A Message from Our CEO

A Message from Our CEO

Soon I’ll be in my backyard, building my rickety old sukkah, laying palm fronds on its roof, trying not to kill myself with a falling beam, cursing out my clumsiness and the thorns or splinters that come my way. My sukkah-building has been the butt of family jokes for decades. But no one complains as they dine among the decorations on a beautiful autumn evening. I love Sukkot’s earthiness, the glow of Hanukkah’s candles piercing winter’s darkness, and singing until our voices give out at our Passover Seder. Each festival brings unbridled joy, celebrated in the warm company of family, friends, and community. 

Jewish Values in Action: How Youth Professionals Help Teens Thrive

Jewish Values in Action:  How Youth Professionals Help Teens Thrive

As my daughter struggled with her male peer’s aggressive and inappropriate behavior, the Jewish community publicly wrestled with the implications of women speaking up about ongoing gender-based abuse of power in organizational life. 

Opportunities for Teen Educators Abound through the Teen Initiative

Last Friday, 20 youth professionals met at the Jewish Federation of the East Bay for our Youth Mental Health First Aid training. This training filled up within hours of registration opening - proving that there is, indeed a demand for this critically important work.

Reading 'The Plot Against America' across the Bay - J.

Reading 'The Plot Against America' across the Bay - J.

The surprising success of Donald Trump's candidacy in 2016 brought a number of literary works out of the woodwork, but none so much as Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America." Roth's work of counterfactual historical fiction (sometimes known as the "What if?" genre) explores the imagined impact of aviator Charles Lindbergh's defeat of incumbent Franklin ...

High Holy Days Resources

Printable Activity Pages for Kids

Kids fidget. 
Adults fidget.
Everyone has a little trouble focusing sometimes.

Keep little hands/minds engaged with activity pages created for kids of all abilities and appropriate for all types of observance. Use at home, in the car, on an airplane or during services.  Share it. Print it. Pass it on!


Check out whats inside:

High Holy Days Opportunities for Families from Kesher

off the shelf | Three solid additions to your end-of-summer reading list

Three solid additions to your end-of-summer reading list - J.

With school about to begin and only six weeks left until the official start of autumn, it's time to get that summer reading done! Here are three new novels, each with a pronounced Jewish dimension, to consider.

off the shelf | Three connections to secret Jewish pasts

Three books about characters connecting to secret Jewish pasts - J.

For some, summer reading represents the prospect of an escapist treat to help free the mind from worries. And for others, it means finally having the time to take on a challenging book otherwise pushed aside by the demands of everyday life.

An Introduction from our CEO

An Introduction from our CEO

This time last year, we’d just concluded a strategic plan in response to an existential crisis: would we survive? And, should we?

As it turned out, our attention shifted to a different question: what matters most?  What work, outcomes, and impact, were calling us?

I reflected on how Jewish learning has affected my life.  It’s helped me to be a better husband, better father, better son, better brother, better friend, better neighbor, better citizen. It informed my life with joy and purpose.  It helped me understand my place in the world and with whom I belong.  It provided tools with which I could discern what success and happiness mean.  It opened my eyes to the many blessings life has provided me.  It deepened my connections with and obligations to my family, community, and the world. It helped me understand what and whose story I am a part of.

In short, Jewish learning helped me understand how to live. 

The report that follows showcases our impact and explores who we are, what we do, who we serve, and who supports our work. Every section, including this one, offers an overview and an opportunity to click to dive in where your interest or curiosity is piqued.

If you find information that intrigues you, or puzzles you, or concerns you – please reach out to me by responding to this email or by phone - 415.529.3204.  We are a learning organization.  Jewish learning involves conversation.

off the shelf | Why audiences plotzed over these forgotten performers

Why audiences plotzed over these forgotten performers - J.

The passage of time is not particularly kind to performers of bygone eras, with few of us able to expound on the singers and musicians that thrilled our grandparents. Two new books profile entertainers who commanded exalted positions in the first half of ...

On the Jewish Community Library | Ernest Newbrun, D.M.D., Ph.D.

On the Jewish Community Library | Ernest Newbrun, D.M.D., Ph.D.

Times are changing and people are getting more and more information online, but if you're a novice in a field, you have a hard time knowing what's factual. At the Jewish Community Library, the librarians help guide you. As concerns programming, I'm always amazed by the caliber of speakers which is very impressive. I've never been disappointed and wish I had more time to spend there. Click image for the full story…

Major new teen initiative launches in Bay Area

Major new teen initiative launches in Bay Area - J.

In the early 1990s, Debra Sagan Massey was a young adult working as a youth director at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, and Mike Friedman was one of her teen charges. Today, 25 years later, Massey and Friedman are all grown up, and working together again - fittingly, with teens.

11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read

11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read - J.

As we mark Israel's 70th anniversary, I remain awed that a small country with a reconstructed language should produce a literature that is so rich. Below is a sampling of 11 varied titles that give a taste of Israeli literature at its best. 1. "Only Yesterday," S.Y.

