San Francisco and our awardees, join us for local and national Advocacy Anywhere, programs that celebrate the diversity of our community and our commitment to advocacy. Please visit AJC.org/sanfrancisco to sign up for future events. UPCOMING EVENTS
Israeli Consul General Shlomi Kofman (June 23, 2020) Dutch Consul General Gerbert Kunst (July 2, 2020)
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Opinion Racial justice is a Jewish imperative EDITORIAL In the few short weeks since George Floyd died under a police officer’s knee, our nation has been jolted out of complacency. Millions of protesters have taken to the streets, demanding a reckoning and calling for an end to systemic racism and police violence against people of color. Mayors and governors are supporting them. Members of Congress have been photographed together taking a knee, as have some police departments. America is going through a crisis of conscience not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And the Jewish community, now as then, is deeply involved in the national moment of self-reflection, seeking to find a path forward. That path requires acknowledgment of the racism endemic in our society. It requires learning about the history and experiences of people of color, and sitting with the discomfort. It requires careful listening, and changing behaviors. It requires speaking out and demanding real change — legislative, economic and societal. But there is much learning to do inside our own Jewish community, too. Jews of color are sharing their pain and frustration, and we must listen. In our cover story, we hear from a number of Bay Area Jews of color. One tells a story of being handcuffed at a BART station for playing music too loudly. Others share how they are questioned in their own synagogues, even, in one case, being taken for a janitor. They speak of the fear in their hearts when they send their black teenage sons out into the world. The dominant white Jewish community must hear these stories, and feel the tension and anger in them. If we do not, we are complicit. As one of our op-ed writers puts it, you don’t have to be a racist to permit racism to exist; you just have to turn a blind eye. Some of our Jewish institutions are already stepping up. Rabbis are reaching out to black Christian clergy. The Contemporary Jewish Museum has declared itself in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, acknowledging “the colonial origins and the inherent legacy of white supremacy embedded in all museums.” AJC has invited members of minority caucuses in the state Legislature to discuss a legislative response to racial injustice. The Jewish Community Relations Council has organized the #KneelAtHome campaign, and has provided a list of nonprofits working for racial justice that need donations, including Be’chol Lashon and the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative. These are just a few examples. Change doesn’t happen on its own — we have to make it happen. And it needs to start now. n
America is going through a crisis of conscience not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
PICTURE THIS: The bedroom window of San Mateo City Council member Amourence Lee after a
passerby threw a rock at it on June 2. Lee, who is Jewish and Asian American, was inside the house with her two children and husband when the glass shattered. The window displays an American flag emblazoned with the words “Dignity, Liberty, Justice for All.”
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR ‘God bless those counselors’
A couple of issues ago, I was flipping through the pages of J. and my roaming eye came upon an article headlined “Crip Camp: disability rights activists and their summer of love” (April 23). “Wow!” I exclaimed to no one but myself. I read it with dazzled eyes. It was meaningful to me, since I attended a camp such as the one described in the article. It was for campers with disabilities. My summers at camp started in the early ’60s. Back then, a flock of extraordinary counselors were on staff. I like to think that they didn’t see us as persons who lacked, but as individuals who deserved and were seeking experiences beyond the ones we’d had in our everyday lives. By doing this, they gave us 12 days to be “normal.” Personally, I felt safe to try out different roles, things that I saw my peers in the outside world doing. They didn’t all necessarily work, but
they didn’t fail me, either. Attending loud dances, being asked to dance more than once, and circumstances turning kooky and wild — that was the ideology of Camp Easter Seals in the Santa Cruz Mountains back in the ’60s. God bless those counselors!
SUSAN COHN | REDDING
By the power vested in me …
As a California Superior Court judge for 10 years, I officiated at about 50 secular weddings. My proficiency increased with repetition, but I agree with Rabbi Stephen Pearce (“Who is officiating — and why?” May 19). While I may have satisfied marrying couples, their families and friends — most recently last year with two couples stranded by a temporarily closed city hall! — I never assay to replicate the rabbinical or ministerial knowledge of anyone in the clergy.
Turning away from racism allows it to continue RABBI ALLAN BERKOWITZ | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR I accepted a painful self-realization last week. There is a gap between the person I thought I was and the person I’ve actually been. I thought I was a person who believed every human being is kadosh, sacred. And yet I have been silent as people of color have been traumatized right in front of me my whole life. The truth is that most of you reading this are white and you have been silent, too. The truths are excruciating, but if we want to live up to our own ideals, we must confront them. So herewith are some thoughts and rhetorical questions I’m grappling with, and I invite you to do the same. Of course, looting is wrong and terrible. It is, however, situational. The systemic racism upon which our nation is built is 400 years old, woven into every piece of our nation’s cloth, and is experienced on a daily basis by every person of color in our country. Focusing on other things (like the looting, or elements of the Black Lives Matter rhetoric you don’t like) is how we white people continue to avoid taking responsibility for the historic racism and daily racism people of color live with. How much time did you spend focused on the news about looting — and how much time are you spending learning the truths about the country you think is democratic, a land of the free, and how our acceptance of it until now has contributed to the traumatization of people of color? There is a difference between racism and being racist. It is absolutely possible to not be a racist and yet tolerate racism. Want proof? I know most of us are not racists. But I also know that most of us have turned a blind eye to the rampant racism that exists around us. George Floyd was not the first, he was not the 100th. We have tolerated this behavior until now. If you truly
Modern trends in Judaism and other religions possess little or no theological alternatives.
JUDGE QUENTIN L. KOPP (RET.) SAN FRANCISCO
Annexation is ‘reckless’
With national elections coming up in this country, it’s difficult to focus on global problems. But we must pay serious attention to the issue of Israel-Palestine. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are distracting the world and enacting an extreme agenda with disastrous long-term consequences. The new Israeli government, under Netanyahu, has set July 1 as the date to illegally and unilaterally annex Jewish settlements located on occupied Palestinian territory. Israel’s “unity government” has become a vehicle for Netanyahu to push ahead with annexation, with the encouragement of the
want to find a way forward, start by reflecting on that. If you really didn’t know until recently that this goes on, that tells you a lot about where your blind spots are. And if, like me, you did know, then it starts with the question: Why have I not fought like hell to change systems that brutalize people of color? The starting point is to admit that we have a lot to learn if we are serious about affecting change. Do you know what white supremacy is? (No, it does not refer to neo-Nazis.) Do you know what white privilege is? Do you understand that you benefit from white privilege and white supremacy at the direct expense of people of color? Here’s an example: Do you think redlining was a problem once upon a time but no longer? (And if you don’t know about redlining, point proven.) Redlining prevented home ownership for millions of people of color. It prevented them from developing generational wealth. We whites pass our accumulated money to our children. People of color disproportionately use their money to sustain their elders who couldn’t accumulate wealth (because we didn’t/don’t let them buy homes; we paid/pay them less for equal work; we incarcerated/incarcerate them at disproportionate rates; and we denied/deny them equal access to medical care). If you didn’t know this, doesn’t that foster more of the same? This is a moment of reckoning and change. Many of us are discomforted beyond anything we’ve experienced before. So how do we move forward? As Jews, we talk about teshuvah (repentance). It starts with self-acknowledgement that “I need to change.” Admit to yourself that you likely are naive about the historical facts and that you have passively accepted the horrible reality. Admit to yourself that you’ve known that extreme racism exists. Reflect on why you’ve not fought for the humanity, dignity, and basic rights of other human
Trump administration and against the overwhelming warnings of the Israeli security establishment. All pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans must be clear in their opposition to this disastrous path. The annexation plan prevents a realistic two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, millions of Palestinians would live in disconnected enclaves, surrounded by Israeli territory, and would be subject to indefinite military rule without civil or political rights. It mocks the shared democratic values underpinning the U.S.-Israel relationship, and imperils Israel’s long-term security as a democratic, Jewish homeland. As 25 former highlevel Israeli security officials wrote in a letter to Congress, “any unilateral annexation of territory or extension of sovereignty to the West Bank will put Israel’s security, along with the wellbeing of its citizens at risk.” Lawmakers must make clear that annexation would be a reckless, destructive step with serious long-term ramifications for the region
beings while they were being brutalized, demeaned and traumatized right in Rabbi Allan Berkowitz is front of us. the chief operating officer It says something pretty of Faith in Action East Bay, great about you if you have a community organizing the courage to own that social justice organization. and the heart to never go For information, visit back. fiaeastbay.org. It also says something about you if you don’t. If you are experiencing emotional pain in this moment, be willing to deeply learn the truths. Be on a journey of self-discovery, because black lives are still being taken and they are as kadosh as white lives. Together we can show up to the world as the people we think we are and definitely want to be. n
CORRECTION: Photo information was inadvertently left off our May 29 cover image. It was cropped from this photograph of a girl posing in her graduation outfit in poppy fields near the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve on April 16 in Lancaster, California. (Photo/Frederic J. Brown-AFP via Getty Images)
and U.S.-Israel relationship. Democrats must ensure that their 2020 party platform includes Israeli security, recognition of Palestinian rights and their right to a state, and opposition to annexation, settlement expansion and indefinite occupation. For those of us who care about Israel as a democratic Jewish homeland, care about Palestinian rights and dignity, and a healthy U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in shared interests and values, now is the time to take a stand.
