INTERNATIONAL FILM FEST RETURNS
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
contents February 2022 • www.lchaimmagazine.com
in this issue... COVER STORY San Diego International Jewish Film Fest is Back at the JCC and Streaming at Home. ..............................................................................................................
1000 WORDS Naomi Eisenberger and the Good People Fund .........................................................................
FOOD Ratatouille Stew.................................................................................................................................................
Mazel & Mishagoss.................................
PUBLISHERS Diane Benaroya & Laurie Miller
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COVER PHOTO BY: Patricia Horlbeck, Getaway Pictures
Ariela Alush, Barbara Birenbaum, Michael Gardiner, Donald H. Harrison, Stephanie Lewis, Salomon Maya, Jana Mazurkiewicz Meisarosh, Terra Paley, Mimi Pollack, Rachel Stern, Eva Trieger, Deborah Vietor, Chana Jenny Weisberg, Cheri Weiss
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Virtual-Reality Holocaust Experience Keeps Survivors 'Alive,'Builds Empathy..........
Climb Aboard the Love Boat with Judith Gottesman...............................................................
Prayers & Passages..................................
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L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
TORAH l BY RABBI-CANTOR CHERI WEISS
& passages Holiness
hat do you think of when you hear the word “Holy?” Do you think of God or a power greater than yourself? Do you visualize an ethereal being that is beyond human, maybe in angelic form? Or perhaps a human being who is righteous and devotes his or her life to serving others? Maybe you think of the Torah — our people’s most holy possession — or sacred occasions such as Shabbat, Passover, or the High Holy Days. In the Book of Leviticus, there is a section known as the “Holiness Code.” Rather than unattainable guidelines, it contains fairly mundane and even predictable laws that address aspects of ordinary life, including ritual, ethics, how to treat the poor and afflicted, family relations and morality. Some examples of the mitzvot included in the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19 may sound very familiar, as they are also included in the Aseret HaDibrot (“The Ten Commandments”): “Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.” “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” “Do not go about spreading slander among your people.” “Stand up in the presence of the aged, 6
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
show respect for the elderly.” “You shall not curse the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God; I am the Lord.” “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.” These words are not directed to a select elite group of people; they are directed to all of the Israelites. The Torah reads, “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” In other words, we can all live lives of holiness. In Genesis, it is written that “God created man in His own image,” not because the God we worship exists in human form, but because holiness is striving to embody qualities that we want God to show us: mercy, compassion, kindness, love. Showing these qualities to other beings that share our planet is living a life that God intended us to live, a life of holiness. This is how God told us we must live in society. Without it, we would be reduced to living in chaos. In a famous Talmudic story, a non-Jew told Rabbi Hillel that he would convert to the Jewish faith if the rabbi could teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. Hillel gently responded, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That
is the entire Torah; all the rest is commentary. Now go and study.” Rabbi Hillel drew this teaching from a well-known passage from the Holiness code in Leviticus: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Today, our society is filled with interpersonal, racial, cultural, and political tensions. By embracing and sharing holiness in our everyday behavior and interactions, each of us can help alleviate some of those tensions and bring a little more peace and harmony into our world. Holiness is the essence of God; we can strive to make it our own essence as well. By inviting holiness into our own lives, we may feel an inner peace that might otherwise elude us. We have the opportunity to choose holiness … every single day. RABBI-CANTOR CHERI WEISS IS THE FOUNDER AND SPIRITUAL LEADER OF THE SAN DIEGO OUTREACH SYNAGOGUE, A POST-DENOMINATIONAL CONGREGATION THAT WELCOMES PEOPLE OF ALL AGES AND BACKGROUNDS INTERESTED IN EXPLORING A UNIQUE MIXTURE OF TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSIC, PRAYER AND LEARNING. SHE TEACHES JUDAIC STUDIES AT THE SAN DIEGO JEWISH ACADEMY.
HUMOR | BY STEPHANIE LEWIS
& mishagoss Should Old Acquaintances Be Forgot? Somestimes, Yes!
ver have an unbearable “friend” you didn’t choose, but because your families were thrown together, you had to just grin and bear it? Competitive Faye was someone I’d finally escaped from my teenage years, but she suddenly surfaced on my Facebook (she thinks it’s called “Faye’s Book!”) requesting her reentrance into my world. Nooo! She’s one of those obnoxious “One Up You” types. So now whenever I write a happy update, Faye immediately posts her own “Ecstatic” status. And because I’m an honest Facebook user (meaning everything in my life isn’t butterflies and unicorns) sometimes I’ll put up some depressing news. In the blink of an eye, Faye will elaborate on a catastrophic personal tragedy on her own newsfeed. (She keeps an endless supply of cousins needing open heart surgery for this very purpose.) So basically when I’m happy, Faye is far happier. And if I’m downtrodden, she’s Fantine from Les Misérables! Can anybody say, “Get a life?!” Oy! So I tracked Faye down on Instagram and innocently captioned a sweet photo of my daughter attending her first prom. And guess what? Faye somehow acquired a daughter of her own who (naturally!) got invited to three different proms AND was crowned Prom Queen at all of them. Seriously?! Unfortunately then I had a car accident and was taken to the ER in an ambulance so I posted, asking for prayers. But… wait for it… Faye was sandwiched by two semi-trucks and
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
