Lay Leaders

Sha’ar Zahav is shaped by its members who tirelessly dedicate time and effort to create a close-knit community that celebrates the sacred in each and every one of us. Find out a bit about the lay leaders serving on Sha’ar Zahav’s Va’ad, or Board of Directors.

Va'ad (Our Board)

Deborah Levy


I joined Sha’ar Zahav when my sons were 6 and 9. They are now 28 and 31. The community was an important support to me through the years of their Jewish education, and through each of their b’mitzvah ceremonies. My own roles in the CSZ community change over time, but Sha’ar Zahav remains both a buoy and an anchor in my life.

I want to do what I can so that children and adults of any age can continue to be nurtured in our inclusive Jewish environment – sometimes together!

Much of my engagement with our shul (synagogue) is through social action; I currently chair the Climate Action Committee, and am involved with our Racial Equity and Social Action Committees as well. I also work with our Building Community in considering how best to maintain and configure our physical space (290 Dolores) to match our community needs, and to reflect our concern for the planet.

I recently completed one year as CSZ Vice President, and prior to that two years as CSZ Recorder. In the early 2000s, I was an active member (and Chair) of the Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer Board. I recently retired after 28 years teaching ESL at City College (CCSF); I also serve on the Advisory Board of Eco-Peace Middle East, and I’m always looking to support equity and environmental sustainability in Israel and here in the Bay Area.

Contact Deborah at [email protected]


Mike Shriver

Vice President

I am a relatively new member of Sha’ar Zahav, joining just less than 2 years ago.  My journey to Judaism was the culmination of a ten-year process in which Sha’ar Zahav played a critical role in both welcoming me and making me feel a part of this incredible community.  What excites me the most about Sha’ar Zahav is its sense of invitation and community.  From the very first time I came to Sha’ar Zahav I have felt loved, supported and that I belonged.

A little about my background. I have been involved in HIV/AIDS advocacy, activism, program development, organizational development and public policy efforts for over 30 years. I currently serve on the Board of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, as an honorary trustee of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and am one of the organizers of Burrito Project SF. I was a Health Commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco as well as Special Advisor to the Mayor on AIDS/HIV Policy.

Emily Ornelas-Dorian

Vice President

I’m proud and thankful to be joining the Va’ad at Sha’ar Zahav. I joined CSZ for High Holy days in 2017. I was enamored by the community and just had to join this amazing family. Since then, it has been a joy to be a part of Sha’ar Zahav. I’ve been involved with helping the Young Adult group, known as the Kaf Lameds. I’m passionate about ensuring that the future of Sha’ar Zahav is secured by today’s young adults! I am also engaged in the reopening committee for covid-19, and I work on the Siddur marketing committee where I help with the designs and social media.

I hope to bring some of these experiences to the Va’ad, and specifically to communicate the needs of our young adult community and collaborate to find ways to help young folks feel welcome. I also hope to bring my mixed Ashkenazi-Mizrahi lens to the Va’ad, as my Lebanese identity is as important as my Jewish identity.

When I’m not in community, I enjoy playing guitar, exploring new restaurants, and cooking dishes that incorporate all my cultures. I live in the Sunset district with my wife, Carolina, who is an ER doctor at UCSF.

Rachel Nilson Ralston

Vice President

I am thrilled to be serving the Va’ad through the Federation Fellowship, which places emerging Jewish leaders with local Bay Area organizations to learn about nonprofit decision-making and community-building. This is an especially meaningful opportunity for me, since Sha’ar Zahav is also my Jewish spiritual home. I joined as a congregant in 2017 alongside my husband Ricky, because Sha’ar Zahav encompassed our values and needs. As a couple that comes from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, we needed a place where Ricky’s choice to become Jewish would be nurtured and celebrated, where our queer family and friends would be valued, and where our feminist/egalitarian expressions of spirituality would be encouraged. (We also love Rabbi Copeland, who married us in 2016!) By day, I work as the Assistant Director of San Francisco Hillel, an organization that supports Jewish student life on the college campuses across the city. It’s where I was activated as a student leader in college at San Francisco State, and where I was encouraged to pursue dialogue/conflict resolution skills relating to Israel-Palestine and build a Jewish community that reflected the beautiful diversity of Jewish peoplehood. When I’m not at Hillel, you can likely find me exploring the hiking trails of my neighborhood in Mill Valley, attempting to craft, or eating burritos with Ricky.