widening their perspectives. Recently we were admonished that your vote reflects whether you are truly a member of a particular ethnic group. School districts will be free to pick and choose from the ethnic studies curriculum that is eventually approved. But cherry-picking from a huge document (that omits many small groups lacking political clout) can result in “grievance studies” tailored to the predominant ethnicity of various school districts. While Jews are told to work to repair the EVA SELIGMAN-KENNARD | SAN ANSELMO world, many in the world work to destroy the J STREET SF BAY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Jews. Rabbi Dev Noily and Hazzan Shulamit Wise Fairman — in their May 27 oped in J. (“Why A curriculum that divides Jews should support the state’s high school The Los Angeles Times staff editorial on Aug. 4, ethnic studies curriculum”) — admonish us 2019 (“California’s proposed new ethnic studthat “it’s essential that white Jews in the U.S. ies curriculum is jargon-filled and all-too-PC”) also embrace the truth of how our whiteness observed that the ethnic studies curriculum felt joins us to the dominant culture and its privilike it was more about imposing preleges in critical ways.” digested political views on students than about continued on page 29 JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 6.12.2020 27
Learning others’ history strengthens democracy TYE GREGORY | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR During every major crisis in living memory, the leaders we most admire spoke to our better angels, uniting Americans to overcome hardship. But other individuals chose a different path, creating scapegoats to further their agendas, resulting in Japanese American internment camps, McCarthyism’s Cold War persecutions, post-9/11 Islamophobia, and xenophobia during immigration debates. In each of these crises, the scourge of anti-Semitism followed. We witnessed the rejection of Jewish refugees fleeing World War II and the Holocaust, Jewish leaders targeted during the Red Scare, conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel after 9/11 and, more recently, deadly attacks on Jewish houses of worship. In each of these cases, our Jewish community has risen to the occasion both by defending ourselves and protecting vulnerable neighbors from harm. Today the Covid-19 crisis is proving no different. Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans are facing unprecedented stigma and racism in the public arena. African American, Latino and Native American communities bear the brunt of this crisis — facing disproportionate family losses and economic hardship — yet feel largely ignored by federal leadership. And, as we all saw so tragically with the murder of George Floyd, the institutional racism and violence directed toward Black America is as clear as day. At the same time, anti-Semitism is finding its footing, too. We see state Capitol protests riddled with Nazi symbols and anti-Semitic posters, political cartoons comparing Jews and Israel to a virus, the scapegoating of Orthodox communities for the outbreak, and conspiracy theories propagating on social media. Standing up for marginalized communities in this crisis
isn’t just a moral imperative demanded of us by our Jewish tradition, it’s an essential investment in the safety and security of our community. Recognizing that these challenges are shared with our neighbors, the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council is pursuing a robust civic response to Covid-19. United in opposition to anti-Chinese and anti-Asian American racism and xenophobia, JCRC purchased a full-page ad in the Cantonese paper Sing Tao Daily, expressing 20 Jewish community organizations’ solidarity against hate. Our ad has led to important dialogue with our Asian American neighbors. From that dialogue has come a joint commitment to combating anti-Semitism and anti-Asian racism together in mutual respect and solidarity. To address historic and current injustices, and celebrate the unique contributions of marginalized communities, JCRC and our partners at the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California are advocating for a robust Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. The first draft had many serious flaws, and we are grateful the California Department of Education has committed to removing problematic language about Jews, Israelis and the divisive boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. However, as the issue heats up again in advance of a revised draft this summer, we must advocate for our community in a way that strengthens the original intention of ethnic studies — a means of telling the story of historically oppressed peoples in California and the United States. With limited instructional time, an ethnic studies course at its core that lifts up major marginalized communities in California — supplemented with materials to connect these experiences with the full diversity of the state’s student population,
including Jewish Americans — will provide strong anti-racism education. Our Tye Gregory is executive goal is to ensure the revised director of the San model being put forward by Francisco-based Jewish the CDE fairly represents Community Relations Jews and other diverse Council. groups in the curriculum. Finally, the Jewish community in the diaspora knows all too well the consequences of our society buckling under the weight of declining confidence in our democratic institutions, the inability to engage in civil discourse and in finding common ground, as well as an unprecedented attack on voting rights. The American Jewish community has benefited from a strong and healthy democracy, because democratic systems and norms provide proven protection against the discriminations that too often target minority communities. Because those systems are currently under duress, JCRC launched the “Democracy Initiative” in 2018 as a response to these worrying trends in our country. Strengthening democratic institutions increases the safety of all ethnic and racial communities, including the Jewish community. These efforts aren’t just commonsense Jewish community relations. Each of the racial and economic injustices Covid-19 lays bare before our eyes directly affects members of our Jewish community, Jews of Color and LGBTQ Jews in particular. Like diaspora Jewish communities throughout the millennia, we share a common destiny with our non-Jewish neighbors. This is a moment to come together. No community can afford to go it alone. n
Protests are long overdue response to historical inequality RABBI MORDECAI MILLER | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR Without doubt, the United States of America has much to be proud of. The great experiment in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” which the founders of this country began 2½ centuries ago, has brought the blessings of opportunity, freedom and happiness to a vast number of its citizens. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that these blessings have been denied to many Americans, simply by reason of race. Most of us would be shocked at the living conditions, both squalid and life-threatening, experienced by so many Americans, especially those who live in our inner cities. There is a sense of hopelessness accompanying the growing disparity between the empowered and the underprivileged. We should not, therefore, be surprised that, when those who are entrusted with protecting all citizens are shown to have a longstanding and consistent pattern of abuse and brutality against the black population, segments of the black community express their fury and anguish by protesting against such treatment. On the one hand, the number of those who support the Black Lives Matter movement is a source of encouragement and hope. The framers of our Constitution clearly grasped the importance of citizens being able to express outrage through peaceful assembly. They were wise enough to realize that it might take such expression to bring about needed change.
Turning to today, it must be emphasized that the vast majority of the people taking part in the current demonstrations are seeking a peaceful way to express their anger at the long, systemic history of abuse, both physical and economical, stretching all the way back to the days of slavery. Tragically, at the same time there are those individuals who see, in all this, an opportunity to undermine — through violence, destruction of property and pillage — the foundations of our society. Here we depend on our institutions of law enforcement — local, state and, if necessary, federal — to assist law-abiding citizens to protect the innocent and restore order. A greater tragedy would befall our society if we were to conflate these two groups. We must not use the vandalism and street violence of some as an excuse to attack all the men, women and children using their right to peacefully assemble and bring their legitimate issues to public attention. It’s been 170 years since this country was torn asunder by the Civil War. While that conflict brought about the formal end of slavery, it did little to create equality between the races. True, there have been important steps taken toward such equality, but outright racism, along with economic and educational disparities, continue to this day. This is truly a blight on all of us. The response of “All lives matter” to Black Lives Matter misses the point entirely!
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True, the black community is hardly the only community that experiences bigotry or racism in our country. However, the fact that their predecessors were forcibly brought to this country under inhumane conditions and the length of time they have had to endure racial discrimination, economic abuse and brutality make a compelling arguRabbi Mordecai Miller ment for the need to address is the spiritual leader of this outrage in an immediate Congregation Beth Ami in and specific way. Santa Rosa. At this point in history, it is imperative to devote significant resources to working with the African American community to address the wrongs of history and to do our best to educate and, where needed, hold accountable those who perpetuate the racism and mistreatment. By working to grant the opportunities of full citizenship to that segment of the population that has suffered the most, we can begin a process of securing the blessings of this nation and its Constitution to all who come under its banner. n
Black Jews are hurting and grieving, and we need you to help us mourn SHEKHIYNAH LARKS | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR Sitting shiva is intended to help us acknowledge that death is a natural part of life, nothing to be feared. But this death, this is not natural. It’s a nightmare. The kind that shakes you to your core. The kind that leaves you feeling naked and alone. I am angry. I am grieving. The Black community is grieving. The Black people in your communities are grieving. Black Jews are grieving, and we need you to help us mourn. Now more than ever, we should be using the traditional etiquette of shiva to reach out in love to Black people in our personal networks and communities. Here are some things that white Jews might consider doing: • Call us. Reach out to us intentionally. Remind us we are not alone. • Create space for our sadness and heartache. • Listen in love and compassion. • Honor our grief process without trying to constrain, correct, or fix it. • Offer your unconditional support, presence and love. • Remind us to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. • Ask what you can do. This wisdom exists because we understand the need for communal support in grief. This is a time to showcase your compassion. We cannot do this alone. My heart has been warmed by peaceful protest and online activism declaring enough is enough. I have been granted moments of relief with the outpouring of love and support from colleagues and allies. I am proud to see communities coming together in solidarity. I am honored to take on the responsibility of furthering the pursuit of racial justice, the legacy of the civil rights movement. I do not want my children to inherit the world I inherited. It is so hard to be safe and to feel safe as a Black person in the United States. I feel like I’m always on guard. Always mindful of how I speak, how I hold my body, when to give or avoid eye contact, how much public space I’m allowed to occupy because I want you to feel safe around me. I try to be thoughtful with my words when I speak to
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Hmm. Once anti-Semitism sought to justify itself by claiming that Jews were “Christ killers.” Then Jews were a separate “race” from Europeans, and “parasites.” Now “whiteness” is the ultimate form of villainy, Jews are “white people” and part of the evil of “white privilege/supremacy.” “Whiteness” is a racist doctrine. Let’s not buy into this kind of anti-Semitism camouflaged as “social justice.” A close look at racial and ethnic history, if honest, will reveal that human nature is deeply flawed. The much-maligned Founding Fathers understood this. Their profound declaration, that all men (generic, inclusive
you. I try to forgive you for your mistakes. I try to explain to you how much microaggressions hurt. I try to be an educator, to meet you where you are in the hopes that someday you will understand. I try to listen to you. I try to empathize with you and understand your good intentions. I try to create space for white discomfort, but in all of this I’ve forgotten to care for myself. I am hurting. I can’t relax. I can’t sleep. I don’t want to eat. The pain is like a scream caught in my throat. I’m exhausted and I’m scared. I can’t breathe. I forget that these are traumas for me and I try to keep my soul injury to myself, for you. In these moments I forget to let my guard down and share my pain. So it lies dormant and it festers, becoming ripe with rage. I do racial justice work because it’s personal. I live in Oakland, across the street from the house my mother died in. Every day, I eat in the room where my grandfather lay dying for five months because my grandmother didn’t want him to continue to be abused in hospice care. In my 22 years of life, I have been to more funerals for my peers than I have been to graduations or weddings. I have watched mothers clean their babies’ blood off the street. I can drive through my city and show you the corners where people have been murdered. Where children have been murdered. My social media feed is perpetually full of “rest in power” because these things are happening every damn day. This trauma surrounds me, replaying over and over with different names and faces. I hear you ask, “Have you seen the video yet?” You comment, “Which one?” “It’s awful.” “It’s horrible. #ThoughtsAndPrayers #BLM.” No, I didn’t need to watch the recorded murder of George Floyd to know that he should still be here. I didn’t need to see yet another video normalizing brutality on black bodies to know that this was wrong. It’s not something I need to “get.” This is something I live, and I need you to be living it with me. To be constantly surrounded by narratives of brutality on black bodies historically, experientially and online is traumatic. I’m scared that there are people out there who cannot and will not see my humanity through my melanated skin. My city of Oakland, my home, is on fire, and the streets have become war zones at nightfall. Infiltrators destroyed
Shekhiynah Larks is the access to resources and program coordinator and a services that are essential to diversity trainer at Be’chol Black lives. There are now Lashon, a nonprofit that Black elders without access advocates for global Jewish to their medications. There diversity. She lives in are now Black homeless Oakland. people who have nowhere safe to rest. I’m scared of the violence going through residential neighborhoods. I am hurt that bad actors tried to derail communal power and unity by causing confusion and chaos. I’m committed to change. As we live through this moment, we must remember that the civil rights movement didn’t happen overnight. In a world where everything seems to happen with such immediacy, it is easy for me to fall into a state of disillusionment when legislation doesn’t move at the speed of social media. The protests are just one necessary piece of making change happen. We need you to vote. We need you to be committed to the process after the dust settles from mass protests. We need to take economic action. We need new laws, locally and nationally. We need anti-racist legislation. We need you to be committed even when it’s exhausting. Even though these systems are imperfect, and regressive legislation has sought to pervert them, the quality of life I have is substantially better than that of my mother or grandmother. I don’t want my future children to always have to be on guard. I want them to have the full experience of youth, where no one shakes their belief that all things are possible. I want them to be able to dance big, laugh loud, and be equally protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In our collective memory, we have lived worse and we survived. Gam zeh ya’avor, this too shall pass. And we shall overcome. In the words of Kendrick Lamar, “We gon’ be alright.” n
This piece was first published by My Jewish Learning and Be’chol Lashon’s blog Jewish& and is reprinted with permission.
