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 CSZ’s Va’ad, or Board of Directors.

Executive Committee

Michael Chertok

Sha’ar Zahav is more than my community; it’s my chosen family. I joined twenty years ago after attending High Holy Day services. I was so struck by how these rituals celebrated a diversity of beliefs and identities that were consistent with my values—and offered deeper meaning in my life and my Jewish experience.

Over the years, I have changed and the community has changed with me. Now, I find myself connecting most deeply with the meditation chavurah and the joyous music and dancing that accompany our Shabbes beat services. I bring the high I get from these services with me in my work as a social entrepreneur, serving on a management team of a social business that employs youth from poor families in Cambodia, Laos and Kenya–and veterans and military spouses in Virginia.

I’ve also found community through volunteering on a range of Sha’ar Zahav committees, task forces and events. Before starting my term as President, I was especially focused on our identity work and how we support our membership to become more engaged.

I believe we find holiness in our connections with others.  Sha’ar Zahav has helped me to become a better self. I am deeply grateful to our clergy and to so many members for their mentorship and support.

Contact Michael at

Diana Buchbinder

Sha’ar Zahav reflects my progressive Jewish LGBTQ values. It’s where I find a congruence of my social circle, political expression and spiritual practice.

Since joining in 1983, I’ve had many rewarding experiences at Sha’ar Zahav. My wife and I have celebrated my daughter’s and later my grandson’s baby namings, my children’s bat/bar mitzvahs and religious school graduations here. I’ve had  the honor of serving in various leadership positions and of seeing my son serve as a board member. Especially important for me has been having a rabbi who understood and would perform my interfaith wedding, being surrounded by an enduring community of friends.

Larry Best

I have been a member of Sha’ar Zahav (CSZ) since 2002. My daughter became a Bat Mitzvah in January of 2015 and my son will become a Bar Mitzvah in February of 2019.

I feel extremely blessed to be a member of our community which has given so much to me and my family, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. An important quality which has drawn me to Sha’ar Zahav is that so many of our members have committed their professional and/or personal lives to social justice, individually living our commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world).

In my professional life, I have expressed this commitment through fostering and facilitating partnerships within and across the public and private sector to achieve better results for low-income children and families of color. As a vice president, I am bringing my experience to Sha’ar Zahav as we work to better integrate different family configurations and embrace the rich diversity that enables members and prospective members to feel welcome.

Nancy Levin

When I moved to San Francisco, I came to Sha’ar Zahav because I needed a place to go for the High Holidays. I was delighted to find a queer-identified synagogue where people could be celebrated for who they are. And, of course, my parents were thrilled that I joined a shul. What I gained over the last 20 years is a community that is there for me. The more I participate through volunteering, showing up at events and meeting new people, the more connected I feel. That’s why, as a member of our board, I focus on membership connections and outreach. I want others to have the same opportunity to engage in a Jewish community that lifts us up to do what we never thought possible.

I work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  served as executive director of not-for-profit agencies working on environmental and women’s health issues, and helped other organizations to grow and thrive. I’m fortunate to have work that resonates with my Jewish values.

Laura Lowe

Marc Lipschutz

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.

Board Members

Ann Daniels

I came to CSZ in the late 1980s and became a member in the early 1990s, when Rabbi Yoel Kahn called my husband, our daughters and me an “alternative family” (a designation that still delights us no end). Being part of CSZ has been central to our children’s upbringing and our family’s values.


I grew up in Manhattan culturally Jewish but not knowing much more than the Passover ritual, and I learned my aleph bet and much more at CSZ’s adult education classes and through volunteering at Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer. The love and support I received from my fellow-CSZ-niks during my mother’s illness and death showed me anew the importance of community, and how important it is to me to be part of this particular community.


I teach adult and family literacy at the Oakland Public Library and I’m active with a number of organizations fighting to protect and further progressive values and stand up for the disenfranchised, including immigrants and the formerly incarcerated. CSZ has helped me learn that everyone needs a community and a place where their value is realized.

