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How We Got Here: Reflecting On The Past 150 Years

This course was offered in Winter/Spring, 2012.

This event on the history of the Jews of the Bay Area, is dedicated to the memory of Seymour Fromer, the Judah L. Magnes Museum's visionary co-founder.

  • Honoring Seymour Fromer (1922-2009), co-founder of the Magnes Museum with Rebecca Fromer (1928-2012), featuring a short documentary by Bill Chayes on Seymour's legacy.

  • Fred Rosenbaum: Controversies that Shook the Bay Area Jewish Community

  • The Pioneer Age (Moderator: Francesco Spagnolo)
    • Ava Kahn: The Jews Rushed In: A Multi-National Community by the Bay
    • Frances Dinkelspiel: "Our Crowd" West: The Shaping of San Francisco and its Jewish Community
    • Mary Ann Irwin: Private Charity and Public Activism: Jewish Women in San Francisco, 1855-1911

  • The Great Depression and World War II (Moderator: Stephen Dobbs)
    • Kenneth L. Kann: The Jewish Radical Experience - Petaluma and Beyond
    • Fred Rosenbaum: The Cataclysms of the 1940s: How Bay Area Jews Responsed to the Holocaust and Zionism
    • Ellen Eisenberg: To Cry Down Injustice? Bay Area Jewish Responses to the Japanese American Internment

  • From the 1960s to the Present (Moderator: Marc Klein)
    • Deborah Kaufman: Innovative Cultural Institutions
    • Dorothy Richman: Religious Innovation: House of Love and Prayer, Aquarian Minyan, and Jewish Meditation
    • Yoel Kahn: Twice Blessed and Challenged: Coming Out/In to the Jewish Community
    • David Cooper: Student and Youth Activism after 1967: Soviet Jewry, Anti-War, Dissent on Israel

  • Charlie Varon: A comic tale about grandparents, grandchildren, politics, and Jewish life in the 21st century. Varon's latest fictional monologue, part of his series about elderly Jews in San Francisco.

  • Aryae Coopersmith: From the Summer of Love to the House of Love and Prayer
  • Ellen Eisenberg: From Protest to Collaboration: California Jews and Japanese-American Internment
  • Ava Kahn: Two Women Who Changed the West: Mary Goldsmith Prag and Her Daughter Florence Prag Kahn
  • Marc Klein: From the Mid '80s Until Today: Community Controversies and How the Jewish Bulletin/J Covered Them
  • Steve Rivo: America's First Jewish Photographer Goes West
  • Gina Waldman: The Struggle for Soviet Jewry
  • Peretz Wolf-Prusan: Camp Swig: Summers of Love, Art, and Creating Jewish Identity

Please note

Pre-registration is now closed. Door admission is $35 and we cannot guarantee lunch.

Two tours of the Magnes Museum will take place - one at 10 am and another during the workshops.

This conference is followed by a unique event on February 26 in Palo Alto, Where Are We Heading: Voices in Our Community Imagining What's Next.


# Sessions
Date & time

Sunday, February 12
10:30 am - 4:00 pm

$35 at the door (no lunch)
$25 pre-registration includes lunch (vegetarian)
Session Time Days Location Instructors
Feb 12 10:30 AM–4:00 PM Sun Magnes Alla Efimova Aryae Coopersmith Ava Kahn Charlie Varon Rabbi David Cooper Deborah Kaufman Ellen Eisenberg Frances Dinkelspiel Francesco Spagnolo Fred Rosenbaum Gina Waldman Kenneth Kann Marc Klein Mary Ann Irwin Rabbi Dorothy Richman Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan Rabbi Yoel Kahn Stephen Dobbs Steve Rivo


The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

University of California, Berkeley

2121 Allston Way

Berkeley, CA 94720



Rabbi David Cooper

Rabbi David CooperRabbi David J. Cooper is the congregational rabbi of Kehilla Community Synagogue. A congregational leader, liturgist and social activist for decades, Rabbi David’s teaching concerns the interconnection and inseparability of Jewish tradition, texts and tikkun olam activism. Jewish practice is both an enhancement of our inner lives, but it is also a challenge charging us to be engaged. As the still small voice said to Elijah: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:13)

Aryae Coopersmith

Aryae Coopersmith, author of Holy Beggars: A Journey from Haight Street to Jerusalem, a memoir from inside the 1960s San Francisco spiritual revolution, co-founded Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s House of Love and Prayer in 1968. In his professional life he is Founder & CEO of the HR Forums, whose members are Silicon Valley’s human resource executives. In recognition of his lifetime of Jewish teaching and service, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has ordained him as a Jewish spiritual teacher.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances DinkelspielFrances Dinkelspiel is a journalist and the author of the bestselling Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant named Isaias Hellman Created California. A co-founder of Berkeleyside.com, a two-year old news website about Berkeley, her freelance work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Mercury News, People Magazine, and San Francisco magazine. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and has taught at UC Berkeley.