continued from page 27 usage) are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, announced a struggle against the worst in human nature. Part of American history has been our inevitably ongoing effort to realize this ideal, which runs counter to all human history. We must prepare high-schoolers to honor this vision if we value it, and the proposed ethnic curriculum will only further divide us. Whatever our origins, only if we are united as Americans will we be able to overcome the challenges and the unknowns we face.
JULIA LUTCH | DAVIS
Police brutality … via Israel?
Does your heart break over the brutal murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin, but not even skip a beat over the murder by the Israel Defense Forces of Eyad Hallaq, an unarmed autistic man who was walking to school in East Jerusalem on May 30? If that is the case, this is the moment for you to look deeply into your soul and decide what you really believe, and if your beliefs are consistent or selective. And while you are soul-searching, consider this: For nearly 20 years, Israel has been sharing its tactics, weaponry and surveillance techniques
with police officers from across the United States. These exchanges are sponsored by U.S. and Israeli government agencies, as well as nonprofits like the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. But this is not to single out Israel, or to suggest that it is responsible for racism in America. Racism and violence against people of color has been a part of America since the first colonists appeared. And Israel and the U.S. are not the only repressive countries sharing their “expertise.” It is a worldwide pandemic. So think carefully about the implications of all this brutality when you consider where you stand. LOIS PEARLMAN | GUERNEVILLE
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Culture The Books section is supported by a generous grant from The Milton and Sophie Meyer Fund
Memoir reveals past as anti-war activist and 19-year fugitive BOOKS | LIZ HARRIS | CORRESPONDENT Using fake IDs and aliases, Emily Quint Freeman spent 20 years as a fugitive. In 1969, the 22-year-old anti-war activist and her cohorts broke into a Chicago Selective Service office, raided files and carted out some 40,000 records of draft-eligible men, burning the documents in a parking lot. Police quickly arrived, arrested the group and threw them into jail.
With support from her therapist and a rabbi, Freeman decided to lift the huge burden she carried, and surrendered to authorities in 1989. Taking into account Freeman’s honest explanation of her moral opposition to the Vietnam War and her years as a productive citizen who had built a successful career as an insurance company executive in Bakers-
“Becoming a fugitive was a huge fork in the road, something I couldn’t continue after 19 years. It was a devastating turn of affairs. It’s had lasting effects. … I can’t go back to my younger self and ask, ‘Why did you flee?’” Emily L. Quint Freeman
As a ringleader, Freeman — whose given name was Linda Quint — faced a harsh, 10-year sentence in federal court. Instead of showing up for sentencing, she fled. Now 73 and a resident of Napa, Quint (who later lived as Emily Freeman in San Francisco) has written the memoir “Failure to Appear: Resistance, Identity and Loss.” It takes readers through her transformation from suburban-raised, UC Berkeley graduate to politicized woman on the run. Estranged from family, she lived on the lam, reinventing herself several times and shunning intimacy until she could bear it no longer.
field, the judge sentenced her to the 10 days she’d served in the Cook County jail in Illinois and three years probation. She was fined $20,000. To this day, she does not regret her crime. “I haven’t turned into a conservative old lady,” she said in an interview. “My activism is based on deep, embedded things … part of my childhood and part of my Jewish heritage.” Growing up, she attended what she called an “ultra-Reform congregation” in Los Angeles. “My family sent me off on Saturdays to become a Jew,” Freeman said dryly. “But I
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did absorb a lot. I think the ethics of Judaism aligns with me very well. I feel Jewish. It’s something that is part of my life: the idea of tikkun olam, repairing the world.” Now a member of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, “I would be missing something in my life,” she mused, “if I left [Judaism] behind.” After graduating from college in 1967 and being disowned by her father and rejected by her sister and mother after coming out as a lesbian, Freeman moved to Chicago and worked as a draft counselor with the American Friends Service Committee. As she became more involved in the anti-war movement, she and a group of like-minded activists hatched the break-in plan. “I have no regrets about the actions I took,” Freeman said of the break-in and raid on Chicago’s South Side. “My hope is that they never reconstructed any of those records — ledgers, cards, 1-A files — of those 40,000 mostly black men, and that they never went to Vietnam. “I think about some guy in the South Side of Chicago who is a grandfather, who wouldn’t have been otherwise.” As for whether she regrets her decision to go underground, Freeman put it this way: “Becoming a fugitive was a huge fork in the road, something I couldn’t continue after 19 years. It was a devastating turn of affairs. It’s had lasting effects. … I can’t go back to my younger self and ask, ‘Why did you flee?’” As a fugitive, Freeman could never reveal her secrets or build close relationships. And it was only after deciding to turn herself in that she reached out to her parents and sister.
Though family members attended her sentencing trial in the summer of 1989, the damage had largely been done. “My father never accepted me as being a lesbian,” she said, “so we remained pretty distant.” And the tattered relationship with her sister “never healed.” She did make repairs with her mother, whom she described as “a complex person.” Now retired, Freeman gardens, plays classical piano,and writes articles on immigration, racial justice and other causes. Writing “Failure to Appear” was “a three-year journey,” she said. “I was spurred to action when the current regime took power in Washington. I just felt it was important to speak up … and to make sure that people know that there was a whole generation that struggled [for change] on many fronts.” n
“Failure to Appear: Resistance, Identity and Loss” by Emily L. Quint Freeman (220 pages, Blue Beacon Books) Napa Bookmine Pride Month virtual author event with Emily Quint Freeman, 5 p.m. Saturday, June 20. RSVP for Zoom details. tinyurl.com/bookmine-eqf
A universe of great Jewish films is only a click away FILM | MICHAEL FOX | CORRESPONDENT In the streaming universe, as with all entertainment, there’s the stuff that everyone watches and talks about. But that’s just the beginning of a vast catalog. A lot of what’s available at your fingertips is quite good but doesn’t get the hype and the buzz. Even some of the new movies that are available to rent (or buy) and stream on demand can fly under the radar of the most diligent scout. For example, did you know that the much-anticipated “Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog,” Lynn Roth’s adaptation of a bestselling Israeli novel set during World War II, is going to be available June 29 on video on demand? The focus of this article, though, is accessible (as opposed to experimental) Jewishthemed movies that have been around for a little while. So here’s a list of films that received hosannas on their initial release — and which you’ve likely heard of — that you now have time to catch up with. “Campfire” (Amazon Prime): From his tense debut feature “Time of Favor” to the Oscar-nominated war film “Beaufort” through last year’s HBO series “Our Boys,” writer-director Joseph Cedar has made one great film after another. “Campfire” (2004) won five Israeli Ophir awards, including best film, yet it’s probably his least-known film in the United States. 92 minutes, Hebrew with subtitles. “The Zigzag Kid” (Chai Flicks): Menemsha Films, the indispensable U.S. distributor
murder. One of the most acclaimed European films of 2017, “1945” is a gripping and haunting reckoning with dark history. 91 minutes, Hungarian with subtitles. “Mike Wallace Is Here” (Hulu): One of the smartest and best documentaries of 2019 examines, entirely through archival TV footage, the restlessly ambitious journalist who made “60 Minutes” essential viewing. Israeli director Avi Belkin doesn’t acknowledge his subject’s Jewishness, an unexpected choice that adds a layer of unspoken commentary about the assimilation of Jews into the American mainstream. All in all, a riveting and deceptively sophisticated one. 91 minutes, in English. Also for rent/ purchase on Amazon Prime, iTunes. “Disobedience” (Amazon Prime): Sebastián Lelio’s taut, understated 2017 drama, adapted from Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s novel, is a remarkably nonjudgmental story about a volatile, adrift woman (Rachel Weisz) who returns to London after the death of her estranged father, an Orthodox rabbi. Community, identity, responsibility, sexuality — everything is on the table. 114 minutes, in English. “Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz” (Netflix): The last surviving U.S. attorney from the Nuremberg trials has an impeccable memory, a spotless moral compass and enormous gravitas. For a thumbnail sketch of the man, consider that he began every family dinner for years by asking his sons, “What have you done for mankind today?” If your fortitude in the face of current events is at a low ebb, Ben Ferencz will give you the strength to persevere. 83 minutes, in English. “Tel Aviv on Fire” (Amazon Prime): Sameh Zoabi’s clever 2019 comedy about a Palestinian soap-opera writer trying to navigate the demands of both his Coen brothers’ 2009 film “A Serious Man.” (Photo/Netflix) bosses and an Israeli checkpoint commander will lift of Jewish-themed films from around the your spirits without insulting your IQ. world, has a free 30-day trial of its streamMake a batch of hummus first. 140 minutes, ing platform, called Chai Flicks ($5.99 a Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles. month after that). Start with this irresistible, “A Serious Man” (Netflix): The Coen action-packed, family-friendly adventure brothers’ most personal and most Jewish about a precocious Dutch boy, adapted film, shot in and around their childhood in 2011 by a Belgian director from Israeli stomping grounds of Minneapolis–St. author David Grossman’s novel. 95 minutes, Paul, is a painfully hilarious moral fable Dutch with subtitles. guaranteed to provoke a cross-generational “1945” (Amazon Prime): This extraordinner table conversation. The tale centers dinary black-and-white Hungarian film on a college professor who, in the throes of parlays the enigmatic postwar arrival of late-1960s confusion and turmoil, seeks the two exhausted Jews at a small village into counsel of local rabbis while his son grooves an exposé of guilt, betrayal, corruption and to Jefferson Airplane and reluctantly learns
The “gripping and haunting” Hungarian drama “1945.” (Photo/Amazon Prime)
his haftarah. One among several politically incorrect questions that this devious 2009 movie poses: Are Jews our own worst enemies? 106 minutes, in English. And when you’re looking for the next batch of gems, head to JFI on Demand
(jfi.org/watch-online/jfi-on-demand). The online catalog of the S.F.-based Jewish Film Institute includes titles screened at the S.F. Jewish Film Festival, providing a detailed description and, when available, a direct link to the film wherever it’s streaming. n
You can take pride in the success of our particular match … we feel that it was “b’shert.” Dr. Lou F. in San Francisco Best money I ever spent! True love is truly priceless. We can’t thank you enough. I.F. in S.F. Bay Area
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Hidden family stories uncovered by two daughters of survivors OFF THE SHELF HOWARD FREEDMAN Jews place a premium on remembering, and particularly so when it comes to the Holocaust. But how can we recall what we never learned? Two outstanding new Howard Freedman memoirs by daughis the director ters of Holocaust of the Jewish survivors focus Community Library, on uncovering the a project of Jewish stories of tragedy LearningWorks, in and survival that San Francisco. All were not passed books mentioned in down to them. this column may be Esther Safran borrowed from the Foer, the author of “I library. Want You To Know We’re Still Here,” was born in 1946 to two survivors from western Ukraine who had lost their entire families to the Nazis and
their accomplices. After spending several years in a displaced persons camp, the family immigrated to the United States. But when Esther was 8, her father committed suicide — an act she ascribes to the continuing pain of what he had endured. Her mother’s avoidance of discussing Esther’s father was part of the “general silence in my family about the past.” It was not until Esther was in her 40s that she learned that her father had been married prior to World War II, and that both his wife and child — Esther’s half-sister — had been killed. Stunned by this revelation, she would begin to pursue genealogical research with a vengeance. This desire for knowledge helped inspire her son, Jonathan Safran Foer, to travel to Ukraine, as part of a college senior thesis project, to search for the story behind a photograph of someone who had likely saved his grandfather. That trip would form the basis of his 2002 bestselling novel
BLACK LIVES MATTER We condemn racism. We stand for social justice.