Martin Tilzer


Contact Martin at [email protected]

Rob Mabe


Contact Rob at [email protected]

Marc Lipschutz

Past President

In 1980, I arrived in San Francisco, davened at Sha’ar Zahav during my very first Shabbos in the City and throughout the summer, and became a member prior to Rosh Hashanah.

I was raised in a Jewish home with first generation American values.  Yiddishkeit (the Jewish way of life) permeates my identity and influences my work.  As a social worker, I enter into the lives of children and their families during times that are frequently painful for them, and quietly pray that our time together will initiate healing.

Mentoring b’nei mitzvah students, youths and adults, has been extraordinarily fulfilling, as we transmit Yiddishkeit together and ensure the future of Judaism.  At Sha’ar Zahav I experience a community that shares my Jewish values of inclusiveness and social justice, and thrive among so many people who I greatly love and who love me dearly as well.

My CSZ objectives include sustained fiscal health and transparency, increased physical and technology-related security in harmony with our warm and welcoming ambiance, an enhanced online presence, and a safely orchestrated reopening adhering to best public health practices and science. These objectives support our preeminent goals of Torah study, sanctified service, and acts of loving kindness, which we initiate for CSZ to become a house of prayer for all people. 

I seek help from HaShem and respectfully request your active support. And throughout our holy CSZ partnerships, created together to achieve these goals.

Board Members

Alyss Weissglass

Board Member

I moved to the Bay Area in the beginning of 2019, after being born and raised in Chicago, living in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and then moving out West when I could go no further East. I fell in love with Sha’ar Zahav not long after my arrival in San Francisco. My childhood cantor recommended I attend, and I found a queer and Jewish community that I sorely needed.

Professionally, I’m a software engineer in biotech, working to accelerate the rate of research across textiles, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals. I’m also an artist, holding a Bachelors of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) from Carnegie Mellon University, so my copious free time is full of dance, miniature making, and game design. You might also find me at the opera, watching my partner Alicia perform, or riling up our sphynx cat, Shiloh.


Meagan Fox

Board Member

I discovered Sha’ar Zahav shortly after moving to San Francisco from Oregon in 2007, and was impressed by this vibrant, welcoming community – right in my new neighborhood. My now-husband Marty became a member as he was preparing for his adult Bar Mitzvah.

We’ve celebrated two baby namings here. As parents of young children we attended family High Holiday services, and then found our way to Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer. Having grown up in secular families, we didn’t really know what to expect from a “synagogue school” and were delighted to again discover a warm, inclusive, and engaging community here at Sha’ar Zahav.

I work as a product manager for a non-profit whose mission is to amplify the power of philanthropy to end the climate crisis.

Claudia Bernard

Board Member

Barbara Cymrot

Board Member

Brad Friedman

Board Member

Franco Martinez

Board Member

Josh Muller

Board Member

Tirtza Pearl

Board Member

Ruth Schoenbach

Board Member

Recent blog posts

What’s Happening at Sha’ar Zahav

Learn to Read High Holy Day Prayers in Hebrew One hour evening class (4) sessions Tuesdays, August 30th through September 20, 7-8pm Welcome in Elul with a mini course of Hebrew and get prepared for High Holy Days! Have you sat in High Holy Day services wishing you had a bit more comfort with the…

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Hybrid Services – In-person and on Zoom 02/2022

  An Update on In-Person Events and Services Dear Sha’ar Zahav Community, We hope that you are healthy and well. We would like to update you on Sha’ar Zahav’s plans regarding meeting in person at 290 Dolores. Our Reopening Task Force met again on Thursday, February 10 and had a spirited conversation about returning to…

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Wingsong: for all the friends who died of AIDS

Wingsong: -Maggid Andrew Ramer      I carry you on my back I carry every one of you who has died on my back        You are not a burden      your weight is exalting      each one of you      is another feather      in my arched wings      You carry me     …

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