Sha’ar Zahav is shaped by its members who tirelessly dedicate time and effort to create a close-knit community that celebrates the sacred in each and every one of us. Find out a bit about the lay leaders serving on Sha’ar Zahav’s Va’ad, or Board of Directors.
In 1980, I arrived in San Francisco, davened at Sha’ar Zahav during my very first Shabbos in the City and throughout the summer, and became a member prior to Rosh Hashanah.
I was raised in a Jewish home with first generation American values. Yiddishkeit (the Jewish way of life) permeates my identity and influences my work. As a social worker, I enter into the lives of children and their families during times that are frequently painful for them, and quietly pray that our time together will initiate healing.
Mentoring b’nei mitzvah students, youths and adults, has been extraordinarily fulfilling, as we transmit Yiddishkeit together and ensure the future of Judaism. At Sha’ar Zahav I experience a community that shares my Jewish values of inclusiveness and social justice, and thrive among so many people who I greatly love and who love me dearly as well.
My CSZ objectives include sustained fiscal health and transparency, increased physical and technology-related security in harmony with our warm and welcoming ambiance, an enhanced online presence, and a safely orchestrated reopening adhering to best public health practices and science. These objectives support our preeminent goals of Torah study, sanctified service, and acts of loving kindness, which we initiate for CSZ to become a house of prayer for all people.
I seek help from HaShem and respectfully request your active support. And throughout our holy CSZ partnerships, created together to achieve these goals, the last place you could expect to find me… would be at the Mar-a-Lago Club during Winter Cotillion.
When I moved to San Francisco, I came to Sha’ar Zahav because I needed a place to go for the High Holidays. I was delighted to find a queer-identified synagogue where people could be celebrated for who they are. And, of course, my parents were thrilled that I joined a shul. What I gained over the last 20 years is a community that is there for me. The more I participate through volunteering, showing up at events and meeting new people, the more connected I feel. That’s why I am so honored to be nominated to be your President. I am excited about helping everyone in our community to find their special connection to Sha’ar Zahav, as I did. Maybe it’s baking for the oneg, co-leading services for the first time, visiting a sick member, setting up our Sukkah in Dolores Park, participating in social justice programs, joining Beit Sefer students during morning circle, or just sitting quietly at the back during services-large or small, any connection is meaningful and there is no ‘right’ way. I look forward to welcoming visitors, connecting with new members and continuing to build relationships with those I have known for years, to lead our community into what’s next. In my professional life, I work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I served as executive director of not-for-profit agencies working on environmental and women’s health issues. I’m fortune to have work that resonates with my values and to be able to pursue my other passions such as cycling.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve my congregation as a Va’ad Vice President.
I’ve been a member of Sha’ar Zahav since the early 1990s. I’ve served on the Dues, Membership, Social Action and Nominating Committees. It’s been my honor to serve on previous Va’ads with presidents Diana Bookbinder, Arthur Slepian, Ora Prochovnick, James Carlson, and Nancy Levin.
In recent years, Laura Lowe, Judith Wolfe and I have been the triumvirate running High Holy Days logistics. I have organized volunteers for our second night Passover Seder and coordinated the wonderful volunteers that normally greet you before services. I have had the blessing of being part of Sha’ar Zahav’s first Chevra Kadisha and, now, with Ricky Ralston, I’m coordinating Tech Support for our synagogue Zoom services and events. (Talk to me or Ricky about joining this essential team!)
I cherish the ways in which our community brings challenges as well as joy and inspiration to my life.
The last place you could expect to find me… is on a tourist trip to space. I’m sticking to this planet.
I joined Sha’ar Zahav around 1997, when my sons were in 4th grade and Kindergarten. The community was an important support to me through the years of their Jewish education, and through each of their b’mitzvah ceremonies. I want to do everything I can so that adults and children can continue to be nurtured in our inclusive Jewish environment.
In the early 2000s, I was an active member (and Chair) of the Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer Board. I was lucky to worked with Phyllis Mintzer and so many others as we explored Jewish education in our wonderful and diverse community.
