B’Chol Dor, in every generation Jews have heroes whose achievements we celebrate. Hanukkah’s Jewish leadership hero examples are the Maccabees. In our day, a hero is Mary Ann Malkoff, known for her warmth, caring talent and achievement.
When you meet Mary Ann, you’ll wonder how it is possible that you didn’t recognize her role in growing long-term engagement in Jewish Orange County. Mary Ann headed up the JCC at Baker Street during the planning, construction and grand opening of the Samueli Jewish Campus. As such, she was instrumental in bringing many transformative Jewish programs to Orange County.
When you ask Mary Ann about any of these programs, she quickly gives credit to her fellow leadership and agency partners. People who have worked with her tell a different story—one about her strategic planning and vision regarding our Jewish future.
Let’s examine how she got here.
Born into a Lutheran family, Mary Ann grew up in Lompoc, California. Her confirmation project was to study alternative religions, specifically Judaism. Later, she rediscovered Judaism and converted in 1987 at the University of Judaism. She became a Bat Mitzvah in 2004. She is devoted to the values of our Torah, our ideals and our mitzvot.
Mary Ann can innovate, organize and make things happen. Today she’s focused on North County.
She’s the Executive Director for Temple Beth Emet of Anaheim, a Conservative congregation with a proud sixty-year history. Together with Rabbi Joel Berman and Cantor Zev Brooks she’s renewed the vibrancy of the congregation through implementing Relational Judaism and creating a culture of welcoming.
When North County seniors faced a critical situation because The Ezra Center was going to close, Mary Ann stepped in. Utilizing management, motivational and communication skills, she kept Ezra Center open. Today Ezra Center is alive and well because of Mary Ann’s actions to support her core beliefs of tzedekah, tikkun olam and chesed.
Because Mary Ann’s efforts to enhance North County’s Jewish experience are taking hold, that only accelerates her drive.
Mary Ann is again working with Arie Katz, founder of the Community Scholar Program (CSP). She was a founding member of CSP’s and has “kvelled” during these last sixteen years as Arie has brought more than 175 Jewish speakers, teachers, educators, performers and entertainers to our community. More than thirty Jewish institutions and agencies benefit from CSP high-quality adult Jewish education.
But, the majority of the CSP programs are hosted in Central or South Orange County. Even on days with light traffic, the driving time is too long for many North County Jews. Working with Arie Katz, Mary Ann brought four synagogues together to create CSP North. CSP North will host their own speaker series rotating locations. Another example of Mary Ann spreading her love of Judaism!
So what’s next for North County? Stay tuned.
As we celebrate our Hanukkah heroes of yesteryear, we of the Orange County Jewish community are thrilled and thankful for being blessed with Mary Ann Malkoff in our day.
Jacob Weisberg is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.