Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mandy Patinkin in Our Homeland!

Words cannot express how spectacular last Saturday's closing event for the 150th anniversary year was! From the jewel-box decor and lighting, to the delectable hors d'oeuvres and perfectly prepared food, the impeccable wait service, the ideal temperature provided by the outdoor heaters, the smooth logistics at check-in -- really there could not have been a more perfect evening for Beth Israel. 
Mandy Patinkin was an outstanding performer and his graciousness shone through in every way in his performance and in the genuine warmth he feels for our congregation. We are so grateful to Joanne Gimbel, Mandy's sister, for talking Mandy into such a marvelous performance.
We had such a glittering and happy full house to close out the 150th anniversary year!

The event was chaired by Bev and Len Bernstein and Carol and Ron Fox. Mary Ann Scher chaired the whole 150th anniversary year. All the hard work over many months -- six more than originally planned -- were well worth it. The energy, creativity and dedication that all the volunteers put in made the event far more fabulous than anyone could have anticipated.

Thanks in no small part to all the excellent programming of the 150th year, Beth Israel today is celebrating a glorious era of engaged members, stability, and peace in our house. Now that the celebration is over, we will be there, continuing to create fascinating, cutting-edge programs, and heartfelt and meaningful worship services. So please come back often and see us at Beth Israel.

Emily's Welcome Remarks:
I’d like to add my welcome to this dazzling Closing Gala and thank the wonderful chairs who’ve made it happen: Bev and Len Bernstein and Carol and Ron Fox.

And what a spectacular year we have celebrated. We opened with San Diego’s political elite. And we’re closing with one of Hollywood and Broadway’s elite.
At the beginning of our 150th year, our Opening Celebration was joyful, with dancing in the aisles and cupcakes for all.  But it was also solemn because we were embarking on the creation of a sacred Torah.

That year-long project engaged as many as half our families in scribing.  When completed, on Simchat Torah, our members processed with the new Torah into the Glickman-Galinson Sanctuary in a pageant of great majesty. Under a bridal chuppah, the Torah was carried through the Price Family Courtyard through an aisle lined with hundreds of congregants, many with tears brimming in their eyes.
We unrolled the Torah scroll all the way around the sanctuary with hundreds of members, young and old, supporting the parchment in their hands. This visual drove home that this really is our new 150th anniversary Torah. And already it is being used each Shabbat by our b’nai mitzvah children.

Several families dedicated the Torah’s beautiful silver accoutrements.  And most fittingly, Beth Israel dedicated the Torah’s splendid crown in honor of Mary Ann Scher, chair of this entire, incredible, 150th year.

This evening’s Concluding Gala is one of just pure joy.  We are thrilled to have among us at dinner tonight the family of Jewish-American legend Mandy Patinkin.  When the doors of the concert hall open after this beautiful dinner, Beth Israel will fill the entire hall for Mandy’s performance.

Beth Israel is stronger today than a year ago when our celebration began. For that, I speak for the whole congregation, when I thank you, our most generous supporters.  Because you are committed to ensuring the strong future of Reform Judaism in San Diego, Beth Israel will continue to serve San Diego’s Jewish people for the next 150 years.
I’ve attended nearly all of the dozens of programs, events and celebrations of the 150th.  It’s been truly inspiring to me to see how involved you’ve all been in our celebratory year. 

In closing, I encourage you to come back to Beth Israel often. Beth Israel today is celebrating a glorious era of engaged members, stability, and peace in our house. When the celebration is over, we will be there, continuing to create fascinating, cutting-edge programs, and heartfelt and meaningful worship services.

We will be there as the historic center of Jewish life in San Diego. An inclusive Reform congregation – that offers a warm welcome and a nurturing home to all who seek a meaningful and enduring connection to Judaism.
Rabbis Michael Berk, Arlene Bernstein and Michael Satz
President Emily Jennwein and Cantor Emeritus Sheldon Merel.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Greeting First Church for our 32nd Annual Interfaith Service

Let me add my greeting to the members of First Church. I’m Emily Jennewein, president of Beth Israel, and I’m very pleased to be with you again. Since we met together a year ago in your beautiful sanctuary, a lot has happened for us at Beth Israel.  