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“I tricked them. I lived.” Hans Neumann
“Everything Is Illuminated.” While Jonathan’s excursion led to a memorable work of fiction, it did not answer the family’s questions about its past. Eventually, Esther decided to make her own trip to her parents’ former world, along with another son, Frank. A key stop was her father’s shtetl of Trochenbrod, recorded in “Everything Is Illuminated” — an entirely Jewish town that was destroyed with such intention that it is today a field that contains virtually no trace of having been inhabited by 5,000 residents a century ago. The journey took Esther not only to places but to people who might be able to locate the Ukrainian Christians who had sheltered her father and help her learn the identity of her murdered half-sister. Her discoveries might not have been possible if she had waited another decade to undertake her search. The book testifies to the amount of determination and work — including document research, DNA testing, pursuing distant relatives and visiting places around the globe — that can go into recovering a family history, and it is daunting. And yet the result is profoundly healing. This is equally palpable in Ariana Neumann’s “When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father’s War and What Remains.” Hans Neumann was a successful industrialist in Venezuela. His daughter Ariana, born in Caracas in 1971, had little conception of her father’s early life in Czechoslovakia, of which he did not speak, nor had she reason to think he was not Catholic. On a 1991 visit to Prague, Ariana was perusing the listing in the city’s Pinkas Synagogue of the more than 77,000 Czech Jews killed in the Holocaust and came upon her father’s name and birthdate. Where the date of death should have been, there was simply a question mark. Realizing that the man presumed dead was her father, she called him. He chuckled before remarking, “I tricked them. I lived.” Even after Ariana’s discovery, Hans never opened up about his early life to his daughter, insisting that the past should remain in the past. But after his death in 2001, Ariana was surprised to learn that he had bequeathed to her a box filled with documents and letters
that revealed the truth. Hans had grown up in an assimilated Jewish family in Prague. After the city fell under Nazi rule in 1939, he did not report for the mandatory deportation. Rather, after considering various escape plans, he boldly devised to hide in plain sight. Using forged documents, he traveled to Berlin and worked for a paint manufacturer that was supporting the Nazi war effort — a factory in which workers greeted each other with the words “Heil Hitler.” Living in fear (and carrying cyanide just in case), he managed to survive the war, eventually leaving for Venezuela. It is powerful to witness the author, who grew up without an inkling of this heritage, engage in an extraordinary act of reconstruction. Some of the richness in the book’s narrative derives from an unfinished memoir that Hans had embarked on, which was included in the box Ariana inherited. Also helping tell the story are letters written by Hans’ parents which were smuggled out of Terezin (Theresienstadt) during their many months there. One figure who shines is Zdenka, a non-Jewish woman who had married Hans’ brother Lotar. Helping the family in numerous ways, Zdenka twice managed to smuggle herself into and out of Terezin to bring her in-laws goods and encouragement (they would eventually be deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed). Both Safran Foer and Neumann depict the experience of living in the shadow of what the former terms a “family canon of unspeakable stories.” These experiences define a family’s identity, as does the act of suppressing them. While it is absolutely understandable that those who endured hell would choose silence over reliving and passing down traumatic memories, it is a great blessing that these essential stories have been recovered and shared. n
“I Want You To Know We’re Still Here: A PostHolocaust Memoir” by Esther Safran Foer (240 pages, Tim Duggan Books) “When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father’s War and What Remains” by Ariana Neumann (336 pages, Scribner)
CELEBRITY JEWS A new ‘Fiddler’ movie A whole new generation will get to sing along to an upcoming film version of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which hit Broadway in 1964 and was made for the silver screen in 1971. MGM has found a director in Thomas Kail, who directed “Hamilton” on Broadway, but who will star as Tevye in the iconic musical? No news yet on casting, or a target date.
The Torah column is supported by a generous donation from Eve Gordon-Ramek in memory of Kenneth Gordon
Sound the trumpets of justice for all TORAH RABBI AMY EILBERG
Beha’alot’cha Numbers 8:1–12:16 In the midst of hundreds of arresting images from the events of recent weeks, two shattering photos are lodged in my heart. In one, police officers in riot gear and gas masks in Minneapolis aim military-style guns at two African-American protesters. One Rabbi Amy Eilberg protester crouches on the ground serves as the beside a car, looking up at the officer coordinator of in a gesture of supplication, holding Jewish Community up his ID for the officer to see. A Engagement at second protester sits in the car with Faith in Action both hands raised in a gesture of Bay Area. She surrender. can be reached at In the second photo, officers aim rebamy@eilberg. their guns at three young women com. lying prone on the ground with both arms outstretched on the ground. One looks slightly upward, with intense fear in her eyes. Another’s eyes are shut tightly as she wails. These images stand in devastatingly stark contrast with one of the most powerful statements in this week’s Torah portion, Beha’alot’cha: “There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen of the country” (Numbers 9:14). In context, these beloved words apply specifically to the question of a non-Israelite wishing to bring a Passover offering. The same words appear in a broader context in
Here in America, we do not have one law for all. We have one law for people who live in white bodies, and a very different law for those in black and brown bodies. next week’s portion (Numbers 15:14-16), with reference to any sacrifice that a non-Israelite may want to offer, using the more expansive language, “There shall be one Torah and one law for you and for the stranger who resides among you” (15:16). That language, in turn, appears in a still more wide-reaching context, declaring that there shall be “one law for stranger and citizen alike” in cases of interpersonal injury (Leviticus 24:22). As I review these texts, I hear a clarion call increasing in volume, applying to ever-widening spheres of life. There shall be one law for you, one Torah for you, for all of you — Israelites, strangers, newcomers, citizens and non-citizens alike. I
hear the words expanding, as if in concentric circles, encompassing wide swaths of Biblical law, reverberating as a core teaching throughout the ages. This week, encountering these words is excruciatingly painful. For here in America, we do not have one law for all. We have one law for people who live in white bodies, and a very different law for those in black and brown bodies. The eyes of the nation have been rightly riveted by the outrage of longstanding, pervasive patterns of police brutality directed especially toward African American boys and men. This issue is but one facet of the institutional racism baked long and deep into America’s legal and social systems. In shocking numbers, police harass, arrest and prosecute black people far out of proportion to the number and nature of offenses of which they are accused. The system of racialized mass incarceration places astounding percentages of black men and women in jails and prisons, far disproportionate to the number of crimes committed. Black and brown people receive inferior health care, by comparison with white citizens, and exhibit multiple health vulnerabilities due to the stresses of racism — hence, the disproportionate number of black Americans affected by Covid-19. Black families earn less for the same work, and have far lower net financial worth, compared with whites with similar backgrounds and qualifications. School systems predominantly serving students of color are drastically underresourced, leaving their graduates less ready to excel in college or in the workforce than their white counterparts. Government policy for decades redlined areas of cities, ensuring that black and brown neighborhoods would be less prosperous, and that black and brown families would have little opportunity to build family wealth. These deficits have persisted through centuries of American life, and even through the 50 years since the first civil rights movement, in the 1960s. Of course, the Torah’s injunction of one law for all was not written in the context of 21st-century America. But juxtaposing the Torah’s eternal call for equality with the racialized systems in this country should make us all weep. But for me there is an image of hope in this parashah: Numbers 10 describes the commissioning of two silver trumpets to be used to summon the community (when blown in long blasts) and to direct the Israelite camp to move forward on its journey (when blown in short blasts). The trumpets are sounded in times of war and on festival days. I can only hope that the agony of these weeks will serve as a sound of the trumpets, awakening our nation to the many injustices of institutional racism. We are being collectively summoned to attention and commanded to enter into a second civil rights movement, in which all people in our country will finally be granted equality and dignity once and for all. May it be so. n
In other ‘Hamilton’ news … “Hamilton” star and Bay Area native Daveed Diggs stars in the new TV adaption of “Snowpiercer,” a 2013 feature film by Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho, itself an adaptation of “Le Transperceneige,” a 1980s French graphic novel series. The story imagines the last of humanity on a perpetually moving train, divided by class, in an all-too-clear allegory for Daveed Diggs injustice and class divisions. Diggs plays a detective enmeshed in the mysteries of just who is running the train.
