Mensches of San Diego

Mensches of San Diego features everyday portrayals of Jewish Life in San Diego. We hit the streets and explore what our community is really about and the people who actually live here. L'Chaim Magazine wants you to get to know YOUR community. Not only will we bring you some great Mensches, but we want to hear from you, too. Send us someone you know that you'd like to see us highlight in our magazine or add to our collection of the Tribe in San Diego.

Submit your mensche here.

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MENSCHES OF SAN DIEGO

L'CHAIM is hitting the streets and bringing your fellow Jewish San Diegans to you on the go. We want to make the large city of San Diego feel a little bit smaller and more connected. If you know a Mensche, share them. Submit your nominee.

MICHAEL MANTELL

My wife and I moved to SD almost 40 years ago. I was offered a job here and we didn't hesitate to move. I'm an author, keynote speaker, Director of Transformational Behavior Coaching at Premier Fitness Camp. And, for more than 4 decades, I’ve been teaching young people, couples, families, CEO’s and professional athletes, who want to lose weight and gain health.

I've helped people explore new goals, dig out of the “rut”, open a new realm of possibly and detoxify your limiting beliefs. My life’s career has been anchored in empowering education, teaching and inspiring positivity and skill-power for achieving optimal health.

“Do what you love and the money will follow,” has been my driving motto in developing my calling. My career teaching others how to think healthier has never been a “job,” but rather a calling. The reward of teaching another how to discover the confidence they need to create the life they envision, is simple: it’s a mitzvah.

If I could sum up my life with hashtags, these would trend: #ThinkWell #FeelWell #EatWell #MoveWell #SleepWell #LiveWell

JODIE & MATT GRABER

Matt and I moved to San Diego in 2015. In both our professional and personal lives, we're involved with many organizations in an attempt to “lay down roots”, give back to our community and make a difference.  I’m the Sr. Development Manager for the Men’s Campaign at the Jewish Federation and Matt is the Director of Marketing & Communications for the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Since arriving in San Diego, we’re particularly proud of a couple of our accomplishments: I led the charge in coordinating the sold out fundraising and donor re-engagement success, which was the REP’s Ruby Reunion and Matt has broken a number of box office records, including Hershey Felder’s World Premiere of Our Great Tchaikovsky.  Additionally, we’ve joined Ohr Shalom and I’ve joined the board for Diversionary, the only LGBT theatre in our community. We are committed to making San Diego better and have found the community to be incredibly warm and welcoming.  This is especially important since we’re an inter-faith couple.  Additionally, we’ve recently applied for Honeymoon Israel and hope to be accepted since this is the last year we’ll qualify and Matt has never been to Israel. Wish us luck.

DON HARRISON

I've been a journalist since 1962, when I received my first assignment from the UCLA Daily Bruin as a cub reporter.  I then became a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and later for the Associated Press, SD Union, and LA Herald Examiner. Stepping away from journalism, I created a PR agency and helped found the Old Town Trolley of SD.  But, my heart remained in journalism.  In 1986, I began taking assignments for the SD Jewish Press-Heritage. When the Heritage chain ran into money problems, I partnered with Norman Greene and purchased the SD edition. We published for 2 years before realizing it couldn't be saved.  Trying to keep doing what I loved, I wrote a column for the SD Jewish Times, which also fell to financial burden. Almost immediately I decided to go out on a limb and create San Diego Jewish World, an online daily Jewish newspaper.  Up and running to this day. I've watched so many publications come and go, it's nice to be right where I belong and don't take a single day for granted.

LILLIAN ELBAZ

I've been inspired by dance my entire life. Studying and training in the art of dance a way to express myself. It's enabled me to connect to my roots, my community and myself. I was born and raised in Israel, with an American mother and a French father. I moved to San Diego in 2012, and am always looking for new ways to connect my two passions – Dance and Israel. So, I created a unique program called ‘TNUA’, which means "movement" in Hebrew. 'TNUA' is part of my dance company called “Art of Movement” that I founded. ‘TNUA’, fiscally sponsored by Startup18, is a program dedicated to sharing Israeli culture through movement, music, theater, and the Hebrew language. The emphasis is to connect our children to their Jewish and Israeli identity. The TNUA Israeli dance troupe performs on Israeli holidays and related events year round. We love dancing together with children of the 'Friendship Circle' who are in the special needs demographic. In addition, TNUA brings movement and Hebrew immersion to Jewish pre-schools, schools and synagogues. Our overseas program also brings popular Israeli plays for our local children, and we run vacation camps throughout the year!

YIGAL ADATO

I've recently noticed a pile of expensive amazing backpacks sitting at my house, I'm beginning to think this love of backpacks stems from longing to travel, to study and to be creative. I was born in Istanbul, Turkey and at the age of 2 my parents immigrated to the United States, landing in San Diego where we had family. I grew up here and stayed because I love being close to my family and also love the weather.  My life's dedication and ultimate career goal is to help businessmen be financially successful, physically fit, and mentally present for their families. After my father was diagnosed with Parkinsons and dementia, I began to realize that many business owners, like my father, were working without enjoying "the moment", suffering from an overwhelm feeling of imbalance between work and home life. I've dedicated my life to helping those men regain their balance so that their kids can have happy fathers -not just successful ones. Get out there and enjoy life, people!