I’ve just completed two years as CSZ Recorder, and I look forward to the next two years as a CSZ Vice President. I’m interested especially in considering how best to configure our physical space to match our community needs, and in the important work of the Environmental Justice committee. And a big part of my heart will always be in Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer.
I continue teaching ESL at (and fighting for the survival of) City College (CCSF); I also serve on the Advisory Board of Eco-Peace Middle East, and I’m always looking to support progressive values and environmental sustainability in Israel and here in the Bay Area.
The last place you could expect to find me… is the first place you might think to look.
I am honored to be nominated to serve Sha’ar Zahav as Vice President to serve with our incoming President.
I have been a member of the shul for three decades. My children (Maia -24 and Elias – 22) were born into this community and raised here. My spouse (Laurie) and I had our Great-Big-Jewish wedding in the Sha’ar Zahav tent. Our entire family has participated fully in the life of the Congregation in one way or another including the Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer, baseball Shabbat, committees, social events, and various leadership roles. I am a lawyer by trade and have many avocations that keep me amused.
I previously served for 6 years on the dues committee, 4 years as an at-large member of the Va’ad and two years as a Vice President and member of the Executive Committee (through 4 Presidents). I have mentored three B’nei Mitzvah students on their drashes with a 4th waiting in the wings. I am currently the Chair of the Building Committee and will be serving on the taskforce to reopen our building when the time is right. I love this community and can’t imagine life without it! I look forward to returning to the leadership as Vice President in this challenging moment in time, and am grateful for the opportunity.
The last place you could expect to find me … would be in an Uber.
In recognition of the commitment, dedication, and years of service of our lay leaders past and present, I am honored to step into the position of Treasurer this year.
I moved to San Francisco in 2013 from New York City, where I was an active member of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) for ten years, serving on the Middle East and Me Committee, the Retreat Planning Committee, and singing in the CBST Community Chorus. One of the highlights of my years at CBST was my first trip to Israel, a congregational trip in summer 2016 to participate in World Pride in Jerusalem. There, we met up, studied, and celebrated with a CSZ contingent including Karen Schiller and Marc Lipschutz.
I have been a member of Sha’ar Zahav for five years and have participated on occasion as a service co-leader and on the Ritual Committee. I sing with Golden Gate Men’s Chorus, and currently serve on their Board as Fundraising Chair. I have also served as Board Member and Treasurer of Discovery Community and the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area.
The bulk of my professional career has been spent running education and community engagement programs for performing arts organizations including San Francisco Opera Guild here, and back east for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on Long Island, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. I changed course a few years ago to work in resource development, first at City College of San Francisco and then at The Contemporary Jewish Museum. I began a new job this past January as Institutional Giving Manager at Glide.
In my spare time I like to cook, bake, bike, read, write, play competitive bridge, and sleep.
The last place you could expect to find me… is at Levi’s Stadium or the Levi’s Store; nothing against Levi’s but I don’t like football and only shop at discount stores (and Goodwill).
It has been a pleasure to serve on the Va’ad as an ‘at large’ member during the 2019-2020 Va’ad term; as of the start of the 2020-2021 Va’ad term, I took on the new role of Va’ad Recorder. Serving our community through joining the Va’ad and the Executive Committee has been a wonderful experience, drawing me closer to Sha’ar Zahav, and to the gifts of inspiration, resourcefulness, creativity, and resilience that are at the heart of our amazing community.
I joined Sha’ar Zahav nearly fifteen years ago. It’s been a joy to participate in different aspects of congregational life over the years. Early on, I volunteered with membership outreach and social action. In more recent years, I’ve experienced great joy from singing with other Sha’ar Zahav-niks in our vibrant Sha’ar Zahav chorus, studying collaboratively in various adult education programs and courses, and helping to plan meetings and events. I have a deep, long-standing commitment to Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer (our synagogue school), and it has been a great pleasure to serve on the Education Committee for many consecutive years.
Outside of Sha’ar Zahav, I’ve been a qualitative researcher and program evaluator in the fields of education and health care for many years, focusing in particular on reducing health disparities for LGBTQ youth and seniors, building capacity and sustainability in university-community agency partnerships, and exploring what creates and enhances resilience. I’m a huge fan of classic films, and one of my greatest pleasures – when not at Sha’ar Zahav, of course! – is enjoying a great movie and a big bucket of popcorn at the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto!