airlifted by a helicopter to ICU in a coma. God himself, left a holy comment blessing her. And on and on this nonsense went… I’d make crème brûlée and caramelize the sugar with a disposable cigarette lighter? Faye created baked Alaska flambé with a culinary torch! I bid my Jewish followers, “Happy 8th night of Chanukah!” Faye wished her friends a wonderful 9th day and even located a menorah with a bonus candle! You may say this is just pure coincidence and it’s not all about me, but I beg to differ. When we had our last solar eclipse, I posted this: “Oh dear! The rebellious part of me peeked at the sun with my naked eyes and now my vision is blurred. Anyone know a good eye doctor?” Immediately Faye’s status was this: “Gosh my husband (the most incredible ophthalmologist in the entire world!) says all the crazies are coming out after the recent eclipse. Well, whatcha gonna do? At least it puts our kids through the best ivy league colleges!” Fluke? I think not. Just to prove my case, I discovered Faye on Twitter and clicked “Follow.” Then I tweeted this: “Oh no! Found more nits in my daughter’s hair today! #NotLiceAgain!” Needless to say, a new tweet from Faye surfaced: “Daughter has lice, dog has fleas, kitchen has ants, basement has termites! #TheTenPlaugues!” She even outshines me in pestilence. What petulance! On Pinterest, I put up pins about turning a spare bedroom into a movie theater. I
clicked on her Pinterest account – she’d added photos of her long, narrow hallway being newly remodeled into a bowling alley! After friending her on LinkedIn, I made sure my professional title prominently stated I was now a Published Author. Of course, instantaneously Faye was promoted from boring “Technical Writer” to “Award Winning Screenwriter!” Grrrr. Alright, this means war! That’s why I’m writing this column in L’Chaim magazine to publicly expose her. There’s only one problem, Faye lives on the east coast and thus she’s three hours ahead of me. I just read her NYC column in Mazel Tov magazine which begins like this… “Ever have an unbearable “friend” you didn’t choose, but because your families were thrown together, you had to just grin and bear it? Weirdo Stephanie Lewis was someone I’d escaped from my teenage years, but my mother insisted I be a nice person and friend her on Facebook. Noooo! I grudgingly did so for old times’ sake. Next thing I know she’s stalking me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn trying her best to upstage me. So creepy! Can anybody say, “Get a Life?!” Oy! STEPHANIE D. LEWIS (THEQUOTEGAL@YAHOO.COM) WILL INJECT HUMOR INTO ANYTHING YOU HIRE HER TO WRITE.
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L’CHAIM | BY HOWARD BLAS | JNS.ORG
Menachem Stolpner, a former social worker in New York City who founded and directs Shai Asher — a nonprofit apprenticeship career-training program in Israel for people with disabilities — inspects crops. It receives support from the Good People’s Fund. Credit: Courtesy. 10
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
GOOD PEOPLE MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS AND GOOD FUNDS
uring tough times, the world relies on people and organizations committed to doing good. In fact, that’s true even when the world is doing well. To that end, Naomi Eisenberger and the Good People Fund are dedicated to serving others in the United States, in Israel and throughout the world. Executive director Naomi Eisenberger, 76, is no stranger to helping others. Indeed, the Good People Fund is inspired by ordinary people with an extraordinary drive to make deep, uplifting impacts in communities in the United States, Israel and elsewhere around the world, trying to find new and creative ways to address seemingly intractable social and economic challenges. It is her second major venture in this field after a career that includes being a high school history teacher, kosher caterer and part of a family retail business. Eisenberger and the fund keep costs down so they can serve those in need. She reports that her office is the bedroom of her home in a New Jersey suburb, though she notes that “we do have a separate phone line.” “We are a ‘little known fund, not a foundation,’“ she says. “We are not your typical nonprofit organization.” She is quick to add that “what goes in goes out.” Eisenberger was turned on to the world of tzedakah and charitable giving very much by accident. “Around 1991, I was becoming shul president of Congregation B’nai Israel in Milburn, New Jersey. Just before a family vacation, I was meeting with our rabbi, Steve
Bayar, and was looking at the books on his shelf. I told him I needed something else to read. He handed me Gym Shoes and Irises: Personalized Tzedakah, Book 1, published in 1981 and Book 2 published in 1987.” Eisenberger is referring to two of the many books written by Danny Siegel, founder of the Ziv Tzedakah Fund who travels the country and the world speaking about the value of giving. Siegel founded his fund in 1981 after making several trips to Israel and serving as a shaliach mitzvah — one who brings money for distribution to those in need. On subsequent trips, he asked friends and relatives for a dollar or two to give as charity. He went in search of “good people” he called “Mitzvah Heroes.” These heroes were actually regular Israelis quietly working to make the world a better place through their actions. Prior to the meeting in Bayar’s study, Eisenberger hadn’t heard of Siegel. She read both books on her vacation and was hooked. “I am totally enthralled,” she told Bayar upon her return. And she had an idea. “I am being installed in June. Let’s bring Danny Siegel as a scholar and use him to found our shul’s chesed committee.” Eisenberger and Siegel immediately hit it off during his weekend at the synagogue. In addition to his talks in the synagogue, Siegel spoke at a small Saturday-evening gathering in her home. The idea for a “Hearts and Hands” committee was born. “He challenged us,” recalls Eisenberger. “If you have extra Torahs in your shul, halachah
[Jewish law] is that you can sell it for the purpose of tzedakah.” Eisenberger was inspired and motivated. “I never back away from a challenge. I convinced the board. We sold two Torahs, and this became our endowment so we could allocate funds in Israel, in the United States and locally.” Eisenbeger kept in touch with Siegel. Soon after, he asked her to do some volunteer work with the Ziv Fund. He and Ziv were badly in need of an administrator. Flattered and interested, she traveled to Rockville, Md., to meet with Siegel. Eisenberger returned to New Jersey with boxes of records, opened an account and served as a volunteer administrator for nearly three years. Over time, Eisenberger eventually convinced Siegel to hire her. Eisenberger served as managing director of the Ziv Tzedakah Fund for more than 10 years. The fund reportedly gave away more than $14 million in its 32 years of operation — mainly to small, innovative programs and projects in Israel and America that needed assistance — before Siegel and the board decided to close it down in 2008. Nonetheless, Eisenberger was determined to continue doing mitzvah work: “I said, ‘I’m starting over; this is too important!” “Having met and worked with Danny, I discovered a whole different philosophy and way to look at the world and life,” reports Eisenberger, who started the Good People Fund in that same year, 2008, to provide financial support and management guidance WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
A participant in Shai Asher, a nonprofit apprenticeship career-training program in Israel for people with disabilities, inspects tumeric. It receives support from the Good People’s Fund. Credit: Courtesy.