Stephen Dobbs

Stephen Mark Dobbs is a native San Franciscan who was educated at Stanford and has been a long-time student of San Francisco history, especially its Jewish story. After an academic career teaching as a professor of humanities at San Francisco State University, Dobbs began a second career in foundations and philanthropy, including Rockefeller and Getty where he was senior program officer. He is former President and CEO of the Koret Foundation and the Marin Community Foundation, and has served in executive capacities with Osher, Taube, and Grand. He currently works with several Bay Area family philanthropies.

Alla Efimova

Alla Efimova, PhD, is a curator and art historian with an interest in the visual culture of modern Jewry. She holds a PhD in Art History/Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester. A former lecturer at the University of California Berkeley’s Department of Art History, Alla has contributed many essays to art history and film journals, museum catalogs, and edited volumes. Before coming to the Judah L. Magnes Museum, Alla was Associate Curator at the University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, where she brought interdisciplinary, culturally comparative perspective to exhibitions ranging in themes from 18th-century decorative arts to contemporary media and photography.

Ellen Eisenberg

Ellen Eisenberg is the Dwight and Margaret Lear Professor of American History at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. She is the author of Jewish Agricultural Colonies in New Jersey, 1882-1920 (1995) and co-authored Jews of the Pacific Coast: Reinventing Community on America’s Edge (2009) with Ava Kahn and Bill Toll. Her monograph, The First to Cry Down Injustice? Western Jews and Japanese Removal during WWII, was a 2008 National Jewish Book Award finalist.

Mary Ann Irwin

Mary Ann Irwin teaches history at San Francisco Bay Area colleges, including Diablo Valley College, Chabot College, Laney, San Francisco State University, and California State University, East Bay. Her published works include: Robert W. Cherny, Mary Ann Irwin, and Ann Marie Wilson, eds., Women and Politics: California from the Gold Rush to the Great Depression (University of Nebraska Press, October 2011); Richard B. Rice, William A. Bullough, Richard J. Orsi, and Mary Ann Irwin, The Elusive Eden: A New History of California (4th ed.) (McGraw-Hill, September, 2011); "Sex, War, and Community Service: The Battle for San Francisco's Jewish Community Center," Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 32, Issue 1 (May 2011) (winner, National Coalition of Independent Scholars Eisenstein-DeLacy Award best article award); and "'The Air is Becoming Full of War:' Jewish San Francisco and World War I," Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 74, Issue 3 (August 2005).

Ava Kahn

Ava KahnAva F. Kahn holds a Ph.D. in history from UCSB. Upon graduation she accepted an appointment as Research Associate at the Western Jewish History Center of the Magnes Museum. Since leaving the Magnes, Kahn served as a visiting scholar at the California Studies Center, University of California, Berkeley. Her publications include: Jews of the Pacific Coast: Reinventing Community on America’s Edge (2010) co-authored; California Jews (2003, paperback 2011) co-edited; Jewish Life in the American West: Immigration, Settlement and Community (2002); Jewish Voices of the California Gold Rush: A Documentary History, 1849-1880 (2002). This year Kahn received Prinz Memorial Fellowship from the American Jewish Archives for her research on American Jewish military doctors and their families during WWI.

Rabbi Yoel Kahn

Rabbi Yoel Kahn was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and received a Ph.D. through the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. He was the rabbi of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav between 1985-1996, and has been a leader for gay visibility and rights in Reform Judaism throughout his rabbinate. He also served as the executive director the Hillel Foundation at Stanford University, and as the associate director of the JCCSF, and director of its Taube Center for Jewish Life. He is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley. His book, The Three Blessings: Boundaries, Censorship, and Identity in Jewish Liturgy, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

Kenneth Kann

Kenneth Kann is a historian who has written two books on Jewish-American history: Joe Rapoport, the Life of a Jewish Radical (Temple University Press, 1981) and Comrades and Chicken Ranchers, the Story of a California Jewish Community (Cornell University Press, 1993).

Deborah Kaufman

Deborah Kaufman is a documentary filmmaker based in Berkeley. Prior to her work in film, she was the founder and director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the first and largest of its kind in the world.

