Meet Our JCO Board Members

Many thanks to our member, Lauren Davis, for the idea of interviewing our board members and then for following through by doing all the work.

Thanks very much, Lauren

Janet Owens

Janet has been a part of the JCO community for the last 6 years, about the time that she and her husband John, of blessed memory, moved to Ojai. Leading a very busy life (she raised 4 boys and now has 6 grandkids and one great grandchild) before settling down in our community, Janet spent the 12 prior years living in New Hampshire where John was a professor at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. 

Janet shared that they became fast members of the JCO, having moved to Ojai in the month of August and needing a synagogue to join for the High Holidays that September. Since that time, Janet has made many close friendships and looks to the JCO as her connection to Judaism in Ojai. 

She spends lots of time cooking (including baking) and gardening. When able to do so, she loves entertaining! She enjoys her Thursday morning walks with Sheila and has most recently been participating in her Ojai Valley Athletic Club classes on zoom. 

Janet shared that she wrote a cookbook back in the 1970s to address the numerous family requests for her recipes. When asked about her favorites, Janet responded by asking how much time I had left in my day…as she has 1295 recipes in her personal catalog! She buys flour in 25 pound bags and can be found most weekends either baking lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies plus baguettes. At Chanukah time she keeps herself busy baking 40 different cookie and candy varieties! 

We are very pleased to welcome Janet to the Board!
Shlomo Raz

Shlomo Raz has been a part of the Ojai community for the last 20 years, when he and his wife Sylvia bought a home with an art studio, so that Sylvia could enjoy her passion for art. Shlomo however, continued to work in Los Angeles at UCLA as a surgeon, coming to Ojai only on the weekends.

During his 45-year career, he performed 18,000 surgeries as a general surgeon and a specialist in pelvic reconstruction. He says that his recent retirement is challenging as he is passionate about medicine and taking care of people. He was used to working from 5am to 7pm daily. He also loves classical music, art and enjoys Spanish literature. 

Shlomo was born in Uruguay, where he grew up and eventually moved to Israel, working at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. He was in the army through multiple wars, serving his time as a surgeon to support the medical needs of the soldiers. Eventually he moved to the US, coming to Los Angeles to continue growing his medical career. 

Shlomo shared that they have been members of the JCO for many years, but now that he is retired, he wants to participate and be of help. He has been close to Judaism all of his life and likes to preserve the culture and tradition. 

Shlomo has 4 children and 8 grandchildren, spanning across the US from New York to Portland to nearby Simi Valley and Los Angeles. Additionally, he speaks 4 languages - Spanish, Hebrew, English and French.

We welcome him to the Board and as an active member of our Community.
Debe Bloom

Debe Bloom grew up in Los Angeles, calling the San Fernando Valley her home, along with her twin sister and two older brothers . After living for 8 years in the Bay Area, later on in her adult life, she returned back down to Ventura, CA after the little voice of her then 14 month old granddaughter asked Nona to “no go.” Debe and her husband Rick, have lived in Ojai since January of 2019. 

She is passionate about supporting other twins, and dedicates a lot of her heart to supporting the organization called, “Twinless Twins Support Group” after losing her twin sister 20 years ago. Twinless Twins is an organization that provides support to twins as adults, adolescents, and even to people who were twins in-utero, who they lost. 

Debe is also passionate about her 5 grandchildren, crafting (which she hopes to return to sooner rather than later), and her 3 new chickens plus her dog. She is a Notary Public and also enjoys being a part of a Health and Wellness business, called New U Life. 

Debe learned about the JCO, which is only a block and a half from her house, when her daughter-in-law mentioned a temple in Ojai. (Who knew there was a temple in Ojai?) She drove through the little downtown area of Meiner’s Oaks and couldn’t believe it was just right there! She enjoys the small size and warm community. When she first met our President, Alan, she said to him…”Don’t count on anything for a year…” She thinks he may have noted the one year mark on his calendar, because lo and behold…here she is, a new board member! 
Michael Swimmer

Ojai became Michael Swimmer's full-time home three years ago, arriving permanently after the Thomas Fire. Before then, Mike and his wife, Erika, divided their time between Palm Desert and Ojai, spending about 6-months a year in each location.

Mike enjoyed a successful nearly 40-year career as a landscape architect, working all over California to beautify people’s lives. Today, he is retired and enjoys playing golf, walking with Sheila, gardening, and spending time woodworking. Also, when not contending with the limitations of Covid-19, he races his sailboat every Wednesday evening in Ventura. (Sounds like a lot of fun!)

Mike joined JCO about 7 years ago, when it was still K'Hilat Ha'Aloneem. He feels that the JCO is very important, because it is a place to bring together our Jewish community in a world that is largely Christian. He admits that he is not religious, per se, but rather values Jewish tradition and community. “It is important that we have each other.”

