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Steve Bauman —Volunteering to Help Stop the Spread
Alex Lyon — Giving Without Hesitation
Alan Warshaw  — Leveraging an Employee Benefit to Help Others
Cherie Half and Charlie Rothschild — Cooking Up New Ways to Sustain Communities
Maroussia Brys — Recognizing and Responding to Others in Need
Dana Reed — Turning Time on Her Hands Into Handiwork for Others
Arnie Kamrin — Providing Care Kits to Families-in-Need with Children
Leslie Murveit — The Mask-e-teers
Steve Goodman — Online Survey Provides Critical Data
Avi Kaye — The Protector
Steve Levin — Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Steve Bauman — Volunteering to Help Stop the Spread

Nominated and written by Shelley Hebert

When the early news of COVID-19 began raising concerns about rapid spread of the virus, Steve Bauman began following expert medical and scientific updates from places like Johns Hopkins and Stanford University. He understood quickly that one of the most important ways to protect people would be through interrupting the chain of transmission. The process to identify, inform and educate those who have been exposed by someone who has tested positive for the virus is key to containing the pandemic.

Even before the Santa Clara County Public Health Department began recruiting volunteers, Steve reached out with an offer to contribute his time and skills. In late April, he agreed to join the first cohort of several hundred people who would be trained to do case investigation and contact tracing in our area. He soon learned that leading this effort would be Assistant Health Officer Dr. Sarah Rudman, Beth Am member and daughter-in-law of long-time Beth Am members Ric and Roberta Rudman.

The early stages of the training were a bit like building a car while driving it. Numerous databases and platforms had to be integrated, while at the same time, knowledge about the virus continued to evolve. Vitally important issues had to be resolved in real time, sometimes with feedback from volunteers and County staff who had been reassigned from other roles to be part of this massive new public health undertaking.  

Despite the challenges, Steve was inspired by the commitment he saw at every level. “Everyone you come in contact with who is working on this really wants to do the right thing and help the community,” he said. “It is the number one reason why I am finding this so rewarding.”

Steve has been working eight-hour days, three days each week for about seven weeks so far. After being notified of new cases (people who have tested positive), he begins by calling these individuals, offering guidance and trying to gain their trust to provide the names and contact information for others they may have exposed. Sharing the unfortunate news with that larger group is the next step, along with education and instructions about quarantining. For those who do not speak English, an interpreter may need to be involved.

So far, Steve has followed-up on about 50 cases. Reaching people can be difficult and there is a procedure he follows if after calling twice daily for three days, he is not able to connect with someone. He participates in regular briefings to provide the latest information that needs to be communicated to people who have tested positive.

Steve plans to continue volunteering at least through December. “It is tiring mentally, but very fulfilling,” he says. As someone who has given so much in so many ways to our community in the past, he knows that this kind of avodah is not just a day’s work — it is the work of a meaningful life.

For information and the volunteer application to assist with investigation and contact tracing, visit www.sccgov.org.

Alex Lyon — Giving Without Hesitation

Nominated by Rachel Tasch; Written by Shelley Hebert

When Beth Am’s Education Program Director Alex Lyon got the call in May telling her that she had a chance to save a life, she did not hesitate for a moment. About 15 years ago, 32-year-old Alex had registered as a potential bone marrow donor one day when she happened to see a campaign underway at a music festival. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the moment had arrived when someone who was a match for the invaluable gift she was prepared to give was ready.

All Alex was told about the person for whom she was a match was that he is a young adult in need of a bone marrow transplant. That was enough for her to agree that she would take the next steps to ensure that she was healthy enough to become a donor. After undergoing a medical exam and blood tests in Berkeley, Alex got the news that she had been cleared to proceed.  

A home health nurse came to her several days before the donation procedure and Alex began a series of injections aimed at boosting her production of white blood cells. On the day of the donation, which took place in mid-July, she was hooked up to a machine for six hours. Due to the extra precautions related to COVID-19, no one was allowed to accompany her.

“For me, it didn’t matter if I had to go through some minor aches and pains,” Alex said. “It’s nothing compared to what I’m sure he is going through.” She looks forward to hearing soon how the recipient of her bone marrow is doing and is open to the possibility of having contact with him, if he would like to be in touch with her.

Before the March shutdown, Alex had been helping with plans to hold a bone marrow registration drive at Beth Am’s annual Purim carnival. Now she has a personal experience to inspire others to register when it becomes possible to have an in-person event.

“I would do it again,” Alex said. Her spirit of generosity is a wonderful reminder that we all may have something precious to give.

For information about the organization Alex worked with to become a donor, visit the DKMS website.

