Honorable Menschen




Tamara Abrams 

I’m a California native, born and raised in the South Bay, where my parents still live. Now I live in Berkeley with my life partner Carol, and our 9 1/2 year-old twin boys Eli and Max.

How do you spend your time?

After starting my law career at a large firm, doing corporate and security law, I found my true passion volunteering at a domestic violence shelter. I turned that into a career as I loved working with clients, the staff camraderie, and the feeling that we were really improving people’s lives. Now I do policy work on domestic violence issues for the California court system. Every spring, I teach a domestic violence seminar at Golden Gate University School of Law. Our boys love baseball and soccer, so our weekends revolve around youth sports. I also love hiking, walking, and being outdoors.

You’ve been a part of the Mensch Society for several years. Why do you contribute to the JCC East Bay?

The JCC East Bay is a great organization to support because it provides a broad range of programs to the Jewish community, from senior services to youth services and everything in between. And people who have different experiences of being Jewish can come to the JCC and feel welcome. I also appreciate that the organization is well managed, with strong staff and volunteer leadership.

What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home?

As a high school student I went to the former Soviet Union with my family. That was an incredible experience. Seeing what life was like for people outside the U.S. was formative for me. Given the politics at the time, I expected the Soviet Union to be a scary place. I was struck by the beautiful places we visited and by the fact that the people I met had the same desires for their lives as I did.

What books are on your nightstand? 

I just finished Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson, a true and gripping story of how two mountaineers ascended a peak in the Andes and survived against incredible odds. Now I’m reading Wherever There's a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi.




Donors and Members seed JCC Afterschool Gardens 

Last year, JCC parents and staff began planning gardens for children in both our Oakland and Berkeley Afterschool Programs. We are still raising funds to complete the ambitious vision for the Berkeley Afterschool Garden and outdoor learning space. We have identified a project coordinator to kickstart the plans and break ground in the summer.

The Oakland Afterschool Garden is flourishing, and includes vegetable beds and an outdoor classroom, which is used every day for snack and chugim (enrichment workshops). Oakland Afterschool Director Stan Berrin expresses his gratitude, “The space has truly enriched our celebration of the many harvest-based Jewish holidays, making the traditions come alive for the children in new ways. We couldn’t have done any of this without the generosity of our donors and parent volunteers. The Seeley Family Foundation gave us the seed money to launch the Oakland Afterschool Garden. Parents and children participated in several workdays to transform our outdoor space.”  

Since the garden was built, Afterschool teachers have led six sessions of garden-related chugim, including: Cooking from the Garden, Gardening through the Seasons, and Kinder-garden Chug, a gardening class for kindergartners. In the fall, we offered a popular art class entitled Watercolors of the Garden. At Chugim Fairs, everyone enjoys food that children prepared using herbs and greens from the garden, such as salads and homemade pesto. 




Toddlers Know Best 

The JCC East Bay added a Toddler Program in Berkeley on Fridays, when we celebrate Shabbat with one to two year olds and their parents/caregivers.Our Oakland Toddler Program on Mondays features a Havdallah celebration. Attendance at both sites is increasing, and we are welcoming new families to the JCC. We recently heard from new JCC member Anat Shenker that her toddler refers to the Oakland branch as “yai lai lai” (the Havdallah tune) and wakes up each morning asking, “Hoy, yai, lai, lai?” (Is it "yai, lai, lai" today?).