And in other dystopian news… A 2013 series by the writers of the Israeli hit show “Shtisel,” Yehonatan Indursky and Ori Elon, is now available with English subtitles. “Autonomies” literalizes the divide in Israeli society by imagining two Israeli states, one secular with its capital in Tel Aviv, and one haredi with a capital in Jerusalem. The smoldering, five-episode drama, available via Amazon Prime and elsewhere online, gets pushed to an intense conclusion with stories of smuggling and the fate of a child.
Virtual accolades Israeli director Nir Bergman’s film “Here We Are” was included in the recently announced lineup of 56 films that will be part of the Cannes Film Festival, which will have online screenings from June 22 to 26. The story follows a man and his autistic son who are facing a life decision neither of them may be ready for. The 2020 festival will be virtual, denying the filmmaker a red-carpet moment but still boosting publicity for Bergman, one of the co-creators of the hit Israeli series “BeTipul,” upon which the HBO series “In Treatment” was based.
A rapper takes it to the screen Dave Burd started his career in parody rap as Lil Dicky, whose profane and self-deprecating lyrics people either love or hate; a (tame) sample line from Lil Dicky’s track “$ave Dat Money” include: “We gonna save that money/Yeah, I’m so Jewish.” Burd said he made his first few videos out of his bar mitzvah fund, which his parents wouldn’t let him touch until he finished college. Now he’s the star of a new sitcom on FXX, “Dave,” that fictionalizes Burd’s life as a white Jew trying to make it in the rap Dave Burd world.
Inventor and star Lamarr gets new biopic Gal Gadot will star in and produce a miniseries about Hedy Lamarr, who was born in Vienna and came to the United States in the 1930s, where she became a star known for glamour and sex appeal. Lamarr also is known, these days, for her invention of encrypting radio transmissions — she patented a way for guided torpedoes to escape enemy jamming, although Hedy Lamarr it was never used in the war. That almost-lost saga was detailed in the 2017 documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” a Jewish film festival favorite. n This week’s column is by J. staff writer Maya Mirsky.
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J. LIFE | FOOD
After 38 years, gregarious Toy Boat owner decides to set sail THE ORGANIC EPICURE ALIX WALL Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals. Toy Boat Dessert Café, a Clement Street mainstay that has served as an informal hub for the Jewish community, is on the block after 38 years. Situated on the corner of Fifth Avenue in a busy commercial district in San Francisco, the café is a quick hop from Congregations Beth Sholom and Emanu-El and the JCCSF. “A lot of Jewish meetings happened there,” said Michael Bien, who attended more than a handful himself over the years. “It had that kind of welcoming sense and friendliness. That’s the kind of atmosphere that people wanted, where they feel at home and aren’t rushed out.” While the walls of vintage toys from a bygone era were part of the attraction — as was the 1950s mechanical “pet” horse named Butterscotch, set squarely in the middle of the shop, that kids rode for a couple of coins — owner Jesse Fink was a big part of the reason why people were drawn to Toy Boat. “He’s the conscience if not the mayor of Clement Street,” said Alan Rothenberg, who has lived a few blocks away for 45 years. “He’s a mensch with a large M.” “When you go out with him anywhere in the city, people come up to him and ask how he’s doing, and he’s friendly to everyone and remembers them,” said Bien. Fink, who grew up in Brooklyn, followed his brother to San Francisco in 1978. After helping him and a friend start up Double Rainbow Ice Cream, Fink decided to open up his own place in 1982 with his girlfriend at the time, Roberta. Toy Boat: A Dessert Café was in business. They married and had two kids, and the café remained part of family and community life until last week, when the Finks decided to put it up for sale. “I wanted to open up a store that wasn’t necessarily a store, that would make people happy,” Fink recalled. “This was pre-Starbucks, and we hit the nail on the head. We had a very successful business making people happy.” In addition to Double Rainbow ice cream, they sold sandwiches, salads, baked goods, espresso drinks, Italian sodas and the like. Speaking of Starbucks, Fink made a name for himself in 2007 when as head of the merchants’ association he led a campaign
against one opening a block away. While some might assume that the coronavirus prompted the decision to sell, Fink didn’t say that outright. “My mother used to say ‘Moments of decision choose themselves,’” said Fink, who will be 67 later this summer. “And I think I got a knock on the door at this time. Was it the virus? Not necessarily, but I think spending the past two months at home with my wife made me think that it’s time to retire.” In the early days, Fink began collecting old toys as décor; Roberta sold some of them at her own gift shop (since closed), Tutti Frutti on Irving Street. Jesse continued collecting over the years and eventually began selling the toys from the café, as well.
Rothenberg said there were only two places in the neighborhood where his grandchildren would want to go when they come to visit: Toy Boat and Green Apple Books. “It was like a reward to go to Toy Boat,” he said. “No visit was complete without making those two stops.” Fink understands. “There’s a feeling you get when you walk in,” he said. “You can’t explain it. That’s the reason it’s been so successful.” What Fink loved most was the cross-section of customers who came through his doors and the diversity of the neighborhood itself. “I got to meet a lot of different people from all walks of life,” he said, describing himself as a people person. “Toy Boat was for
Jesse and Roberta Fink in front of Toy Boat on Clement Street. (Photo/AnnieRose Fink)
“The walls were all covered with things you never knew you wanted 30 years ago,” said Rothenberg. “You wouldn’t believe how many Pez dispensers he had. He had both things in great taste and dubious taste,” from a 6-foot Pee-wee Herman doll to a life-size replica of Yoda from “Star Wars” to toys from China and the former Soviet Union. Especially in later years, when chains became the norm, Toy Boat functioned as a kind of flagship for San Francisco nostalgia, a one-of-a-kind, neighborhood mom-and-pop type business, which is much harder to find nowadays.
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young people and for old people, for those who spoke English and those who didn’t.” He also loved the many young people, or “scoopers,” who had their first jobs there; he especially loved when they returned to visit years later, bringing their own kids to meet him and have a cone. He said the Jews always managed to find him, too, including a number of local rabbis. Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, a good friend, stopped in often to shmooze and drink espresso. One Orthodox rabbi came each week so he and Fink could lay tefillin together. One young Jewish scooper who
kept seeing rabbis come in finally asked, “What’s with you and all the rabbis? Are you, like, the godfather of the rabbis?” Fink recalled a time when a woman whose husband-to-be was Jewish but wanted nothing to do with Judaism asked for advice about where she could go to learn about Judaism and potentially convert. He recommended going to Rabbi Alan Lew, “and she’s still very active at Beth Sholom,” he said. (Lew died in 2009.) The Finks, members of Beth Sholom, donated toys to the Purim carnivals and hosted several late-night study sessions at Toy Boat on Shavuot, the holiday when dairy foods are eaten. But it was the personal connections Fink made with people that made Toy Boat a favorite. Bien recalled when one elderly woman who was a regular suddenly stopped coming in, Fink took it upon himself to find out where she lived and then had his staff bring food to her. He later ended up helping to arrange care for her. “He noticed a customer not showing up and felt this responsibility for her,” said Bien. In a message Fink wrote to the community, he concluded: “It is our hope that someone full of vigor and vim will take over Toy Boat, and keep The Boat afloat for many years to come.” *** SMALL BITES: In March, Saul’s Restaurant and Jewish Delicatessen co-owners Peter Levitt and Karen Adelman had sold their restaurant after more than 30 years and were looking forward to retirement. But when the sale fell through because of the pandemic, they closed their doors and took some time to reassess. Now they have decided to regroup and invest in Saul’s future. Construction is underway for a takeout window and improvements inside, including a new floor and counter where customers eventually will sit. They hope to reopen for takeout and delivery in July with a smaller menu and, like everyone, are waiting to make any further decisions until the city of Berkeley issues its rules on reopening. The decision to invest in Saul’s was not an easy one, in light of the fact that 30 to 40 percent of restaurants won’t survive the economic side of the pandemic, Levitt said. They based their decision on the fact that Saul’s was doing some of its best business right before the pandemic hit, and that Jewish food is experiencing a resurgence of interest. They also believe that, while rough times are still ahead, eventually things will return to normal. “Obviously a lot of people think restaurants are worth nothing today, and they’re
The Food section is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky
right — temporarily,” Levitt said. “Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but hopefully within a year there will be a vaccine, and six months after that there will be a repeat of the Roaring ’20s, as people will be desperate to go out to eat.” Something else new they’re planning: bagels made on-site. For many years they’ve been carrying Baron Bagels, made by Dan Graf, and now they are working with him to boil and bake the bagels at Saul’s when it fully reopens. “We think that would be a neat addition for early morning,” Levitt said. *** As much as Evan Bloom loves pastrami, he can’t eat it every day. And listening to his customers over the years, he knows he’s not alone. That’s why the co-founder of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen has decided to add Middle Eastern food to the offerings, until recently a catering-only option. “This, I can eat every day,” he said. Called Lev (“heart” in Hebrew), the special menu actually was introduced a few years ago. Wise Sons was catering at the offices of Square, the payment platform, and workers asked for some lighter, healthier fare. The menu was a success, and last fall it was added to the general catering menu. Now, it’s available for delivery on Caviar and DoorDash, as well. The Lev menu (wisesonsdeli.com/ lev), which is separate from the deli menu, has just two proteins: a chicken shwarma and a kofta made from Impossible Burger. Both can be served over turmeric rice, in a salad with za’atar lemon dressing or in a whole-grain flatbread. Fries come with two dipping sauces, a harissa and herby yogurt. Dessert is tahini chocolate chip cookies. Everything can be ordered individually or in family-size meals for four, which also come with black tea and pomegranate lemonade. Bloom said the desire for this type of food was often expressed by customers, who saw no reason a Jewish restaurant couldn’t offer Middle Eastern food, too. Healthy cuisine isn’t exactly the theme at Wise Sons, where the standard Ashkenazi deli fare includes pastrami cheese fries and a “Big Macher” burger. That doesn’t always fit the bill. “We do a lot of catering, especially at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and there’s a limit to what we can offer on the
Ashkenazi side,” said Bloom. “People aren’t accustomed to brisket and latkes at a happy hour.” While executing the Lev menu doesn’t require a Middle Eastern chef, it doesn’t hurt that Wise Sons’ head of culinary operations for the past seven years is Israeli American chef Joey Boujo, someone Bloom grew up with. Bloom said right now he is trying to strike a balance between expanding menu offerings based on customer demand, and keeping the staff employed. “It’s a tenuous time, and we’re open because our people want to work and we want to serve people, and we feel we can do it safely as well,” Bloom said. However, “we’re not making money. We’ve reduced as many costs as we can, but we’re just trying to keep going. Having to restart what we’ve built in however many months would be a real challenge.” *** Inspired by last month’s online “Great Big Jewish Food Fest,” local chef Shelley Handler decided to host her own online happy hour. She called the one-time event “Meine Yiddishe Madeleine” and asked participants to share their own memories of Jewish foods that are comparable to Proust’s madeleine nostalgia in “Remembrance of Things Past.” “Which dish, smell, taste or tradition binds you most vividly to your sense of being a Jew?” she asked. “Whether you’re observant, secular, or merely gastronomic, how does this specific food, meal or sense memory make you one of the tribe?” Handler was the inaugural chef at the Chez Panisse Café and is a veteran in the food business. She was joined by friends, colleagues and culinary professionals, such as Harvey Steiman, editor emeritus of Wine Spectator, who spoke of finding a blintz just like his mother’s at Barney Greengrass, and Jesse Cool, chef at Menlo Park’s Flea Street, whose father was a butcher. “We ate tongue and sweetbreads and liver and every part of the animal, and until I went out into the world, I thought this was normal,” said Cool. For Handler, her answer was the smell of onions frying. “It’s one of the most evocative smells for me,” she said. “It’s a particular smell that sends me right into my grandmother’s kitchen.” n
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The Food section is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky
A pie and a sundae inspired by Moses’ 12 spies COOKING FAITH KRAMER
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit. com. Contact Faith at email@example.com.