Just last weekend, we concluded a full year of celebrating our 150th anniversary -- a year we marked with large, inclusive events and small, focused programs. Many opportunities for our members to engage and re-engage in positive, pleasurable and meaningful ways.
As we commence our 151st year as a synagogue, Beth Israel is still the largest and oldest synagogue in Southern California.  We’re ready to start building our next 150 years together as the historic center of Jewish life in San Diego.  We’re always striving to be an inclusive Reform congregation, and to offer a warm welcome and a nurturing home to all who seek a meaningful and enduring connection to Judaism.
And one of the most enduring examples of the openness we value is this interfaith service; a historic and enduring gathering now in its 32nd year. Thank you everyone from First Church for joining us this evening at Beth Israel.
And during the service, it was my privilege to read the Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation:
Presidential Proclamation -- Thanksgiving Day, 2012
On Thanksgiving Day, Americans everywhere gather with family and friends to recount the joys and blessings of the past year. This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives. As many pause to lend a hand to those in need, we are also reminded of the indelible spirit of compassion and mutual responsibility that has distinguished our Nation since its earliest days.
Many Thanksgivings have offered opportunities to celebrate community during times of hardship. When the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony gave thanks for a bountiful harvest nearly four centuries ago, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wam-pa-no-ag tribe -- a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before.
When President George Washington marked our democracy's first Thanksgiving, he prayed to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come.
And when our Nation was torn by bitterness and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln reminded us that we were, at heart, one Nation, sharing a bond as Americans that could bend but would not break.
Those expressions of unity still echo today, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country – the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve – or the providence that draws our families together this season.
As we reflect on our proud heritage, let us also give thanks to those who honor it by giving back. This Thanksgiving, thousands of our men and women in uniform will sit down for a meal far from their loved ones and the comforts of home. We honor their service and sacrifice. We also show our appreciation to Americans who are serving in their communities, ensuring their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. Their actions reflect our age-old belief that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, and they affirm once more that we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth, but from our bonds to each other.
On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2012, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together -- whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors -- and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Welcoming Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Reform Movement, to Beth Israel

As president of our congregation, it is my honor and privilege to welcome to Beth Israel, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the new head of the Union for Reform Judaism!

We at Beth Israel feel a very special affinity with Rabbi Jacobs and his family because Rabbi Jacobs is the sister of our members Ami and Bill Minteer, and uncle of their three daughters -- Allyson, Rachelle and Sophie -- who grew up in our congregation.  We welcome all the Minteers, as well as Rabbi Jacobs’ mother, Sookie Jacobs, who came in from the Desert for this occasion, and the extended Jacobs family!

Lots of members of the Jacobs and Minteer
familes attended!
Rabbi Rick Jacobs was selected to head the Union for Reform Judaism because he is a Change Agent. He has called for urgent change in the movement. In a recent ordination address, Rabbi Jacobs charged the new rabbis:
“The Jewish community stands at a crossroads. The Jewish world that you are about to lead is awash in change and challenge…. This moment in Jewish history demands bold thinking and big ideas. It’s time to reinvent the architecture of Jewish life. It’s time to cast a broad net, to explore options rather than to rule things out.”
·   Rabbi Jacobs understands synagogues. He served Westchester Reform Temple as rabbi for 20 years
·    He is deeply committed to the State of Israel and to global social justice issues.
·    In his earlier congregation, in Brooklyn Heights, R. Jacobs founded the first synagogue-based homeless shelter in NYC.
·    He grew up in Tustin in a large suburban temple.
Let me tell you, Rabbi Jacobs, a little about us: Beth Israel is at a place of peace in the house, stability and engagement.
Emily Jennewein, Rabbi Jacobs,
Hillel Executive Director Michael
Rabkin and his daughter Jolene
·       We’re the largest and oldest synagogue in Southern California, concluding our 150th anniversary.
·       A year in which we celebrated with large, inclusive events, and small, intimate, focused programs.
·       Many opportunities for our members to engage and re-engage in positive, pleasurable and meaningful ways, with other members of our congregation and with Beth Israel itself.
·       So, on that note of strength and optimism, stability, and peace in our house, we’re ready to start building our next 150 years together.

Ami Minteer and her brother,
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
So please join me in welcoming to Beth Israel Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism!

Marcie and Cantor Emeritus Shelly Merel and
Rabbi / Cantor Arlene Bernstein 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Introducing "The First 150 Years, A History of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego"

by President Emily Jennewein
Chris and I extend a warm welcome to our home to celebrate the publication and release of A Time to Remember, The First 150 Years, A History of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego.
For the last four years, many dedicated Beth Israel historians, volunteers and staff have worked to chronicle the endeavors of those early visionaries and the many others along the journey who built a thriving Jewish community in San Diego.

