Thank you for joining us for Jewbilee23!
It was an honor celebrating the array of Jewish expressions and stories.
Thank you to all our presenters, volunteers, attendees, team members, and donors.
Missed the event?
Check out our event video highlights!
Ready for Next Year?
It’s never too early to start thinking about Jewbilee.
Have feedback? Ideas? Would you like to participate? Please email [email protected].
Opening Remarks & Keynote Speaker, Aaron Hahn Tapper
Judaisms: A Multicultural, Multiethnic, and Multiracial Peoples
“There has never been a Jewish people, only peoples; never a Jewish identity, only identities.”
Come learn about this extraordinarily diverse community.
Breakout Session Offerings
Breakout Session 1
Presented by Ben-Gurion University’s Prof. Michal Bar-Asher Siegel.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s “Stay in a Cave” is one of the most famous stories in the Babylonian Talmud, especially since it later became the basis for the famous medieval Kabbalistic composition the Zohar. This story presents the rabbi as hiding in a cave from Roman and dedicating his time to the study of the Torah. Surprisingly, this depiction is very similar to other late antique descriptions of holy men. We shall look at these parallels with Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, a scholar of rabbinic Judaism, and discuss what they teach us about Jewish-Christian relations and how these relations shaped the rabbinic tradition in various ways.
A sense of belonging doesn’t happen by chance. Rather, it is built through deliberate actions and behaviors by everyone involved. This practical, interactive workshop will explore the myriad large and small actions that can create — or detract from — a sense of belonging. It is intended for anyone working to build a more inclusive program, organization or community. This session, led by Monica Rodriguez Kuniyoshi, is an adaptation of one presented at J Leaders, a leadership development program for Jewish young adults.
Through a traditional coffee session you will get to hear about the Jewish Ethiopian community in Israel and in Ethiopia, their traditions, the Sigd holiday, and the journey to Israel.
Eliya Charter is a teen that came from Israel to do a gap year in Yavneh Day School. Her family made Aliyah from Ethiopia in Operation Moses.
Hideouts. The Architecture of Survival in the Holocaust.
Join JSV Board Member, Shana Penn, a Jewish studies researcher and Taube Philanthropies executive director, in meeting and learning from Natalia Romik, an architect, curator, and Holocaust researcher, who has discovered unusual hiding places where Jews in Poland and Ukraine hid from the Nazis during the Holocaust: in a 650 year old oak tree, a bunker in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery, street sewers in Lvov, caves in western Ukraine, and more. Based on her research, Natalia, a recipient of Israel’s Dan David Prize, has curated a much acclaimed art exhibition that traveled through Poland in 2022. Natalia is among today’s third and fourth-generation Polish Jews and their non-Jewish colleagues, who comprise a multi-cultural milieu of curators, artists, and Holocaust researchers dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and education and to countering antisemitism. This workshop will include video and ppt presentations of Natalia’s projects together with a conversation about International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Invented in China in the 1920s, Mahjong, the strategic game with rectangular tiles, is very popular among American-Jewish players today. What is so special about the game that brings people together and captures their imagination? Join JSV’s Mahjong teacher, Sue Matthias, to find out.
Come ready to explore your identity by writing a list poem inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.” Together with Rabbi Hugh Seid-Valencia, we’ll read sections of the poem to get a sense for the list form, and then write our own list poems to verbalize our complex and composite Jewish and Jewish-adjacent identities. We’ll then have the opportunity to share something of ourselves with each other.
In this session, Julee Ogawa will share the story of her Japanese-American family’s experience in the American concentration camps during World War II and how she has learned to view this troubling personal history through the lens of Judaism. She will invite discussion on the benefits and challenges of blending different cultures to navigate difficult circumstances.
What does an Artificial Intelligence (AI) know about the Jewish experience? How does a Jewish person appear through the lens of this technology? This interactive workshop, led by Avital Meshi, invites participants to engage with a sophisticated Artificial-Intelligence model that generates images based on text prompts. Together we will come up with words that can be used as input to this system and examine the images it will generate in response. This activity aims to introduce an aspect of AI technology, invite participants to become more familiar with it, consider its potential harms and benefits, and ponder the impact it might have on our shared consciousness. (No prior experience with AI is required).
Breakout Session 2
The racial, ethnic, and religious differences among Jews within the Jewish community are many, but are more diversified and extended in the wider multicultural society in America of the 20-21st centuries.