The last place you could expect to find me… is skydiving. (I have a fear of heights)
My wife Yvette and I joined Sha’ar Zahav in 2017 after attending the High Holidays for a couple of years with our friends Jane and Michael Rice. We enjoyed the High Holidays services, the friendly ambiance, and we found the prayers and the songs, to be warm and welcoming.
I am the second of 5 children from a Sephardic Jewish family from Algeria, who emigrated to France in 1961. Yvette is the only daughter of Ashkenazi Hungarian Jews who left Hungary to France in 1939. They lost all their relatives in Auschwitz.
We are not very observant, but we feel the need to belong to a welcoming Jewish Congregation where we can find the same roots and heritage as those of our respective families. As a former Executive of international companies, I will be able to help with my business experience and culture, while sharing my French and Sephardic backgrounds in cooking and drinking.
We emigrated from France to the USA in 2005 to be close to our 3 children and 4 grandchildren. Being both retired, we love traveling, cinema, and outdoor activities. California is for us our new homeland. I am fond of politics, economy and history. Yvette loves art, music, reading, and she is an amateur live theater actress.
I look forward to getting more involved in CSZ life, but the last place you could expect to find me … is singing in the CSZ choir.
I came to Sha’ar Zahav in the late 1980s and became a member in the early 1990s, when Rabbi Yoel Kahn called my husband, our daughters and me an “alternative family” (a designation that still delights us no end). Being part of Sha’ar Zahav has been central to our children’s upbringing and our family’s values.
I grew up in Manhattan culturally Jewish but not knowing much more than the Passover ritual, and I learned my aleph bet and much more at Sha’ar Zahav’s adult education classes and through volunteering at Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer. The love and support I received from my fellow-Sha’ar Zahav-niks during my mother’s illness and death showed me anew the importance of community, and how important it is to me to be part of this particular community.
I teach adult and family literacy at the Oakland Public Library and I’m active with a number of organizations fighting to protect and further progressive values and stand up for the disenfranchised, including immigrants and the formerly incarcerated. Sha’ar Zahav has helped me learn that everyone needs a community and a place where their value is realized.
The last place you could expect to find me… is a 3-way tie between a Trump rally, an all- expenses paid Las Vegas casino weekend, and shoe shopping at Manolo Blahnik.
I have been a member for 19 years and have served on the Ritual Committee and Va’ad. Currently I sit on the B’nai Mitzvah Committee, helping families plan out their B’nai Mitzvah services. I believe that building Jewish community is a worthy endeavor and hope I can bring my some of my experience from Jewish communal life and from years working in non-profits to my board tenure. I am celebrating thirty years together with my husband, Richard and enjoy spending my weekends at our little farm in Sebastopol.
Rachel Nilson Ralston
I am thrilled to be serving the Va’ad through the Federation Fellowship, which places emerging Jewish leaders with local Bay Area organizations to learn about nonprofit decision-making and community-building. This is an especially meaningful opportunity for me, since Sha’ar Zahav is also my Jewish spiritual home. I joined as a congregant in 2017 alongside my husband Ricky, because Sha’ar Zahav encompassed our values and needs. As a couple that comes from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, we needed a place where Ricky’s choice to become Jewish would be nurtured and celebrated, where our queer family and friends would be valued, and where our feminist/egalitarian expressions of spirituality would be encouraged. (We also love Rabbi Copeland, who married us in 2016!) By day, I work as the Assistant Director of San Francisco Hillel, an organization that supports Jewish student life on the college campuses across the city. It’s where I was activated as a student leader in college at San Francisco State, and where I was encouraged to pursue dialogue/conflict resolution skills relating to Israel-Palestine and build a Jewish community that reflected the beautiful diversity of Jewish peoplehood. When I’m not at Hillel, you can likely find me exploring the hiking trails of my neighborhood in Mill Valley, attempting to craft, or eating burritos with Ricky.
I fell in love with Sha’ar Zahav in 2016 when I was working at the synagogue. I realized that this community was a manifestation of its members’ deepest held values and beliefs. And, I shared them and wanted nothing more than to participate in its growth and vibrancy. Since that time, I’ve served on the Va’ad Nominating Committee, led services, gave drashes, among other ways of giving back.