The Torah portion Sh’lach is full of references to food. The spies sent to scout the land of Canaan return bearing pomegranates, figs, grapes, and reports of milk and honey. The parashah, read on Saturday, June 20, and the spies’ bounty of fruit inspired these recipes. Spiced Pomegranate Meringue Pie is a riff on the classic lemon meringue. If consuming meringue is a concern, serve topped with whipped cream instead. Make extra sauce from the Fig Sundae with Sweet Tahini Sauce for spooning over yogurt or spreading on challah. Try it as a dip for frozen grapes (freeze seedless grapes in a single layer, then transfer to a bag). Store sauce in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using.
SPICED POMEGRANATE MERINGUE PIE Serves 8
1 unbaked pie crust for 9-inch pie
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
6 Tbs. cornstarch
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ tsp. salt
4 large egg yolks at room temperature, beaten
⅛ tsp. ground cardamom
Natural red food coloring, optional
⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
Meringue (see below)
1½ cups water
Lemon zest for garnish, optional
¾ cups refrigerated pomegranate juice
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Press crust into 9- or 10-inch pie pan (not deep dish). Fold and pinch extra crust to form a fluted edge. Prick with fork all over the bottom and sides. Bake until golden or light brown, about 9 to 11 minutes for metal tin or about 11 to 13 minutes for glass or ceramic pan, using fork to prick any bubbles after 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool. In a large saucepan, whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, cardamom, cinnamon and water. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking continuously for about 3 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in pomegranate juice, lemon juice, zest and butter. Mix well. Take ½ cup from pot and stir into small bowl with yolks. Slowly whisk yolk mixture back into mixture in saucepan. Return pot to burner on medium-high heat. Cook about 3 minutes, whisking constantly, until thick and glossy. If desired, stir in a few drops of food coloring. Let the pomegranate filling cool for 10 to 20 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Make meringue (see below). Spoon filling into baked crust. Coat with meringue, spreading it to edges so it touches fluted crust. Bake until top begins to color (watch carefully), about 3 minutes. Serve at room temperature garnished with zest. Refrigerate leftovers for up to two days. Meringue: Place a few inches of hot water in a large bowl. In a slightly smaller non-plastic bowl (or bowl of an electric stand mixer) add 5 large egg whites (at room temperature), ½ cup sugar and ¼ tsp. salt. Place smaller bowl into larger one. Stir until whites are just warm to the touch (15 to 30 seconds). Remove inner bowl. Whip with electric hand or stand mixer on high until whites are firm and glossy, and peaks form when beaters are raised. (Adapted from “The Fannie Farmer Baking Book” by Marion Cunningham). Note: Choose a pomegranate juice with no sugar or added flavors.
Lifecycles B’NAI MITZVAHS EVIN IVY ELLSON Daughter of Michele Ellson and Steven Ellson, Saturday, June 13 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
MILES JACOB ROBINSON Son of Mantra and Steve Robinson, Thursday, June 18 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
ELLA RUDY AIKO FLEISCHER Daughter of Nagisa Yamamoto and Kurt Fleischer, Saturday, June 20 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
ANALIE LIPANSKY Daughter of Felicia and Adam Lipansky, Saturday, June 20 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
TOBIAN TERU-YUKI FLEISCHER Son of Nagisa Yamamoto and Kurt Fleischer, Saturday, June 20 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
MAXWELL ARI PORTER GOLDFARB Son of Amy Jo and Aaron Goldfarb, Thursday, June 18 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
ADAM LONG Son of Ruth and Scott Long, Saturday, June 20 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
JONAH BENJAMIN GREENBERG Son of Christina and Brian Greenberg, Thursday June 18 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
ALEXANDER GABRIEL ZWERLING Son of Christine and Erik Zwerling, Thursday, June 18 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
NOAH SIMON Son of Steven and Erin Simon and brother of Asher, Samuel, Esther and Bella, Thursday, May 28 with Chabad of Plano in Plano Texas. Grandparents are Sonia and Allen Simon of Daly City and Karen McQuaid and (OBM) James Fitzgerald of Bellevue, Washington. Uncle is Gary Simon of Daly City. Paternal great-grandparents are (OBM) Soma and Esther Blumenkranc of San Rafael and (OBM) Melvin and Sally Simon of Oakland.
TOBIN SCHRAGER Son of Ruth and Matt Schrager, Saturday, June 20 at Temple Sinai in Oakland.
FIG SUNDAE WITH SWEET TAHINI SAUCE Serves 4 ½ cup tahini paste (stir in jar before measuring)
3 to 4 Tbs. agave syrup
2 Tbs. lemon juice
½ cup dried figs, chopped into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
¼ cup cold water plus as needed
2 to 4 cups vanilla dairy or nondairy ice cream
⅛ tsp. salt
Silan (date syrup), optional
In a medium bowl, stir tahini until smooth. Stir in juice, water, salt and agave syrup. Stir until very smooth. Stir in more water by the tablespoon as needed, until sauce is thin enough to be spooned. Place ice cream in serving dishes. Top with figs and sauce. Drizzle with silan. n 36 6.12.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
WEDDINGS MICHAEL CITRON AND CARLY ROSENBLIT were married in a small ceremony in the bride’s parents’ backyard in Encino on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Rabbi Sam Spector of Salt Lake City officiated, while close relatives viewed via Zoom. Michael is the son of Eric and Dvora Citron of Orinda, and Carly is the daughter of Steven Rosenblit and Cynthia Keller of Encino. Michael’s grandparents are Bob and Lorraine Sasner of Walnut Creek and Rosalind Citron of Fremont. Both UCSB Gauchos, Michael and Carly met on JSwipe (even though they lived in L.A. only two blocks from each other!). Michael is a senior associate at Mercer in L.A. and Carly is a third-grade teacher at Kenter Canyon Elementary School in Brentwood. The newlyweds plan to have a second wedding celebration with their relatives and friends in 2021.