Alan Warshaw  — Leveraging an Employee Benefit to Help Others

Nominated and written by Shelley Hebert

During the eight years that he has been an employee of Apple, Alan Warshaw has become very knowledgeable both about the company’s products and about how its corporate philanthropy program can increase the impact of his personal giving and volunteer time.

Like many large companies, Apple matches financial donations by employees to nonprofit organizations on an annual basis.

His active involvement between November and March in promoting participation in the World Zionist Congress elections, involving many hours of volunteer effort,  and when he has donated blood at the Stanford Blood Center, have resulted in financial contributions to the nonprofits.

The company sometimes increases the hourly contribution for volunteering time, as it did recently in relation to Martin Luther King Day. “Apple wants to encourage employees to give back and help the community,” Alan said, noting that in relation to a wide range of disaster relief emergencies (from Northern California fires to hurricanes to COVID-19) and social or civic issues (such as combating racism), specific charities are suggested to employees for their consideration.

Alan also quickly learned the process to nominate nonprofit organizations to be added to the donation eligibility list, including  Women of the Wall, Jewish Women’s Theatre and the Museum of Southern Jewish Experience. He focuses on U.S. and Israel, knowing that Apple’s international workforce will see the organizations he supports on the list.

To Alan, it is the most valuable part of the employee benefits package he receives from the company. Thanks to that perspective, his job comes with a different kind of paycheck — one with great value to the communities and causes that mean so much to him.

Cherie Half and Charlie Rothschild — Cooking Up New Ways to Sustain Communities

Written by Shelley Hebert; Nominated by Liz Vaisben

When Cherie Half realized that this year’s Poltava benefit dinners would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she knew there was more at stake than an enjoyable evening for a good cause.  As chair of the Poltava Committee for 19 years, Cherie understood that the financial assistance Beth Am provides annually to its sister congregation in Ukraine is essential for their operating expenses.

She also saw that needs were growing exponentially right here in our own community. So Cherie reached out to Charlie Rothschild, and together they cooked up an alternative to the cancelled dinners. Their goal was to help Beth Am honor its longstanding commitment to Congregation Beth Am of Poltava and raise critical support for South Bay residents impacted by the pandemic.

Charlie has been involved in the Silicon Valley chapter of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which brings together religious, civic and community organizations to address local concerns.  He knew that among its members, Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS) would be facing a huge increase in the number of people turning to its safety net support, from food to emergency financial aid to housing assistance.

Next, Cherie contacted someone she and Charlie both knew, who she describes as “a major mensch.” Ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein, president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, had visited Beth Am previously.  He quickly agreed to give a special Zoom talk that would help us raise funds both for Poltava and for Sunnyvale Community Services.

In record-setting time (just two weeks from the call to Saperstein), the Poltava Committee had mobilized with personal outreach to congregants by email and phone. On May 3, about 100 Beth Am participants joined in a special Zoom session with Ambassador Rabbi Saperstein, whose unique perspective on international Jewish life was engaging and inspiring to hear. Marie Bernard, SCS Executive Director, also spoke about critical local needs and how the organization is helping to meet them. The event raised $8,000, with proceeds split evenly between the Poltava project at Beth Am and SCS.

Now Cherie and Charlie are cooking up another idea. They realized that the successful model for this event could be replicated by other North American congregational affiliates of the World Union to continue financial support for Jewish communities around the world. At a time when in-person dinners cannot be held, they have created a new recipe for sustaining communities while nourishing the human spirit.

To learn more about other initiatives Beth Am’s Poltava funds support, such as training of rabbis from underserved countries with emerging liberal Jewish communities, visit the international page of the World Union for Progressive Judaism website.

Maroussia Brys — Recognizing and Responding to Others in Need

Written by Shelley Hebert; Nominated by Rabbi Janet Marder

Four years ago, when Maroussia Brys visited Beth Am for the first time soon after her arrival in this country, it reminded her of the Reform congregation she had been part of in Geneva, Switzerland. As she began a new job in Silicon Valley, she was looking for a Jewish community that would enhance her exploration of new horizons.

Maroussia already felt it was important to be involved in some type of volunteering. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said, adding, “It’s who I am.” So this spring as she watched news coverage of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading worldwide, she quickly realized that people here urgently need help too. As a resident of East Palo Alto, she saw long lines forming to receive donated food. In the midst of Bay Area affluence, and the assumption that anyone who really wanted to work could find a job, conditions were rapidly changing.

When Maroussia spoke to her grandmother who lives in France, she heard her express anxiety about shopping for food. As a granddaughter who is far away, she hoped that someone would be there to help her. Maroussia also decided that she wanted to be that person for others.

