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DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

San Diego

INTERNATIONAL jewish film festival

PLUS CHANUKAH CELEBRATIONS MITZVAH MIRACLES


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contents

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December 2019/January 2020 • www.lchaimmagazine.com

COVER STORY San Diego Jewish Film Fest celebrates 30 years of bringing Jewish Film to the area..................................................................................................................

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FOOD Modern Kosher: Latkes with smoked salmon, pickled blackberry and wasabi cream....................................................................................................

MITZVAHS

LOVELY LATKES

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16 18 20

Mitzvah projects to lend a hand to this season............................................................................ San Diego’s philanthropic women who are changing the world......................................... Israel’s ‘Rescuers Without Borders’ .....................................................................................................

FEATURE The rise of Israel’s Shalva Band and Netta Barzilai ...................................................................

CHANUKKAH

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SHE WHO INSPIRES

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Celebrating A Festival of Lights, by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel........................................ Nicole Jon Sievers: A dynamic force for change.........................................................................

COLUMNS

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35 37

My Comic Relief................................................

JewishMom.com........................................

Torah: Of the Book..........................................

Mazel and Mishagoss............................

PUBLISHERS Diane Benaroya & Laurie Miller

ADVERTISING dianeb@lchaimmagazine.com

ADVERTISING & SALES

Diane Benaroya (dianeb@lchaimmagazine.com) 4

LISTINGS & CALENDAR: calendar@lchaimmagazine.com CIRCULATION & SUBSCRIPTIONS info@lchaimmagazine.com

SUBSCRIBE ONLINE: www.lchaimmagazine.com/shop On the Cover: Those Who Remained, a film by Barnabás Tóth, will be screened as part of the 30th anniversary of the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival

CONTRIBUTORS

Daniel Bortz, Michael Gardiner, Donald H. Harrison, Steve Horn, Stephanie Lewis, Salomon Maya, Terra Paley, Mimi Pollack, Rachel Stern, Eva Trieger, Deborah Vietor, Chana Jenny Weisberg

ART DEPARTMENT lauriem@lchaimmagazine.com

EDITORIAL editor@lchaimmagazine.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Laurie Miller

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alanna Maya

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Copyright ©2019 L’Chaim San Diego LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator” to: publisher@lchaimmagazine.com Published in San Diego, CA • www.lchaimmagazine.com

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MY COMIC RELIEF l BY SALOMON MAYA

random rants

Hi, Welcome To [insert retail establishment here]

C

olor me Grinch but nothing makes me cringe more than a false greeting. And ‘tis the season for half-baked greetings enshrined in monotonous and, at times, snarky tones uttered by associates who are programed to regurgitate these things as soon as the store door opens. Gone is the genuine feeling of the holiday season. It’s probably why brick and motor stores are, in a sense, dying out. By covering our lives with mindless minutia of social media quick updates and tweets, it was only natural for that way of living to trickle on down to the store level. To robotically say hello to a client the way a person unemotionally wishes a “friend” a happy birthday online. I worked in retail for close to a decade. My experience has traversed the landscape from basic stores like Old Navy all the way up to ultra-luxury like Prada in Beverly Hills. And with the holiday season in full bloom right now, another eventless Black Friday just passed and from friends of mine still working in retail hell, it was slower than usual. We all know why, of course. Jeff Bezos created Amazon in 1994 and sold its first item a year later. That item was a book. And within one month, Amazon had generated over $20,000 in weekly sales. Fast forward

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25 years and Mr. Bezos is now the richest man operating the largest virtual department store ever seen. Just to add to the amazing statistics Amazon has garnered, 145.2 million mobile users accessed the Amazon app in March 2019, compared to Walmart’s 76.45 million users. Amazon also is eating away at competitor Best Buy as over 44 percent of all Amazon purchases are electronics. One out of every four people who visit Amazon’s website go there just to be inspired when they don’t know what they’re buying. All these numbers mean one thing. Old fashioned brick and mortar stores … AKA … David, meet Señor Amazon Goliath. Basically, stores are dying off. One by one. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it. But the one thing I begged for, back when I was in retail hell, was for upper management to realize that customer service is still the best reason to go to a mall store nowadays. Amazon is easy and yes, I use it. But if I’m buying clothes, I can’t not not try it on first. Cue the millennial Wilhelm scream. So now that I’m happily out of retail I can inform retailers the 5 ways they can keep me. 1. Stop with the phony welcomes. No need. I

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

know where I am. If you’re gonna make your personnel say hi, make sure they mean it. At least make eye contact for Pete's sake. 2. I don’t want a freaking charge card okay. I know I’ll get an extra 25 percent, but for the love of all that is holy I don’t need it. I just want my v-neck t-shirt and let me go. 3. Clean the bathrooms. ALWAYS. I mean ALWAYS. Us males, we have horrendous aim. #SorryItsTrue. 4. Always have some good tunes going over the speakers. Nothing is more depressing that hearing Kenny G. 5. If it’s cheaper on Amazon … you will lose. ALWAYS. So price match at the very least.

SALOMON MAYA IS A LOCAL EMMYWINNER, ACTOR AND PLAYWRIGHT. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @SALOMAYA OR EMAIL HIM AT SALOMONM@ LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM.


Baruch ata Adonai, Elohenu melech ha-olam asher kideshanu be-mitzvotav, ve-tzivanu le-hadlik ner shel Hanukah.

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TORAH l BY RABBI DANIEL BORTZ

of

the book Light and Fire

F

or as long as I can remember, I’ve loved light, especially candles. In contrast with darkness, I appreciated the power a small candle had to defiantly light up a big dark room. There are only a few things one can watch for awhile without getting bored, like the waves of the ocean, a baby’s face, and the stars in the night sky. Another one is the dancing flames of a fire. Ever since the small Maccabee army won their years-long brutal war two thousand years ago, finding one jar of undefiled oil that had enough to light for one night but stayed lit for eight, we Jews have been lighting candles in the dark nights of winter, marveling at the candle flames in the night. But the story of light and fire and its origin has always been the stuff of legend, some sourcing it to the very beginning of time. In Greek mythology, fire was stolen from Zeus and the gods by Prometheus and brought to earth. In Jewish tradition, after the very first Shabbat had ended and darkness descended Adam and Eve, who were now outside of the Garden of Eden, they were fearful. They were then shown rocks that they used to spark a fire and bring warmth, light, and comfort. Fire has always fascinated humankind.