Can “Jewish art” exist in such a multicultural society? Might modern visual Jewish artists downplay their Jewish identity, experiences and heritage so as not to seem “too Jewish”?
Together with Sigal Kletter, we will observe a few contemporary visual art works and try to decide what the term “Jewish art” means to each of us.
Hear from local Jewish, Muslim and Christian panelists who live and work in our region about the ways in which multiculturalism enriches their religious traditions in Silicon Valley.
Participants: Rabbi Hugh Seid-Valencia, Maha Elgenaidi, Reverend Ricardo Avila
This presentation examines how political apocalyptic thought has fueled and shaped antisemitism since the medieval and early modern period through today. This session will be led by José Juan Villagrana, an Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature and member of the Jewish Studies Program at San José State University.
Hailing from Chelyabinsk, Russia, Rabbi Ilana Baird has been an eye witness to the Jewish rejuvenation in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Germany, and Spain. Just returning from three humanitarian tours supporting Ukrainian refugees supplanted to Poland and Spain, this program will explore the enduring power of Jewishness within and without a homeland.
Amy Albertson will share the story of how her Jewish identity has evolved. Amy comes from a multicultural, Asian-American and Jewish-American background where she knew very little about the Jewish people and Jewish traditions. Through explorations in her young adulthood, years of campus advocacy, and journeying to Israel, Amy has become a prominent voice in the online Jewish community and now encourages other young Jews to be unapologetically Jewish, both online and in their everyday lives.
In this session, Dr. Gage Gorsky, a queer mixed Mexican-Jewish multimodal research advisor and data analyst will explore the interplay of self-identification and belonging among Jews of color, whose experiences of Judaism and racialization are inextricable. They will highlight some research findings from the Beyond the Count study, building on that data to explore critical themes in depth: intersectionality, spiritual safety, community trust, and combatting racism and all other forms of discrimination in Jewish spaces. Through this conversation, Dr. Gorsky hopes to leave the audience thinking critically about their own multifaceted identities with new ways of understanding the role they play in cultivating collective Jewish experiences where all in attendance are able to show up as their whole selves.
In this workshop, we will explore with Rabbi Nathan Roller how we can use memory and imagination to integrate our personal stories, and the stories of others into our sacred texts and practices. Using Psalm 30 as a springboard, participants will connect the text to personal memories from their lives and imagine how others may also relate to it. In the end we will create our own unique adaptation of the psalm, creating a communal mosaic from our individual stories.
Breakout Session 3
Please join Renée Benmeleh and Iris Bendahan for an enlivening participatory musical journey through the many interesting Sephardic and African musical traditions.
A panel discussion on being Jewish and non-Ashkenazi, led by Rabbi Dana Magat.
In this session, we’ll explore, together with Dr. Josh Krug the diversity of ways that Jews observe and celebrate MLK Jr. Day, and reflect on the implications.
Changes in environment, lifestyle, and Jewish life experienced by Albert Bivas, an immigrant from Egypt. Take a look at the “Refugees from Arab Countries” exhibit, outside of the room.
Why do some people carry and others “shlep?” Why do some complain and others “kvetsh?” This talk explains the structure and development of the Yiddish language, from its origins as a “fusion” of Jewish and non-Jewish languages in central Europe to its apex as the most commonly spoken language in the Jewish world to its surprising survival today as a sub-culture and language still heard from Brooklyn to Bnei-Brak (and San Jose too!). With Yankl Levitow.
The Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, Understanding and Coexistence in Jerusalem produced an unusual and thought provoking giant poster exhibition by artists from around the world. Visit the art gallery on the 2nd floor.
Aaron J. Hahn Tapper is the Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he also directs the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, the only academic program in the world formally linking these two fields. He is the author of “Judaisms: A Twenty-First-Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities” (UC Press, 2016), co-editor of two volumes, “Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions and Complexities” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and “Social Justice and Israel/Palestine: Foundational and Contemporary Events” (UT Press, 2019). He is currently writing a book on Indigenous Americans, Indigenous Australians, and the process of apologizing for genocide.
Amy Albertson is a Jewish advocate and educator from California. She comes from a multicultural, Asian-American and Jewish-American background. Through online activism, public speaking, and workshops, Amy empowers young Jews to be unapologetically Jewish, both online and in their everyday lives. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @theamyalbertson.