MILESTONES Zelda Levin celebrates 103 years ZELDA LEVIN celebrated her 103rd birthday on June 6 at home with her children, Ken (Darlene) Levin and Carol Ann (Robert) Roudman. Zelda is the oldest person in San Mateo today still residing in her own home, which she and her husband, Syd Levin (d. 2011) designed and built in 1941. Zelda was born on June 6, 1917, in Warren, Pennsylvania. When she was 10, her family moved to San Francisco. In the 1920s and 1930s, Zelda learned to play tennis and speak Spanish fluently, and she was valedictorian of her confirmation class. In 1936, Zelda met Syd at a dance in San Francisco, and on June 20, 1937, they were married at the Westphol Building on Sutter Street in San Francisco by Rabbi Lifschitz. Zelda and Syd had three children, Linda (d. 2006), Carol Ann and Ken. In 1949, Zelda appeared on stage as Blossom the maid in “Under the Gaslight” at the San Carlos Community Theatre. In October 1976, she became the first woman to be made Paul Harris of Rotary in San Carlos. She won many tennis trophies over the years and was the 1952 San Carlos champion for singles women’s in tennis. In 1982, Zelda won a trophy at the Doggie Diner Grandmothers’ Tennis Tournament in San Francisco. Zelda and Syd have always been generous supporters of Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo. They have been charter members of the synagogue since 1946, and Zelda was vice president of the sisterhood in 1958. When the synagogue’s new kitchen is finished, it will be named the Zelda Levin kitchen. Zelda was also the 1959-1960 president of Peninsula B’nai Brith Women #231. Over the years, Zelda and Syd have made outstanding contributions to their community. They have been generous supporters of the Jewish Community Federation and Mills Peninsula Hospital. Mills Peninsula has named the eye surgery area of Mills Surgery Center the “Sydney and Zelda Levin Ophthalmology Wing.” Zelda is truly a generous, kind and loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
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Jewish Theatre co-founder Corey Fischer dies at 75 DAN PINE | J. STAFF If Bay Area theaters were open right now, they would dim the lights for Corey Fischer. Co-founder of A Traveling Jewish Theatre and a pioneer in the region’s Jewish performing arts scene, Fischer died June 7 from complications from a brain stem bleed he suffered last December. He was 75 and lived in San Rafael with his wife, China Galland. A native of Los Angeles, Fischer directed or acted in more than 100 plays over his career with the theater, which was founded in 1978 and later renamed The Corey Fischer in “Lightning Jewish Theatre before folding in 2012. He also had roles in the Brain” at the Marsh in in film and TV, including “M*A*S*H,” “All in the Family” 2016. (Photo/Ken Friedman) and “Frasier.” In the Bay Area, Fischer was the undisputed dean of Jewish theater. “I can’t do any work that is not in some sense Jewish, because the theater has always been the way I have been able to express my Jewishness,” he told J. in a 2016 interview. Founded by Fischer, Naomi Newman and Albert Greenberg in Los Angeles in 1978, A Traveling Jewish Theatre excelled in combining music, movement, puppetry, masks and any other interdisciplinary theatrical magic available to spin Chagall-like works for the stage, including “The Last Yiddish Poet,” one of Fischer’s first collaborative pieces for TJT. “There was a lot of laughter,” recalls Newman of the company’s early days. “Corey was such a flexible and interesting actor. He was also not the easiest person in the world. The first time I’d make a suggestion [as a director], he’d say ‘I can’t possibly do that.’ Then I’d wait a few moments and he’d say, ‘OK let’s try that.’ As time went on and as we matured together, and it was great to direct him.” They performed across the Bay Area and in more than 60 cities around the world before settling permanently in San Francisco in 1982, eventually leasing the 88-seat Florida Street theater. Fischer and Newman maintained their lead roles as the theater developed many lauded original works for the stage. When Aaron Davidman became artistic director in 2002, the theater maintained its high standards with a 2007 staging of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” with Fischer starring in the iconic role of Willy Loman. Davidman directed Fischer in that production, capping an artistic friendship that began years earlier when Fischer served as Davidman’s mentor, starting around the year 2000. Davidman also directed Fischer in the title role of Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” for a 2009 TheatreWorks production. The renamed Jewish Theatre fell on hard times in 2008 during the recession that hit the nation that year. Most of the staff was laid off, and the 2008-09 season was put on hold. A fundraising appeal brought $300,000 in much-needed cash, but 2011-2012 proved to be the final season. Fischer remained active, composing music, playwriting and performing. His 2016 one-man musical theater show “Lightning in the Brain” examined his first brushes with seizures and other brain-related medical issues. He suffered a brain stem bleed on Dec. 3, and after surgery and weeks in intensive care began a long rehab process. He lost that battle last weekend. As for Fischer’s legacy, his colleagues believe it is assured. “His contribution to the Jewish theater in America is enormous,” Davidman said. “What Corey [and his TJT colleagues] did was take some of the techniques they had explored in the experimental formats, and they went on to dig through their own experience of what it meant to be Jewish in America. “I think they helped pave the way for Jewish content to find its way to mainstream American stages in a form that now we don’t even call experimental anymore.” n JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 6.12.2020 37
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County for 75 years. A proud graduate of Burlingame High (’49) and UC Berkeley (’53), Janet went on to a career as a schoolteacher that spanned 50 years at Green Hills Elementary in Millbrae, CA. Janet devoted her life to educating young people. She was a generous supporter to the causes of literacy, and improving the lives of children remained a priority throughout her life. A lifelong learner, Janet loved reading, museums, theater and opera. She served on the board of the Burlingame High Alumni Association and was honored to have the library at Green Hills named for her. Janet was a beloved aunt to Denise Cohn, Barry (Debbie) Cohn, Wendy (Cohn) Feldman and Mark Cohn; eight great-nieces and great-nephews. She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Roberta Cohn. Her husband, Troy Martin, and brother, Leonard Cohn, predeceased her. Janet cherished her family and will be lovingly remembered by all who knew her for her quick wit, generosity and her supportive, caring nature. The family requests donations in Janet’s memory be made to the Jewish Coalition for Literacy, or any charity that benefits the well-being of children. Sinai Memorial Chapel | 650.369.3636
February 18, 1927–May 30, 2020
Website: www.jweekly.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 415.263.7201
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Janet Martin, 88, passed away peacefully at home on June 3. Born on September 23, 1931, to Elaine and Emil Cohn in San Francisco, she grew up in Millbrae, and she remained a resident of San Mateo
PEARL MARIE MARCHICK ROSENTHAL
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Pearl Marie Marchick Rosenthal was born February 18, 1927, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Rose and Ben Marchick. She died peacefully at home in Los Gatos on May 30, 2020, after a long illness. Pearl attended UC Berkeley where she earned a degree in Social Welfare. While attending Berkeley, she met her husband, Leonard Rosenthal. They were married for 69 years. Early in their marriage Leonard was hospitalized with a brief but serious illness from which he fully recovered. From this experience, Pearl realized the importance of being able to support a family, and she returned to Berkeley to become a CPA. At that time there were few women CPAs, and Pearl went on to build a successful practice. Her greatest passion was her family, and she adored spending time with her four
38 6.12.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
granddaughters, taking them on educational vacations, and ensuring they attended every possible family event, no matter how big or small. Pearl was their loyal “Buba” and a voice of encouragement in all their endeavors. Pearl cherished her brothers and sisters, many nieces, nephews and cousins, and was always trying to bring the family together. She always stressed the importance of education, and encouraged her children to choose a career where they could be independent and support a family. She had a unique way of getting things done. Pearl was daring and had immense integrity. She was respected for her dedication, devotion and commitment to family, work and her community. She is survived by her two children and their spouses, Mark (Lisa) Rosenthal, Gwen (Doug) Kaplan and four grandchildren and their spouses, Emily (Adam) Weinberg, Lindsay (Josh) Klein, Amy Kaplan (Jonathan Pilch), Cora Kaplan (Michael Pilliod), and her great-grandchildren, Micah, Forrest, Zoey, Leonard, Ethan, Gabriel and Grayson. As well as her three siblings and their families, Richard (Gloria) Marchick, Marilyn Stark (Stanley), and Harold Marchick. Pearl’s devoted caregivers, Timoci, Nanise and Ana, treated Pearl with kindness, and we will forever be grateful for the love they showed her. To honor Pearl’s life, a donation may be sent to Congregation Shir Hadash, 20 Cherry Blossom Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95032, or to the Pearl and Leonard Rosenthal Fund at Hebrew Free Loan, 131 Steuart St, Suite 520, San Francisco, CA 94105. HOWARD MOSS
August 8, 1956–May 16, 2020
Howard Moss, 63, passed away on May 16, 2020 in Santa Rosa, CA. He was born in Los Angeles, CA to Tobey and the late Allen Moss. He was the youngest of three brothers, in a large extended family. Growing up, he was a member of Temple Israel of Hollywood. Howard attended UCSD, LACC, and ultimately graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He married the love of his life, Adrea, after graduation. They moved to Santa Rosa, where Howard started a career as an engineer with Hewlett-Packard (later Agilent), and then with L3. Howard loved music, playing guitar, reading, puzzles of all kinds and, most of all, he loved people. He was a member of Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa and was involved in the Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County, where Adrea is a board member. Later in life, Howard experienced physical limitations due to a series of strokes. His optimistic spirit shone through despite his disabilities. He found ways to be independent,
enjoy life to his fullest, and even travel to France and Israel. He was an inspiration to all who encountered him. Howard is survived by his wife Adrea, son Eliot Moss (Lindsay), daughter Carina Moss (Jason), mother Tobey Moss, brothers David Moss (Jane), Kenneth Moss (Pat), and many loving nieces, nephews and cousins, and many friends. Donations may be made in his memory to Congregation Beth Ami or JCC of Sonoma County. ROSE LIBERMAN July 20, 1927–May 12, 2020
Early in the morning on May 12, 2020, Rose Liberman passed away. She was born in 1927 in Kielce, Poland, to Meyer and Malka Stzernberg. She had a brother Yaacov and sister Scheindel. At the age of 6, Rose’s mother died, and she was raised by her aunt and uncle. At the age of 11, the war broke out and she was interned in labor camps, and then Uberalstad. She was liberated in 1945 and never again saw any of her family. Not only was she a survivor of the Holocaust, she was a survivor of life. After the war, she met the love of her life, Alex Liberman. They married in Sweden and had a son, Leo. In 1954 they immigrated to the United States.They grew their family and had a daughter, Mary, in 1956. Life was hard, but good. Sadly, at the age of 69, Alex passed away. Fifteen years later, Rose relocated to Seattle, Washington, and finally moved into a Jewish retirement community, the Summit at First Hill. She embraced this move, looking forward to new friendships, outings, an in-house synagogue, security and happiness. In June of 2010, she had her Bat Mitzvah and read Torah. Rose brought smiles, love and caring with her, and it was reciprocated every single moment of her life. She enjoyed singing, dancing, baking challah and telling jokes, and her pockets always had candy for every person she encountered. She fondly became the Candy Lady. Rose was preceded in death by her loving husband, Alex Liberman, and survived by her children, Leo (Myriam) and Mary (Ed), grandchildren Sarah (Kris), Neal (Michele), Mark (Theresa), Joshua and Gabriel (Nicole), and great-grandchildren Mirabelle, Cruz and Mia. Services were held graveside on May 15, 2020 at Eternal Hills, Sinai, with Emeritus Cantor Linda Semi presiding. Shiva was held via Zoom. She will be profoundly missed and cherished forever. May her memory always be for a blessing.
