Jewish Federation’s OPTIONS

Teen volunteers in food pantry

Jewish Federation’s OPTIONS
Highlighting Resilience and Leadership

by Elissa Einhorn

Closing in on a year of unprecedented challenges, it seems only fitting that OPTIONS, Jewish Federation of San Diego County’s signature fundraiser for women, is celebrating “Seasons of Strength.”

Stacie Bresler-Reinstein, one of three OPTIONS Committee Co-Chairs, notes that the annual event, this year being held virtually on February 28, “is the largest community outreach and fundraising event, where women find inspiration, meaningful connections, and sisterhood.”

And while “Seasons of Strength” will highlight how Federation has addressed the challenges of Covid-19 – including raising more than $2.3 million for the San Diego Jewish Community Covid-19 Emergency Fund that kept the doors of many Jewish organizations opened and people working – it will also introduce the virtual audience of more than 600 participants to local Jewish women who have demonstrated resilience and leadership. Featured speaker Rain Pryor, the multitalented daughter of legendary comedian, Richard Pryor and Jewish dancer Shelley Bonus, will also share her experience as a Jew of Color.

OPTIONS will be the first virtual appearance for Pryor and will reference her one-woman show, “Fried Chicken and Latkes” that, for nearly 20 years, has entertained audiences of every hue about the journey of growing up Black and Jewish in 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

“This year has challenged us to reflect and see some deep-seeded issues that I have been exploring for years,” Pryor says. “Our construct of European, Ashkenazi Judaism is being torn apart in terms of my identity and all sorts of Jews coming to the table.”

Event Co-Chair Judi Gottschalk is proud to bring Pryor’s story to the San Diego community, sharing with GB Magazine, “OPTIONS gives those of us who are passionate about the work of Federation an opportunity to talk about our obligation to take care of each other, and to celebrate each other in joy. Rain’s experiences are critical to hear because they are integral to our collective Jewish story.”

Local women who will be recognized are Helene Bortz and Shoshannah Hart. Bortz, the founder of the San Diego Community G’mach Gift Closet, received financial support from the Covid-19 Emergency Fund, and Hart has been a beneficiary of several Federation programs that have allowed her to emerge as a growing young leader.

“Like Federation’s other emergency grantees, G’mach is a well-deserving organization that provides free donated items, mentoring and advocacy, meals, and youth group workshops,” explains OPTIONS Co-Chair Carla Modiano. “Federation is proud to support Helene who is filling critical needs that, in turn, helps to support our community.”

Hart, a Phoenix native who arrived to San Diego following law school, immediately began looking for Jewish community. Just five years later, and thanks to Federation programs like Shalom Baby, PJ Library, Community Connectors, and Yesod (a young leadership development program for women), Hart is well on her way to making her own unique mark on San Diego’s Jewish community.

“Growing up in Phoenix in a small Jewish community, I had to work at being Jewish,” she says. “But finding meaningful Jewish experiences is so important to who I am, that I have always been willing to do the work. It’s that important to me.”

author avatar
Esteban Villanueva