‘Yiddish not spoken here’ — but my dad had a different idea

'Yiddish not spoken here' - but my dad had a different idea - J.

I grew up in Israel in a domestic war zone - a "language war" that raged between my parents. The fight was between Hebrew and Yiddish. Ours was not the only household where this war was fought. It was a struggle between the new Israel and the old diaspora, but it was very personal and quite emotional.

Shabbat @Home - a guide for families

Download and print our Shabbat @Home Guide, designed to enrich your family's experience of Jewish life, including the celebration of Shabbat.

Throughout the ages, Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) has been celebrated in countless ways. This guide includes many traditions and customs but you won’t nd the words “should” or “ought to” in these pages. We hope you’ll experiment with practices that help your family create a joyful and meaningful Shabbat. The Jewish community as a whole is enriched by diversity, creativity and pluralism. We believe that there is no one “right” way to celebrate Shabbat or to be Jewish

Meet JLW: Rachel Dorsey, Director of Marketing

Rachel Dorsey Headshot.jpg


What is your name, title and role at Jewish LearningWorks.  How long have you worked here?
I’m Rachel Dorsey, Director of Marketing.  I’ve worked with Jewish LearningWorks since 2013  - right when we changed from BJE to JLW.  I was originally hired as a consultant and have held several pieces of work in various configurations since then.

Where do you live and what do you like about your neighborhood/community
My family and I recently moved from Oakland to the North Bay. We’re still figuring out how our family fits in here… I’ll tell you what I miss about Oakland - every single day I would run into a friend on the street.  I stopped in my old neighborhood for 30 minutes last week on my way through and ran into a friend.  It doesn’t happen in our neighborhood yet, but I’m sure it will soon. 


Tell us a little bit about your journey - what did you do before you joined our team?
I started my career in wine marketing, focusing on “new media” content production back when Youtube, Facebook and Twitter were brand new. After a life-changing Birthright trip, I reconnected with my roots, moving into the Jewish non profit world as director of Birthright Israel NEXT in the Bay Area.  When the national organization shifted their operating model, I was offered a job directing marketing for a local bank.  I simultaneously received offers to consult.  As my consulting portfolio grew, I left the bank and hung a shingle as a business growth consultant.  Jewish LearningWorks was my first BIG client.  My relationship with JLW has grown and deepened since then.

What excites you about your work
My colleagues are brilliant.  They are creative, they are engaging and they care so deeply about our purpose: to empower educators and parents to flourish as learners and as Jews.  I love crafting a compelling message that helps our constituents imagine the impact they can have on the kids in their lives as a result of participating.  I’m especially excited for our newest initiative, Voices for Good. Created by women, for women, Voices offers two tracks.  One for emerging and one for established leaders.  I would have really benefited from the Fellowship earlier in my career and I've already benefited from the very first East Bay Salon.  I'm looking forward to the next one.

Describe a time that you really felt like you/your work made a difference
I feel incredibly lucky to sit at the intersection of everything that goes on in this busy place. I feel like I’m making a difference every day.

Our CEO with Rachel's Son, Levi

Our CEO with Rachel's Son, Levi

Describe a time that felt really challenging for you.
Since joining the team, I’ve become a mom and then became a mom of two.  Being a working parent is no joke.  Figuring out how to juggle it all and be present for it all… it’s a challenge. But in this job and in this place I’ve never had to choose who I’m going to be.  I get to bring all of me to the table.  Each facet is considered an asset, and my colleagues love my kids. That’s incredibly empowering.

Describe a time when you felt triumphant.
When we emerged from our strategic plan, our work was significantly streamlined.  We were concerned that the community might not understand our direction and might not support the choices we made.  I had the opportunity to work closely with our senior leadership to craft our communications around the transitions and when the positive kuddos rolled in…. triumph.

Tell us something that might surprise us.
In addition to my work with Jewish LearningWorks, I operate a successful business.  While I still consult for businesses and coach entrepreneurial woman, my main business (outside of JLW) is a full service film production company.  I’ve had the great fortune to produce and direct projects for Facebook, Mixbook and Whole Foods, among others.

What are you reading (and what would you like to share about it?)
It's incredibly challenging to find time to read, so I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately to maximize my drive time. BUT - my mom recommended Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl and once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.  

Officiating a wedding and being referred to as Rabbi Rachel for the rest of the night... 

Officiating a wedding and being referred to as Rabbi Rachel for the rest of the night... 

What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for my can-do attitude and my head-down work ethic.
But more than that, I want to be remembered for chesed (loving kindness).

And the time people thought I was a Rabbi.  That was pretty great.

Three generations of women artists in exhibit at Jewish Community Library

Three generations of Stanger women, lots of art, one exhibition

Barbara Stanger couldn't be happier about her upcoming art exhibition at the Jewish Community Library. Not only will her own work be on display, but it will be shown alongside art by two of her favorite women in the world: her mother and her daughter. "Just thinking about it, I'm almost in tears," she said.