The Obituaries section is supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel, sinaichapel.org
SUSAN DIANE WALLACH March 12, 1945–March 4, 2020
Susan Diane Wallach, born in Lafayette, California, and a longtime resident of Walnut Creek, California, passed away on March 4, 2020, surrounded by her loving family. Susan was wholeheartedly devoted to her family — a caring wife to her late husband, Raul Wallach, and dedicated mother to her three children, Deborah, Liza and Ari. She considered her children to be her proudest accomplishment. Susan had the unique combination of being a talented artist, and an intelligent, humorous, practical and kind human being. These qualities were enveloped in an emotional intelligence and grace that people admired. Susan was a leader in the Jewish community, active on the boards of many San Francisco and East Bay Jewish organizations, such as AJC, ADL and Lehrhaus Judaica. Her parents were founding board members of Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, California. Held in high esteem, Susan’s decades of volunteerism were an example to her children, who followed in her footsteps. She led by example and always encouraged the people around her to be their best. Susan also volunteered for many years at her children’s schools as well as assisting homeless food kitchens. She inspired many with her boundless energy and commitment to Jewish life. Growing up in Lafayette, Susan attended Stanley Elementary, and after her family resettled in Walnut Creek she attended Clayton Valley High School in Clayton, California. She quickly became popular within the student body and was crowned the school’s first Homecoming Queen. She then graduated from San Francisco State in 1962 with a major in Education and Art. Her artistic abilities caught the attention of many. Bill Graham hired her to help organize the SF Jazz Festival and later create the first posters for the Fillmore. During her attendance at SF State, she often lunched with her friend Buckminster Fuller as they bonded over their shared appreciation of architecture and design. After graduation, she enrolled in a summer art program in Guadalajara, Mexico, through Stanford University. On a blind date, she met her future husband, Raul Wallach (Wolochwianski), a successful entrepreneur, professional soccer player and eventual soccer team league owner. A 20-year age difference and a basic knowledge of the other’s language couldn’t keep these two apart. They were married two years later in Guadalajara, Mexico, in a ceremony that included politicians and business leaders. In Guadalajara, Mexico, they built a house made for entertaining and lovingly raised their three
children, Deborah, Liza and Ari. They held fundraisers at their home, including one for the wife of the former President of Mexico and a private tea lunch for the wife of the then-Prime Minister of Israel. In 1977 they moved the family to Walnut Creek, California, where Susan and Raul raised their children with the core values of knowledge, integrity and family togetherness. In 2002, Susan graduated with a Master’s degree in Art from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California. She continued to refine her ceramics and painting throughout her life. A highlight of her career as an artist was being included in a Chagall retrospective exhibit at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, California. She enjoyed being social and was a friend to many people both in the United States and Mexico. Her Bay Area friends had a special place in her life. Susan persevered over 25 years with diabetes, through which her determination, courage and strength was formidable, unwavering and inspiring. She focused her efforts on living, loving, and being available to encourage her family and friends. Susan is survived by her three children, Deborah Wallach, Liza Wallach Kloski and Ari Ben Zion Wallach, and her grandchildren, Rowan Wallach Kloski and Ruby, Eliana and Gideon Wallach, as well as by many cousins both in the United States and Mexico. She is preceded in death by her late husband, Raul Wallach, by her late parents Herb and Elsie Martin, and her late brothers Roger and Doug Martin. She is also survived by her companion of the last 15 years, Norm Hamilton of Orinda, California. Susan and Norm enjoyed traveling, cooking and participating in their film group together. They were both lucky to have found love again later in life. Susan leaves a timeless legacy of integrity, elegance, charm and strength. She is profoundly missed by her family and friends. What a beautiful legacy she has left us. A traditional Jewish funeral was held at the Home of Eternity on March 6, 2020, where many gathered to pay their respects and honor a life well lived. Contributions in Susan’s memory may be made to Congregation B’nai Shalom, to the Susan and Raul Wallach Memorial Charitable Trust, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. (925) 934-9446
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BEFORE YOU GO…
Jewish community has been a lifeline to me as a Jewish mom PARENTING JULIE LEVINE
Julie Levine is a Bay Area writer who lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.
When I moved from New York to San Francisco more than 20 years ago, the only person I knew was my hubby. We were newly married, and I was looking for Jewish connections, which I had a lot of back East. I can’t remember how I ended up at a Hadassah luncheon. I must have seen a flyer. I went hoping to meet some Jewish women and ended up meeting one of my dearest friends. She’s known me since before our oldest was born and has helped me navigate marriage to motherhood and everything in between. A few years later, I met a rabbi at a party for what was then called the Jewish Museum San Francisco (held in the Steuart Street lobby of the S.F.based Jewish Community Federation, which was then the museum’s small gallery space). The rabbi’s wife was pregnant, and so was I. My husband and I ran into him shortly after the party, in the hospital — both his wife and I had given birth within days of each other. We kept in touch. The rabbi’s wife told me about a baby group at her husband’s synagogue, Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. My daughter and I attended the following week and then became regulars. This weekly baby group became the beginning of our building a strong Jewish foundation for our kids. The rabbi suggested that I register our daughter for the Sherith Israel preschool, which we did. Looking back, I realize that having our children attend a Jewish preschool was critical to Judaism being at the forefront of our family’s life. I made lifelong friendships. Over the years, we’ve celebrated Jewish holidays together and traveled to Israel. When our older daughter began elementary school, we decided to have her attend Sunday school at Congregation Emanu-El, where we’ve been members now for more than 15 years. The synagogue has played an essential role in helping us raise our kids Jewish. The clergy and staff always make our kids feel special. This is the place where our children not only learned to love being Jewish, but where — as high-schoolers!— it’s still a cool place for
them to be. The synagogue also has helped me be a better Jewish mother, a more thoughtful community member, and helped me dig in deeper personally and spiritually. Our son attended Camp Tawonga every summer until he was too old to be a camper. It was a profound growth experience for him. The staff and counselors infuse Judaism into every aspect of camp life in such a spirited and beautiful way. The JCC of San Francisco has consistently been a welcoming place for my family. We’ve attended many community holiday celebrations over the years and have enjoyed taking the kids to talks there now that they are older. My daughter and I have gone to hear Gloria Steinem and Shirin Ebadi, our son to see René Redzepi and Bari Weiss. In high school, when our daughter came up against a fellow activist student whose ideas about Israel and Zionism made her feel uncomfortable, the Jewish Community Relations Council was there for her. I’m thankful they gave her the tools she needed to respond thoughtfully. Through the years, our kids have taken advantage of many terrific volunteer programs, such as the Jewish Teen Foundation at the S.F.-based Federation and at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, among many others. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention HIAS, the organization formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, for bringing my grandparents to this country in the early 20th century. I wouldn’t be here today writing a column for the Bay Area’s Jewish publication if HIAS hadn’t made it possible for my grandparents to rebuild their lives safely in the United States. During an afternoon walk after having just read an article about the challenges Jewish nonprofits are facing as a result of the Covid pandemic, I was reflecting back on what a lifeline so many of these organizations have been to me as a mother. I wish I had space here to list them all. I’m grateful to all of them, and to their hard-working employees, for helping me raise Jewish kids. n
I can’t finish my conversion because of Covid-19 MIXED & MATCHED DAWN KEPLER Dear Dawn: After I formally prepared for more than a year, my beit din and mikvah were going to be scheduled for this spring. Now they are postponed because of the shutdown. I’m grateful for many things, and I continue to study. At the same time, I’m disappointed. There’s no way to do the mikvah now. Standing in my shower while holding a cellphone with the rabbi officiating from afar will not be adequate! As for the beit din, Zoom seems so impersonal. I feel lost, not being an official member of my Reform synagogue in Oakland. I feel lonely. I yearn for the time when we can resume Shabbat and other communal gatherings together. Getting closer to age 60, I am so eager to fulfill what I know is right for me. Would love to hear your thoughts. — Beth
Dawn Kepler leads Building Jewish Bridges, a program of HaMaqom | The Place that embraces Bay Area interfaith families. “Mixed & Matched” offers advice for Jews in interfaith relationships and families. Send letters to dawn@ buildingjewishbridges.org.
Dear Beth: I am sorry you are having an especially tough time. I respect and agree with your assessment that an “electronic” mikvah would be less than satisfying. And a beit din on Zoom would lack the warmth of an in-person dialogue. Here are a few things that I hope will help. First, your rabbi certainly considers you a part of the community whether you are a member or not. He/she probably has spent more time with you than the average congregant due to your studies. Additionally, the only thing you can’t do that a congregant can do right now is vote. Come the High Holidays, you’ll be there! I am confident your rabbi wants to be sure you are staying connected to your Judaism. I’ll bet your feeling of loneliness would be there at this time even if you were a member. The inability to be with others and not being able to go to the mikvah are feeding into each other. Let me tell you a story that’s been helping me. A member of my congregation survived the Holocaust as a hidden child. She was around 10 and was hidden in a bathroom. Talk about boring and lonely. Yes, there was a family in
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the house around her, but no friends, no outdoors, no school. When I feel like crawling the walls, I think of her. She is one of the sunniest personalities I know. Clearly her own character traits served her well at that time and in the decades since, as she has not carried a disabling grief with her; I’m not sure I could do that. In tough moments I try to emulate her and to find my own internal strength. Here are some suggestions to help you move forward. • Go for social-distancing walks with friends. Being in the physical presence of people who love you will help. • Email your rabbi about your difficult emotional status. I’ll bet the rabbi can connect you with other members who would enjoy being in touch. • Use the internet as much as you can bear. I know it is not at all as good as real people, but it is what we have right now. It is our safe “bathroom.” • Schedule activities that you tell yourself you must do (even online). • Attend your congregation’s online services and Torah study. • Get on email lists that are helping members keep in touch. • Take a class online. (I can recommend some.) • Consider creating a daily prayer regime. You might add the Modeh Ani in the morning to get you off on the right foot. • Get on email lists that send out interesting information. Certainly your synagogue newsletter, but also My Jewish Learning. Sign up for J’s e-newsletters to be aware and a part of local Jewry, and perhaps the Times of Israel or New York Jewish Week to get an expanded look beyond the Bay Area. • Find things you enjoy online and put them on your calendar. • Set up Zoom or Skype visits with a friend at least every other day. • Finally, keep a notebook of your Jewish practices and learning. I want you to be aware of how much you are already being Jewish! n
STAND UP for J. by June 30! 2020 is half over and already we have had to face an unprecedented global pandemic, a societal shutdown and a massive economic downturn. Then came the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, and the groundswell of national revulsion that brought millions into the streets to stand up against racism and injustice. Our tradition says “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” As people of color seek a long-overdue redress of grievances, the Jewish community adds its voice. As the community’s newspaper of record, J. has once again stepped up to cover the stories that matter most. We do this even as J. continues to cope with a painful economic shortfall caused by the pandemic. That’s why, once again, we turn to you to stand up for your Jewish community newspaper. When J. lost ad revenue, we reached out to you for help. And you delivered. We received a bounty of emergency donations from readers like you. These funds have been sustaining us, allowing J. to run at full strength. It’s all thanks to you. You understand how crucial J. is to the Jewish community. It’s even more crucial now, as together we weather this unprecedented disaster. You need the news, and we work hard to bring it to you. The struggles are not over. With months of uncertainty ahead, we still need your help. To those who have already given, thank you, and to those who have not yet donated, now is the time to help your Jewish community newspaper thrive.
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