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Unlike water, it uniquely ascends upward. It’s the most spiritual of the physical. It can devour and destroy everything in its path, or bring warmth and light to many. The Divine wisdom of the Torah is likened to fire: “Koh devariy k’aish — My words are like fire.” Humanity’s mission has always been to bring this otherworldly existence into this world and to tame it in a positive way. What are the unique lessons of the flames of Chanukah? First, the flame you see mirrors the essential you: “The candle of G-d is the human soul.” Your soul thirsts for more, to leave the wick of the body and escape to the heavens, but it’s on a mission to shine light in this world and that’s only accomplished when in a body, on a wick. So how do we make sure our flame and wick harmonize? Growth is healthiest when done gradually, day after day. This is why we only light one candle each night, not all eight at once. But still keep your eyes on the prize. See the eight candles waiting to be lit, not content with stopping at one or seven. I recently heard actor Will Smith say: “I don’t set out to build the biggest building in the world. Every day I aim to lay one brick as perfectly as I can.” “A little bit of light dispels much darkness.”

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

There is power in one mitzvah, in one Menorah candle. Just as a small flame can catch fire and spread over entire lands, the reverberating impact of your ability to bring warmth and light to those around you through your actions and words are inestimable. Remember that when helping others, not only aren’t you losing anything — a candle stays as strong as before when lighting another — you’re actually gaining. The Kohen Gadol would ascend steps to light the Menorah. We may not make a blessing over the Shamash candle that lights all the others; it might not get the acclaim. When we do good in private, it may be quiet like a candle’s flicker. But we do it to make ourselves and our Divine Creator proud. If you can smile to yourself when your head hits the pillow at night, then that’s enough. Just as a lamppost lights the way on a dark path, let’s live as lamplighters in this world for all in need of light. DANIEL BORTZ, THE MILLENNIAL RABBI, IS THE FOUNDER OF JTEEN AND SOUL X. CONNECT AT RABBIBORTZ.COM.


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COVER STORY l BY ALANNA MAYA

THE PEARLS OF JEWISH FILM SAN DIEGO INTERNATIONAL JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

The San Diego premiere of Picture of His Life will open the 30th annual San Diego International Jewish Film Festival. The film focuses on the work of world-renowned Israeli photographer Amos Nachoum.

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L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020


COVER STORY

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he San Diego Center for Jewish Culture (CJC) will host the 30th anniversary of the iconic San Diego International Jewish Film Festival (SDIJFF) next month. Running Thursday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, Feb. 23, the festival “showcases a selection of the best contemporary Jewish-related films across multiple genres and aims to educate and illuminate the diverse Jewish experience through evocative, independent narrative, and documentary films.” Each year, the festival draws crowds of people of all ages to see new works selected over the course of the last year by film festival staff (in fact, the screening/selection process starts March 1 and runs through the end of September). In total, 35 feature films will be screened in four locations across San Diego County, with a new venue at the La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas bringing these works to North County. “The film festival is an opportunity to share our rich heritage, culture and values with all of San Diego County,” said Christina Fink, film festival chairperson. “As we approach the 30th anniversary, we look forward to continuing to produce an event that offers awardwinning films that promote awareness, appreciation and pride in the diversity of Jewish people, while also making the festival accessible to all generations through the mobile app.” In January, the SDIJFF Mobile app will be available, allowing attendees to customize their festival schedule, find theatre locations, vote for the Audience Choice Award, learn about guest speakers, and stay up to date on festival events. In addition to the carefully selected documentary and narrative films, the festival showcases a variety of movies incorporating themes such as social activism, romance, religion, LGBTQ+ issues, IsraeliArab relations, history, ethics, current events, comedy and the arts. Special guests, filmmakers and scholars will introduce the films, participate in Q&As, and meet-and-greets throughout the festival. Screenings will be held at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), La Paloma Theatre, Reading Cinemas Town Square and the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre inside the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS, home to a new state-of-the-art theater, thanks to generous donations by Dr. Irwin and Joan Jacobs. “Thanks to this generous donation of a new screen and a new projector, the Garfield is now one of the highest technologicallyadvanced theaters in the country,” Fink said. “The Film festival’s screenings will be shown in this state-of-the-art theater, and we are very excited to share [these upgrades] with the community, because it takes viewing a film at the JCC to another level.”

“The film festival is an opportunity to share our rich heritage, culture and values with all of San Diego County,” said Christina Fink, film festival chairperson. The San Diego premiere of Picture of His Life will open the film festival on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square with the film’s director, Dani Menkin as special guest in attendance. “The film focuses on world-renowned Israeli photographer Amos Nachoum who brazenly puts himself into his subjects’ environment and captures some of the most astonishing images of our time. Now Nachoum is on a quest for the ‘picture of his life’ by swimming with and photographing a polar bear. This breathtaking documentary follows Nachoum and his team to the freezing Arctic, where we see the intense preparation and patience necessary for his work and come to understand why he believes that nature is crucial to maintaining WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM

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COVER STORY

The greatest box-office success in Israeli cinema of 2019, Mossad! will be screened at the SDIJFF this year.

a peaceful and joyous life,” according to festival organizers. Following the screening, Menkin will receive an award and participate in a Q&A session with the audience. The very next night, another Menkin-directed film, Aulcie, the sequel to his award-winning film On the Map, will be shown at the SDIJFF. This new film showcases the turbulent career and complicated personal life of Americanturned-Israeli basketball player Aulcie Perry. The film will be screened Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre (private event with Dani Menkin in attendance) and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 12:30 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square. Another San Diego premiere, Standing Up, Falling Down with Billy Crystal tells the story of a struggling stand-up comedian named Scott, who is forced to return to his family home in Long Island. There, he encounters regret and disappointment until he strikes up a friendship with Marty, an eccentric dermatologist and charming karaoke-singing barfly. The unlikely duo, played by Ben Schwartz (Scott) and Billy Crystal (Marty), combine humor with drama as they find strength in facing their failures together. The film will be screened Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m., both at Reading Cinemas Town Square. Another film making its San Diego debut is Mossad!, the “greatest box-office success in Israeli cinema of 2019.” It cleverly channels James Bond and other movie secret agents and delivers wacky humor, stunts, and 12

dialogue as Mossad and the CIA team up to rescue an American tech billionaire held hostage in Israel. Boldly poking fun at the political relationship between Israel and the U.S., this film could be an antidote to current political realities. The film will be screened Saturday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square. Four films submitted to the 92nd Academy Awards for the 2020 Best International Feature film will be screened, including Incitement (Israel), an intense thriller that follows Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi) in his progression from right-wing law student to assassin of Yitzak Rabin. The film will be screened Wednesday, Feb .19 at 7:15 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. both at Reading Cinemas Town Square. The Mover (Latvia) looks at the life of Zanis Lipke, the Oskar Schindler of Latvia. A reluctant worker in a Luftwaffe factory, he saw the Jews who were forced to work there and managed to spirit them away to a bunker he dug on his own property. The film will be screened Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7:15 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square and Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the La Paloma Theatre. Those Who Remained (Hungary) follows two people who meet and form an unlikely — and misunderstood — friendship that demonstrates the healing power of love in the midst of loss, trauma, and national conflict. A lyrical story of the healing power of love in the midst of national conflict, lost and trauma, the film reveals the healing process