The Rev. Ricardo Avila received his BA in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his M.Div. from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He was called as Rector to St. Luke’s in Los Gatos in 2018. Ricardo finds joy in building community with a sense of humor. He aims to uncover divinity in the mundane and escort the secular to the altar of faith. Mostly, he frets and tries to be good. For fun, he’ll read fiction in coffee shops, take urban hikes, listen to indie music, flirt with pop culture, and plot travel adventures with William, his husband
Rabbi Ilana Baird is the Russian-Speaking Jewish Programs Manager at Jewish Silicon Valley. During her rabbinic studies, she helped young Russian-speaking Jews discover their lost Jewish heritage and culture by creating a space of inclusion, support and study in Israel. Following ordination, she founded a reform congregation to serve the new and dynamic community. Rabbi Ilana continues to help multiple communities and cultures rediscover and nurture their Jewishness even while they are supplanted from their homelands.
Renée Benmeleh is a multi-cultural vocalist/composer/instrumentalist, educator and ritual leader from Venezuela with Mediterranean ancestry. She is the founder and agile facilitator at Sound Nourishment where she leads workshops and events using mindfulness practices, vocal and movement games, and improvised melody/rhythm games, in an accepting, and caring environment that supports vocal exploration and the expression of your authentic sound. Renée is also happy to spend her time on the planet as a Drum Circle Facilitator, and a Sound Nourishment Practitioner.
Albert Bivas was born in Egypt, from parents born in Egypt. His whole extended family had to leave their country in 1956/57 as a consequence of new laws discriminating against or expelling Jews. They were dispersed to Israel, the US, Australia, England, and Brazil. They moved to France, and then settled in Strasbourg where Albert completed his education and found a job. He married an American, moved to Boston in 1981, then to Palo Alto in 1982
Maha Elgenaidi, Founder & Innovation Director, Islamic Networks Group. Maha is the author of training handbooks on outreach for American Muslims as well as training seminars for public institutions on developing cultural competency with the American Muslim community. She received an M.A. in religious studies from Stanford University and B.A in political science and economics from the American University in Cairo. She has taught classes on Islam in the modern world in universities such as the University of California at Santa Cruz, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the “Civil Rights Leadership Award” from the California Association of Human Relations Organizations, the “Citizen of the Year Award” from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and the “Dorothy Irene Height Community Award” from the NAACP-Silicon Valley. She’s currently an advisor for the CA Commission on Police Officers Standards and Training (POST), a member of the Council of Advisors for the Freedom Forum that helps shape American views on the First Amendment; the County of Santa Clara’s Hate Crimes Task Force; and, the Ethnic Studies Committee of ARUSD in San Jose, CA.
Gage Gorsky is a queer mixed Mexican Jewish multimodal research advisor and data analyst who uses a range of methodologies to explore intersections of identity and the phenomenon of social categorization, with a focus on liminal and marginal experiences. Their inquiry bridges social science themes, with expertise and experience doing research spanning disciplines (education, history, statistics, feminist and queer theories, psychology, and identity development). Their recent work explores the dynamic expression of intersectional Jewish identity, including collaborations with the Jews of Color Initiative, where they helped lead “Beyond the Count,” the largest ever study of Jews of Color, as well as with other Jewish organizations across the United States.
Sigal Kletter, originally from Israel, has lived in the Bay area for over 30 years. She is an educator with experience in different Jewish institutions, including leading tours at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) as a docent.
Dr. Josh Krug is the Director of Jewish Life and Learning at Kehillah Jewish High School.
Yankl Levitow has taught the Yiddish language at Stanford University for over 15 years and at UC Santa Cruz for almost as long, in addition to classes at local synagogues for non-university students. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, in a “mixed” family — half Yiddish-speaking and half not. He received his B.A. at Stanford University and Ph. D. at Princeton University and has attended Yiddish educational programs around the world.
Rabbi Dana Magat became Temple Emanu-El’s Senior Rabbi in July 1999. Before his ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1993, he earned his MAHL from HUC-LA in 1991, he earned a Masters in Education from the Fingerhut School of Education at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles in 1988. Rabbi Magat is a senior fellow of American Leadership Forum of Silicon Valley, class 24 and is active in the community as a Senior Fellow. He helped to create an interfaith leader’s group for ALF.
Sue Matthias grew up in Springfield, Ohio. Moved to LA in 1960, and now lives in San Jose. Retired Grade School Teacher, Retired Business System Analyst. Favorite hobbies/times: Play Piano (Played at Nordstroms and Filoli), Reading, Knitting, Crocheting, Playing Mah Jongg (of course), mostly enjoying my family and friends!