Don Fischer

I have been a member of our Sha’ar Zahav community for over 17 years, and my son Spencer, 11,
attends Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer. In addition to participating on the Va’ad, I co-chair our Beit Sefer Education Committee. Originally from Jersey City NJ, I came to SF in 1988 via Atlanta and Miami and have called this beautiful city home ever since. Professionally, I work in the international trade law field and it’s been a great joy discovering parts of the world outside the U.S. In addition to outdoor activities with Spence, my other interests include classical music, inde films, swimming, gardening, and World War II history. We live in Glen Park and participate in various community projects including the Baview Mission Abundance Community which assists underprivileged families.

Susan Leff

I am a lawyer, a law professor, a parent, a spouse and a crafter – not necessarily in that order. While I have been a CSZ member for over 15 years, I feel like I learn something new every time I engage with our wonderful community.

Rachel Nancollas

I am a relatively recent Sha’ar Zahav member having joined in the last five years. My boyfriend (now husband) Elliott and I were initially drawn to Sha’ar Zahav because of its welcoming atmosphere to people from all walks of life – including non-Jews like myself at the time. During the illness and death of Elliott’s mother and the joy of our wedding the next year, I was stuck by how important having a supportive community had become in our lives. Thus, it was with great pride that I converted to Judaism in 2015. Since then, I’ve been an active participant in Saturday morning services, a member of the rabbi search committee, and now a Va’ad member. My hope is to one day have a bat mitzvah. Outside of Sha’ar Zahav, I work as a hardware engineer designing laptops. I believe in the mission of the free and open web and computing for everyone. I also enjoy running, cooking, and occasionally blogging about recipes and circuits.

Martin Rawlings-Fein

I grew up in the Bay Area, knowing very early that although I was raised as a girl, I knew inside that I was really a boy. Perhaps because of my own educational experience, my passion at Sha’ar Zahav has been in Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer, where over the last decade I have served first as a volunteer, then a teacher, and then as Interim Education Director. I have also volunteered in five other committees here, including the Membership Committee, the Program Committee, Ritual Committee, and Website Planning Committee.I have also helped plan and been involved in community events including Hanukah in the Castro. At present, I serve on the Va’ad, and I am now living happily as a trans man, with my wife, and two kids who attend BSPM. My family and I look forward to seeing you at services.

Michael Rice

Laurie Trupin

Laurie Trupin grew up in New Jersey and came to SF in 1982. She has been a member of CSZ since the early 1990s. She lives in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco with her wife, Beth Ross, and their little dog, Giorgio.  They have 2 children who grew up in CSZ and are now attending college. Laurie works at UC San Francisco as an epidemiologist on clinical research studies in rheumatology. At CSZ, she is a member of the va’ad, co-chair of the Kesher (Connections) Committee, and a b’nei mitzvah mentor. After a 25 year hiatus from dance, she is now performing with Dance Generators, an inter-generational dance company connected with USF.

Larry Wexler

I am from Long Island, NY, and was active in Reform youth groups growing up. After college I came west, and I joined SZ in 1989. I was initially attracted by its dynamic lay leadership, its place in the LGBTQ community, its values that find expression in the congregation, and its affiliation with the Reform movement. I have served on and chaired on the Ritual Committee for many years, including serving as High Holiday Coordinator. I have also served on the Rabbi Search Committee, and presently serve as Chair of the Ritual Committee, in addition to serving on the Va’ad. In my professional life, I worked as a programmer, systems analyst, and software architect for a succession of California telephone companies, I presently work part time as an ESL instructor for a nonprofit intensive English program in Oakland. I take inspiration from the many people in our congregation who have served and continue to serve in so many capacities for so long, but also from our newer members, who bring vital and exciting spirit and energy to the congregation.

Andy Williamson

I decided to convert because Judaism at Sha’ar Zahav is a religion you do, and not something you watch.  You get to hold up the Torah on Yom Kippur, and it means more than watching a paid professional do it, and that is the reason I am a member and now a part of the Va’ad (board of directors).  

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