Lee and Toni Leichtag established the Leichtag Foundation in following the sale of their business. Lee and Toni were lifelong entrepreneurs with a passion for innovation and for supporting talent. They believed that only with big risk comes big reward. Both born to families in poverty, Toni to a single mother, they strongly believed in helping those most in need and most vulnerable in our community.
While they supported many causes, their strongest support was for young children and the elderly, two demographics who particularly lack voice in our society. Lee and Toni were partners in every sense.
They were proud parents of Joli Ann Leichtag, of blessed memory, and enjoyed being grandparents. Lifelong Baltimoreans, Rabbi George and Alison Wielechowski and their sons, year-old Lennon and 9-year-old Gideon, are more than pursuing the good life in Southern California. Having moved to San Diego more than three years ago, they are fulfilling a lifelong dream. Most recently, George was the executive director of the San Diego-based Open Dor Project, which encourages and funds the development of new and emerging spiritual models of Jewish life around the country.
Al fresco Judaism, San Diego style, is thousands of miles from the lives they led in Maryland. As he spent time with Jewish classmates and friends and their families, he said, he came to love their history, culture, and traditions. He converted to Judaism 16 years ago. Her father was an executive director of a Conservative synagogue, and she led a fairly traditional Jewish life. Active participation in a Jewish student association at college led to a long career in the Jewish world—as director of Goucher College Hillel and, most recently, as director of development at Krieger Schechter Day school.
The Wielechowskis said that San Diego is also giving their sons an appreciation for experiencing Judaism and nature concurrently. As Lennon begins preparing for his Bar Mitzvah, he is toying with the idea of incorporating into his ceremony a serious study of Jewish values and climate change. Change came rapidly to Debbie Macdonald as she approached the half-century mark in the late s. First, seemingly out of the blue, the younger of her two sons, Josh, announced that he wanted to study for a bar mitzvah.
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But he continued to ask me to study for his bar mitzvah. So different, in fact, that Debbie wanted to have an adult bat mitzvah, and she began preparing for it soon after Josh had completed his religious studies. That woman, Nancy Kossan, now 67, a retired academic and university administrator, is not Jewish.
She was raised in a Protestant denomination. Both women, who have been together for 19 years and were married in , have found a welcoming home at Emanu-El. She and Nancy attend Shabbat services at least once a month, and have taken a number of classes there over the years, including an introduction to Judaism and Hebrew Bible courses.
Chaya is now a partner, with husband Rabbi Eric Ertel, known as Shmuely, in an year old venture called San Diego Jewish Experience, which offers religious, cultural, and educational opportunities to hundreds of local college students, most of whom are at University of California, San Diego. After high school, Chaya spent a year in Israel as part of a Conservative Jewish post-secondary program. But she quickly fell in with a group of more observant Jews and determined that she wanted to lead an Orthodox life.
Instead, he gave his blessing. Chaya and Shmuely, 42, who grew up in New Jersey to a family that subsequently embraced Orthodox Judaism, met through a matchmaker in Israel, where they continued their studies and Shmuely was ordained.
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The courtyard of their La Jolla home, on the edge of the UC San Diego campus, is ground zero for the host of Jewish experiences occurring seemingly round the clock: study groups, drop-in rap sessions, challah baking demonstrations, and Shabbat and holiday dinners. Shmuely says that he works with about students annually, some of whom he escorts to Israel on yearly Birthright trips, and Chaya estimates she prepares 10, meals each year.
It is about a relationship. Not sure.
But I have to believe as a little girl, she prayed her mother would get well. And the answer was obviously no. And yet there she was, reaching out. More than 40 years ago, Ruth Platner did something rare for the times.
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With her daughters grown and involved in their own families and careers, Ruth, unencumbered, thrived. A painter and sculptor, she devoted her life to her artwork and the enhancement of the local art scene. She continues to live in the condominium she has owned for decades and to enjoy a rich life. Born in Hamburg, Germany, Ruth was a young girl when the Nazis rose to power.
While family and friends fled the country or were shipped off to concentration and death camps, Ruth, her Jewish mother, and non-Jewish father kept a low profile in an attic apartment that her father had secured for them. They lived there throughout World War II, in constant fear of being discovered and deported.
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During that time, a number of her immediate family members were killed. After the war, Ruth resumed her studies at the Hamburg Art Institute. She also met and married a fellow Holocaust survivor, Fred Platner, the man she later divorced but with whom she stayed friendly.
Ruth cared for him at the end of his life. As she developed her own style in the United States, Ruth segued from sculpture to painting, often focusing on Jewish subjects, such as the Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, and members of her family. The free, open spirit that Ruth has come to embody is reflected in her family members—her three daughters, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild—who include people of color and of various faith traditions.
When I participate in the traditions, I appreciate the richness. Eve Rosenberg is, to use the Yiddish she so loves, a shtarke, a strong, sturdy, and resilient soul. At , Eve has the distinction of being the oldest resident of the Seacrest Village Retirement Communities in Encinitas. But after 11 years at Seacrest, whose origins date back 75 years to the San Diego Hebrew Home, Eve is also famous among residents and staff for her wit and keen intellect.
In short, her community loves her. And she is delighted to return the compliment. Everything is done with such good taste. Paradise is not the environment in which Eve spent most of her life.
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Born in Detroit to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Eve, along with her parents and sister, moved to New York during the height of the Great Depression in the early s to find work. College was out of the question, as there was no money for it, and she took whatever jobs she could find to help support her family. Eve was also fortunate, at another job, to meet the man who would become her husband: Murray Rosenberg. He was wearing his uniform [since he was a solder during World War II].
The couple had two sons after the war, the younger of whom, Jonathan, 68, is a longtime San Diego resident. Sadly, Murray, exposed to yellow fever during his military service in the Philippines, died prematurely, leaving Eve a widow for more than four decades. Instead, he gave his blessing. Chaya and Shmuely, 42, who grew up in New Jersey to a family that subsequently embraced Orthodox Judaism, met through a matchmaker in Israel, where they continued their studies and Shmuely was ordained.
The courtyard of their La Jolla home, on the edge of the UC San Diego campus, is ground zero for the host of Jewish experiences occurring seemingly round the clock: study groups, drop-in rap sessions, challah baking demonstrations, and Shabbat and holiday dinners. Shmuely says that he works with about students annually, some of whom he escorts to Israel on yearly Birthright trips, and Chaya estimates she prepares 10, meals each year. It is about a relationship. Not sure. But I have to believe as a little girl, she prayed her mother would get well.
And the answer was obviously no.
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