to small and mid-sized nonprofits committed to tikkun olam, “the repair of the world.” The fund currently supports programs in 15 states, Israel and countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and India. While the majority of programs are not run by Jewish people, Eisenberger says they are all “based on Judaism” and Jewish principles. And the fund finds them on its own; it does not take proposals. Another characteristic of all grantees, adds Eisenberger, is that “most have been inspired by their own life experiences.” She playfully notes an additional shared feature: “Very few have studied or know the first thing about nonprofit management; this is an additional reason our work with them is so important.” It is this latter role that distinguishes Good People from other funders. “Our ability to offer mentorship is a significant and unique part of our work,” she said, “and it makes all the difference in the world!” Eisenberger has a knack for identifying organizations in their very early stages when they need the greatest support. “I have a wellcultivated gut. After 25 years, I know it when I see it. I am looking for people with drive, passion, visionaries without any sense of ego — all selfless people. And she has found people doing good and important work in such diverse areas as 12
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
elder care, fighting hatred, healing broken communities, health and well-being, human needs and self-sufficiency, hunger and food rescue, inclusion and disabilities, kids, poverty and fundamental needs, refugees and women’s empowerment. Eisenberger says she cares deeply for each grantee: “They drive me — they inspire me!” The warm feelings and admiration are mutual. Yoni Yefet Reich, the co-founder of Amutat Beit Zayin in Israel, met Eisenberger more than a decade ago in Israel. “From my first interaction, I immediately recognized that she was a different type of funder representing a different kind of collective. She clearly understood the issues at hand and was an ‘out-of-the-box’ strategist.” He and his team wanted to develop Kaima Farms — a socially responsible education network that many others deemed untenable. Fast-forward and today, Be’erotayim is one of five Kaima farms where youth are responsible for planting, nurturing and harvesting crops and for running a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) venture. Other farm communities include Kaima Nahalal, focused on helping young girls, including many who have experienced sexual trauma and have not succeeded in more traditional educational settings.
Reich says “we count ourselves fortunate to receive not only funding, but friendship and professional guidance that have helped us develop from a single youth-run, CSA operating farm into a network of four in Israel and one in Tanzania. Our unfolding story would simply not be possible without the involvement of the fund, and, of course, Naomi.” “If there are 36 hidden tzadikim,” as Jewish tradition implies, she insists that “Naomi is certainly one of them, hiding in plain sight.” Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained at Last — an organization leading the effort to make child marriage illegal in the United States — is herself a survivor of an arranged marriage. As such, she works to help those who are victims of child or forced marriage by providing them with legal and social services. She says she is appreciative of Eisenberger’s support and her style: “What is special is that she became an ally, a mentor and more.” Reiss notes that “starting a nonprofit is a lonely and daunting journey; you need someone to be a sounding board.” On her part, Eisenberger says she continues to learn and be moved by each person and entity: “One of the lessons I’ve learned is the strength of people — the inner strength of people is something to marvel.”
COVER STORY | BY ALANNA MAYA Persian Lessons will screen at the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival this month. IMAGE: ©HYPE FILM.
SD INTERNATIONAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL 31 Years in San Diego
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
ast February, the San Diego Jewish International Film Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary, bringing thousands of people together across San Diego. Over the three decades since its inception, the festival greatly grew and changed, but one constant each and every year was that people congregated together at theatres across San Diego to watch films in a communal setting. Now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, that can no longer be done safely. So, does that mean there will be no 31st consecutive year? Fortunately, the answer is not only will the 31st anniversary occur, but it will include a full slate of films over the planned duration of ten days, and has the potential to bring in the largest number of people ever by employing technology that could not ever have been imagined back when the first film festival began in the JCC gym with a rented projector. Ryan Isaac, the JCC’s Cultural Arts Director, explains, “Back in March, we were just coming off the buzz of a very successful 30th anniversary when we realized that COVID was a threat to the next festival, but we were hopeful that quarantining would be short-lived and normal life would be back soon enough. And, while we were being optimistic, we also were contingency planning. We were really lucky to have completed our festival just a few weeks before quarantining began and thus had nearly a year to plan for this new world, where other film festivals were really scrambling. Leveraging our relationships with other festivals who were able to pivot to online festivals with varying success, we learned
so much that we now feel comfortable about being able to offer an experience that our patrons will appreciate. We knew the key was to make it easy, convenient, and still provide the kind of quality our filmgoers have come to expect. Christina Fink, San Diego International Jewish Film Festival chair added that it was critical that the platform would allow the JCC to meet its top priority: bringing the community together. “I have long said that community building starts in line. This year, my new motto is community starts online.” We have all worked so hard not only to bring an incredible lineup of films but also to include as much interactivity as possible to really make it a meaningful communal experience. For example, we chose a technology platform that allows us to continue key elements of our festival such as audience voting and the opportunity for Q & A with filmmakers. And beyond that, we continue to look for opportunities for our community to share the experience.” Though the festival events will be toned down from year’s past, with no meet and greets or other receptions surrounding a film screening, the caliber of film selections is as great as ever. The JCC and the Film Festival have been working hard to make sure the
The New Jew
return to an in-person experience is as safe as possible. To that end, proof of vaccination is required to enter the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre at the JCC, which has also recently been upgraded with a new air filtration system. As an additional safety measure, masks are required for all patrons (over the age of two) while indoors at the LFJCC. This year’s lineup includes 30 feature films and three TV series, to be screened Thursday, Feb. 9 through Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. “The most exciting news is that we had a huge number of films to choose from for this year’s festival,” Fink said. “[The selection committee] had over 200 films to select from, and we have curated the very best to build this year’s festival.” Fink went on to say that she is incredibly proud of the work of the eight film fest committee members, whose hard work and dedication went into the collection of films to be showcased this year. “All of the films are of the highest quality … there really is something for everyone.” During the underwriter preview
Plan A starring Anna Sylvia Hoeks will screen at the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival this month. PHOTO BY PATRICIA HORLBECK, GETAWAY PICTURES.