The nearly 150-page book is a beautifully designed and carefully researched and edited volume.  Our magnificent book is a comprehensive historical account that celebrates as many as possible of the stories of multiple generations of San Diego Jews.

For me, it has been a privilege to be intimately involved with the development of our Book and it has been a highlight of the 150th anniversary year. Everyone here today played a critical part in what was the ultimate team effort to bring this Book to fruition.

·       The Book was written and researched by the Beth Israel History Project, led by Larry Krause, Stan Schwartz and George Wise. The History Project was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award for this in 2010.  

·       Work on the project continued under the utmost care and guidance of Editor Liz Levine, with whom I have relished working closely.

·       Anna Newton has served ably as Project Coordinator

·       Steve Gould assisted with the many photos,

·       Karen Shein designed the beautiful cover.

·       And my good friend and excellent designer, Aaryn Marchisa, designed the nearly 150-page book itself.

Lesley Mills, our outstanding executive director, guided and steered the entire project. Thanks to Lesley’s foresight and the generosity of two donors, Beth Israel is able to fulfill Larry Krause’s dream to give a copy of the book to every member family. Those donors are the Scher Family and the Slayen Family.
I’d like to introduce Mary Ann Scher, who chaired the entire 150th anniversary year.  And I’d like to introduce the Executive Committee of our Beth Israel Board, who are here to demonstrate how important this Book is to our Congregation:

·       Past President Ron Simon
·       Past President Jerry Goldberg
·       Mitch Siegler
·       Meryl Maneker
·       and Meg Mandel, our President-Elect.  
We are also honored by the presence of

·       Cantor Shelly and Marcy Merel
·       Rabbi Michael Satz and Eitan
·       Rabbi Cantor Arlene Bernstein
·       Rabbi Michael Berk and Rabbi Aliza Berk.
On Rosh Hashanah morning, I look forward to proudly announcing the official publication and release of the book.

And during the High Holy Days, each member family may pick up their own copy.  The book will be available at the conclusion of the Rosh Hashanah morning service and throughout the High Holy Days at the Civic Theatre and at Beth Israel. It will be available again at Sukkot and Simchat Torah as well as at the temple office.
As you can tell, working on Beth Israel’s history book was an endeavor I enjoyed as much as anything I got to participate in this year. I feel sure that our book will endure for many future generations, and will help Beth Israel continue to serve and lead San Diego’s Reform Jewish community.


President's Remarks at Rosh Hashanah 2012

by President Emily Jennewein

L’Shana tova. I’m Emily Jennewein.  I feel privileged to be serving as president of Beth Israel – especially as we embark on the 151st year of our great synagogue.

What a year our 150th anniversary of Beth Israel has been!  I’ve heard from so many members who have loved the wealth of opportunities we’ve all had to celebrate our most momentous milestone. And that’s what the year of celebration has been all about – creating large, inclusive events, and small, intimate, focused programs – many opportunities for our members to engage and re-engage in positive, constructive, pleasurable and meaningful ways, with other members of our congregation and with Beth Israel itself.

Our 150th anniversary could not have taken place without the extraordinary leadership of Mary Ann Scher, and the countless volunteers and dedicated staff who partnered with Mary Ann to bring the entire year to life.

Our spectacular Opening Event was a happy day.  We opened the Union-Tribune that very morning and discovered Beth Israel’s anniversary, our history, and our influence on the city documented in a lengthy, front-page article.

A thousand Beth Israel members and community members attended that joyous day when we were toasted by the Mayor of San Diego and many other dignitaries.

In honor of the 150th anniversary, we were very pleased to be able to bring Yom Kippur afternoon worship back to our synagogue home last year.  After 47 years of worshiping at the Civic Theatre, I can tell you that this was a significant logistical feat.  Last year, we heard only praise, and not one complaint, about the experience of worshiping at Beth Israel. We listened to how much our members want to be able to worship at our own synagogue.  So we will repeat Yom Kippur afternoon worship at Beth Israel next week – this time on a weekday when our parking challenges and solutions will be directly tested.

