‘Dancing Through the Decades’ With Ner Tamid

by Brie Stimson March 1, 2019


virginiayehuda_shabatay-1“It’s really going to be a great time, a great party, a great way to honor really wonderful, humble members of our community and support our local Jewish community,” Marisa Connell, president of Ner Tamid’s board of trustees told me during our con- versation about the Ner Tamid’s annual gala this month.

“Dancing Through the Decades” will honor Rabbi Yehuda Shabatay and Dr. Virginia Shabatay for their decades of contributions both to Ner Tamid and the San Diego Jewish community at large. “They’re local and members of our synagogue,” Marisa said. “They’ve spent many Shabbats with us and we were looking for someone who’d contributed to the larger Jewish community, some- body who really, to us, symbolized where we’d like to go as an organization. Our mission statement is to connect Jews to Torah and to each other and so we thought that they really embodied that, and we just thought they were a great choice.”

She said traditionally they’ve honored people who had contributed meaningfully to Ner Tamid, but this year they wanted to expand it to someone who had “a little more presence in the larger community.”

Rabbi Shabatay has been a professor at San Diego State University for many years, focusing on comparative religion studies. “In fact, right now he just started a course at Ner Tamid, which is open to everyone, that’s comparing the Hebrew Bible to the Qur’an and the Christian Bible and his perspective of looking at these documents as literature.”

She says the rabbi has been voted most popular professor in his department more than once. “He has such an interesting life story, starting in Europe and being in part of Israel and coming to San Diego and bringing those life experiences with him,” Marisa said. “I think that perspective, and his sense of humor as reflected through his teaching, really is a delight to be around.”
“I think he really leaves a spark as a teacher and that’s just the rabbi,” she added. “Ginny also is a teacher and a learned scholar and she actually also just finished a four-part series of a class on Heschel at Ner Tamid, but again also open to everyone, and my impression is that they have a wide network from so many decades of involvement in Jewish life in San Diego.”

She said the theme “Dancing Through the Decades” fits with the Shabatays because they have been contributing to the community for decades. “We are a pretty low-key synagogue, and so it is going to be a very fun party. It’s going to be catered by Charles Rubin, so there’s a kosher dinner and dessert and that’s all included in your ticket price – and dancing. There will be a DJ. There’s also a few other special surprises I won’t tell you about,” she laughed.

A small group of dedicated volunteers led by gala chairperson Nancy Bergman works for months on the gala. “They’ve put in a lot of time, from organizing whatever the theme and the entertainment side of things and the party aspect of it, but also the fundraiser aspect of it and getting sponsors and getting people excited about it so they want to come,” she said. “And they sell tickets and that kind of thing as well. So it’s a pretty big job they’ve taken on.”

“It’s really a night of entertainment and fun. It’s a great night out and a wonderful opportunity to honor these members of our community,” she added.

Funds raised from the gala will go towards synagogue operations, the Hebrew school and youth programming.

The gala will be on March 16 at Ner Tamid. Go to nertamidsd.org for more information. To R.S.V.P. call 858-513-8330 or email info@ nertamidsd.org.


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