night (February 9) as an exclusive benefit to Film Festival underwriters, The Conductor, a documentary tells the tale of internationally-renowned conductor Marin Alsop, the first woman to serve as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. “It is a lovely personal story with beautiful music, about a really wonderful individual, whom I think our underwriters will resonate with,” Fink said. The festival opens to the general public on Thursday, February 10 with Greener Pastures, a comedy from Israel. Nominated for 12 Israeli Academy Awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Lead Actor, you won’t want to miss this movie. “It is a just a good chuckle,” Fink said. “Today, everyone is looking for a laugh, and I can’t tell you how many times people [ask us to] show more comedies, so we are
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really lucky to have gotten this film.” Other festival highlights include The New Jew, a television series featuring an Israeli actor and comedian (Guri Alfi), who travels across the United States trying to understand the American concept of what it is to be to be Jewish in the US, and how diverse the definition of that is. “This is the first time we’ve been able to show a TV series at the festival,” Fink said. “We’ve always been challenged with how to do that, because if you see the first episode of a great series, you don’t want to stop watching. But the online platform we adopted last year has allowed us to bring three TV series’ to our audience.” Recurring themes for the festival include travel, history, drama, Israel, religion, and other cultural offerings. A Holocaust film, Plan A is a film about a revenge plan in Germany from camp survivors during WWII. Wet Dog is a drama based on a book, which is based on a true story about a teen that immigrates to Berlin, and “all
of the rough edges that come with a teen at a new high school in a new place,” Fink said. The festival’s Centerpiece film is Persian Lessons, the latest film from director Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog) Persian Lessons follows Gilles, a Nazi concentration camp inmate who avoids execution by swearing he is Persian, rather than Jewish. The film follows Gilles as he is instructed to teach Farsi to the camp commandant, who dreams of opening a restaurant in Iran after the war. “I think what we’ve done with this year’s festival is really nice, nicely balanced and very diverse,” Fink said. THE SAN DIEGO INTERNATIONAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FEBRUARY 9 THROUGH FEBRUARY 20. TO VIEW FILM SYNOPSES, SHOWING TIMES, AND TICKETING INFORMATION, VISIT LFJCC.ORG.
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
RATATOUILLE STEW BY ALEKSEY ZOZULYA
From The Step-By-Step Instant Pot Cookbook by Jeffrey Eisner, Pressure Luck Cooking. Vegetarians, rejoice! Ratatouille is a rustic vegetable dish so deep in flavor, you might forget it’s made of only veggies! And I’ve turned it into a luscious stew. This is the perfect side dish — delicious both hot or cold — or a delightful meal in itself. It tastes like a wonderful harvest in your mouth — with zero guilt! Ratatouille Stew Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Sauté Time: 7 minutes | Pressure Building Time: 10-20 minutes | Pressure Cook Time: 2 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes | Serves 4-6 Ingredients 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oi 1 large vidalia (sweet) onion, coarsely chopped 1 green bell pepper, cut into medium dice 1 red bell pepper, cut into medium dice 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed 1 large eggplant, skin on, sliced into 1/2-inch disks and then quartered 1 large zucchini, skin on, cut into 1/4-inch disks and then quartered 1 medium yellow (summer) squash, skin on, cut into 1/4-inch disks and then quartered 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence (optional) 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2 cup vegetable broth or dry red wine (like a cabernet) 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 (6-ounce) can of tomato paste Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional) Directions 1. Pour the oil into the Instant Pot and hit Sauté and adjust so it’s on the More or High setting. Heat about 3 minutes, then add the onion and bell peppers and sauté, stirring for about 3 minutes, until they begin to soften. 2. Add the other vegetables along with the Italian seasoning, Herbs de Provence (if using), kosher salt, black pepper, dried thyme, vegetable broth or wine, and Worcestershire sauce. 3. Secure the lid, move the valve to the sealing position, and hit Keep Warm/ Cancel, then hit Manual or Pressure Cook on High Pressure for 2 minutes. 4. Stir in the tomato paste. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Don’t worry if it looks a little soupy — it will thicken as it cools down and the vegetables continue to absorb the broth. Serve with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
JEFF’S TIP: It’ll feel like you’re putting an entire garden into the Instant Pot with little liquid. But veggies release a bunch of water under pressure. This is what causes this dish to cook down and make it such a comforting stew. Curious about cooking with an electric pressure cooker? Join national bestselling cookbook author, Jeffrey Eisner, @pressureluckcooking, as he demonstrates his delicious step-by-step recipes using the Instant Pot on the next Sharsheret in the Kitchen on Wednesday, February 9 at 5p.m. PST. This free national webinar is part of the “Sharsheret in the Kitchen” series, which brings nutritious kosher meal options to help empower all of us at risk for breast and ovarian cancer to make healthy diet choices. This program is made possible with support from Cedars-Sinai. Register at: link.sharsheret.org/SITKJeffreyEisner. Sharsheret, a non-profit organization, is the Jewish breast cancer and ovarian cancer community. If You or someone you love has been impacted by breast or ovarian cancer, or has elevated genetic risk, contact Sharsheret for free support and resources. For more info, visit sharsheret.org or call (866) 474-2774.