Our Torah Project tied the anniversary year together in a most profound way. Hundreds of Beth Israel members scribed the 150th Anniversary Torah this year. I hope you and your family will help us welcome our new Torah to Beth Israel on Friday October 5. On that night, in addition to our new Torah, we will welcome the new President of the Union for Reform Judaism – the head of the Reform Movement – Rabbi Rick Jacobs. Our evening begins with a picnic in our lovely Sukkah in the Price Family Courtyard. Following dinner we will take the Torah on a procession around the temple and bring it to its new home in the holy ark of our Glickman-Galinson Sanctuary.

Two days later, on Simchat Torah, Sunday, October 7th, we will officially dedicate and begin reading and studying our new Torah. It will be a wondrous celebration, with joyful prayer, song, and dancing to live music in celebration of our new Torah.

The finale of our 150th year will be a spectacular Closing Gala this fall, headlined by Broadway and international film star Mandy Patinkin.  We look forward to an elegant dinner and concert, and a dazzling dessert reception on Saturday, November 17.

The 150th anniversary year has been a very special time to remember and a time to dream. As we embark on the next 150 years, our congregation truly stands on the shoulders of giants – those who had the vision and the courage to establish a small Jewish outpost in 1861. Those pioneers could not have imagined how their fledgling religious community would grow and prosper over these many years. Every member of our 1,200-family community has his or her own special Beth Israel story to tell. Our walls and our history are full of these wonderful, heart-warming stories.

Introducing Our History Book
Over the last four years, many dedicated Beth Israel historians, volunteers and staff have worked to chronicle the endeavors of those who built a thriving Jewish community in San Diego. Our resulting magnificent history book records the challenges, accomplishments and revelries of multiple generations of San Diego Jews.

The nearly 150-page book is a beautifully designed and carefully researched and edited volume. This comprehensive historical account celebrates as many as possible of the stories of 150 years of our congregation. The book is intended to advance our children and grandchildren’s sense of Jewish identity and the continuity of Judaism itself – responsibilities we take very seriously.

So, today, I am proud to announce that Beth Israel officially publishes and releases the book,  Congregation Beth Israel: The First 150 Years.

During the High Holy Days, at your convenience, each member family may pick up their own copy of Congregation Beth Israel: The First 150 Years.  The book is our gift to you, and it will be available for pickup at the conclusion of this service and again throughout the High Holy Days wherever we are worshiping, here and at Beth Israel. It will be available again at Sukkot and Simchat Torah as well as at the temple office for you to pick up your copy.

We are pleased to be able to give one copy to each member family. I hope that our book will endure for many future generations, and will help Beth Israel continue to serve and lead San Diego’s Reform Jewish community.

Commending Our Clergy and Staff
Working on Beth Israel’s history book was an endeavor I enjoyed as much as anything I got to participate in this year. It made me think about my own family and what my ancestors were engaged in in the early years of our synagogue.

I take great pride in knowing that one of my great grandfathers came to New England in 1905 from Lithuania. He came to serve the Jewish people as a rabbi, hazzan, mohel and shochet. As a boy, my great-grandfather, Samuel Wiernikoff, was sent to Odessa for religious training. When he came to the United States he first was Rabbi and Cantor of a congregation in Albany, New York, and then served a congregation in Middletown, Conn., for 25 years, before moving finally to a temple in Peabody, Mass. I’m also proud that Samuel’s wife Anna, my great grandmother, herself descended from a long line of Russian rabbis.

So it’s with particular pleasure and perhaps an enriched understanding that I’d like to commend our Senior Rabbi, Rabbi Michael Berk, for his warm, inspiring leadership. For five years, Rabbi Berk has dedicated his rabbinate at Beth Israel to stability and peace in our house. Rabbi Berk is committed to teamwork. He makes it eminently clear that he is all about partnering with lay leaders and senior staff to bring about change in a gradual, evolutionary manner.  This has been a very effective approach and he has gained our trust and the utmost respect of our congregation.
It’s been more than a year since Cantor Arlene Bernstein was ordained as a rabbi, a year in which Rabbi Bernstein continued to infuse our worship with beautiful music and offer her singular personal touch to pastoral care and to teaching our many b’nai mitzvah students and adults. She continues to develop her music program by coaching our young, talented musicians, so as to cultivate the heartfelt music that is a part of all our services at Beth Israel.