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

of Holocaust survivors through the eyes of a young girl in post-World War II Hungary. The film will be screened Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7:45 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m., both at Reading Cinemas Town Square. Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa (Switzerland) — How does a young, marriageable Orthodox man manage to lead his own life without being smothered by his family and constrained by his religion? Poor Mordechai (Motti), a Woody Allenesque figure, nagged by his mother about finding a nice Jewish girl to marry, instead finds himself smitten with a shiksa (nonJewish woman) and is thus in a quandary. The film will be screened Sunday, Feb. 16 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 3:30 p.m., both at Reading Cinemas Town Square. For show times and full film descriptions, visit www.sdijff.org. Single ticket prices are $14.25 for JCC members and $16.25 for non-members. Opening and closing night film tickets are $19.00. Festival passes, senior, student and group rate discounts are available. The San Diego International Jewish Film runs Feb. 13–23, 2020, featuring award-winning films, guest speakers, panel discussions and more, at these venues: • Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla; February 12 (private Underwriter screening), 14 and 21, 2020 • La Paloma Theatre, 471 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024; February 18-20, 2020 • Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), 1649 El Prado, San Diego; February 15-16, 2020 • Reading Cinemas Town Square, 4665 Clairemont Drive, San Diego; February 13, 15-20, 22-23, 2020


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L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020


FOOD

A DIFFERENT TAKE ON LATKES BY MICHAEL GARDINER

T

his dish is the mash-up of two prototypically Jewish elements and two that definitely don’t seem to be likely suspects. But the acidity and sweetness of the pickled blackberries combine with the piquant quality of the wasabi and rich sweetness of the cream to perfectly complement the latkes and smoked salmon. LATKES WITH SMOKED SALMON, PICKLED BLACKBERRY, AND WASABI CREAM

Serves 6 (makes 18 latkes) INGREDIENTS

For the Wasabi Cream 1/4 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon wasabi paste 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar FOR THE LATKES

2 pounds medium waxy potatoes (1½ to 1¾ pounds), unpeeled 1 medium onion, finely grated 4 large eggs 1 tablespoon potato starch 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Grapeseed, canola, or another neutral oil, for frying PLUS

12 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 1 1./2 by 1/2-inch pieces 18 Pickled Blackberries (recipe below, must be made ahead) DIRECTIONS

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, wasabi paste, and vinegar until combined. This can be made up to a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated until ready to use. 2. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to a boil over

high heat. Ready an ice bath while the water boils. Add the potatoes and cook until they are just tender and can easily be pierced with a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and immediately and transfer the potatoes to the ice bath for at least 5 minutes. Once cooled, drain and dry the potatoes and transfer to the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 1 hour. 3. Using a food processor fitted with the shredding disk or the large holes on a box grater, shred the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add the grated onion, eggs, potato starch, baking powder, salt, and pepper and mix to combine. 4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just shimmering. Pat 2 to 3 tablespoons (depending on the size latke you want) of the latke mixture into a small disk and fry in the hot oil, about 2 minutes per side, to test for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Form the remaining mixture into latkes just as you did the tester. It is best to form the latkes just before you cook them. If you want less rustic and more precisely shaped latkes, scoop the mixture into a 3-inch ring mold (or a clean and empty tuna can with the bottom cut out), then use the bottom of a white wine glass to lightly pat it down. Place the formed latkes on a parchment-lined baking sheet as you make them. 5. Fry the latkes, heat the skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then add two tablespoons oil to the hot skillet and swirl to coat the entire pan. Working quickly, add up to four latkes per batch to the pan and cook until they are nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. If using the ring molds, slide a spatula under the bottom of the latkefilled ring mold and use tongs to transfer the assembly to the pan. Flip the ring mold latkes using the tongs, then press down using the wine glass bottom. As the latkes are cooked, transfer them to a parchment-lined baking

sheet. 6. Place up to 3 latkes on each plate (depending on whether you’re serving them as appetizers, a main course or just want more of some of the best food Hannukah has to offer. Fold a piece of lox in half and place it on each latke. Add a dollop of the wasabi cream and a single pickled blackberry. Repeat with the remaining latkes. PICKLED BLACKBERRIES

Makes about 1 quart INGREDIENTS

10 whole black peppercorns 2 allspice berries 2 juniper berries 1 dried árbol chile, stemmed 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 1 bay leaf 6 tablespoons sugar 1 shallot, thinly sliced horizontally 1 sprig thyme 3 tablespoons salt 2 cups apple cider vinegar 1 pound blackberries (about 3 1/4 cups) DIRECTIONS

1. In a mortar, lightly crush the peppercorns, allspice berries, juniper berries, chile, ginger and bay leaf. Combine the crushed spices with the sugar and salt in a large bowl and add the vinegar and 2 cups of water. Whisk to combine. Transfer to a medium saucepan, add the shallots and thyme, and bring just to a boil over high heat, stirring to make sure the solids are fully dissolved. Transfer back to the bowl and let cool completely. 2. Add the blackberries to a sanitized 1-quart glass jar. Strain the brine and pour it over the berries to cover. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 week before serving. The pickled blackberries will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 months. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM

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FEATURE STORY l BY RACHEL STERN

MITZVAH FEATURE A NEW WAY TO PAY IT

FORWARD Monica Simpson.

I

n Judaism, a mitzvah is a commandment from G-d. G-d gave us 613 commandments and it is our duty to try and fulfill as many as possible. A few amazing people have taken mitzvot to a whole new level, in order to make the world a better place. Monica Simpson, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, is one such person, who has a huge heart and enjoys putting a smile on children’s faces. Simpson is a member of Congregation Beth El, which every year hosts Mighty Mitzvah Sunday, a day of good deeds which is comprised of 12 various programs, all set with the goal to help those in need. Some examples of their programs are donating blood, sewing pillows for cancer patients and handing out cards to veterans. One program for Mighty Mitzvah Sunday was sewing dolls to be delivered to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Simpson’s son McLain 16

decided as part of his Bar Mitzvah project to deliver the dolls to Schneider Children’s Hospital in Tel Aviv. Together, with their friend Julie Hyde they sewed, stuffed and clothed over 100 dolls. As Simpson put it: “He decided to do a Mighty Mitzvah, and make these dolls.” As McLain walked through the oncology ward, word spread throughout the halls and children who could barely walk came out to see and receive their dolls. These dolls had no faces on them so that the children could draw them on with markers in any way that they pleased. When she and her son brought these dolls to the hospitals, the children were all very excited and exclaimed: “Boobah! Boobah!” which means doll in Hebrew. The staff all thanked Simpson and her son for doing such a special and kind thing for those sick children. “It was the perfect Bar Mitzvah project,

