Meet our Volunteer Leadership

Jewish Gateways is powered largely by our wise, creative, and dedicated volunteers. The folks below play key roles as members of Jewish Gateways' leadership body, known as the Steering Council, and in important program areas as well. 

jess_headshot.jpeg

Jessica Ann Kirkpatrick, Co-Chair

I have been involved with Jewish Gateways for many years, attending High Holiday services, taking Mussar and Anti-racism classes, and completing an adult bat mitzvah. My past volunteer activities have involved equity and inclusion work for the American Astronomical Society, UC Berkeley, and Occidental College. I currently work as a data scientist in Berkeley. I'm excited to bring my involvement in Jewish Gateways to a new level by being co-chair of the Steering Council. My focus is on increasing diversity in the identities of our members and creating new programming that will involve and support a more inclusive community.

sandy pic for bio.jpg

Sandy Warren, Co-Chair

 

My parents were Jewish but only celebrated the High Holidays. I had a bar mitzvah when I was 13. Two interesting things happened at my bar mitzvah. First, the rabbi thought I was tone deaf and made me read the prayers instead of singing them. Second, I fainted when the rabbi blessed me. He had his hands on my head. I looked up at him during the blessing. He was tall, I was short, and the blessing seemed to last forever.  

 

I grew up in a neighborhood with few Jews. My high school class had 1,000 students and about 30 were Jewish. I remember going to the local playground to play sports. Each time a shout would arise, “Here comes the Jew.” I discovered that many people did not like Jews. I also learned about the Holocaust. It made a deep impression on me that people were executed simply because they were Jewish. I decided that if people hated Jews, then I would be Jewish. I believed that I was making a positive statement. Only later did I realize that I wasn't being Jewish because of pride but because of others' hatred.

As an adult, my wife and I adopted two children from Korea. I thought it important for them to have a spiritual understanding of Judaism. My son was not circumcised and I didn’t want him to have that done at 6 months. Only one local synagogue would accept him. Although we tried that synagogue for a time we didn't feel comfortable with it.  

 

After many years of looking I gave up hope of finding a Jewish community. Then my wife signed up for a Mussar class at Jewish Gateways and loved it. She insisted we try High Holiday services. We both enjoyed them and more importantly, I felt at home in the Jewish Gateways community.

 

I joined the Community Involvement Team and loved that we start each meeting with a Jewish teaching. The team works to plan activities that that help people become more involved with and strengthen the sense of community and belonging within Jewish Gateways. As I grew to know more people in the community I appreciated their values and sense of humor. I’m still struggling to find my Jewish identity but I’m doing it in a community that has become my home.

I bring to my service as co-chair of the Steering Council my previous experience as an executive director of two nonprofit organizations and as the general manager of the Health Information Services of Hooper Holmes, Inc. Additionally, I have served on two nonprofit boards of directors, for We Care and for Community Violence Solutions.

019.JPG

Laurie Kirkpatrick

I grew up with parents of different faiths, which was highly contentious for their fundamentalist families. Nevertheless I was raised as a Reform Jew, and found real meaning and beauty in Judaism, especially through involvement with the National Federation of Temple Youth. There we incorporated poetry, philosophy, and ethics into our study, focused on social justice, and arrived at more contemporary interpretations of text. My search for a similar Jewish community took me many places before I was fortunate enough to discover Jewish Gateways. Immediately, I was home again. I’ve brought my own interfaith family here; we have benefitted greatly from the lessons, community, and spiritual growth we have received. 

I’ve retired from a career as a clinical psychologist. As chair of the Community Involvement Team at Jewish Gateways, I organize volunteer participation and work to deepen our organization-wide sense of interconnection. Please feel free to contact me if you have suggestions to make. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to give back to Jewish Gateways. This wonderful organization illuminates the wisdom of Jewish thought, provides beautiful ritual, and works to make the world a better place in an uniquely inclusive, loving way.

Gina headshot cropped.jpg

Gina Kessler Lee

I first joined the Jewish Gateways Steering Council as part of the Jewish Community Federation Fellows program, and I was thrilled to discover there was a community for “wondering and wandering” Jews like myself, one where my multiracial, interfaith family would be welcomed. 

I have been working as a college librarian for nearly a decade. I also volunteer as a youth mentor and serve on a national committee for college librarians, and until recently I served as president for my alma mater’s local alumni chapter. I have resided here on Huichin Ohlone land for most of my life and am grateful that my husband and I can now raise our children in this beautiful place too.

Screen Shot 2021-07-07 at 8.13.58 PM.png

Katie Williams

Growing up in a predominately Jewish neighborhood in New York, my family was not observant, but we strongly identified as Jewish. As a young adult, I celebrated some holidays, but after my daughter was born, I wanted her to have more exposure to Jewish tradition. I also wanted my non-Jewish husband to feel fully accepted in our Jewish community. Ultimately we found Shir Neshamah, a group of chavurot (small fellowship groups), founded and mentored by Rabbi Sholom Groesberg. We helped to start a Hebrew school and formed a chavurah under the umbrella of Shir Neshamah. We began to practice Judaism regularly, meeting in our homes and developing Jewish programing for Shabbat and holiday gatherings. We worked with other chavurot to provide High Holiday and other services and organized b’nai mitzvah services during which our children could be called to the Torah as they came of age. We learned as we went along and made lifelong connections in the process, even though our chavurah no longer continued as our children grew older.

 

Trying out various High Holiday services, I discovered Jewish Gateways and enjoyed Rabbi Bridget’s welcoming and inspirational services. I began taking classes, finding Rabbi Bridget to be an excellent teacher. For the last few years, I have been participating regularly in Torah study, made accessible and relevant, as well as Mussar (ethics from a Jewish perspective, approached in a personal way). Prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed attending occasional Shabbat dinners at participants’ homes, and since the pandemic have enjoyed a variety of online activities, including a weekly Friday evening service to welcome Shabbat.

 

I am currently retired after working as a social worker and social work supervisor for approximately 25 years. I enjoy travel and hiking. I am pleased to join the Jewish Gateways Steering Council and hope to make a meaningful contribution.

Adrianne-Bank.jpg

Adrianne Bank, Chair Emeritus of Jewish Gateways Steering Council

 

I grew up in New York City, going to an Orthodox synagogue on High Holidays, a Conservative synagogue for confirmation, and an Ethical Culture group for Israeli dancing. None of these quite satisfied my childhood quest for answers to “meaning of life” questions. In the 1980s, as part of my work in educational research for UCLA, I discovered that many Jewish adults and children had these same questions, which they felt were not being addressed by Jewish supplementary schools or synagogues.

In 1999 I moved to Berkeley with my husband Mike to join our children, and here we formed a closely-knit diverse family: multi-generational, multi-ethnic, intermarried, gay and straight, adopted and biological. Soon after, I discovered Jewish Gateways’ High Holiday services. Finally I’d found what I was looking for, a group of people interested in exploring meaning-of-life questions with the 2000 years of Jewish wisdom as a resource. Together with Rabbi Bridget we expanded Jewish Gateways into a year-round community that learns and connects and celebrates together. Though I stepped down from my role as Steering Council chair, I continue my involvement in Jewish Gateways through the Compassion and Justice Circle.