CIRCLE OF FRIENDS GROWS FRIENDS OF THE ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCE BY BARBARA BIRENBAUM
hree cheers, four stars and high fives are going out to the San Diego chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Force which, thanks to chairman Alan Katz, now includes Orange County, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. As Katz steps down this month from the chairship he’s held for a number of years, it’s a delight to make note of some of their best successes. A chance meeting of parents on the soccer field with then director Nir Benzvi brought the FIDF to Alan’s attention and it was his first Mission in 2014 that won him over. According to Katz, ”the most important thing is the continuation of support for the young men and women who serve to protect the state of Israel” and are the first to offer aid around the world. Jews everywhere know in their blood that the IDF is a shining beacon and there is a bit of magic in that, surely in part because of the Friends of the IDF. The care and consideration in their programs is positively awesome and Alan has prioritized expanding the community during his tenure by increasing membership to include a large swatch of the Southwest. He was able, “with the help of good friend Marc Maister, to inspire [several] new chapters. Holding parlor meetings and galas [among the generous folks] of Orange County, [they encouraged] momentum, spreading out to Arizona…raising more money.” Arizona’s chapter has since moved into the arena of Los Angeles’ but Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado have joined with San Diego, increasing our regional presence. Grateful to those who came before 20
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him, Katz credits “the leadership in San Diego prior to me having done such an outstanding job of putting the FIDF on the map in San Diego, I felt compelled to ensure that it continues.” Everyone is gratefully impressed that he grew it as well. The FIDF’s six core pillars are life-changing programs that sustain IDF soldiers, veterans, and their families while building a stronger tomorrow. A quick visit to their website will reveal real success stories in education, financial relief, construction, Fallen and Wounded, Adopt a Brigade, and Lone Soldiers. FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501(C)(3) not for profit organization with the mission of offering educational, cultural, recreational and social programs as well as facilities that provide hope, purposeful support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide. Today, FIDF has 24 chapters throughout the United States proudly supporting IDF soldiers, families of fallen soldiers, and wounded veterans through a variety of innovative programs that reinforce the vital bond between the communities in the United States and the soldiers of the IDF. San Diego chapter’s website clearly shares their focus: hosting parlor meetings, women’s events, concerts with the IDF Choir, and Lone Soldier Fun Day. They are active supporters of IMPACT! students, currently sponsoring over 200 students, in addition to two brigades. Additionally, they helped to build several projects for the IDF’s
famous 8200 Intelligence Unit, including a beautiful auditorium on Glilot Base for educational enrichment and ceremonies. They have also completed multiple renovation projects for leisure clubs and gyms. Their annual galas often sell out and have raised close to $1 million, with exciting themes ranging from IDF ingenuity to the IDF’s humanitarian effort. Each year, they host at least one mission to Israel, and some years have sent as many as four. Participants experience the Jewish State with unparalleled access to dignitaries and bases, deepening their connections to Israel and her soldiers. This year’s plans include several high caliber events as well as a community program. Especially exciting is their Holocaust to Independence mission from Poland to Israel which, despite the ongoing pandemic, is sold out with a huge delegation preparing to travel in April. In 2016, they created the Lapidot FIDF women’s brigade to raise and increase awareness of and support female IDF soldiers. Lapidot means valor, power, or spirit in modern Hebrew; they could not think of a more fitting name for our group. Featuring the flame, their logo embodies the courage, bravery and dedication of the women who serve the State of Israel. To support IDF soldiers, Lapidots raise funds for projects on Israeli army bases and in their first few years have donated very generously. As if in perfect harmony, the chapter’s new chair will be, for the first time a woman. Tamara Klein is excited to step up. “Alan has set the bar high and I feel honored to follow in his footsteps. I have been part of the FIDF Board for many years and love what this organization is about, taking care of the IDF soldiers and providing them with constant support in a multitude of areas. It is very important that the IDF knows how much the Diaspora cares about them. Having been on two missions, to Israel and Poland, I was able to see first hand all the amazing things this organization does. It has been so rewarding to interact with the soldiers and build relationships with them. It is incredible to see [and get to know] how well the soldiers respond to all the support they receive.” Klein has “always enjoyed being part of a charitable organization, contributing [her] time and energy to bettering the lives of others.” And there are few doing a better job, as not-for-profit organizations go. FIDF boasts a 4-star rating, says Michael Thatcher, President and CEO of Charity Navigator, which verifies that it exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities. “Only 2 percent of the charities evaluated have received nine consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Friends of the Israel Defense Forces outperforms most other charities in America. Their exceptional designation sets it apart from peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.” Klein hopes her enthusiasm, her Zionism and her “love for Israel and its soldiers will allow us to continue to make an impact and grow the support that we have established here in San Diego.” You can donate and join the San Diego chapter of FIDF via their website at fidf.org/act-local/our-chapters/san-diego-chapter/.
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ALL ABOARD THE LOVE BOAT BECOME A DATING EXPERT AND FIND YOUR SOUL MATE WITH JUDITH GOTTESMAN BY DEBORAH VIETOR
udith Gottesman’s father, Rabbi Aaron Gottesman served as her inspiration. He performed many weddings she attended, providing much pre-marital and couples counseling. Her books “The Lost Art of Dating,” and “Your Soul Mate Awaits,” are a guide to the ever-confusing modern times of finding love. Gottesman assists clients in reframing their mindset, as many people inadvertently eliminate many great potential matches. As a dating coach and matchmaker, she describes how to navigate the world of online dating, how to meet people, find a date, write a profile, connect and find the right match. “The Lost Art of Dating” illustrates how to locate your potential match. Gottesman believes your match should be your best friend and lover, with the same values, interests and other qualities you share. Her advice includes where to locate a potential soul mate, dating etiquette, and even how to say goodbye if it doesn’t work out. If you are dating online, your first photo should be a really great headshot with good lighting. The second one would be a full body shot, as everyone deserves to know who they are meeting. Your profile should be positive and light, sharing your likes, interests, hobbies and nothing too personal. You may have just visited Hawaii, had a great time snorkeling and would love to find someone to share these activities. Describe how you are available, a caring and 22