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

there were mitzvahs all around,” Simpson said. On the other side of the country, another unique and beautiful mitzvah project is very active in its community. Hindi’s Libraries is a literacy nonprofit organization, collecting “new and gently used books, sending them all over the world.” Their goal is to promote literacy and commemorate Hindi Krinsky. Krinsky was a mother of five and passed away suddenly and tragically from complications of Crohn’s Disease in August 2018. Krinsky’s former colleague Leslie Gang, along with Krinsky’s husband Dovid Kanarfogel, have been working on this wonderful and amazing project. In September of 2018, a free library box was created and painted with Krinsky in mind. Parents donated a book or two and before they knew it, 500 books were donated to the school — too many to fit in the box. The project expanded quickly and they soon partnered with more than 375 organizations spanning across all 50 states, Israel, Puerto Rico, and India. The program has already sent 35,000 books abroad and 20,000 books are still being sorted and shipped daily. Each book is dedicated to Krinsky with a special label that includes a quote from a former student. This way, as Gang put it, “Through each book, the child who receives it is connected to Hindi in some fashion.” Book drives take place all over the community, as well as the world. Gang said: “There is always a way for someone to get involved.” Hindi’s Libraries accepts all types of children’s books in like new condition. To learn more, visit hindislibraries.com.


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mitzvah feature SHE WHO

INSPIRES

Attendees at She Who Inspires book launch party. Photo by Heather Vandemark.

I

t is clear from the title artwork of She Who Inspires that the face of philanthropy is changing. Debuted Oct. 25 by the University of California San Diego Office of Gift Planning, the new book recognizes the rise of female philanthropists throughout the San Diego region who are challenging the conventions of what it means to transform the world. For the women spotlighted in the new publication, philanthropy is about more than giving money — it is about giving time, leadership and vision. She Who Inspires is a three-year book project profiling over 115 philanthropic women in San Diego who contribute to making our community better, from helping underserved children access

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L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

education to supporting endangered species conservation. Regardless of their status or net worth, these game-changing individuals have generously offered their gifts of time, talent or treasure to help make life better for other people. The book is now available for free to download online at giftplanning.ucsd.edu/shewhoinspires to encourage others to continue the good work of the featured philanthropists. The following is just a sampling of the many inspirational women featured in She Who Inspires. MAKING TIME

Carol Littlejohn Chang’s family was deeply involved in philanthropic


MITZVAH FEATURE

activities through their church, and as a child she worked with underserved populations in East Los Angeles. This early immersion in volunteer work prompted her to commit to helping women in San Diego. As a charter member and past chair of the San Diego Women’s Foundation, and chair of the UC San Diego Foundation Board, Chang is able to channel her time toward supporting a number of causes that align with her values and passions. Chang’s story is familiar to many of the women featured in She Who Inspires. Their early experiences volunteering in their communities contributed to a lifelong passion for philanthropy. These women do not just give their money; they are board chairs, nonprofit founders and on-the-ground volunteers who enjoy seeing first-hand the effects of their work. “UC San Diego was smart to appoint extraordinary women, like Carol, to roles in leadership, research and other positions of influence,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Their contributions not only make our university a better place, they also create an environment that embraces inclusivity and leads to world-changing discovery.” SHARING TALENTS

Supporting women and young people is the factor that unifies Amina Sheik Mohamed’s philanthropy. In 2015, she founded the Youth Advisory Council at UC San Diego’s Center for Community Health to support young people of color, many of whom are immigrants or refugees. She is passionate about ensuring that individuals and communities that have experienced historical and systemic inequalities have opportunities for success. Mohamed, and other women like her, are part of a growing movement towards the increase of women involved in philanthropy. Experts estimate that women will control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth by 2030. Further, reports show that wealthy women are more likely to give money and time to charity than their male peers. However, these trends do little to illuminate the women themselves. “We know a lot about the Warren Buffets and the Bill Gates and the Michael Bloombergs, but we know next to nothing about women like Mary Ann, Carol and Amina,” said Elise Wald, director of development in UC San Diego’s Office of Gift Planning. “We wanted to celebrate these women and the things that make them and their philanthropy unique.”

GIVING TREASURE

When she was a child, Mary Ann Beyster’s family supported a number of programs committed to helping families, young people and research, including Achievement Rewards for College Scientists and UC San Diego. Today, Beyster is involved with a number of nonprofits in San Diego and across the country that focus on public health, science and technology, the environment and education. Like many women, Beyster contributes to a number of institutions and initiatives, and she considers each donation carefully. Her philanthropy, and that of the other women in She Who Inspires, underscores a number of trends — that women tend to give to many causes rather than to one particular cause, that they are often passionate ambassadors for the nonprofits they support and that women give to education more than any other sector — but it also shows a more nuanced and personal approach to giving. “Philanthropy is bigger than any one person,” said Dani Dawson, executive director of development in UC San Diego’s Office of Gift Planning. “This book was intended to show how, when people — especially women — contribute just a little bit of their time, talent or treasure, it makes an immense difference in people’s lives and our community.” Each woman recognized in She Who Inspires believes that philanthropy is not about numbers or notoriety. It is about leading, inspiring and giving what they can to make the world a better place. LEARN MORE ABOUT UC SAN DIEGO AT UCSDNEWS.UCSD.EDU.

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mitzvah feature

HERE TO SAVE

LIVES

Rescuers Without Borders | By Josh Hasten | jns.org

I

t was the year 2000, at the beginning of the Second Intifada, and Arab terror attacks were being carried out against Israelis on a nearly daily basis throughout the country, and particularly on the roads in Judea and Samaria. After one particular deadly attack, former Sephardic chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu approached one of his aides, Arie Levy, who had been a volunteer medic and ambulance driver with Magen David Adom (MDA) for about six years, asking why no emergency response organization existed in Judea and Samaria in order to react in a timely manner to save lives. Levy, now 53, who arrived in Israel as an immigrant from France with his family as a child, agreed with his protégé that something had to be done. Working side by side with MDA, Levy founded “Hatzalah Judea and Samaria,” an emergency first-response organization dedicated to saving lives in Judea, Samaria, the Old City of Jerusalem and other parts of the country that were especially under attack. Now known by the name “Rescuers Without Borders,” the new organization, made up entirely of volunteer medics, began taking emergency calls and filling in gaps of MDA coverage. The organization’s director of development, Natalie Sopinsky, said, “We are the Red Cross of the West Bank. We are volunteer medics and first responders who arrive at the scene of car accidents, terror attacks and more. When you call 101 [Israel’s version of 911], we come.” Sopinsky, an immigrant from Delaware who lives with her husband and five children in the southern Hebron hills community of Sussya, said that during the years of the intifada, “those who

