Celebrating Temple MENSCHES!
Ronald Reagan once remarked, “Well, wouldn’t it be nice to hear a little more about the forgotten heroes of America – those who create most of our new jobs, like the owners of stores down the street; the faithfuls who support our churches, synagogues, schools, and communities; the brave men and women everywhere who produce our goods, feed a hungry world, and keep our families warm while they invest in the future to build a better America? That’s where miracles are made, not in Washington, D.C.”
And indeed, within each temple or synagogue, miracles take shape. These sacred spaces rely on the tireless dedication of volunteers who serve on the Board of Trustees, act as Lay Leaders, and support the overworked staff. These exceptional individuals, these menches, go above and beyond to ensure the thriving of their communities. To shed light on their invaluable contributions, we approached a few esteemed rabbis and executive directors, who graciously shared stories of some of these unsung heroes. The individuals mentioned below represent just a fraction of the many deserving menches who should be honored.
If you would like us to highlight a mensch online or in a future issue, please send your nomination to us at info@jlivingmedia.
Temple Mishkon Tephilo
Nominated by Rabbi Joshua Katzan
Most synagogues aspire to the claim of being “warm and welcoming,” but the reality is dependent on the individuals in the synagogue and the vibe they create. My own synagogue would not be what it is without the warmth, sincerity, and genuine menschlechkite of our member and volunteer, Jeff Gornbein. Beyond his personal commitment to opening and closing the building on Shabbat, to leaping up when extra hands are needed to set up or clear our kiddush lunch, and to coordinating our Torah readers, Jeff, and his wife Fredricka, are legendary greeters and welcomers. I know of many individuals who have been members for over a generation because of their first impression of how they were received and greeted by Jeff. Most of them were immediately invited to Shabbat dinner or holiday meal upon their first visit to the congregation. To be warmly received in a new or foreign environment is one of the most healing and holy experiences we can have. There are few people who so naturally embody the essence of menschlechkite, decency, and living the spirit of Jewish law, as does Jeff. Our congregation would simply never have earned its reputation for being as truly warm and welcoming as it is without him. It is with deep gratitude that we celebrate Mishkon Tephilo’s “Unsung Mensch,” Jeff Gornbein.
Temple Kol Tikvah
Nominated by Rabbi Jon Hanish
Laureen served as the temple president prior to becoming a “professional Jew.” She has guided the community in both roles. Her focus has always been to help form a joyous community or as she puts it “We need some kumbayah in this program.” Her focus is on community and making sure that every member’s voice is heard and that everyone feels the joy of being part of her community.
Tina oversees every detail of Kol Tikvah’s spiritual life. From working with clergy on the yearly calendaring to making sure that a thousand electric candles are placed on the sanctuary floor in order to create the “right” feeling for selichot, her energies never flag. Because of her deep love of community and her commitment to fulfilling every given goal, she is Kol Tikvah’s incoming co-president for the next two years. But she will always be a lifetime blessing to the community.
Clifford’s work effort is head and shoulders above past employees. Soft-spoken in nature, he is typically either the first or the last to leave Kol Tikvah each day, often staying late into the night preparing the temple for its next day of programs and services. Every request made is always fulfilled and often his actions are based on what he feels needs to be done. As a small congregation, everyone knows him and understands the depth of his commitment to making Kol Tikvah thrive. We could never say “thanks” enough to a man who is committed to our congregation.
Wilshire Boulevard Temple
Nominated by Executive Director Donna Nadel and Associate Executive Director Jodi Berman
Lizzie Green grew up at Wilshire Boulevard Temple and is now head of Volunteer Engagement at The Karsh Family Community Social Service Center where she creates meaningful volunteer opportunities that produce life-changing results for the Karsh Centers’s diverse clients and our neighbors in need.
As head of Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Religious School, Cathy is a passionate Jewish educator who has transformed the religious school experience, developing innovative programs and inspiring approaches to religious school, from elementary grades to can’t-miss teen programs throughout high school.
Congregant and board member Deborah Dragon provides deep knowledge, wisdom, and experience in Jewish education, marketing, and public relations and, as such, is a valued advisor to all of our schools as well as the Temple. For me, it is her thoughtfulness, logic, and calm, rational demeanor that stands out to me. Never lost in all of her dedication and involvement, is her own family, her number one commitment.
Ivan is a problem solver who in his role in accounting works tirelessly to understand the operating needs of the organization and finds ways to balance vision and budget to fulfill our mission.
Temple Ahavat Shalom
Nominated by Rabbi Becky Hoffman
Debby is a gem of a human being. As president, she has been the heart and soul of TAS and does everything with a smile and a generous compliment. Debby has the kindest heart and a beautiful, uplifting spirit; we are proud to call her president.
Laraine goes above and beyond to make everyone feel engaged, warm, and welcome. From being the queen of volunteer work to groups and Havurah, to Sisterhood, and various committees; Laraine does it all and we are honored to have her as a valuable part of TAS.
From being president of MoTAS (men’s group), a board member, to our main IT person, and one of our greatest problem solvers; Larry helps TAS run like a well-oiled machine, and we are grateful for the mensch that he is.
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel
Nominated by Avi Levy, Director of Operations
Rae is always around to help, from cooking our Shabbat kiddush lunches to making sure all our events are set up properly. Rae has been a vital board member for over 20 years and her dedication to our community is amazing.
Neda and her family have been members for about 10 years. She continues to assist in any way possible with events and overall marketing and communication for the temple. She has children who attend our Hebrew school and is dedicated to growing our community with more families.
Kamran is our past President and currently serves as the VP of Operations. He handles the maintenance of the entire building and is currently managing the sanctuary remodel project. Kamran is known for putting Sephardic Temple first when it comes to getting things repaired. He is the name behind the scenes, making sure our temple looks clean and is running smoothly.