Partners in Torah of Cleveland will honor Deena Israeli as partner of the year at its fifth anniversary gala May 22 at the Silver Grille in the Higbee Building in Cleveland.

Israeli, a University Heights resident who attends Sephardic Congregation of Cleveland in University Heights, is director of the women’s outreach program and matches women with each other to study and teach Torah. 

Keynote speaker at the gala will be Rabbi Yissocher Frand of Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore. Frand is an orator and author of biblical commentary, who has written extensively for ArtScroll and has cut CDs of his lectures.

Partners in Torah of Cleveland offers Jews of all backgrounds weekly learning opportunities to discover Judaism, its culture, history, and traditions at their own pace. It pairs people to teach and study Torah, holds weekly Schmorg sessions at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, where people can eat dinner, choose between one of three lectures on Torah and then schmooze over dessert.

It also offers Torah on Tap, for young professionals at Bottlehouse in Cleveland Heights as well as lunch-and-learn sessions.

About 1,000 people have been active in its programs in the past year, and 600 have engaged with its website daily, said Rabbi Pinchas L. Landis, education director.

It was started by J. David Heller and the late Mendy Klein and modeled after a similar initiative in Detroit, Landis said.

“We’re a one-ask organization,” Landis said. “We have one campaign a year to cover all our programs. Everything has no charge. The annual fundraiser goes to everything we do all year long.”

He said the annual budget this year is $250,000, which covers his salary plus all programming. Landis said his hope is to raise the budget to $300,000 in the next year to hire a second educator.

Landis said the fundraising goal for the gala is between $100,000 to  $150,000, with the hope that grant funding will fill out the rest of the budget.

Israeli was one of three lecturers at the May 14 weekly Schmorg at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Her topic was “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People: My Battle with a Brain Tumor.”

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