SEARCH-AND-RESCUE TRAINING FOR RESCUERS WITHOUT BORDERS. CREDIT: COURTESY 20

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020


MITZVAH FEATURE

were hurt in terror attacks couldn’t be saved because there were no medics. So we decided we would train people here, in our areas.” She said the organization that today boasts 950 volunteer firstresponders works hand in hand with MDA. “We overlap with MDA. We train with them. MDA gives a course for volunteer medics, which is expensive, and we subsidize the funding for our volunteers.” She adds that while Rescuers does not maintain a fleet of its own ambulances, when her donors give money, she can work with MDA and direct them, for example, as to which community in Judea and Samaria is in need of ambulance to be stationed there. The organization also distributes emergency equipment like burn kits, defibrillators and other medical necessities to the communities themselves for use in situations where every second counts. They also have volunteers trained in search and rescue, who collaborate with the Israel Defense Forces and other relevant authorities in times of natural disasters. After only five years up and running, the organization decided that not only would its mission be to save lives in Israel, but around the world. December 2004 saw one of the deadliest natural disasters in the modern world when an earthquake and resulting tsunami struck in the Indian Ocean killing more than 200,000 and wounding nearly 500,000 people in countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Levy explains that when the disaster happened, within hours, a team of medics representing his organization hopped on a plane to Sri Lanka to help treat the wounded. It was after they returned that Levy decided that operations needed to expand globally. Known internationally as Sauveteurs sans Frontières (SSF)/Rescuers Without Borders, Levy has assisted in setting up 14 local branches and training licensed first responders in 14 different countries around the world, including Mali, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nepal and France, among others. Levy said that in 2017, when Hurricane Irma — the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded — made landfall on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, destroying as much as 90 percent of the buildings there, his medics stationed in Guadeloupe were the first ones to arrive on the scene to treat the wounded, just four hours after medical personnel were allowed in. Politics, however, plays a role in the work of Rescuers, locally and internationally. According to Sopinsky, as CNN was filming the group’s heroic efforts in Sri Lanka, they decided to turn off the cameras once they found out the group of medics consisted of Israeli “settlers.” That incident did play a role in the organization’s name change.

Still, Levy insists that politics doesn’t come into play for him, whether it’s saving lives around the world or on the ground in Judea and Samaria. He said: “If I can treat someone in Mali, why can’t I treat someone in Judea and Samaria? We save Jewish lives, Arab lives. Politics doesn’t interest me; we’re here to save lives.” Yehudit Tayar, an organization spokesperson and emergency firstresponder living in the Binyamin (southern Samaria) community of Beit Horon, said that the bottom line is “we believe that life is important.” The former IDF combat soldier details how over the years she has treated countless numbers of Jews and Arabs who live in her region in a variety of emergencies. For her, the establishment of the organization in 2000 was a gamechanger. “Before 2000, it could take hours for a medic to arrive, and sometimes there was no ambulance available. But now, having the Rescuers’ state-of-the-art equipment with us 24/7 is so important. Time [getting to the scene of incident quickly] equals life. That is the bottom line.” Sopinsky said that due to the current reality, the organization helps people injured in rock and firebomb attacks on the roads in Judea and Samaria on a near daily basis. Rescuers is also involved in helping those in need in other parts of the country. In the south, the group has helped renovate bomb shelters near the Gaza border and started an animal-therapy program using horses for kids with post-traumatic stress disorder in the often bombarded community of Nachal Oz. A pilot program is also being tested involving the use of a brand-new ballistic blanket called the “Armadillo,” which can protect rescuers and their patients under rocket fire from flying shrapnel. (The device was designed by anti-terror security expert Marc Provisor. The organization also looks to enhance the lives of residents in Judea and Samaria in other areas by funding sports fields, synagogues and the renovation of social halls, along with other security projects. But perhaps the biggest project right now, according to Sopinsky, is the construction of a top-notch training simulation center in Givat Ze’ev, near Jerusalem, where emergency situations from car accidents, drownings, the delivering of babies or other scenarios can be re-enacted. This will give first-responders the opportunity to practice various medical exercises, as the simulations will be as close to the real thing as possible. Next year, the group will celebrate 20 years of saving lives. Sopinsky said what people should take from that milestone is that thanks to Rescuers Without Borders, “you can live here or visit here safely and with confidence. This might still be the Wild West, but thanks to our volunteers, you are not alone.” WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM

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F E AT U R E S T O R Y

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge walks with Eurovision Song Contest 2018 winner Netta Barzilai on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. PHOTO BY MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/POOL.

A NEW KIND OF AMBASSADOR THE RISE OF ISRAEL'S SHALVA BAND AND NETTA BARZILAI BY ELIANA RUDEE | JNS.ORG

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F E AT U R E S T O R Y

A

s the Shalva Band and 2018 Eurovision Song Contest winner Netta Barzilai redefine what it means to be beautiful and successful, perhaps they are, at the same time, redefining what it means to be a “traditional” Israeli ambassador. Barzilai’s Eurovision-winning song “Toy” aimed to empower women, victims of sexual harassment and those who may not adhere to traditional beauty standards. Told in the early stages of her career that she wasn’t “sexy or beautiful” like traditional superstars, Barzilai has delivered a powerful confirmation of the importance of staying true to oneself. “I believe in empowering individualism,” she said. “I speak as honestly as I can and as freely as I can about how I see the world,” said Barzilai. “It can be funny, silly even and unexpected. It can be sad and emotional, about matters of the-heart, and it can be in empowering anthems about body image or girl power.” Although she said that she does not see herself as an ambassador but as “a musician that’s very proud of who I am,” she added that she is “in love with my people and my nation” and the values Israel stands for. “I think we’re the warmest and kindest people,” she said. “Also, we have very strong family values, mutual respect and desire to lift each other up. We all call each other achi and achoti, ‘brother’ and ‘sister.’” Israel, she said, was a country of survivors, with a unique character. “We’re a country of survivors because we’re constantly fighting for our lives and country. Because of that, our character is unique; we’re resourceful and focus on what matters: family, relationships and our strength. We laugh and sing to keep healthy, and take no bull****. We’re happy at every opportunity we can be. And we value human life more than anyone can imagine. These are the values I live by.” Many Israelis hailed her Eurovision win as a “national vindication and diplomatic triumph,” according to The New York Times. At this year’s Eurovision, which took place in Tel Aviv, the Shalva Band delivered a moving and inspiring performance in the semi-finals. Their message to never stop

