How SAJAC San Diego Began
Leah Levin, First President and Founder
In 1987 The South African Jewish community was the fastest growing group in San Diego county, but newcomers were not integrating into the general community.
My concern was the loss of of a meaningful and vibrant group to the community. With this in mind I called a meeting at my house, which included concerned members of the South African community and representatives of the UJF. After much discussion it was agreed that human contact would not only speed up the absorption process, but that a community group like SAJAC would be a platform for dialog and integration with all Americans.
At our inaugural meeting at the JCC, we were overwhelmed by the 300 attendees. This initial success revealed the need for an organization where people could find support from others who had similar values and traditions and from those Americans willing to reach out to them.
The initial committee comprised Leah Levin (Chair): Celia Levy and Norman Sarkin (Membership); Ilana Silverman and Merle Datnow (Welcome); Mervyn Kodesh (Publications); Les Kacev (Advertising and Gemilut Chesed); Felicia Mandelbaum (Events); Beulah Koz (Secretary); Neville Berman (Treasurer), Leon Snaid ( Constitution); Avrille Copans; Karen Marcus, Ronnie Diamond, Michael Silverman, Barry Broomberg. The Publications Committee: Brian Marks (Editor), Linda Rosenberg, Mervyn Kodesh, Jeff Chalmers, Michael Rudnick. Inaugural Committee: Felicia Mandelbaum, Pam Berman, Glenda Kacev, Heather and Ingrid Sarkin, Helen Josephson, Rochelle Saloner, Myra Monk, Jennifer Broomberg. Peter Sacks provided the Proteas. Lang’s Laof provided Challas for our Welcome baskets. Membership Directory: Sharleen Wollach, Myron and Laura Jucha. My apologies if I have omitted anyone by name. There were many dedicated volunteers who added to the success of SAJAC, who will always have our admiration and gratitude.
Within a year SAJAC had achieved great success and had established itself as an important part of the Community. It was recognized and respected as a medium through which issues and problems of immigration were addressed.
Our Gemilut Chesed handled many calls and assisted in supporting members through a discreet network of caring and understanding people. Our First Braai attracted 450 people!! We enjoyed tennis tournaments, picnics, film screenings, meetings with Aipac and the UJF, fulfilling our commitment to the community by assisting at Super Sunday, and enjoying a night to remember – “The American Bash” – an integrated gala event. We were all there because we believed in the richness, the vibrancy and spirit of our South African heritage and all it could offer to the community that had become our home.