Avital Meshi is a New Media Artist. Currently a PhD student at the Performance Studies Graduate Group at UC Davis. She holds an MFA from The Digital Art and New Media program at UC Santa Cruz, a BFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and a BSc + MSc in biology from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Meshi’s work focuses on social behavior through new technologies. She creates immersive installations and participatory performances with which viewers see themselves through the lens of New Technology. Her goal is to create spaces that provoke questions and conversations regarding our social identity in the age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
Avital was born and raised in Israel. She currently lives and works in San Jose, California.
Julee Ogawa is a Sansei (third-generation Japanese-American) who became a Jew-By-Choice in 1984. Her husband, two children, and her joined Congregation Shir Hadash in 1992. Julee became a Bat Mitzvah in 1997 (13 years after adopting Judaism). Following her retirement in 2022 as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she joined the Board of Directors at Shir Hadash as the Chair of Adult Education.
Shana Penn is Executive Director of Taube Philanthropies and a scholar-in-residence at the Graduate Theological Union’s Center for Jewish Studies, in Berkeley. Her books include the award-winning “Solidarity’s Secret: The Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland.” She has published in the SF Chronicle, The Forward, Lilith, J Weekly, among others. Shana has a Master’s degree in European Studies from Jagiellonian University in Kraków.
Monica Rodriguez Kuniyoshi is a committed lay leader, serving as a board member for J Leaders and Upstart, as well as other organizations focused on innovation and inclusion in the Jewish community. A business executive focused on leadership, she leverages her organizational development background to build high-performing teams and organizations. Monica is also a proud alum of the Wexner Heritage Program (SF ’14).
Rabbi Nathan Roller serves as the Rabbi Educator at Congregation Beth David. A graduate of the Ziegler School of Religious Studies, Rabbi Roller co-wrote With Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, the study guide to Rabbi Artson’s book God of Becoming and Relationships: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology. A passionate educator, Rabbi Roller uses theater techniques to help learners of all ages connect deeply with Jewish traditions.
Rabbi Hugh Seid-Valencia, is the Senior Director of Collaborative Leadership and Jewish Engagement at Jewish Silicon Valley. Rabbi Hugh previously served as Jewish Community Liaison for VITAS Healthcare and prior to that, spent ten years teaching Jewish Studies at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, where he served most recently as Director of Israel and Jewish Studies Curricula. He has completed both the Rabbinic Leadership Training Program and the Tikkun Middot Training Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and is an alumnus of the Mandel Executive Leadership Program. He teaches and lectures on topics including parenting, Jewish meditation, Jewish perspectives on the afterlife, ethical dilemmas in extending life, and reading and writing ethical wills.
Michal Bar-Asher Siegal is a scholar of rabbinic Judaism. Her work focuses on aspects of Jewish-Christian interactions in the ancient world and compares early Christian and rabbinic sources. She is a faculty member at the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and she was an elected member of the Israel Young Academy of Sciences. During the 2022-2023 academic year, she was the Horace Goldsmith Visiting Professor in Judaic Studies at Yale University. Her first book is Early Christian Monastic Literature and the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge University Press, 2013; winner of the 2014 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award). Her second book is Jewish-Christian Dialogues on Scripture in Late Antiquity: Heretic Narratives of the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge University Press, 2019; finalist, National Jewish Book Award, 2019).
José Juan Villagrana is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature and member of the Jewish Studies Program at San José State University. He took his Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of Racial Apocalypse: The Cultivation of Supremacy in the Early Modern World, published by Routledge in 2022. His peer-reviewed essays have appeared in journals such as the Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Sidney Journal, and Studies in Philology, as well as a recent opinion piece in Visible Magazine. Villagrana is a legally blind, low-vision scholar.
Jewbilee, a Jewish learning experience, is made possible by our sponsors: Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest SF, Encore Marketing Solutions and through support from the Koret Initiative on Jewish Peoplehood and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture.
A special thank-you to Abrahamic Alliance International, Americans for Ben-Gurion University, Congregation Beth David, Congregation Emeth, Congregation Shir Hadash, Congregation Sinai, JIMENA, JLeaders, Oshman Family JCC, PJ Library, San Jose State University, Temple Emanu-El, and Yavneh Day School for supporting the event.