Metro Briefs September 19

Metro Briefs September 19

Nitsa Bucritz Ford
Nitsa Bucritz Ford

Nitsa Bucritz Ford has been named director of development at the Agency for Jewish Learning (AJL) — a new position at the education development group.

A native Israeli who has lived in Pittsburgh for 10 years, Ford holds a master’s degree in public policy and nonprofit management from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The AJL established this position to secure the resources required to bring new ideas to Pittsburgh and to create new realities in the community. The first order of business has been to create a development plan designed to allow AJL’s supporters a role in the conversation about the future of Jewish education here.

“My hope is that people will find new and continuing interest in the essential work that this agency does for the entire Jewish community,” Ford said in a prepared statement. “So many people don’t realize how AJL is involved in almost every informal and formal Jewish educational experience offered in this city and my job is to make sure they know and care about what AJL does for the future of the Jewish community.”

In his prepared statement Executive Director Ed Frim said, “I am thrilled to have someone as motivated and full of energy as Nitsa working to support the work of AJL and transform Jewish education in our community. She has created an exciting plan and energized her colleagues and our volunteer leaders.”  

The AJL works with synagogues, schools, early childhood centers, agencies and organizations to meet the needs of learners with the cutting edge methods and innovative programs.

JFilm: The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum has hired Rachel Colker and Courtney Strauss — both Pittsburgh natives — to fill newly created positions.

Colker will be the assistant director of JFilm, which is into its 21st year. She has worked as an archivist, museum curator, researcher and freelance writer for 18 years. She has a master’s degree in history and museum studies from Duquesne University and previously worked at the Heinz History Center and Rauh Jewish Archives where she acted in several capacities. She also has done freelance writing and research for the Andy Warhol Museum, U.S. Steel Corporation and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and was curator for the 2002 exhibit “Answering the Call: 90 Years of Community Service by the United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.”

Colker lives in Squirrel Hill with her husband and three children.

Strauss will be JFilm’s young adult/teen outreach and social media coordinator. A 2012 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English writing, she worked in Pitt’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, interned in the UPMC marketing department and was a youth group coordinator at Congregation Beth Shalom. She is active at J’Burgh where she serves on the planning committee, and has shared her writing at open mic nights around the city.

Colker and Strauss join Executive Director Kathryn Spitz Cohan and Teen Screen/Ad Sales Coordinator Lori Sisson on the JFilm staff.

Estee Portnoy, the manager of professional basketball legend Michael Jordan, will be visiting Pittsburgh Tuesday, Oct. 8, and Wednesday, Oct. 9, to help the BBYO Keystone Mountain Region kick off its program year.

A New Castle native and mother of three living in Bethesda, Md., Portnoy will meet with other Jewish agency officials during her visit.

Portnoy manages the day-to-day business and marketing activities for Jordan. She has worked extensively with him and his key advisors for over 15 years, to manage and grow the Jordan brand. She oversees Jordan’s business endeavors and serves on the executive committee of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.

Portnoy has also been recognized with Jewish Women International’s Woman To Watch Award (2009) and the S. Robert Cohen Award from the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (2006).   

The BBYO Keystone Mountain Region youth group has announced it will participate in this year’s Pittsburgh Foundation Day of Giving for the first time. It has been approved as a charitable organization to accept funds.

The Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry and Just Harvest will hold a screening of the documentary “A Place at the Table,” which tells the powerful stories of three Americans who struggle with food insecurity.

The screening will be held Monday, Sept. 23, 7 p.m., at the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, 828 Hazelwood Ave., Greenfield.

The event is free and open to the public. Those wishing to attend must RSVP in advance by emailing or by calling 412-421-2708.

Hadassah Greater Pittsburgh Chapter’s annual meeting will be held at Green Oaks Country Club Sunday, Oct. 6. Outgoing President Zandra Goldberg and her board will be honored.  

Barbara Scheinberg will be installed as the new president.  Chairs of the day are Dotty Weisberg and Frieda Spiegel.

The afternoon will begin with a shuk shopping extravaganza with the following vendors: Marjorie’s Candy, Nuts and Spice; Sara Guttman accessories; Pampered Chef; Sabika Jewelry; Leslie Itskowitz Clothing; Pretzel Crazy; Tastefully Simple; Miches Purses; Embroidery from the Heart; Mary Kay and Bead Watches; LaPerla; Scentsy; Pinks Tiny Paws Boutique; Dianne Stuckman (painted floor mats); Stella and Dot; Melissa Shoontz Photograpy; Uforia Spa; Mystery Lover’s Book Store; and Cards Plus.

Call the Hadassah office at 412-421-8919 for reservations.

Temple David in Monroeville is hosting a 10-week Melton Scholars course entitled “Jews in America: Insiders and Outsiders.” Rabbi Scott Aaron, the Agency for Jewish Learning’s community scholar, will teach the course.  

The course will meet at Temple David, 4415 Northern Pike, Tuesday evenings from 7 to 8 p.m. Classes are Oct. 1, 15, 22, 29; Nov. 5, 12, 19; Dec. 3, 17; and Jan. 7.

The course will help students consider the challenges of Jewish acculturation to American life, and the sacrifices as well as the contributions that have been made over the past 200 years. Lessons will explore the role of education, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, the changing place of Zionism and the State of Israel, Civil Rights Movement as a case study of distinctiveness and involvement, and other issues.

There is a charge; contact Julie Cohen at to register.

Chabad of the South Hills will hold its inaugural Shabbaton, with David Nesenoff, Friday, Oct. 11, at 6:30 p.m., followed by Shabbat dinner at 7 p.m.

Nesenoff will also present Saturday, Oct. 12, following services at the Kiddush lunch at 12:30 p.m.  Services begin at 10 a.m.

Contact Chabad at 412-344-2424 or for more information.

Jewish Women’s Circle presents Sushi in the Sukkah Monday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Chabad of the South Hills in Mt. Lebanon. This is the opening event of the year. 

A personal story, “Never say Never:a story of one woman’s journey to a place she said she could never go,” will be told.  There is a charge.

RSVP at 412-344-2424 or