JEWISHcolorado Announces Launch of New Israel Center

Jan 6, 2022

JEWISHcolorado announces the launch of a new Israel & Overseas Center designed to build a stronger and more dynamic relationship among Colorado’s Jewish community, Israel, and global Jewry. The new center will bring under one umbrella JEWISHcolorado’s existing Israel programs and add reach with the launch of new programs.

New Programs to Bolster Engagement: G2 and 248

Under the auspices of the new Israel & Overseas Center, JEWISHcolorado is launching G2, a yearlong intergenerational initiative for grandparents and their grandchildren designed to foster meaningful connections, strengthen family narratives, and explore legacies around Jewish experience. 248 is a global community action network that engages young professionals in the diaspora and Israeli communities in the adaption and replication of innovative ideas and practices.

These programs, conducted in collaboration with The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), complement JEWISHcolorado’s existing Israel programs, including a more than 20-year partnership with the Israeli communities of Ramat HaNegev, as well as programs that bring adult and teen emissaries from Israel to Colorado. JEWISHcolorado also operates the Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour, a more than 50-year-old program that takes high school students to Israel for several weeks each summer.

Jewish Educator to Head New Center

The new Center will be directed by Edina Segal, who comes to JEWISHcolorado with more than 20 years of experience in Jewish education, including her most recent post as director of Jewish Education and Family Engagement at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons. Segal spent a year living on a kibbutz and many living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In the mid-1980s, she became a founding member of Eretz magazine, which she refers to as “Israel’s National Geographic.” She moved back to the U.S. after having her daughter, and her relocation to Denver will bring her closer to her son, who now lives in Boulder.

Hartman Institute Partnership

Another program under the auspices of the Israel & Overseas Center and in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute, is Courageous Leadership: Democracy, Pluralism and a Vibrant Jewish Community. This is a series of intensive learning experiences, led by renowned educators from the Institute. Over the next several months, JEWISHcolorado will bring together community leaders to discuss how to build stronger bridges between people and organizations, understand and accommodate different perspectives within and between organizations, and catalyze the exchange of ideas as these leaders work toward a shared goal of ensuring Jewish continuity and making the community a magnet for Jewish life.

The Hartman partnership has selected two cohorts, one of key professional and rabbinic leaders from across Colorado and the second, a group of lay leaders representing a variety of affiliations and involvements in Colorado’s Jewish community. JEWISHcolorado will serve as the key convener for these important conversations.

The Courageous Leadership professional cohort includes: Rabbi Dr. Caryn Aviv, Judaism Your Way; Rabbi Joe Black and Cantor Elizabeth Sachs, Temple Emanuel;  Emily Boskoff, BBYO; Tali Brauman and Eldad Malka, IAC; Megan Burmeister, CU Hillel; Rabbi Yaakov Chaitovsky, BMHBJ; Stacey Aviva Flint, Bonai Shalom; Lily Gross, DU Hillel; Rabbi Salomon Gruenwald, HEA; Rabbi Emily Hyatt, RMRC; Rabbi Rachel Kobrin, Rodef Shalom; Mariah Kornberg, CSU Hillel; Scott Levin, ADL; Boaz Meir, JNF; Rabbi Avraham Mintz, Chabad South Metro Denver;  Rabbi Stephen Booth Nadav, Kavod; Rabbi Dani Rockoff, Denver Academy of Torah; and Dr. David Sanders, Kabbalah Experience.

The Lay Leadership Cohort includes: Diana Zeff Anderson, Elise Barish, Alyce Blum, Robin Chalecki, Josh Demby, Tal Diamant, David Fishman, Leora Joseph, Robyn Loup, Ben Lusher, Elisa Moran, Matt Most, Mark Raphaely, Lin Sunshine, and Jill Wildenberg.

Program faculty include Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Rabbi Joshua Ladon, Yossi Klein Halevi, and Dr. Tamara Mann Tweel.

From Passion to Purpose

The new Israel & Overseas Center is being funded with the single largest annual gift in JEWISHcolorado’s 75-year history: $1.5 million, from Diana Zeff Anderson and the Zeff Kesher Foundation. The mission of the Kesher Foundation is to build connections (in Hebrew, kesher) between Colorado and Israel.