dreaming won the hearts of viewers around the world. (The band dropped out of the song contest because of compulsory rehearsals on Shabbat for the Saturday-night finals.) Comprised of eight musicians, the Shalva Band was formed at the SHALVA organization in Israel, which supports and empowers individuals with disabilities and their families. Dina Smeta, one of the band’s lead singers, who is blind, said of her pride in becoming an inspiration for children with disabilities. “The message I want to transmit is it doesn’t matter who or what you are; we are all born with certain abilities, and it doesn’t quite matter if you have a disability. We need to believe in ourselves,” she said. Smeta recalled meeting a blind 8-year-old girl at a klezmer festival in Tzfat two months ago that told her that she wanted to be just like her when she grew up. Shalva band director Shai Ben-Shushan also spoke with pride of leading a change in the way disabled people are perceived in society, and of bringing people together. “A mother got in touch with us and said that her son has Down syndrome, and after his classmates saw the Eurovision performance, he’s become the most popular kid in his grade,” he said. “Shalva is changing the way people are perceived; we get many comments like these from around the world and throughout Europe.” “The main message is that anyone can, with enough belief and willpower, do whatever they wish,” he continued. “One of the members of the Shalva Band has Down syndrome and it took him two years to ‘own’ a certain beat, but he persevered and I met with him every day until he got it. Now he keeps the beat and is a terrific drummer. So the message is not to give up, and to belief in [yourself]. With hard work and faith, you can [achieve anything] you want,” he said. Having the chutzpah to be oneself unapologetically is empowering, said BenShushan. Six months ago, said Ben-Shushan, the Shalva Band visited a Broadway show, and someone in the audience recognized them. “He told us that he was an Israeli expat

who had married a non-Jewish woman and whose relationship to Israel had practically vanished, but that when he saw [one of our performances] it reminded him of home. So after years of not practicing Judaism, he taught his children what the Kiddush was. We were overwhelmed when we heard that,” said Ben-Shushan. During a recent trip to Israel, American pop singer Demi Lovato visited the Shalva center in Jerusalem and played with the band for two hours. According to Ben-Shushan, she had hoped to continue to work with them after her trip, but was prevented from doing so by the BDS movement. “She came and saw a show, and loved Shalva, raving about them,” Ben-Shushan said. “But BDS tore her into pieces, and now we are unable to do something with her.” Even so, he maintained that music has the power to bring people together as “the language of the entire world, no matter where you come from.” Barzilai and the Shalva Band each performed for more than 3,500 attendees at this year’s Israeli-American Council conference in South Florida in December. Impacting the Jewish Diaspora, BenShushan said, is important to the band, so “every two or three months, we reach [out to] a Jewish community, which empowers the bond,” he said. Barzilai, too, expressed her hope to build bridges between the United States and Israel through her music. “The stronger we can build the bridge and our nation’s allies around the world, the stronger we all are together. Together, Israel and America can bring light upon the world with our innovation, and desire for progress. When you light someone else’s candle, the world becomes a much brighter place,” she said. “The beauty of both our countries is that we share the same empowering ideals of prosperity, progress and freedom. I believe with music we can build bridges, cross borders, and bring light into the world, together.”

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CHANUKAH

CELEBRATING A HOLIDAY OF LIGHT BY RABBI MICHAEL LEO SAMUEL, TEMPLE BETH SHALOM - CHULA VISTA

A

fter Alexander the Great conquered Syria, Egypt and Judea, he allowed those countries the freedom to observe their own religious traditions. During the time of his benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated ideas and cultural traditions from the dominant Hellenistic culture. The Jews adopted the Greek language, dress, and customs — much as Jews have done living in Western countries and in the United States. But they still remained loyal to their ancestral faith. However, the social climate changed after Alexander died; his empire had divided into several sections, each one led by a different leader — the Greek Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes. After successfully invading the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, Antiochus IV captures Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple by setting up an idol in honor of Zeus; moreover, he insisted that the Jews worship and show fealty to these deities; the ritual of circumcision or possession of sacred Jewish books became forbidden. He then imposes a tax and establishes a fortress in Jerusalem. The Hasmonean family of priests objected 24

to the changes introduced by the Seleucid rulers and his Jewish Hellenistic supporters. They amassed an army and fought with the Syrian Greeks until they won their revolution. The Book of Maccabees, was written by a Jewish writer sometime in the 2nd century B.C.E., and he spoke about the Hasmonean family’s heroism that led to a new restoration and rededication of their Temple and homeland. Chanukah celebrates the holiday that began as the first war in human history for religious freedom. People wonder: Did the Book of Maccabees mention the miraculous menorah lighting that lasted eight nights? Although this miracle is narrated in the Talmudic version of the story, the Book of Maccabees relates there was no longer a menorah; the Greeks had cut it up and sold it for its gold. As for the menorah, the victorious Jewish soldiers took the spears of their fallen enemies and made it into a makeshift menorah. But why did the Talmud tell us a different story that there was only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah? By the time the Pharisees retold the story, they had developed a strong distaste for

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

celebrating Chanukah as a war story. Since the failed attempts to fight a war of independence against Rome ended in disaster, the rabbis developed a new approach. The ancient prophet Zechariah expressed a radical idea the early rabbis reintegrated into the Chanukah story, “Not by might, and not by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of host” (Zech. 4:6). If we want to change the world, it must be through the power of light and enlightenment. The increase of the lights lit on Chanukah suggests an interesting connection with the Zoroastrian fire festival of Sadeh, which was celebrated with grandeur and magnificence in ancient Persia. The lighting of fire represented the defeat of the forces of darkness, frost, and cold. The time of this event, occurs shortly after the time of the winter solstice, when the days start to become longer with each passing week. The holiday of Christmas occurs four days after the winter solstice, and as a holiday, Christians believe their savior brought light to the world. It is ironic that each of these festivals celebrated at the winter solstice celebrate the return of light in our world, howbeit differently. May you all be blessed with a wonderful and meaningful Chanukah! And now you know the rest of the story.


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CHANUKAH

GO WITH ALL YOUR HEART NICOLE JON SIEVERS IS A DYNAMIC FORCE FOR CHANGE THROUGH HER PHILANTHROPY BY EVA TRIEGER 30

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020


CHANUKAH

I

n the Talmud, we are admonished that if you take a life, you also have destroyed all of the generations that might come from that individual. Conversely, we are told that if you save one life, it is as though you have saved the world. I am not certain of the early life of Nicole Jon Sievers, but it appears that her mother, Linda Carroll Barraud, engraved this message in indelible ink on young Nicole’s psyche. For over 25 years, Sievers has worked tirelessly and with complete devotion to improving the lives of adolescents and teens. She is all about promoting justice and encouraging resiliency. This passion is demonstrated by the many hats she’s worn to aid and inspire children as an Imago (relationship) therapist, a teacher, an educational district consultant, an Outward Bound instructor, and an author. Most recently, this busy heart has dabbled in film production with a documentary, Upstanders, coming out on IndieFlix next month. In 2011, Sievers founded Stand for Courage Foundation (standforcourage. org) after learning statistics on bullying in this country. Through her own social work clients and experiences in group homes in Oregon, Nicole understood that beyond reeducating the bullies themselves, it was far more important to reach the bystanders, and empower them to stand up to those who would intimidate and abuse others. Armed with the information that 90 percent of bullies crave attention, Sievers felt there was another way to furnish this that could reverse the problem. What makes the program so successful and unique is that it is virtually studentled and peer-driven, executed and based on incentives, that we humans are programmed to seek. This program has shown over a 69 percent reduction in bullying and its aftermath, which often includes suicidal ideation. Those most at-risk are youths who are the outliers, frequently LGBTQ children or immigrant children. By giving teen leaders clear markers and tools to help students see themselves and each other as important, impactful and

