What Is Shavuot And Why We Should Care To Know


 “If you do not know where you are coming from, how would you know where to go?” 




Those of us who live in San Francisco and by an extension in the Bay Area as well as other big cities, have the privilege to live among different people from different countries with various practices and different religious backgrounds and beliefs. Through living, studying, working together, speaking the same language, and intermarrying, we supposedly grow closer to each other; but do we really know our neighbors?

One of the dividing factors between people throughout history has been religion. The month of June is not only the first month of summer, but it is also the time when three major monotheist religions have their own distinct holidays–Shavuot in Judaism, Pentecostal Sunday for Christians, andRamadan for the Muslims. I decided to write about the one factor that is a common thread for all three of these holidays.

It is food and in particular—it is cheesecake.


Shavuot is a major Jewish festival, which is celebrated this year on June 4thand 5th (since the Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle, the date changes every year). Originally, it was considered a harvest festival when Jews would come to Jerusalem to visit the Temple and bring the product of their first harvest as an expression of gratitude. But it also commemorates the giving of the Law—the Torah on Mount Zion. This happened fifty days after the second day of Passover or exodus from slavery in Egypt.

All of these events are very important, but why according to the tradition on Shavuot do Jews have to eat a cheesecake? Actually—not only a cheesecake, but any dairy products. The obvious answer could be that a celebration needs to have some kind of dessert. But actually, there are other explanations, which have to do with the rules of Kashrut, or the separation of dairy and meat products in the same meal.


I think that there can be at least one more explanation. During the Exodus and at the Passover table, we are obligated to eat meat—the Paschal lamb. This is the food that gives us energy for the long and arduous journey. After we got to Mt. Zion and received the Ten Commandments, we can relax, and enjoy ourselves. Not only to have cake (the Commandments), but also to share with friends or family members during the festive meal.

Today we all can enjoy many dairy products: yogurt, ice creams, and variety of cheeses. Shavuot is not a holiday for those who want to lose weight. In my attempt to bring you images of dairy products, I visited a farmer’s market on the Embarcadero. There, I also found a long line of people waiting to buy a scoop of Over the Moon creamery’s ice cream.  I also visited a good cheese shop



Cheesecakes are sold everywhere, but nothing comes close to Zanze’s—a tiny shop and bakery located on 2405 Ocean Ave in San Francisco. Their cheesecakes are the best. To help you get the best, I decided to create a special offer—“June Cheesecake Special”. For anyone who wants to help their friends get a great mortgage and refer our services, I will personally deliver a freshly baked cheesecake from Zanze’s to your doorstep.

Enjoy the holiday, the rest of your life, and yes—a cheesecake.

Happy Shavuot!
(click flyer for details)junespecial 



Mortgage Solutions For You


*Interest rates are subject to change without notice and do not constitute a commitment to make any loan at any specific rate.

Clients, property owners in San Francisco, have a single family house where its value has increased to $1,500,000. They wanted to refinance their jumbo loan of $850,000. Their children will graduate and go out to college in about eight years. Instead of refinancing into a 30 year fixed rate, our tailored  solution was to choose a mortgage with a fixed rate for 10 years. Why? This will give them $305 in monthly savings.

Whom do you know that might benefit from our tailored mortgage solutions?



June MeetUP: Retirement Plans, Trusts, and IRAs

We’re pleased to announce our MeetUP Event for JUNE:


Face retirement and the future head on. 

People brave enough to look into the crystal ball of the future are much more likely to take control of their retirement planning. It’s a vivid reminder that everything you do today impacts your future tomorrow. Meet professionals that can help you, so you’re not left wondering what’s next.



Meet up with Manny and his friends for a night of sharing common interests and ideas. You will have the opportunity to meet people with common real estate interests who own or want to buy commercial or apartment buildings, share, or address any ideas and concerns. 