Zeff Anderson is herself an alumna of the Shalom Hartman Institute for community leaders, and this major philanthropic gift reflects how her passion has become her purpose.

Zeff Anderson grew up in Denver, earned a BA in economics from Claremont Mckenna College and studied at Boston University in Israel while she pursued her Master’s degree in business. She lived, worked, and raised four children in Israel for 24 years, from 1981-2005, and she speaks fluent Hebrew. While in Israel, Zeff Anderson ran a chain of one-hour photo stores and a chain of housewares and gift stores. Both her sons and daughter-in-law served in the IDF, and they both now reside in Israel with their own children.

Upon her return to Colorado in 2005, Zeff Anderson says it was her experience of attending a JCC dinner that “really woke me up.” She continued, “I would talk to people about Israel, and it became clear that Israel wasn’t part of people’s Jewish journey anymore.” Anderson found herself confronted by growing ambivalence among Jews in the diaspora about the state of Israel. “That’s when I started thinking about what needed to happen.”

Anderson explains that “over time and all my education, I was introduced to The Jewish Agency for Israel,” for which she serves on the Board of Governors. She has also served as chair of JAFI’s Financial Resource Development Committee. Currently, she chairs the JAFI Schlichim Committee. In addition, Zeff Anderson sits on the United Israel Appeal board and on the National Council of AIPAC and chairs the AIPAC Executive Council. She also is on the Board of ADL and currently serves on the Shalom Hartman Board of Directors.

In 2014, Zeff Anderson became involved at JEWISHcolorado, and she served as the first chair of the organization’s Israel Engagement Committee. She has chaired the organization’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and its Board of Directors and been a member of the Planning and Grant Committee. Currently, she is chair of the Planned Giving Committee. Her Zeff Kesher Foundation is the lead funder of JEWISHcolorado’s adult and teen Israeli emissary programs, known by their Hebrew names, shaliach and shinshinim. She is passionate about fostering people-to-people connections among Jews around the world.

Building Bridges

“We must all act together, building bridges back to each other,” she said. “We must strengthen the ties that bind us in our Colorado Jewish community and reinforce our bonds with the people in Israel.” According to Zeff Anderson, who was born in Denver, her ancestors “hail from Lithuania via Israel. My mom was born in the U.S., and my father was Israeli. He had a huge influence on me. Being Israeli is central to who I am; I feel more Israeli than American most of the time.”

Her father Kalman Zeff was born in Magdiel, Israel. In high school, he was good friends with Ariel Sharon, a former prime minister of Israel. He almost died in 1948 while fighting for Israel’s independence, and he later named his apartment development and management company after Mount Carmel in Israel, where, as a member of Israel’s underground army, he fought for Israeli independence.

Zeff graduated from the Technion in Israel with a degree in engineering in 1951 and came to Colorado in 1953 to do graduate work. In 1956, he graduated from the University of Colorado with a Master’s degree in civil engineering. He founded Geotek Consultants in 1960, a soil and foundation engineering firm, before venturing into real estate. By the time he died in 2005, Zeff was described as the godfather of Denver apartment developers, developing and owning more than 10,000 apartments.

Zeff Anderson’s mother was Joyce Zeff, an unpretentious, humble woman whose financial gifts to Denver’s Jewish community will sustain it for many years to come. Mrs. Zeff gave a multimillion endowment gift to JEWISHcolorado and the Israel Study Tour in January 2015. For this remarkably generous couple, a single motive propelled their generosity: sharing their blessings with those less fortunate. “[Joyce Zeff] appreciated what she had and just did what needed to be done,” reported the story in the Intermountain Jewish News upon her passing.

Zeff Anderson returned to Colorado to help care for her mother. Today, she travels back and forth, continuing her work of building living bridges through partnerships and relationships that engage the people of both countries. “It’s more about strategically keeping a connected Jewish world,” said Anderson. “The bottom line is that we are a global Jewish peoplehood.”

“Our niche at JEWISHcolorado is connection. That is what I’m doing: connecting people. It’s not about me; it’s about the world. I want to serve and make things happen and have an impact. This is what I do now full time,” Anderson said. “And I would hope that with this new Center, we are able to integrate all that we are doing, so that the worldwide Jewish web is more stable and more tightly woven. At the end of the day, we become a stronger people when we understand one another better.”