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enthusiastic person. Gottesman encourages as much face-to-face meeting as possible. Dating sites may work for some yet offer too many choices, encouraging “shopping” where people think they can find someone who checks all the points on their list. Keep your heart and mind open, go to meetups, volunteer, join a club or form one, or attend church or synagogue functions. You found a date, fantastic! Gottesman says on the first date to “Be Brief, Be Bold and Be Gone!” An hour at a local coffeehouse or going for a brief walk in a public place is a nice way to get acquainted. Keep the conversation light and positive. If the other person doesn’t feel like your perfect match, give them another chance. The more you have in common, the better. Do your interests match the other person’s? A focus including your exercise routine, diet, cultural interests, travel or religion might make a difference. Our check-boxes illustrate what we can measure and quantify. Gottesman cautions us not to make the list too long and to think outside the box. Your potential match may not share all of your hobbies and interests. There are 3 columns to complete according to Gottesman before jumping into the dating pool. The first is asking yourself if you are over your last relationship. Number two: We broke up, you or the
other person? Thirdly, why did you break up? Remember in finding your match to place their feelings before yours, love is unselfish and grows over time. What are your goals and priorities? Maybe you truly enjoy being single, this is fine is you just want to date. In “Your Soul Mate Awaits,” Gottesman focuses on three vital elements: Desire, Believe and Act. The desire to find your soulmate is imperative. Once you have eliminated barriers, the next step is believing. Many people believe all the good ones are taken or may thing negatively. “I’m a few pounds overweight, too short or too tall, have children, or I’m too old.” These are common misconceptions about finding a soulmate. One client Gottesman describes was a nice woman, intelligent and attractive who volunteered and even likes animals. She believed being too curvaceous was deterring her from finding the right match. Gottesman found her a great match, a man who was a doctor, liked curvaceous women and wanted to find someone to help him choose a dog. She rejected him as he lived an hour away! Don’t listen to all the advice from your friends and relatives unless you respect the person. Be willing to become more introspective about yourself. “Act” is vital in finding your soulmate. Call the next day after a date to make the connection, save the longer date with a meal for the second date, cancel is you don’t feel well and be honest. It’s ok to date someone newly single. There can be love at first sight, but give it some time, chemistry may develop over time. Connect with their dog! Don’t be in a rush and if you don’t see a future, shake their hand and lastly tell them they are a great person but you are not a match Gottesman advises. Actions really do speak louder than words. Most importantly, how do they make you feel? Compatibility is paramount. Gottesman believes things such as trust, kindness and mutual values are what truly make a match. Remember, you only need one! She quotes Hellen Keller who wrote in the last century: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart.” After reading Gottesman’s books, many single people may ask themselves: What would I do for love?
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IN 2009, GOTTESMAN FOUNDED SOULMATES UNLIMITED. SHE HOLDS A DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY FROM UC BERKELEY AND A MASTERS IN SOCIAL WORK FROM YESHIVA UNIVERSITY IN NEW YORK CITY. AS A NATIONALLY KNOWN DATING AND LOVE EXPERT, GOTTESMAN HAS BEEN FEATURED ON MANY MEDIA OUTLETS, INCLUDING THE NEW YORK TIMES, NPR AND FOX TV. LEARN MORE AT SOULMATESUNIMITED.COM.
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FEATURE STORY The multisensory nature of the virtual reality experience is singular in the way it meets the challenges of creating understanding of the lethal nature of hate in the minds and hearts of the next generation. CREDIT: COURTESY.
VR HOLOCAUST EXPERIENCE EXPERIENCE KEEPS SURVIVORS "ALIVE", BUILDS EMPATHY BY DEBORAH FINEBLUM | JNS.ORG
ordan Gelfeld has connections. As a docent at the Illinois Holocaust, his grandfather, Mark Gelfeld, was able to get this grandson in for a sneak peek at the museum’s new virtual-reality exhibit. And the experience was nothing short of powerful. “You can read about the Holocaust in books, but with this, you really feel like you’re there with ‘George,’ said the Glenbrook North High School sophomore, referring to a story about a survivor. “Even though you are sitting there in your chair, it feels like you’re in the camp, surrounded by the other prisoners.” Through the magic of multi-sensory virtual reality and surround sound, the headset strapped around his head brings the entire experience to life: the cattle car emptying its exhausted, terrified cargo onto the Auschwitz ramp; the inside of the barracks with no way out; the barking dogs, shouts of the captors and cries of the victims. Organizers at the Illinois Holocaust Museum chose International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27 for the official rollout of their new cutting-edge virtual-reality Holocaust experience, titled “The Journey Back.” With 360-degree life-sized projections, once inside the 3D environment, the participant controls their own view of reality, interspersing contemporary footage with memory sequences, and giving the sensation of being on-site with two Chicago-area survivors sharing their stories. The museum is presenting two films in its new virtual reality theater. A Promise Kept tells the story of Fritzie Fritzshall. As a young teen, she made a vow to the other 599 women imprisoned with her in a slave-labor sub-camp of Auschwitz that, if she survived, she’d never 24 24 L’CHAIM L’CHAIMSAN SANDIEGO DIEGOMAGAZINE MAGAZINE• •FEBRUARY FEBRUARY2022 2022
let their fates be forgotten. Returning to Auschwitz with the film crew more than 70 years later, she said: “Standing here today I hear voices. I see people. I feel hunger. I feel cold. I am in the place of death.” At night, one woman might start a song or a prayer, and the others would chime in quietly. “But mostly we shared recipes — gefilte fish, kugels, roasts,” Fritzshall told the camera. “Our stomachs were growling from hunger, but we had to live in a pretend world.” Slabbed with 10 other women on a bunk, “I remember my aunt Bella putting her arms around me and whispering, ‘Tomorrow will be better; let’s just live through the night and you’ll see, tomorrow will be better.’ “ Sadly, her aunt did not survive. The other film, “Don’t Forget Me,” takes viewers on a journey back to Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Ebensee concentration camps with George Brent, who was also a teen when his family was taken from their Hungarian home as his friend happily took his bicycle and neighbors emptied out their home. Nor can he forget the terrifying trip to Auschwitz, where he soon learned “what the two buildings with large chimneys with smoke and fire and a terrible smell” were about, and the rigors of Mauthausen where many men’s backs were broken carrying huge boulders from the quarries up the “staircase of death,” while others gave up and leaped to their deaths. Although Brent knew his mother and brother had been killed on arrival at Auschwitz, he never knew his father’s fate till a year after liberation when the Red Cross located him in a tuberculosis clinic in Germany.
