By Joyell Nevins
Seventy years ago, cell phones didn’t exist, Doo Wop was on the radio, and Vietnam and Iraq were far countries on a map. It was also the year the Tifereth Israel Sisterhood was founded within the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Carlos.
The world may look a lot different now, but the Sisterhood still exists — and is still growing.
“We have managed to survive and thrive,” Membership Chair Barbara Sterling said.
The Sisterhood has about 150 members — a significant percentage of the 350 families that make up the Synagogue. It incorporates many ages and backgrounds, and in one of their clubs, men are also welcomed.
One of the reasons the members point to for the Sisterhood’s longevity is how the organization has been able to shift its focus as times and generations shift. The group’s values and beliefs have never changed, but some of its activities have.
“We’ve become more business oriented,” President Judy Stern said, noting that many women appreciate being able to use the skills they’ve gained in the workplace or school.
Those businesses are actively incorporated into the Tifereth Israel Synagogue. The Sisterhood runs “Kiddush Katerers,” which offers simple menus and catering services to members of the Synagogue. During special celebrations and rites of passage, Sisterhood volunteers pervade the kitchen, serving love and kosher delicacies.
Volunteers also run and maintain the Traditions Gift Shop, which is located in the Synagogue and open to the general public. It offers many Judaica items and gift needs such as candlesticks, Kiddush cups, Challah trays and kippot.
“[The shop] is so unique and so lovely,” Stern said.
The funds raised through those and other business endeavors get funneled back into the Synagogue. The Sisterhood has helped purchase air conditioning for the school building and a new playground for the children, covered expenses when clergy visit for Holy days, and assisted with other Synagogue needs. When the church needed a new building, the Sisterhood pledged and raised $50,000.
“As opposed to working for other kinds of Jewish organizations, where one’s efforts often produce benefits for national or international ends, working for a local Sisterhood or synagogue yields results that are immediately apparent,” Past President Gail Rice said. “I found this kind of local service particularly rewarding.”
The Sisterhood’s impact goes beyond their Synagogue walls. Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase meaning “repair of the world” and represents the Jewish value of making a difference in the world and community around you.
The Sisterhood’s Tikun Olam Club is an interfaith group open to men and women. The club’s action projects help the homeless, the hungry, and the downtrodden. Members have worked with such organizations as the Burn Institute, Jewish Family Services, San Diego Youth Services, and Angel Faces. They help in both fundraising and getting their hands dirty with service projects.
What ties all of these Tifereth Israel Sisterhood aspects together is the community and friendship that runs through it. These women have formed a tight bond that crosses common barriers.
“We help many people and we perpetuate our way of life, but the best part of sisterhood is the close friendships with the wonderful women that make up our organization,” Program Committee Chair Olga Worm said.
“You’re part of a community larger than yourself,” Stern added.
Whether it’s working in the kitchen, raising funds for homeless teens, or setting up gift shop inventory, the women just enjoy spending time together. They work with a purpose and they work in harmony. “We never use the ‘w’ word, it’s always fun!” Sterling laughed.
The Traditions Gift Shop is located within the Tifereth Israel Synagogue at 6660 Cowles Mountain Blvd. For more information about the Sisterhood, call 619-697-6001 or visit tiferethisrael.com/sisterhood.