She quickly registered on Beth Am’s “Need Help? Want to Help?” web page, which matches congregants wanting to assist others with those in need of support. Since then, she has become one of the congregation’s active volunteers. She shops bi-weekly for a senior congregant and has provided transportation to a medical appointment for another. Through her involvement in The Orchard (Beth Am’s young adult community), she has baked and sold challah to raise funds for Second Harvest Food Bank. The Orchard members also recently helped at a food distribution center providing hundreds of meals.

Seeing the appreciative smile of an elderly person living alone, the anxiety of parents who lack money to feed their children and the distress of those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own has had a significant affect on Maroussia. “We are social animals,” she said. “We need each other.”

Dana Reed — Turning Time on Her Hands Into Handiwork for Others

Written by Shelley Hebert; Nominated by Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit

When 13-year-old Dana Reed found herself stuck at home just weeks after celebrating her Bat Mitzvah at Beth Am, she reached for a crochet hook to help pass the time. Dana had first learned to crochet when she was just five or six years old. Now with plenty of time on her hands, she soon found a way to turn her handiwork — and the unexpected availability of time — into an opportunity to help others.

Dana realized that she was producing more colorful crocheted blankets than her family could use. She considered donating her creations to an assisted living facility, but learned that this type of donation was not possible due to concerns about COVID-19. So instead Dana turned to Rabbi Jon Prosnit, who had officiated at her Bat Mitzvah, to see if he had any ideas.  

Rabbi Prosnit suggested that Dana’s beautiful blankets would be welcome at LifeMoves, a nonprofit organization that assists families who are experiencing homelessness. Beth Am volunteers had been serving a monthly breakfast at a LifeMoves shelter in San Mateo prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rabbi Prosnit recognized that now even more families would urgently need its support. In addition to physical warmth, a beautiful handmade blanket could offer the warmth of caring and compassion.

Past Beth Am Board President and LifeMoves CEO Bruce Ives has offered to deliver Dana’s blankets to LifeMoves when she is ready.  In the meantime, she has already completed two large ones, half a dozen smaller blankets for babies or toddlers to cuddle, as well as an assortment of colorful hats. More yarn has been ordered and Dana plans to keep going, adding baby caps to her inventory.  

For anyone else inspired to do something similar, Dana offers valuable advice.  “Remember to have fun with it,” she says. “It’s something you want to do, not something you have to do.”  

There is a teaching that the Hebrew letter “vav” looks like a crochet hook and that its meaning of “and” expresses connection throughout the Torah. Dana’s generous spirit and outreach to help others in need also shows that in her hands, a crochet hook has turned into a “vav.”

Arnie Kamrin — Providing Care Kits to Families-in-Need with Children

Written by Shelley Hebert; Nominated by Barbara August and Francine Ruvolo

As schools in the San Jose area shut down, thousands of low-income families also were without a critical source of meals for their children. In addition, the sudden huge increase in lost jobs and temporary layoffs among working parents greatly increased the need for urgent action to ensure access to food.

Arnie Kamrin is among those responding through a grassroots effort known as SJ SHIP Kits, which is operating out of the San Jose Amory. With the goal of assisting families-in-need with children from ages six to twelve, the group provides “care kits” to help with everyday needs. The kits include food, health items (such as hand sanitizer, thermometer and toilet paper), as well as games and puzzles for children. Each costs about $50.00 to produce.

“We have, to date, distributed over 5,000 kits in partnership with Hunger at Home,” Arnie said. He reported that there was a line of people two miles long waiting to receive a combination of groceries, prepared meals and the SHIP Kits. The goal is to increase the production of care kits to 6,500 per week.

The collaborative effort is bringing together diverse partners ranging from professional sports teams (San Jose Giants, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose Sharks) to area businesses (Adobe, Zellee, Sysco, Clif Bar), educational institutions (San Jose State University), funders (Ella Fitzgerald Foundation) and many others. SJ SHIP Kits is a nonprofit organization staffed entirely by volunteers.  “I am so grateful to be part of this project,” said Arnie.

In addition to installing refrigeration to enable storage and distribution of unused produce that would otherwise go to waste, the group is exploring ways to work with the City of San Jose and County of Santa Clara.  It hopes to support training of laid-off hourly workers with skills that would enable them to assist in testing and tracing of individuals who might become infected by COVID-19 after the current shelter-in-place order is lifted.

To learn more about SJ SHIP Kits or donate, visit sjshipkits.com. Volunteers are needed and can sign up online. The SJ SHIP mission is to provide emotional, financial and nutritional support for Santa Clara County community members whose livelihood has been negatively impacted by the state-wide Shelter in Place mandate.

