Building Utopia

What future would you like to inhabit? Elisheva Biernoff’s interactive magnet painting “The Tools Are in Your Hands” allows visitors to construct their own utopian vistas. This happens in the exhibit Work in Progress: Considering Utopia, by three artists (also including Oded Hirsch and Ohad Meromi) in conjunction with the exhibit To Build and Be Built: Kibbutz History.  At the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, through January 20, 2014 and June 2014 respectively. thecjm.org

Ya’el Tap Dance Company

It sounds like an unlikely pairing, but it works! Fusing Israeli folk dance with tap, choreographer Julie Rubin interprets Jewish prayers, blessings, traditions, and history in the dance company she founded in 2011. The Ya’el Dance Company (right) resident at The Wild Project in Manhattan, is available to travel. julie-rubin.com/yael-tap-company


Learn to be an effective advocate for issues you care about. The Women’s Action Training Project in Los Angeles will help you via five workshops: Learn to Lobby, Social Media for Advocacy, Taking Charge of Media Relations, How to Write an OpEd, and Presenting Your Message. With an eclectic list of co-sponsors —  National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles, The Jewish Women’s Conference of Southern California, American Jewish World Service, Bend the Arc, Planned Parenthood, League of Women’s Voters of Los Angeles Education Fund, the City of West Hollywood — the project is chaired by attorney and social justice advocate Sandra Fluke. To meet the goal of making advocacy skills accessible, workshops are open to all at a modest $15. reshetwomen.org/events

Find Yourself a Mentor

The American Guild of Judaic Art has launched a free Judaic Visual Arts On-Line Mentoring Program for students in grades 7 – 12 anywhere in the world. To participate in this unique opportunity: AGJA artists — over 100 professional artists celebrated for their Jewish related art — are volunteer mentors for these student artists,  at no cost. The program also embraces special-needs students. Student application deadline November 1, 2013. jewishart.org

Special Needs Inclusion

Elana Naftalin-Kelman wants to change Jewish institutions — schools, synagogues, JCCs, camps, even museums—to make them more inclusive, thus uncovering people’s strengths. Its name — Rosh Pina — comes from Psalm 118, “even ma’asu habonim haita l’rosh pina” — the stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone. In other words, the weakest, most vulnerable and most marginalized members of our community could become our cornerstone. Rosh Pina is a nonprofit that offers certification for Jewish institutions creating a more inclusive community for people with disabilities. Naftalin-Kelman is the Ruderman Fellow of the Joshua Venture Group.  joshuaventuregroup.org/2012/fellows/fellows-current/elana-naftalin-kelman#sthash.RGuFSug9.dpuf

“The Farm Bill”

This new one-act play is about a woman’s personal revolution in the halls of the United States Department of Agriculture. She finds herself in the fuzzy zone between personal comfort and civic responsibility and she “aims to make the politics of farming real and human for everyone,” says playwright and social historian Susan Dworkin (above). Four characters, 35 minutes long, the play is meant to ignite discussion, debate and laughter. Consider staging a reading! susandworkin.com

Seeking Asylum in Israel

Israel has seen an influx of asylum seekers. There are currently 57,000 refugees there who have escaped from African countries, most of them from Eritrea and Sudan, including families who survived the genocide in Darfur. The Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel — ASSAF is the Hebrew acronym — was established in 2007 by a group of activists and academics in response to their plight. Israel does not have a clear policy regarding their status and rights, and there is no official authority specifically responsible for them. ASSAF’s mission is to assist all those entering Israel in search of asylum. Programs are run by a small staff and more than 60 volunteers; some 5000 asylum seekers directly benefit each year. assaf.nfshost.com. Maya Paley in Los Angeles co-founded another organization advocating for a fair refugee-status determination process and proper treatment of African asylum-seekers in Israel. Right Now raises awareness by writing letters, making calls, and creating online petitions. asylumseekers.org

Love & Israel

For singles who think of living in Israel, there’s a new matchmaking website to help them find each other. This aliyah-oriented dating site, founded by Nefesh b’Nefesh and Saw You at Sinai, is open to Jews of all levels of observance and to native Israelis too. seeyouinisrael.com

Children of Adults with Cancer

Bringing together children whose families share the unfortunate plight of battling cancer is the goal of a project started by Adam Bendeson, a social worker whose wife Karen was sick with cancer a few years ago. “My children will not go to a sleep-away camp because if something medically happened to their mother they wouldn’t forgive me for shipping them off — at least that’s how they see it.” He envisions a day camp with three two-week sessions for kids up to age 18 starting next summer at the Suffolk Y on Long Island. Outreach activities will begin in the fall for families. Contact Diane Zamansky, dzamansky@syjcc.org, phone 631-462-9800 x 116.