Committed to Community

When 17-year-old counselor-in-training Frayda Breverman fell for a 20-year-old staff member at Camp Ramah, their romance became the scandal of the summer of ’63. Fast forward. The scandal was short-lived, but Fredi and Joel Rembaum, after 33 years of marriage, are still quite an item.

Four children and one grandchild later, Fredi Rembaum still credits her parents with giving her a love of Judaism and a dedication to serving the Jewish community. Her parents, active in Phoenix’s Jewish community, frequently hosted synagogue, Hadassah and Zionists of America meetings in their home. Her father, an electrician, even wired their synagogue’s original building. “I grew up in an active, Jewishly committed, observant, Zionist family,” says Rembaum, whose husband is senior rabbi at Temple Beth Am. “We were good Conservative Jews.”

Throughout her 16 years with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Rembaum has worn many hats. Next week, her devotion will be recognized when she receives the Eighth Annual Etz Chaim Education Award for Distinguished Service from Temple Beth Am’s Jacob Pressman Academy.

These days, much of her work revolves around the Los Angeles-Tel Aviv partnership program. “The Federation realized a few years ago,” says Rembaum, “that if [Israel and the Diaspora] were to have a relationship, it would need to go beyond the philanthropic model that was essential when Israel was established.”

As associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee and as director of the Federation’s Israel and Overseas Relationship Committee, Rembaum is helping to change this traditionally one-sided paradigm — in which American Jews donate money to fund the development of Israel — into a mutual arrangement, whereby both communities learn from and give to one another.

Rembaum has applied this concept to education. Along with Milken Community High School, Abraham Joshua Heschel Community Day School and Palisades High School, Pressman Academy has “twinned” with a school in Tel Aviv. While students exchange e-mail and holiday packages, educators trade curricula and participate in joint classroom learning activities. After hosting 15 teens from Tel Aviv’s Tichon Hadas last semester, Milken will be sending 13 of its own students to the high school on Feb. 4.

“Fredi is very innovative,” says Aviva Lebovitz, educational director of Pressman Academy. [This program has] made it so that our children look at Israel as part of daily life, not just something out there that we talk about.”

Others who have worked with Rembaum also attest to her tenacity and enthusiasm. “It’s been marvelous to work with her,” says Herb Glazer, chairman of the Los Angeles-Tel Aviv Partnership Committee. “She is a knowledgeable, persistent and capable person.”

Rembaum’s proudest accomplishment, though, is her children, who range in age from 17 to 29. She acknowledges that balancing her roles as mother, wife of a rabbi, and Jewish communal professional has been a challenge, but says she loves what she does and feels fulfilled in her work. Rembaum is fortunate, she says, to have a “very supportive husband and kids.” One day, she says wistfully, “I hope to have enough time to tend to my garden.”

Along with Rembaum’s honor, Beth Am will host a family heritage exhibition called, L’dor V’dor. Families will display treasured items from their Jewish forbears, such as turn-of-the-century instruction books, ritual gowns and wartime tefillin. For more information on Rembaum’s event and the exhibit, call Temple Beth Am at (310) 652-7353.