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Jewish Heritage Month

As part of Union Bank Heritage Month celebrations, we are proud to sponsor the Local Heroes Awards and to honor various individuals for their positive contributions and influence they have made to the Jewish American community.

Congratulations to our 2014 Local Heroes of the Year:

        Helene Bortz and Myrice Goldberg  
        Jewish Gift Closet

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Helene Bortz and Myrice Goldberg are co-founders of San Diego’s only G'mach, known as the “Jewish Gift Closet.” The first location was in a building lent by a friend. Since then, the G'mach has grown and moved into a permanent warehouse, made possible by way of a Leichtag Foundation Grant.

G'mach is an acronym for Gemilut Chasadim or Deeds of loving-kindness. The G'mach is a place where people donate items they have no use for. They are in large Jewish communities worldwide and are usually run by private individuals who seek to collect and distribute clothing, food, toys, furniture, and any material goods and services to those in need in the community. The San Diego G'mach is unique since it also attempts to find solutions for those in need, including: professional adult mentoring and advocacy, rent subsidies, emergency cash needs, Shabbat and holiday meals, internships and youth group workshops. An emergency fund was established, in part, from a grant by the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County and from private donors and philanthropists in the Jewish community. The G'mach has served hundreds of needy families and individuals throughout the San Diego community and continues to add programs and services for those in need.

        Ed Samiljan 
        Co-founder and Board Member 
        Camp Mountain Chai 

        Watch video

Ed Samiljan is founder and treasurer of Camp Mountain Chai (CMC). In 2000, California had a number of Jewish overnight summer camps, but none specifically served the San Diego community. Mr. Samiljan believed that a shared and common Jewish summer camp experience was necessary for San Diegans. CMC opened its doors in Angelus Oaks, CA, with a small staff and 80 campers in 2006. Since then CMC has grown to serve approximately 500 campers each summer. Outside of the regular summer camp experience, Mr. Samiljan has led the organization to expand its reach beyond children by developing camps for single Jewish parents, Jewish educational weekends and intergenerational programs for grandparents and their grandchildren. Believing that no child should miss out on the camp experience, all interested families are accepted into camp regardless of their financial situation. CMC provides financial aid to the community each summer and Mr. Samiljan has created a scholarship endowment of $5 million to ensure that CMC can continue to send those in need to camp For years to come. In addition to his work with CMC, he has served as the chair of Jewish Continuity at the Jewish Federation of San Diego.

View Past Jewish Heritage Month Honorees

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