We recently honored Cantor Sheldon Merel for his 60 years of serving the Jewish people as a cantor – yes Cantor Merel has been a Cantor for 60 years! Cantor Merel was a student in the second class to graduate from Hebrew Union College’s School of Sacred Music. The American Conference of Cantors this year recognized Cantor Merel – and just one other cantor – for 60 years of service. And, as well, he and Marcy this year celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Also this year, with great pleasure, we’ve promoted Rabbi Michael Satz to Associate Rabbi and renewed our relationship for three more years. Rabbi Satz works closely with families in our Preschool and Religious School and co-leads Beth Israel’s Think Tank for Family and Youth Engagement.

We are exceptionally fortunate to have a talented and skilled senior staff team including Bonnie Graff, Tammy Vener, Ava Kurnow, and Executive Director Lesley Mills, and a highly professional and dedicated support staff who work behind the scenes with a great deal of heart and soul to make our synagogue run smoothly through routine endeavors, and rise well to the new challenges we place before them regularly.

One of those new challenges is the new Beth Israel Quarterly, a brand-new and very exciting magazine concept that has just arrived in your mailboxes at home.  The Quarterly publishes articles and features that help our members connect with one another, that add value and interest to our members’ lives, and that make us all proud to be engaged with Beth Israel.

At the same time as we’re introducing the Quarterly, we’ve redesigned, renamed and re-launched e-Tidings, our weekly e-newsletter, to make it easier to read with much more visual appeal. We encourage you to subscribe online or fill out a card in the lobby today to join our list.

Not only do these initiatives keep us on the cutting edge of communications, but they save money too.

Of all the work accomplished in the past year, you should know I am extremely proud of the balanced budget the Board was able to approve for this current fiscal year.

A great deal of hard work went into finding ways to achieve a balanced budget without jeopardizing synagogue services. This was no small task, and required collaboration and careful balancing of priorities to find ways to increase income and control our expenses in order to live within our means.

Balancing our budget even in challenging economic times echoes the resourcefulness and dedication that the founders of Beth Israel drew upon.  In the early days, they built our congregation with the resources they had at hand.  Balancing our budget and building our endowment campaign are the ways that this generation will secure our future.

The Campaign for Beth Israel
Meanwhile, quietly, clergy, staff and our leadership have been hard at work on our endowment campaign, The Campaign for Beth Israel. Three esteemed Past Presidents chair our campaign – Jeff Silberman, Amy Corton and Ron Simon.

With careful research and planning, we’ve established a 20 million dollar goal for the Campaign for Beth Israel.  20 million dollars will secure Beth Israel’s financial future by building a milestone endowment fund that will allow us to continue to serve San Diego’s Reform Jewish community.

And we could not be advancing this campaign without the active involvement of Rabbi Michael Berk and Rabbi Arlene Bernstein. When we talk with those who will – and who already are – financially defining this campaign, we hear that it is our congregants’ strong connections with our clergy that solidifies our members’ commitment to Beth Israel. We are very grateful for our Rabbis’ active participation in the campaign and do not take it for granted in the least!

To date, we have commitments for more than 6 million dollars, or 30 percent of our campaign goal. We are enormously grateful to the 14 families who have made leadership gifts of 100,000 dollars and more. I am very proud to be able to tell you that our Board made early, personal commitments to the Campaign – 100 percent of our board committed pledges. We are off to a great start but there’s much more work to do. And I hope that when we come to you, to explain the Campaign in greater detail, you will listen carefully, and participate, too, to the best of your ability.

Going forward, Beth Israel will benefit from strong lay leadership, continuity and stability. I look forward to working throughout the coming year with Meg Mandel, who is president-elect and will become our president next May. Meg serves on our Board and Executive Committee, she chairs our Development Committee, and you will recall she was one of the chairs of our Opening Event last year.

So, on that note of strength and optimism, stability, and peace in our house, let us now start building the next 150 years together. Future generations of San Diego Jews are depending on us.
I wish each of you a sweet and good new year.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tribute to the Men’s Club at Men's Club Shabbat 2012

It is my honor to celebrate Shabbat with the Men’s Club and to thank you for your many contributions to the life of our congregation.

Beth Israel’s Board of Directors is guided by the wisdom of Men’s Club President Ben Schneider, Men’s Club Past President Bob Metz and Men’s Club member Alan Haubenstock, all of whom are present this evening.

Beth Israel is flourishing.  Throughout our 150th year, many congregants have re-bonded with Beth Israel in meaningful ways. And it’s been my pleasure to participate in many of the Men’s Club’s important contributions to the success Beth Israel is enjoying. I’d like to mention just two of these many contributions.