Marc Klein

Marc S. Klein is former editor and publisher of J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Klein led the weekly newspaper for close to 28 years. Under his direction, the J. earlier known as the Jewish Bulletin, became the first Jewish newspaper in America to publish its entire contents online beginning in 1995. Prior to coming to the Bulletin, he was editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia for two and a half years. Before that, Klein worked for daily newspapers and at age 30 became the youngest assistant managing editor of the former Philadelphia Bulletin. Klein and his wife live in the East Bay. They have two adult daughters.

Rabbi Dorothy Richman

Rabbi Dorothy Richman Rabbi Dorothy Richman teaches Torah throughout the Bay area. Formerly a pulpit rabbi in San Francisco at congregations Shaar Zahav and Beth Sholom, Dorothy also worked for several years at Berkeley Hillel. She has led trips for AJWS to Central and South America and Africa and is active in Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.

Steve Rivo

Steve Rivo is an award-winning documentary producer and the founder of Down Low Pictures. He has produced, directed, or written documentaries for PBS, MTV, Discovery, MSNBC, TruTV, Court TV, VH1 and independently. Over a 17-year career in non-fiction film and TV, he has received major industry honors including Emmys, Du-Pont-Columbia, Peabody, IDA, Telly and Cine Golden Eagle awards. Steve has also completed a number of film projects for non-profit groups and institutions including the American Institute of Architects, the Center for Online Judaic Studies, Columbia University, and Random House, Inc. A graduate of Columbia University, he teaches film and television in the MFA program at Hofstra University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Fred Rosenbaum

Fred Rosenbaum Fred Rosenbaum, founding director of Lehrhaus Judaica, has written four books on Bay Area Jewish history and three books on the Holocaust. He has taught numerous courses on the history of contemporary Israel at Lehrhaus and the University of San Francisco. He has been awarded the S.Y. Agnon Gold Medal for Intellectual Excellence by the Scopus Society of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators, as well as the Anne and Robert Cowan Writers’ Award for making an exceptional impact on the Bay Area by writing on Jewish themes.

Francesco Spagnolo

Francesco SpagnoloFrancesco Spagnolo (Ph.D. Hebrew University 2007) is a multidisciplinary scholar focusing on Jewish studies and music and digital media. He is the Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and a Lecturer in the Department of Music at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a host for the cultural programs of Italian National Radio (RAI) in Rome.

Charlie Varon

Charlie Varon Charlie Varon has been called “very funny” (The New Yorker), “hilarious” (The Washington Post), and “wildly entertaining” (SF Chronicle). The Chronicle has also credited Varon with “redefining the art form” of solo performance. His hit shows – all created in collaboration with David Ford – include the award-winning Rush Limbaugh in Night School (1994; revived 2004), The People’s Violin (2000), and Rabbi Sam (2009), which the Chronicle named one of the year’s 10 best plays. In 2012, Charlie collaborated with David Ford and Jeri Lynn Cohen on the 2-actor comedy Fwd: Life Gone Viral, which enjoyed critical acclaim and an extended run at The Marsh. As collaborator/director, Charlie has worked with Dan Hoyle since 2004, on his award-winning solo shows Circumnavigator, Tings Dey Happen, and The Real Americans.

Gina Waldman

Regina (Gina) Waldman was born in Libya and spent her early childhood there. When she was 19, following the 1967 War, she and her family fled under growing threat of violence from their neighbors and government (see her story at http://www.jimena.org/gw.htm. Having settled in the Bay Area, she co-founded the movement to free Soviet Jewry, acting as its Director from 1970 to 1987. Ten years ago she returned to her roots and founded JIMENA - Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. She is dedicated to the preservation of Mizrahi and Sephardi culture and history. Gina has testified before the UN about the displacement and property disenfranchisement of about one million Jews of North African and Middle Eastern countries. She has received many honors including the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award and the Woman of the Year Award from the State Assembly of California.

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan Peretz Wolf-Prusan is the Chief Program Officer and a Senior Educator at Lehrhaus Judaica. From 1975 to 1985 he was actively involved in informal education (UAHC Camp Swig) and in the creation of Jewish scribal art. From 1985 to 1990 he attended the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, receiving his MAHL and Rabbinic Ordination. From 1990 to 2010 he served Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco as Rabbi and Educator, and in 2002, he was awarded the Covenant Award as “An Exceptional Jewish Educator who has had a significant impact on others, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the transmission of Jewish knowledge, values, and identity.” At Lehrhaus since 2010, he is engaged in community education for the Bay Area, focusing on conferences, retreats, tours, the Bay Area Community Talmud Circle, and Lehrhaus Philosophy Circle, and adjunct faculty for the JFCS Holocaust Center.