Outside SZ, I work as the Associate Vice President, Hillel Grants at Hillel International, where I oversee the Hillel Talent Grants program focused on recruiting, retaining and training Hillel’s 1200 professionals. Additionally, I work across the organization’s 20 grant programs to measure impact, streamline processes and ensure a relational approach to our grant-making across the organization. Previously, I served in positions across the Jewish community including at Birthright NEXT, the Covenant Foundation, the Jewish Theological Seminary and at Sha’ar Zahav! In a lay capacity, I serve as the local Leadership Council Chair for 18Doors, an organization dedicated to the inclusion of interfaith families in the Jewish community.
In my spare time, I can be found running trails across the Bay Area and hanging out with my husband, Nathan, and our dog, Stewie.
The last place you could expect to find me… is at a chocolate factory–yes, I’m that guy who doesn’t like chocolate.
I am a relatively new member of Sha’ar Zahav, joining just less than 2 years ago. My journey to Judaism was the culmination of a ten-year process in which Sha’ar Zahav played a critical role in both welcoming me and making me feel a part of this incredible community. What excites me the most about Sha’ar Zahav is its sense of invitation and community. From the very first time I came to Sha’ar Zahav I have felt loved, supported and that I belonged.
A little about my background. I have been involved in HIV/AIDS advocacy, activism, program development, organizational development and public policy efforts for over 30 years. I currently serve on the Board of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, as an honorary trustee of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and am one of the organizers of Burrito Project SF. I was a Health Commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco as well as Special Advisor to the Mayor on AIDS/HIV Policy.
I was the beneficiary of a special Sha’ar Zahav outreach program – my now-husband Alex Ingersoll recruited me to SZ when we met on the streets of Provincetown Massachusetts. Since moving here, I’ve worked to ensure the financial vibrancy of our community – serving as Development chair most of the last 13 years as well as a prior stint on the Va’ad. I’ve also served as the past board chair of Keshet (a national organization focused on LGBT inclusion) and as treasurer of both Rhoda Goldman Plaza and Menorah Park – two senior living communities.
I hail from the thriving Jewish community of Salt Lake City, Utah. I grew up in a mixed marriage: my father was a Conservative Jew, my mother, Reform. I was active in BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth). I left “Zion” for Harvard, where I received a BA in English and Psychology. My MBA is from Boston University in marketing and finance. I bring 40 years’ experience helping nonprofit and for-profit organizations learn, grow and innovate. Current clients include social justice and Jewish organizations – most notably Jewish Family and Children’s Services.
I joined Sha’ar Zahav over 26 years ago when I married my spouse, Ann Bauman, at Sha’ar Zahav. She joined the synagogue to meet a nice Jewish girl. She found one — it just took me several years to convert to Judaism.
I started the Food Chavurah (Oneg Committee) in 2013 with Paul Cohen and served as the Chair for three years. Ann and I continue to be members of the Oneg Committee and provide food for the Onegs including our chocolate oneg that usually takes place in early January. I participated in the 2011 Strategic Plan Task Force, the Caregivers of Aging Parents Support Group and have made presentations to the Conversion classes. I am also a member of the High Holiday’s Shofar Corps and have recently agreed to be a co-chair of the East Bay Chavurah. I will be having my adult Bat Mitzvah in July 2019.
I am the immediate past president of a LGBT non-profit organization that combines scuba diving and fundraising. In addition to diving and traveling, I also like to garden. I am looking forward to deepening my connection with the Sha’ar Zahav community.
AJ Turpen Fried
My partner and I have been members of Sha’ar Zahav since 2000. Sha’ar Zahav has been the “home base” for my wife and I for nearly 19 years. It is the place where I am drawn to when I have something to celebrate (my conversion, our aufruf, and the birth of our son) and the place that I find comfort when I am experiencing a loss. Over the years I have volunteered in many capacities at Sha’ar Zahav over the years (social action committee, CEB, and BSPM). In my personal life I have done childcare/nanny work for more than 20 years, in-home care for adults, and managed an office at SFSU.