First, all year long, under the leadership of George Wise, and many others, the Men’s Club conducted Forum 150, which featured fascinating monthly speakers.  I think I’ve enjoyed attending Forum 150 as much as anyone has, and I’ve learned a great deal from hearing the excellent speakers you’ve brought here!

Second, another highlight of the year has been the development of our History Book – A Time to Remember, The First 150 Years, A History of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego. The Book, which all members will receive, was written and researched by the Beth Israel History Project, led by Larry Krause, Stan Schwartz and George Wise.

In 2010, Beth Israel was proud to award our Volunteer of the Year Award to the History Project – which, as you know, grew from its origins as a Men’s Club project. There was no group more deserving of being Volunteers of the Year than the participants in this project including Ernie Abbit, Jay Harris, Jim Malkus, Bob Metz, Ben Schneider, Ben Weinbaum, David Schlafman, Sallye Krause, Jerry Levy, and many others.

I’m pleased to tell you that work on the Book project continued throughout this year under the utmost care and guidance of Editor Liz Levine. Many others played a part in bringing the Book to life and it is going to be a fabulous tribute to teamwork when the Book comes out and the whole congregation gets to appreciate the results.

Forum 150 and the Book are just two examples of the great work conducted by the Men’s Club. I thank you for making Beth Israel such a good place for men and for all the rest of us. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Volunteers of the Year: Buddy Voit and Heidi Gantwerk

I’d now like to invite Buddy Voit and Heidi Gantwerk to join me at the podium. No one exemplifies the values of an outstanding volunteer better than Buddy and Heidi.  And in fact, Beth Israel really is the second home for both of you.  This may be the first time that two spouses of previous Volunteers of the Year are being named Volunteers of the Year! 

Buddy Voit
At Beth Israel, Buddy plays guitar and song leads at High Holy Day family services. He works with the clergy, organizes the logistical aspects and leads the music of the High Holy Day family services. Buddy joined the Chai Band when it was formed in 2003 and has been playing at Shabbat and Soul Food services, b’nai mitzvah and Beth Israel events ever since. Buddy accompanies the youth choir when they rehearse every Sunday morning. And he taught Confirmation class for us in the 1980s.

Buddy practiced as a CPA until 1992, was later the CFO of two healthcare companies, and is now a partner in Accretive Services of San Diego.

Buddy’s participation in Jewish life began at home where his parents were active in synagogue life and leadership. His mother, Gerry Voit, served on the URJ board for 25 years. As a child, Buddy spent summers as a camper and then song leader at URJ camps; as a teen Buddy held leadership positions; as an adult, he taught in religious schools, led trips to Israel and helped to form a Jewish day school. Buddy is on the board of Camp Mountain Chai.
Buddy is married to Diane, a third-generation member of Beth Israel and a Volunteer of the Year in 2005. Their daughter Emma sings in the teen choir. Buddy’s older son, Marshall, is the inaugural Jewish Life Fellow for the Union for Progressive Judaism in Melbourne, Australia. His younger son, Aaron, recently returned from volunteering with Jewish World Service in El Salvador.

We are very privileged to honor Buddy Voit as a Volunteer of the Year at Beth Israel.

Heidi Gantwerk
Heidi Gantwerk is a dedicated Beth Israel Board member and co-chair of our Strategic Vision initiative. Heidi often sings with the Chai Band, at Friday Night Chai musical Shabbat services, at Soul Food Shabbat, and at other Beth Israel musical events such as at Daytimers and many special concerts and cabarets. She is currently co-chairing the committee for the June 2 World of Jewish Music concert. Her husband, Andy Mayer, is the pianist for the Chai Band and a 2007 Volunteer of the Year.

Heidi is Vice President of Viewpoint Learning, a La Jolla-based firm that develops dialogues for business and public policy. Her career has focused on building bridges between communities. Heidi holds a B.A. in psychology from Yale University. She and Andy have three children, Isaac, Sebastian and Gabriel, all of whom are active in our music, youth and Religious School programs.
We are most grateful for your commitment to Beth Israel as a leader and for how you beautify our worship experiences through your inspiring singing. And since it happens to be your birthday today, please allow us to sing to you, Yom Huledet Same'ach.

Thank you to Heidi and Buddy, our Volunteers of the Year!