Marsha, Marsha, Marsha

Original Article written by Brie Stimson

?I just celebrated a really big birthday on Saturday and I threw a party for myself,? Marsha Berkson begins at the start of our conversation. ?And I was surrounded by all these people in the community that are my San Diego family and that I?ve connected to through the Jewish community.?

Marsha has been involved with a number of San Diego Jewish organizations since she moved here from Chicago 25 years ago: She?s on the board of the San Diego Jewish Academy, Jewish Family Service and the Women?s Division of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County. She also founded the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry at JFS.

?I said to them,? she continues, ?listen, you all know that I do strength coaching, and I got into this by accident, but it was the best journey for me.? Through belief and connectedness, Marsha says she?s found meaning and purpose in her life.

Her work in the community hasn?t gone unnoticed. In 2011, she was named a ?San Diego Women Who Mean Business? nominee and a year later, she was nominated for ?San Diego Woman of the Year.? More recently, she was one of eight women named a 2018 Mitzvah Honoree at JFS? Centennial Gala for her work on the food pantry and she was one of the 2018 ?Women of Valor? at the 25th Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival.

She is an organizational development specialist and Gallup-certified strengths coach, and she uses her skills to frequently work with the Jewish community. ?I?m in the Jewish community with the coaching that I?m doing, but it?s even more national because I?m speaking on Monday to the Western Region leaders of Hillel, ? she tells me.

A decade ago, Marsha founded JFS? Hand Up Youth Food Pantry that is still successful today. Her children were attending San Diego Jewish Academy at the time. ?I wanted to put together a social action program at the Jewish Academy with a few other mothers,? she says. ?We took these kids that were in high school and junior high to Seacrest to do a Purim carnival and to underprivileged preschools to read to the kids.? Soon, she was approached by Jill Borg Spitzer, the CEO of JFS at the time. ?They used to be in this little tiny building in Hillcrest, but they were going to go and build a new building on Balboa Avenue,? Marsha explains. ?She showed me the food pantry, and I said to her ?have you ever thought of having this food pantry run by kids, by students??? Marsha took the lead in organizing the program. ?JFS was amazing,? she adds, ?because they gave me internal people to work on it, and that?s why the program still thrives today. It?s an important part of who they are and what they do and really even the core of all their food programs really came from that strong initial Hand Up program.?

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