skilled, peers begin to see their similarities instead of their differences. Everyone has been a target, and, through tacit approval, everyone has been a bully. This program allows everyone to save face and grow towards peaceful resolution. The author refers to a “positive call-out culture.” Rather than shaming or blaming, the program provides a forum for teens to think about their actions and consequences that will bring about a more harmonious world. Thanks to the Foundation’s generosity, the program has been offered to schools gratis, but this is not easy to maintain. Sievers has co-authored a book, It’s Your Mind. Own It, which illustrates the different wiring of the adolescent brain. The book is intended to help families find “a safe power journey rather than a journey of disconnect or torture.” Two other books are soon to be released. The One and Only You! is a workbook for children aged 9-13. The goal of the workbook is to provide these youngsters with the tools required to ward off depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts through Cognitive Behavior Therapy and mindfulness while recognizing and celebrating their unique gifts. A second book is a journal and poem created for the migrant children, entitled, The Traveler’s Light. Sievers explained her perception that each of us is a traveler. We are all moving through this world, facing our own sets of challenges, but if we support each other, we can make the experience better, and ourselves better in the process. Due to recent political and economic events, Sievers became keenly concerned about the separation of families at the border, and as a therapist knows that the trauma can result in long-term damage. After holding a very successful fundraiser in Seattle with a few friends, Sievers had amassed $135,000 dollars to pay attorneys to reunite families. Incredible? Yes, but that’s not all. Knowing she could not rescue every family or every child, Little Mercies was born. Sievers, along with the help of a nurse and philanthropist, Rebecca Ebsworth, came up with a very achievable, very human goal. Stuff a

backpack! Everyone can fill a backpack with food, toys, educational items, clothing etc. The idea was born while Sievers was stuffing her own 11-year-old son’s backpack, and she thought, “I can do this for another child.” Sievers visited many shelters in San Diego and Mexico and recruited other skilled professionals to provide dental care, blankets, medicine, and other necessities. However, the best part will be that the individuals living in these shelters will be plugged into the rehab programs: fixing playgrounds or reforestation efforts. Taking an active part, feeling useful and preserving dignity is every bit as critical as having food to eat or a place to sleep. “We have an incredible responsibility to take care of each other. Life circumstances are out of our control sometimes,” I was told. Sievers wanted to underscore that all of her work is an interrelated loop of self-care and community care. “We all need both and one without the other simply isn’t integrated enough to be sustainable,” she said. Little Mercies is very fortunate to have a friend in singer/songwriter/activist Peter Yarrow. After his co-founding Operation Respect, an accolade-winningDon program Harrisonto create respectful and safe places for youth, this compassionate musician joined forces with Linda Carroll Barraud in 2019 to form justoneatatime.org. The mission of this organization is to bring “education, aid and hope to the most vulnerable populations in Tijuana, Mexico.” The premise is that every single one of us can take part in creating a better world, one person at a time. To make this dream a reality, Yarrow will be performing at an as of yet undisclosed, intimate venue on February 28, 2020. All proceeds will benefit Little Mercies and One Story at a Time. The world is vast, and we are all travelers along the road, but a journey shared lightens the load. Keep your eyes open for more information about Peter Yarrow’s benefit concert and visit littlemercies.org to become a part of the solution. Who knew saving lives could be so easy? WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM

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L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020


BY CHANA JENNY WEISBERG l FAMILY

jewish

mom.com Finding G-d on the Trans-Siberian Railroad

T

oday, I attended a class on the month of Kislev. About the transformative light that can be found in this darkest of months. On the bus home, I sat next to a woman named Tsippora who had also been at the class. Tsippora spoke Yiddish and dressed like she had been born in Mea Shearim. But, it turned out, she hadn’t been. She had actually been born in Paris. And hadn’t even know she was Jewish until she was 21 years old. Tsippora had studied dance at a British university, And then had spent almost a year studying Chinese at an intensive language program in China “So when did you become religious?” I asked She laughed. And then she told me this: “I decided I would travel home to Paris from China by taking the train through Mongolia and Siberia to Moscow. It sounded like such a great idea when I was planning it, like a grand adventure. But once I was actually on the train, I realized I had made a big mistake. The train was full of unsavory types; it felt scary and threatening for us, two young women traveling alone. “But something incredible happened. A miracle. It turned out that there was a full eclipse of the sun that week, and that the

best place to see that eclipse in the whole world was in Siberia. So, as the train headed Russia-ward, it suddenly became packed with hundreds of students, like me, and other Western tourists in whose company I felt much safer than the regular heavydrinking locals. “When I made it home to Paris, a friend who was converting to Judaism invited me to meet her rabbi. And it was that rabbi who explained to me that I was, in fact, Jewish. And that Jews, like me, should be keeping mitzvos. And that very week, I was on a plane to Israel to learn for myself what mitzvos were, and to start keeping them. And 20 years later, with my husband and our children, I still am. “But when I think about it, I think my story, my return to Judaism, didn’t start with meeting that rabbi. It started on the TransSiberian Railroad, during that total eclipse, when I felt for the first time in my life that somebody (Somebody?) was looking out for me in this world.” Tsippora’s story reminded me of something the teacher, Julia Sara Lustigman, had mentioned during the class that we had just heard. “A caterpillar doesn’t say ‘I’m going to grow wings and fly!’ Instead, it buries itself within the darkness of a cocoon, and from

within that darkness, it transforms, grows wings, learns to fly. “And the same is true of a baby. The womb is a place of darkness. And it is within that darkness that the seed and egg come together and create the greatest miracle of all, a new human being.” “So too, Kislev is the darkest month of the year. This month, so many people are depressed, anxious, feel like they are in free fall. “But out of this darkness we can grow, transform, finally enter the light that awaits each of us.” Like that butterfly and that baby and that young student who emerged from a total eclipse ready to be reborn. CHANA JENNY WEISBERG, THE CREATOR OF JEWISHMOM.COM, IS A STAY-HOME MOTHER OF 8 CHILDREN LIVING IN JERUSALEM WITH HER HUSBAND, RABBI JOSHUA WEISBERG. ORIGINALLY FROM BALTIMORE, CHANA JENNY HAS DEVOTED HER NON-MOM TIME OVER THE PAST DECADE TO PROVIDING INSPIRATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR OTHER JEWISH MOMS THROUGH HER POPULAR BOOKS EXPECTING MIRACLES AND ONE BABY STEP AT A TIME.