“We need to learn all we can from Holocaust survivors while they are still here,” says museum CEO Susan Abrams. “The knowledge we gain from their pasts influences our futures and informs the way we interact with the world. And there is truly no better way to learn than to virtually tour the Holocaust sites today with a survivor to see them from their point of view.” Expecting thousands of visitors to experience the virtual reality tour of the camps each year, the museum has plans in the works to share the program with other museums equipped with the virtualreality technology, in addition to universities and, down the line, schools and individuals as well. “The Journey Back" brings to life the moving testimony of two survivors at the locations where they experienced the worst of humanity, and that experience inspires an understanding of our common humanity,” says Abrams. “And time is of the essence for growing such understanding. We’re swimming against a tide of rising anti-Semitism, and other forms of hatred and bigotry. As the Holocaust recedes into the past and most of the survivors have passed away, this is an important moment for this kind of personal, powerful experience.” Not only can survivor Brent not forget the image of desperate men jumping to their death from the quarries of Mauthausen; now, neither will viewers of Don’t Forget Me. After his reunion with his father, Brent made it to Chicago in 1949 and was soon drafted into the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War. Marriage, dental school, a practice, four daughters and eight grandchildren followed, and after he retired, Brent began telling his story in earnest, often to school kids visiting the museum. “Seeing a picture of myself — a kid in my underwear — in a book of Auschwitz photos proved to everyone that it was real,” says Brent who, at 92, has been telling his story for decades. “I can see the effect it has on the eighth-graders who come to the museum,” he says, with most of the questions he gets from his young audiences about what became of his family and how he felt in the camps. Many youngsters also ask to see the numbers tattooed on his arm — and he shows them. Kelley Szany, the museum’s vice president of education and exhibitions, says the multisensory nature of the virtual-reality experience is singular in the way it meets the challenges of creating an understanding of the lethal nature of hate in the minds and hearts of the next generation. “From an educational standpoint, feeling that they visited the sites with Fritzi and George, shared their experiences and felt their feelings, it’s a merger of technology and storytelling,” she says. “As it’s seared into their memories, and they begin to grapple with how to understand what they’ve learned here, it can ultimately make the world a better place.”
“We need to learn all we can from Holocaust survivors while they are still here,” says museum CEO Susan Abrams. “The knowledge we gain from their pasts influences our futures and informs the way we interact with the world." The experience, adds Szany, is recommended for ages 12 and up, “who are usually mature enough cognitively and emotionally to be able to dive into the difficult aspects of this history.” When it comes to high-tech bringing Holocaust experiences to life and preserving them for future generations, in many ways, Steven Spielberg was the first to accomplish it on a grand scale. Beginning in the 1990s, a broad interviewer network collected more than 50,000 filmed testimonies of Holocaust survivors — and some witnesses, too (most of whom are since deceased); this collection is now known as the Visual History Archive and housed at USC Shoah Foundation. This massive project came on the heels of the 1994 Academy Awardwinning “Schindler’s List,” whose profits seeded it. Earlier Holocaust-related VR projects included Lala, the partly animated short film created by USC Shoah Foundation with survivor Roman Kent. The story of the dog belonging to Kent as a child in WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM
FEATURE TRAVEL STORY
Filming in barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau in progress. Credit: Courtesy.
Poland during the Nazi invasion was designed to introduce children to the Holocaust and can be viewed with or without a VR headset. Another VR Holocaust milestone was 2017’s The Last Goodbye, also out of the Shoah Foundation. Following survivor Pinchas Gutter into Nazi death camp Majdanek, the short film records his experience as the only member of his family to emerge from the Holocaust alive. And that same year the Illinois Holocaust Museum was among the first institution to use hologram technology developed by USC Shoah Foundation, which invites visitors into a “conversation” with a survivor. Each time a question is asked, one of some 2,000 answers the survivor recorded is played, mimicking a live Q&A. At the museum’s Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience, for instance, this hologram program also featured Fritzshall, 26
who spent 40 hours over five days recording 2,000-plus answers. “It stirred up a lot of the memories that I didn’t want to think about anymore, that I thought were hidden,” she said at the time. Still, added Fritzshall, who passed away last summer, “I am glad that I did it, I am so glad that it is going to be left in this museum as a teaching tool, for all the young people who come here. Maybe they will talk to their parents and grandparents and talk to the next generation; this is what I’m hoping today.” But using this technology on such sensitive topics can take some getting used to. “At first, I was a little bit skeptical; I was raised in a generation when we took it for granted that survivors come into our schools to talk to us,” says Sara Brown, who managed post-secondary education programming for USC Shoah Foundation before joining CHHANGE (the Center for Holocaust,
L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • FEBRUARY 2022
Human Rights & Genocide Education) as executive director. “It never occurred to me that we were in the sunset stage, the last generation who would hear their stories in person.” That is, until she stepped into the field of Holocaust education. She notes: “Then I began to see it’s up to us to keep the survivors’ voices alive into the future.” The development of such modern technology for conveying such painful, and almost unbelievable, experiences, says Brown, “allows us to meet people, especially adolescents, where they’re at, through powerful experiential learning.” But she also conveys a warning: “Though I firmly believe these meaningful encounters are the future of Holocaust education, they need to be done right. Presenting it as shockand-awe can do real harm, especially to children.”
A virtual reality scene of a Nazi concentration camp. CREDIT: COURTESY.