Leslie Murveit — The Mask-e-teers

Written by Shelley Hebert; Nominated by Liz Vaisben

When Leslie Murveit got an email from a neighbor who was planning to make face coverings and give them to a hospital, she knew right away that she wanted to help. Not knowing how to sew, however, she quickly thought of someone else who did. Leslie’s 84-year-old friend Anita Dippery is a master quilter who was also eager to put her skills to use in these challenging times. Anita began sewing cloth face coverings at the rate of four finished items per hour.

The two later learned that cloth face coverings do not meet the standards required for hospital personnel, so Leslie realized they needed to find others who could benefit from their efforts. Another friend who is a nurse practitioner suggested that nursing homes could use this type of face covering to help limit the spread of infection. Alisa Yee quickly joined Leslie and Anita, and together they became the Three Mask-e-teers. Leslie delivers supplies that have been donated or purchased by others to Anita, picks up the finished face coverings (183 so far), packages them for shipping using online postage labels, and sends them off to Alisa, who then distributes where the face coverings are needed.

Recognizing that there could be members of the Beth Am community who would also want to make face coverings, and congregants who need them, Leslie then reached out through the newsletter. Beth Am Board member Bob Frankle saw the announcement and was eager to see Leslie’s idea implemented, with greater visibility for the project.  

Beth Am volunteers provide their own materials and are given several CDC-approved pattern options to select which style they want to make. So far, Nancy Cavillones, Jenn Bernat, Deborah Lundahl, and Nancy Rudin have signed up to sew, as well as Leslie’s friend Patti Price. Nearly all the 19 requests received to date from congregants for the washable cloth face coverings have been filled, thanks to their efforts.  Leslie also has a limited supply of one-time paper masks available for congregants.

For more information, visit betham.org/face-coverings, or email facecoverings@betham.org if you want to help. Thank you!

Steve Goodman — Online Survey Provides Critical Data

Written by Shelley Hebert

Steve Goodman, MD, PhD, is among the epidemiologists and data scientists at Stanford Medicine who have developed a national study to detect COVID-19 surges in real time and inform response efforts. Launched on April 2, the Stanford Medicine National Daily Health Survey gathers initial data using an online tool that asks participants to respond to brief questions about their health and whether they are experiencing any symptoms.

Participation offers people a way to become part of efforts to fight the pandemic on an opt-in basis, joining with others to share invaluable real-time data locally and nationwide. The sign-up process takes just two to three minutes. After that, participants receive a daily email prompt with a link that takes them directly to a friendly chatbot, who asks questions about symptoms that take only seconds to respond to.  Efforts are underway to translate the survey into multiple languages. The research team is analyzing data as it comes in, eventually combining it with local testing results.

Steve is Associate Dean of Clinical and Translational Research and Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, and Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine.

In addition to his medical and research expertise, he is an accomplished baritone who has delighted Beth Am congregants with his theatrical performances in the popular annual Purim shpiel. Steve serves on the Hillel at Stanford Board of Directors and is a treasured co-leader of prayers and singing at the Reform High Holiday services on campus.

Learn more about the Stanford Medicine National Daily Health Survey. To sign up as a participant, please visit the survey page.

Avi Kaye — The Protector

This story first appeared in Hillel Heroes, a news blog about Hillel alumni on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus:

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I am taking a leave of absence from school to work as an EMT in Colorado at DispatchHealth. The company serves as a mobile urgent care, providing medical assistance in people’s homes. We treat a wide breadth of conditions, including infections, lacerations, dehydration, breathing difficulties and much more. Our goal is to help individuals in the comfort of their own residences to avoid potential disease exposure in hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers. With increased risk from COVID-19 infection, all teams are required to wear masks for the duration of the shift and upgrade personal protective equipment for each patient contact to keep our patients, partners and ourselves as safe as possible.

“In the medical environment, I find myself consistently relying on the skills and values I have honed as a part of the community at Hillel at Stanford. In both my leadership roles at Hillel and patient care responsibilities, I require a high degree of communication, a logical, goal-oriented mindset, critical thinking skills, and most importantly, a sense of empathy. In every healthcare situation, I am guided by the Talmud teaching, “anyone who saves a life is as if he/she saved the entire world” (Sanhedrin 4:5). Each life is sacred, and I am humbled to have a small part in ensuring our society protects as many lives as possible.”

Avi Kaye is the grandson of Beth Am members Tobye and Ron (z"l) Kaye and an emergency medical technician at DispatchHealth in Denver, Colorado. He will return to Stanford University to obtain his degree in human biology after the coronavirus pandemic.

Sat, October 31 2020 13 Cheshvan 5781