JNF holds a pre- inauguration for Lizerbram

Sol Lizerbram addresses gathering celebrating his coming elevation to the national presidency of the Jewish National Fund

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—An outdoor party at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel on Monday night celebrated San Diegan Sol Lizerbram’s approaching inauguration in November as national president of Jewish National Fund.  The organization, noted Russell Robinson, its executive director, is 115 years old and going strong.  In fact, it is in the middle of a $1 billion fundraising campaign for major projects within Israel.

San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry readies a commendation for presentation to Sol Lizerbram

Representatives of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, which in 2010 saw San Diegan Julian Josephson advance to the organization’s national presidency, and various other Jewish groups including the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, StandWithUs, and rabbis of such synagogues as Chabad of Carmel Valley and Congregation Beth Am were in attendance along with a bevy of former and present officeholders including current San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who presented a commendation honoring Lizerbram; former Congresswoman Lynn Schenk, and former State Senator Marty Block, all Democrats.

Speeches at the function generally were light and celebratory, with Lizerbram’s wife, Lauren, jokingly presented with a small tiara as the incoming first lady of the organization widely known for planting trees in Israel, as well as for such other improvement projects as water projects and a sheltered, indoor sports center for the children of Sderot, the city near Gaza which has been subjected to frequent missile attacks over the years.  A related JNF project in Sderot is a music room named for Congresswoman Schenk’s late husband, C. Hugh Friedman, who was a professor of law at the University of San Diego and a musician.

The Schenk family continues active in JNF affairs with the former congresswoman’s brother, Fred Schenk and his wife Shari set to lead a JNF mission from San Diego to Israel next April.

Joining Robinson at the pre-inaugural celebration were members of the organization’s national board of directors: Alan Abramson, David Frank, Alyse Golden Berkley, Lenny Kleinman, Sam Robinson, Civia Caroline, Toni Dusik, Myra Chack Fleisher (who is the San Diego region’s chapter president) and Jane Ottenstein, a fellow San Diegan.

Ottenstein announced that she is now a “presidential adviser” and one of the first pieces of advice she gave Sol was that in honor of Lauren soon to become first lady of JNF, he should buy her lots of new clothing and jewelry.


Lauren Lizerbram gives a “queenly” wave after being jolingly presented a first lady tiara by Sharon Freedman, JNF’s national campaign director

Lauren and Sol Lizerbram with grandchildren

To strains of “Hail to the Chief,”  Lizerbram was called to the stage.   Similar to an engagement celebration, or aufruf, candy from balloon columns created by Balloon Utopia spilled on the stage in welcome, while some members of the audience lightly tossed soft Kosher Sunkist gems at the honorees.

Lauren Lizerbram recalled that she first traveled to Israel in 1981, and that while she touched Israel, “more importantly the land of Israel touched us.” She remarked that the saplings she planted in 1981 have “joined other saplings that became a forest.”

Sol remarked upon a more recent trip when he called his grandchildren in San Diego, who asked what time it was in Israel.  “9 p.m.,” he answered.  “It’s only 11 a.m. here,” one child remarked. “Zaydie (Grandpa), you’re living in the future.”

Yes, the president-elect agreed, “I feel we are in the future,” in a country that has proven itself on the cutting edge of new technologies, a country that Zionist leader Theodor Herzl perhaps could never have imagined.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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