Wojciech Soczewica, director general of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, who was in Chicago last week to test drive the museum’s new VR exhibit, agrees. “It’s a very personalized experience,” he says, “giving the viewer the chance to not only listen to the survivors’ tragic histories and to walk along with them in the concentration camp, but to see how they managed to survive and kept the promises they made.” In fact, they’re mid-stream in creating a VR program at the Auschwitz-Birkenau site, he adds, featuring a virtual reconstruction of the camp in 1944, when it was in its murderous peak, to be used by anyone with a VR headset, including in classrooms. “We’re doing it to tell the story of evil in the Shoah and build momentum against it,” adds Soczewica. “With the survivors passing away, this is how to transmit their voices and their emotions.” But even as they leave the world, “the
survivors are still our master teachers,” stresses Brown. “They had the courage to share their painful experiences with us so, as Eli Wiesel said, we must now be their witnesses; we owe that to them. To train the next generation that, when they see hate, to be upstanders and not bystanders.” “Their stories have to be kept alive with the goal of inspiring empathy,” affirms Abrams. “To create a world where ‘never again’ is a reality.” As for Jordan, he says “it’s so crazy that I’m the same age George was then. I can’t even imagine what that would be like.” If all his fellow students at school experienced the exhibit, what might the impact be? Jordan replies that “if their thinking is prejudiced, this could make them more curious about what happened then and open up their eyes.” And, to give the survivor the final word:
“I’ve gotten a great deal of satisfaction that I can still tell my story,” says Brent. “With this new technology, now that there aren’t too many of us left, it can help extend the understanding of what we went through into the future.”
Humble Design is a nonprofit interior design company serving families and veterans leaving homelessness.
hen you have to choose between feeding your family or buying furniture, what do you do? Imagine a single mother with three young children. After escaping a harrowing abusive relationship, she is left without resources. She spends the next decade bouncing between friends’ couches, homeless shelters, and living in her car. She develops anxiety and depression and resorts to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. Her children are taken from her, and she hits rock bottom. But, through all of this, she does not give up. Determined and resilient, she strives to put the pieces of her life back together. Against all odds, she seeks out and finds resources to help her to turn her life around. She enrolls in treatment programs and gets — and stays — sober. She finds mental health services and case management. She is reunited with her children and two-year-old granddaughter. Her social worker helps her to secure a condo where she can put a roof over her family’s heads. But that house is empty; the family is sleeping on the floor; she has to choose between furniture and food. Then, her case manager introduces her to 28
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Humble Design, and her life is changed for good. Humble Design is a nonprofit interior design company serving families and veterans leaving homelessness. Humble’s professional designers take their clients’ empty houses and transform them into personalized homes using donated furniture and home goods. Humble Design’s services provide people leaving homelessness with security, dignity, and hope, and gives clients a firm foundation from which to rebuild the rest of their lives. And it works. While nationwide nearly 50% of people who leave homelessness return to shelters or the streets within a year, 97% of Humble Design’s clients in San Diego remain in their homes. Humble Design has been serving families and veterans here in San Diego since 2018; last year, their team furnished 67 client homes, changing the lives of 200 people, including 109 children and seven veterans. Humble Design is powered by the generosity of the San Diego community. Their entire operation is funded through philanthropic support, and every piece they put in a client’s home has been donated. They rely on volunteers to help organize
their 9,000-square-foot warehouse in Logan Heights crammed full of furniture and home goods, and to join their team each Thursday and Friday in transforming their clients’ homes and lives. L’CHAIM was invited and happily participated in a recent “Deco Day” in service to this single mother, her three children, and her granddaughter. It is incredible to help turn this family’s empty house into a beautifully designed, personalized home full of special touches selected specifically for this family. In one day, we were humbled and honored to help this deserving family to step into their bright and beautiful future. In Humble Design’s own words, “Togetherness to end homelessness is so much more than a tagline. It is our promise to the community that we will bring together big hearts, bright minds, generous souls, and beautiful design in service to our neighbors emerging from homelessness.” HUMBLE DESIGN, INC. IS A TAX EXEMPT 501 (C)(3) NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT HUMBLEDESIGN.ORG/SANDIEGO OR CALL (619) 332-6357.
NOW WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT
NORTH COUNTY FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER
The North County Family Justice Center, “One Safe Place” will be a place where child, adult, and elderly victims of abuse and their families will walk through the doors and receive acute crisiscare, advocacy, counseling, legal services, connection to shelter and housing, long term mentoring, workforce readiness, and educational opportunities; all under one roof. The goals of the North County Family Justice Center will be to provide hope, healing, and justice by creating pathways forward for victims and their families as they move through the process of “surviving to thriving.” Currently, victims and survivors must travel to several different locations across North County to receive a full continuum of support which can be exhausting and a barrier to getting healed. While existing service providers provide excellent services, there is little interconnectivity, and providers often operate in silos, rather than under one umbrella of victim care. When someone comes to One Safe Place, their risks and needs will first be assessed so a victim-centered, culturally competent, and survivor-led customized health and safety plan can be developed. A trained team of navigators and care coordinators will then stand alongside the survivor to ensure the survivor understands the various
available service options, can physically attend appointments, and can successfully engage and participate in a customized plan of care focusing on the survivor’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. One Safe Place, a recently designated “Trauma Recovery Center,” will revolutionize victim services in San Diego County, because, for the first time, a nationally accredited Child Advocacy Center will be housed under the same roof as a nationally-known health care provider, along with law enforcement and other general victim services. This is important because we know that children who suffer abuse are more likely to have unhealthy outcomes later in life. We also recognize the significant association between exposure to trauma and involvement with the criminal justice system, especially for individuals of color. The vision of One Safe Place is grounded in research such as the landmark 1995-1997 ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study and seeks to prevent a next generation of abuse by intervening early in one’s trauma lifespan, disrupting a potential school to prison pipeline, and providing equal access to all communities. One Safe Place will be “the community’s building,” home to a state-of-the-art training and conference center where community groups and organizations can host seminars, educational trainings, and meetings that center around helping families thrive. One Safe Place will be much more than a building – it will be a haven that interrupts cycles of abuse, prevents future generations of abuse, breeds resiliency, and provides hope to family members who suffer from the ripple effects of abuse. Victims and survivors from all ages and all crime types can find help here. Our goal is to leave a lasting footprint and legacy, showing directly that our community takes care of its most vulnerable. For more information, contact Jason Edelstein at (510) 239-1102.
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