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BRIDGING THE GAPS

I

n the heart of the winding streets of Be’er Sheva’s Old City, far from the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv, the third cohort of the Lauder Employment Center’s fellows gathered to celebrate the completion of their internships with representatives from some of the Negev’s leading companies. Looking to build a life in the Negev’s growing technology district, the Lauder fellows are defying the norm and are becoming the new pioneers of Southern Israel. When it comes to life and work in the Negev Desert, there are many gaps to be filled: the disparity between the number of people moving to the Negev for education and those who come to stay; differences in the level of practical training experience and what employers are looking for; and gaps between the reality of tech jobs in the region and the perception of Israelis still flocking to the crowded cities in the center of Israel. Bridging these gaps by empowering people to succeed is what Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) does best, particularly through its partnership with the Lauder Employment Center. Established by JNFUSA Chairman-Emeritus Ronald S. Lauder, the Lauder Employment Center assists in the rapid development and advancement of the Negev and its capital city, Be’er Sheva. Operated by Eretz Ir, a JNF-USA affiliate, the Center runs training programs, operates state-of-the-art facilities, and offers internship and skill building opportunities for anyone with the pioneering spirit. To date, the Center has succeeded in providing 7,000 job offers for residents of the Negev. In the surrounding communities, a network of NetGev Hi-Tech Hubs— 36

L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020

operated by Eretz Ir—offer high level co-working spaces and professional training. Just hours before the Lauder Fellows’ graduation ceremony, NetGev Dimona hosted Amazon Web Services for a full day of competitive training seminars, attracting over 50 young developers from around the Negev. While big international names, like Amazon, have elevated career advancement opportunities for young professionals, many more Israeli companies, such as RoboTiCan, IMP Engineers, SodaStream, the Be’er Sheva Municipality, Osem Foods, and more, have emerged on the scene and are providing opportunities for fellows. The program also provides field experience and connects fellows with job opportunities following graduation to ensure workforce integration. There’s a high demand for practical engineers in Israel, but often times employers are faced with a lack of senior-level engineers and developers, and, according to Chofi David from Sapir College in Sderot, students can only learn so much in their classes. By participating in programs like the Lauder Fellowship, students can merge their studies with hands-on experience. Menucha Saitowitz, the associate director of development and partnerships for Eretz Ir, said that the Lauder Employment Center is working to mitigate financial loss for employers through preemployment training and continuing education. The Lauder Fellowship prepares recent graduates to be efficient employees and makes the south more than a stop along the road. It is cultivating a robust tech scene to draw more residents to the Negev and requires continuing training opportunities. While the physical gap between Be’er Sheva and Tel Aviv cannot be changed, the next generation of driven young professionals are closing the gap between career opportunity and the ability to build their lives in the Negev. Thanks to the support of Jewish National Fund-USA, the Lauder Employment Center, and Eretz Ir, students, graduates, employers, and those looking to lay roots in the Negev have opportunities to gain experience, training, and venture into new ventures.


HUMOR | BY STEPHANIE LEWIS

mazel

& mishagoss Guess Who's Stealing Chanukah Now?

W

e know WHO swiped Christmas, but when the holidays roll around, nearly every Jewish family has a potential “ScroogeStein or “GrinchBerg” in the making. Here are 12 signs so you’ll recognize Chanukah Burnout out there in “Jewville.” (Beware – these behaviors are subtle and could be chalked up to just ordinary kvetching!)

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1. Telling excited children, “Did you know

2.

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Chanukah is actually a very minor Jewish holiday? Google it. We’re only supposed to light candles. That’s it. Commercialism — Bah Humbug! Your parents should return your gifts and put the money into a college fund.” Tweaking lyrics to beloved holiday songs like this: “Chanukah oh Chanukah oh, don’t light the menorah!/Cancel the party, your chance to ignorah!/Gather ‘round the table we’ll all overeat./Dreidel gambling to cheat at, frozen latkes to reheat.” Maybe not blatantly handing out lumps of coal, but they’ll sneak in festively wrapped socks, underwear, toothbrushes, vitamins, and deodorant as the eight presents you get to open. (So NOT gifts!) Taking the Miracle of Oil thing much too far, they’ll clandestinely drain all the Valvoline from under the hood of your Toyota to see if it will still get good mileage for eight days and nights. Using the dipstick and funnel, they’ll then fashion a crude dreidel. And if

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you show them a nicer dreidel (that you made outa clay!) they’re a party-pooper by suggesting spinning for broccoli or paper clips instead of yummy chocolate coins or quarters. As soon as you begin the traditional ritual of frying up your delicious latkes to a lovely deep golden brown, they embark on a downhill discussion that starts like this, “Did you know that the extra-virgin olive stuff in your pan is oxidizing and forming highly toxic compounds because the molecules have been proven to become unstable beyond a certain smoke point?” Making that tired old joke, “This Chanukah instead of Gelt, I’m giving you Guilt!” But then they actually start listing eight ways you’ve done them wrong. Their reasons for disliking The Festival of Lights make even less sense as the eight nights commence. Sound familiar? “Chanukah! Who can remember how to spell it, let alone sounding like you have phlegm in your throat pronouncing the starting consonant blend? And reminding others that the ‘C’ is silent! Who needs this narishkeit?” Insisting that a lit menorah is a huge fire hazard and also claiming to see evil people in the candle wax drippings – like King Antiochus (whose name they also cannot pronounce!) from the Chanukah story. Finding fault with the Muppets who included Chanukah enlightenment

in their Shalom Sesame Street special movie. (Why hate on cute little Elmo?) 10. Lamenting how awkward it feels to go to a holiday cookie exchange and seeing nothing but sugary-shaped Christmas trees, stockings, Santas, snowflakes, candy-canes and snowmen. But suggest buying a menorah cookie-cutter and they’ll assert that the shamash breaks off in the oven and they have to glue it back together with canned frosting. 11. Color Troubles! “Why is Chanukah only blue and white? White’s not even a real color. Red is my favorite. Why do the gentiles get dibs on all the red and green?” 12. ‘Elf on a Shelf’ is the latest Christmas tradition they begrudge. But as soon as you announce there’s a Chanukah equivalent, “Mensch on a Bench,” they whine, “Tell me, what would I do with one more chachka?!” By now it should be obvious (if you’re worth your weight in sour-cream and applesauce!) that “Grinchbergs” are actually feeling excluded and therefore the solution is to shower them with more Chanukah happiness than they can handle. And jelly donuts, of course! FIND MORE STEPHANIE D. LEWIS ON THE HUFFINGTON POST AND AT ONCEUPONYOURPRIME.COM.

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Check www.krispykreme.com for Locations

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L’CHAIM SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2019/JANUARY 2020


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