 

GIL RIEGLER

I'm a Canadian-born, Israeli/US citizen who spearheaded the camel milk movement in the United States by founding the first ever, U.S. camel dairy right here in San Diego County (Ramona). I grew up on a farm in Rehovot, Israel, then fell in love with the gentle nature of camels while serving in the Israeli Army at a base charged with intercepting camel caravans used for smuggling and soon found myself caring for these stranded camels until they could be relocated. Eventually I relocating to San Diego County, met my wife, Nancy, and began to build my dream of owning a camel farm. Carrying on the family tradition of chemist & engineering, I formulated a camel milk skincare line called "Rare Milk". I share my love for camels with everyone. I've been on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and in many magazines. You can also see me at the San Diego County Fair as Cowboy Gil", in the very popular "Wild West Turkey Stampede".

DAISY ADATO

After my parents moved to San Diego from Istanbul, Turkey I was their first American born "flower child". Literally named after a flower; Daisy. I started my first business at age 15. It eventually evolved into a full-scale performing arts center with 2 studios and a retail store. Realizing my ultimate goal was to graduate college, I eventually sold my dance studio and enrolled in college. After graduating, I moved to NYC for a bit and danced at Broadway Dane Center. But, I loved San Diego and my family so much I was compelled to move back.
Once back, I co-founded rockpaperbrands (marketing agency). Having the freedom to take our creative marketing business on the road, exploring new places is something I want to continue for as long as possible.
It's important for me to stay connected to the Jewish community. I've been affiliated with many Jewish organizations, such as, Beth Eliyahu Torah Center, I was the former President of BOGRIM, I'm a member of BOGRIM, WIZO SD and Ken Jewish Community.

LAINA GOSSMAN

My life's work is a bit out-of-the-box. I've recently launched a very unique invention. An invention that may not effect you today, but could possibly help you significantly if you ever suffer from foot pain. I've been hand-making orthodics for over a decade. I've worked with many people with debilitating foot pain and have noted how depressing it can get for those folks. The fact of living with the idea that you are losing the ability to walk without pain & then having to trade in fashionable shoes for those bulky orthopedic shoes can make them feel that they are losing a part of themselves. So, I designed a micro-sized orthotic that is now proven to be a simple, effective solution for sandals, dress shoes, sports shoes & more. By improving foot health by way of Soul Insole, I'm empowering people to have active, healthy & happy soles & souls without sacrificing fashion or drawing attention to their very real foot problems.

SALOMON MAYA

I’ve had many "professions" at my tender age of thirty-six. My very first job was working for KPBS at the age of thirteen as a TV host for their local teen program. At nineteen I worked at a Neurosciences laboratory for UCSD, as well as an autopsy assistant for their Pathology department. To date I have assisted in over 100 autopsies. After working in that for six plus years I decided to jump into retail and headed numerous establishments’ fraud/theft departments (including two years in Beverly Hills working at the Prada Epicenter on Rodeo Drive). In 2013 I joined a firm representing Televisa in the United States and am currently their Creative Director. My passions though still revolve around performance and writing. I’m proud to be seen as an actor in theaters around the county (attached photo from San Diego Premiere of “Coyote on a Fence” at OnStage Playhouse”) and hopefully writing my 3rd full length play soon.

DAN WEISS

I was born in Mexico City. After moving around the country for many years, I settled in San Diego in 1998. I married Cheri Weiss about 5 years ago. I was an RN for 33 years and recently became a teacher of nursing at CSU San Marcos. I've been fortunate enough to be a volunteer with Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister Program. I've hosted overnight at St. Stephens homeless shelter and have volunteered my RN services in community clinics. I volunteer at JFS' HandUp Youth Food Pantry and continue to be active in my volunteering. I sing. I'm in the San Diego Jewish Men's Choir since 2008 and lend my voice to the Congregation Beth El Shirenu Chorus. I've been a member of Congregation Beth El for 12 years. I believe in Tikkun Olam and the helping others. Especially those who just need a hand. If I have a service I can offer, why not.

But, my life wasn't always filled with such volunteer efforts, I used to be a radio DJ host, LIVE and ON AIR. Those were different days than today. But, boy was that a rush.

STEPHANIE NISAN

I'm a 33 years old, San Diego native and Real Estate Broker by trade. I've been in real estate for 10 years and absolutely love everything about it. But, my real passion is rescuing dogs. In 2010, I co-founded an all-breed nonprofit dog rescue called The Animal Pad. I've saved countless lives and have rescued from all over, but mainly the streets of Tijuana. In addition to running the rescue, I'm the co-leader of the Young Leadership division of FIDF and also serve on the FIDF Board where I am still very active. You may not be able to find a more passionate person when it comes to Israel. Just so happens, I'm also Israeli.

I am also a part of the LTI group of AIPAC where I'm also a Club Member and just went to Washington D.C. for the Policy Conference. I think many people would tell you that I'm one of the most generous, caring, passionate people you will meet, who is also making a big difference in our Jewish community.

JANA MAZURKIEWICZ

I grew up in Poland, formerly the heartland of the Yiddish world. While studying in Europe and the U.S., I discovered and cultivated a passion for Yiddish theater. So much so, that I'm currently working on my PhD on Yiddish Theatre in Poland during Communism.I moved to San Diego in October 2016. I suffer from Hashimoto disease, a type of thyroid disease, so, being able to go down to the ocean every day improves my health. Coincidentally enough, there are more Yiddish speakers from Mexico here than in other cities, so it just worked out. As a Yiddishist, I am devoted to rescuing the Yiddish language and culture. I want to demonstrate that Yiddish can be revived not only in academia, but also in the arts. Some refer to Yiddish as the “rejected daughter of Jewish culture,” I disagree and believe Yiddish theater can be a fertile source of vitality for enriching contemporary Jewish life. I am determined to bring Yiddish back.

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CHAIFIVE Projects is fiscally sponsored by Tarbuton through Startup18, a social venture lab and accelerator. All donations will go through them.