Mike and his family lived on a Kibbutz in Israel for two years in the late 1960’s, and he even wrote a book about that experience. While this book was not published widely, he is happy to share it with anyone who is interested… "The Swimmer’s Go to Israel." Also, more recently, Mike wrote a book for his granddaughter as a way of sharing some basic Jewish history for the younger generations. "A Little Bit of Jewish History" takes an easy-to-understand approach to sharing some important insights into the Jewish people.

He looks forward to a time when we can all be together again. He also has an interest in the current Hebrew School program at JCO. As a grandfather of 10, he wants to ensure that all of the children of the JCO and beyond get the opportunity to learn their history.

Cecilia Starin

Cecilia moved with her husband, Jeff, and two little girls to Ojai about three years ago, so that both girls could attend Ojai Valley School. After 6 months in town, Cecilia and Jeff joined the Temple. She explained that, after the terrible tragedy of the shooting in Pittsburgh, she felt that she had to join a temple as a memorial to the victims. They could no longer attend services, but she wanted to do so for them. Today she is a second year Board member, the Vice President, and was the driving force behind the restart of our Hebrew School program. She was motivated to effect this restart so that her daughters, 7 & 8 years old, would have a place to learn about Judaism.

Cecilia is a public school science teacher and certified Waldorf teacher, now working for an independent homeschool charter.

She is passionate about rowing…you will find her weekly at Lake Casitas (and is hoping to be there even more often in the coming year)! She is also Marketing and Communications co-chair of the Ojai Women's Fund, explaining that this giving circle is a way that any and all women in the Ojai Valley can harness and augment their impact together to support Ojai serving non-profit organizations that support Arts, Education, Health, and the Environment. She is also an active member of the Ojai Valley School community, and was Chair of the Parent Club this past year.

Cecilia feels that we have a beautiful little temple that shines with hopefulness, even during these current challenging times. On Friday night zoom Shabbat, she is still happy to see people and feel connected. She appreciates that JCO is accessible to all Jewish experiences and enjoys feeling welcomed and greeted with warmth, and that her children also have a place to feel at home. She feels the Community is open and JCO does a wonderful job of showing care for the Community as well as focusing on the future and well-being of the congregation. She believes that JCO has a good balance of being open and accessible, while still being safe.

We are so pleased to welcome Cecilia back to the Board this year and also as our Vice President!
Andrew Snett

Andrew Snett moved with his family to Ojai in 2008 to provide his 2 daughters with the opportunity to experience life outside of Los Angeles, the city where he grew up. Ojai offered a wonderful contrast with its small-town warmth and natural beauty.

Andrew enjoys the outdoors, mountain biking, hiking, and spending time at the beach. He is a Managing Director-Investments at Wells Fargo Advisors, where he has guided his clientele and their portfolios for the past 27 years. He takes deep interest in following the fast-paced and ever-changing economy and the financial markets.

Andrew is very proud of the success of his two daughters. His oldest has recently graduated from Kent State University in fashion design, and his youngest is entering her third year at Cal State University Long Beach, studying Theatre Arts and English literature.

Andrew recalls having attended our JCO’s 2016 Passover Seder and feeling so grateful for the community that he was immediately inspired to join. Andrew is now embarking on his third year as a member of the Board of Directors, as JCO's Treasurer, and a member of the Finance committee. Our Community truly resonates with him, and he values the opportunity to be involved in the JCO’s continuing success. Whether it is the desire for social interaction or religious affiliation, Andrew feels that the JCO is a tremendous resource for the Ojai Valley.

Sharon West

Sharon West moved to Ojai along with her daughter from Bakersfield, so that her grandchildren could attend Oak Grove School. She has been an active member of the JCO for the past seven years and on the Board for three, serving as Secretary, which requires her to record the Board minutes- something she enjoys very much!

Sharon had a successful career as an Emergency Physician for 15 years, the last two years as chief of the emergency department at Ft. Sill, OK. She then re-trained and practiced as a Psychiatrist for 12 years both in the Army and as a civilian. She earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Sharon retired in 2006.

She has always felt passionate about bringing women together. Sharon shared a story about the time she spent in Honduras as Commander of a field hospital. On that assignment, she noticed that there were very few female soldiers on thepost, and each one was isolated by her job in a different operation. Sharon formed the “Women’s Tea Group,” which brought all the women together once a week. 

Today, she gives her time to the Ojai Women’s Fund, leading their “Starlight” group. She enjoys spending a great deal of time with her three children and five grandchildren, reading, and meeting new people. (She loves talking to people!) 

Sharon explained that not only is the JCO her place of worship, but it is her extended family and a place where she can come together with people who share her beliefs. This is very important to her. She has been very involved in producing many of the JCO’s unique and interesting programs over the past few years including The Art of Authur Szyk, moderated by Irvin Ungar, The Music of Theresienstadt featuring the Ojai Youth Opera, and Civil Rights by Lanny Kaufer. Others were a review of “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by the protagonist’s son Michael Lalla, and Peggy O’Neill, Walking Tall.

We are pleased to welcome Sharon back to the JCO Board as our Secretary!