Dina Tanners grew up in Seattle (as Dale Nelson) and left in 1965 to attend Brandeis University, the first Washington state resident to graduate from there. She kept moving after that and life took her to South America on a Fulbright Scholarship and then to Israel, which she liked so much that she stayed for graduate school, marriage and settling on a Golan Heights kibbutz.
Israel was 'a life altering experience,' for Tanners. 'Somehow it showed me that there was a higher purpose to my life.'
But being evacuated under fire during the Yom Kippur war was a different ' and unnerving ' experience. She and her then-husband returned to the U.S.
'I had tremendous reverse culture shock coming back,' she explains, 'but I also did not want to stay in a border kibbutz.'
After two years in New Jersey the growing family (Timna was born in Israel and Avi in New Jersey) headed west and landed in northern Idaho, where Nadav was born.
'I wrote articles in the newspaper about Jewish holidays,' says Tanners. 'I taught at community college and spoke at churches and schools' about Judaism.
Because of that she found out that neo-Nazi groups were recruiting at churches. 'I went to a meeting which was the beginning of the Kootenai County Task Force on Malicious Harassment.'
She then helped found the seven-state Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment.
'We got harassment laws passed,' recalls Dina, who eventually ended up on the regional board of the ADL.
In 1980 'we started schlepping from Coeur d'Alene to Spokane for Sunday school,' she says.
Dina taught, wrote curriculum and was the volunteer librarian at Temple Beth Shalom. By 1985 the family moved there and Tanners returned to graduate school to get a degree in English as a Second Language, which she then taught Gonzaga University for 12 years.
She and her first husband had split up by 2000 when she met Howard Cockerham through JDate. Although meeting him kept her from a planned three-month sabbatical in Israel, Dina married him anyway and they just celebrated their fourth anniversary. They settled in Seattle, where Dina began working at Tree of Life Books.
Dina wasted no time in getting involved in social action. (Her level of involvement led me to think that she had been in Seattle much longer than she has.) She chairs Seattle's Partnership 2000 committee, a Jewish Agency program that helps the youth of Kiryat Malachi-Hof Ashkelon in Israel. (As noted in other JTNews features, this region is among the poorest in Israel with a large immigrant population from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union and North Africa.)
Dina and Howard have been to Israel three times as a couple and Dina has been two additional times by herself since 2002. She will return in February for a Partnership 2000 meeting. They help distribute books and tutor kids in English, among other things. The organization's current focus is on middle and high school students, with a particular emphasis in preventing high school dropouts.
Dina is also trying to start a pen-pals program between kids here and Kiryat Malachi. For information on that, or if you are interested in volunteering or visiting the town, e-mail her at Tanners47@yahoo.com. Type 'Kiryat Malachi' in your search engine for articles and photos.
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UW Hillel's Rabbi Will Berkovitz was not only surprised to receive the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence award at Hillel's international staff conference last month, he almost missed the announcement.
'It was late,' he explained from his office recently. 'The room was noisy and I was talking to a friend.' Suddenly he heard the word 'goat' and realized he was the subject. (Berkovitz once brought a live 'scapegoat' to high holiday services.)
'This competitive award is Hillel's highest honor,' says Hillel staffer Josh Miller.
Berkovitz (a recent subject of a JT Trendsetters profile in this paper) was chosen for his devotion to helping young Jewish adults experience religion and spirituality in a way that is meaningful to them ' such as petting a goat.
'We like to get students to challenge their assumptions'on how they see the world,' says Will, who will be leading a group of students and JConnect members (up to age 32) to El Salvador in the spring as part of an American Jewish World Service-sponsored trip.
What is Jewish about helping poor villagers in El Salvador?
'If I make it a Jewish trip, it will impact how they understand their Judaism,' clarifies Berkovitz. 'I can contextualize the experience through a Jewish lens, so they view themselves not only as members of the university community but the broader Jewish and global communities.
'Some students may never find meaning through celebrating Shabbat,' he continues. 'I use a broad sweep of what Torah is. I don't limit myself to classic modes, but look in corners of the tradition. We need to find methods to reach people where they are.'
'What was touching,' Berkovitz reflects about the award, 'was that it was driven by the staff here and some of the people at the international center who wrote the recommendations for me to get this.
'This is an extraordinary team of people who make it very easy for me to do my job.'