This month’s Meet up event will take place on:

June 12th at 6:30pm at 233 Arroyo Drive, South San Francisco, CA 94080 


Stephen L. Dobrow, ERPA, APA, CPC 

President, Primark Benefits

Stephen DobrowA San Francisco native, Stephen entered the Retirement field in 1976, gained executive experience in Silicon Valley, and returned to Primark Benefits in 1990 to lead its management team. His expertise is in converting tax dollars into employee benefits, which are otherwise unaffordable.

Stephen holds a degree in Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He also holds a degree in accounting. He formerly served as a chapter officer for the National Institute of Pension Administrators in which he has achieved the designation of Accredited Pension Administrator. Stephen holds the designations of Qualified 401(k) Administrator, Qualified Pension Administrator, and Certified Pension Consultant, as issued by the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries. He is past President of ASPPA.

President, Karp Capital Management 

peterPeter Karp is the founder of Karp Capital Management Corp, a registered investment advisory firm. The company is headquartered in San Francisco and provides a full range of financial services focusing on asset management strategies, plan participant education/ advisement and business consulting. He is a member of the Financial Planning association, Western Pension & Benefits Association and is a founding partner of NAPA.(National Association of Plan Advisors). Karp ranked 25th on the list of top Bay Area Independent wealth advisor with over 7,000 nominations received every year. Learn more and sign up for the Karp Capital Focus quarterly newsletter with asset management insights at karpcapital.com.

Interested? Let’s meet up!

Please spread the word and remember to RSVP to Ausra@Pacbay.net

Looking forward to seeing you on May 8th!


Date: Thursday: June 12th, 2014
Address: 233 Arroyo Drive,
                      South San Francisco, CA 94080
                     (Please Meet in the Betty Weber Room)
Time: 6:30pm to 8:30pm

RSVP on Meetup.com OR email Ausra@Pacbay.net


What Does Memorial Day Mean To You?

“We are the sum of our memories. If we do not remember, it’s because we have chosen to forget.” 


U.S. Military history began in 1775 when the Continental Congress created the Continental Army and appointed George Washington as its commander. During the U.S. Civil War from 1861 until 1865, about 750,000 soldiers on both sides were killed. Since its inception, the U.S. has been involved in about 40 military conflicts including the War on Terrorism, which started in 2001, and has no end in sight. As a result, the death toll has reached 1,321,612 (according to Wikipedia). The idea to put flowers on the graves of the fallen soldiers came from women (as many other honorable ideas) before the end of the Civil War and in 1868, General John A. Logan officially proclaimed May 30th as Decoration Day—a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.


It is believed that the day was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Actually, the holiday called Memorial Day was claimed to have started two years earlier, and there are approximately 25 places—primarily in the South—which claimed the origin of Memorial Day. It was only in 1971 that Congress declared Memorial Day to be a national Holidays, which is when it was placed on the last Monday of May. This year, it is celebrated on May 26th.

I wrote this short history just to illustrate how often people, whom we have never met, whose names we do not remember or never knew, helped to create the conditions for the life most of us are benefiting from.


There are many military cemeteries throughout the United States. The grandest of them all is the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which has more than 400,000 graves. There is also one in San Francisco’s Presidio, where over 30,000 military servicemen are buried. It is located in a breathtaking park-like setting.

Many of us, especially those who—like our family, were not born in the United States might not have a direct history with our country’s past. But when we take a day off to have a good time, why not also remember those who died in wars to protect our past and the future, and say “Thank You”.



These are some photos from the Presidio Cemetery that I took on a visit there in 2009. Enjoy!





Mortgage Solutions For You


*Interest rates are subject to change without notice and do not constitute a commitment to make any loan at any specific rate.

client, a doctor who was referred by a colleague, was “shopping” for a new mortgage. She already talked to Bank of America who had their current loan, but after ordering and paying for an appraisal report, she was contacted by Wells Fargo (who had her money) and they offered to give her an even better deal.

This is when she called me with a question–“Can you beat them?”

I obviously could not. The major banks, who laid off thousands of their mortgage related employees, (one of my clients told me that it took him 3 months to refinance his loan with Wells Fargo), are trying to “buy” the depositors by offering artificially low rates on mortgage programs.

But after I met with the couple and discussed their options and plans, I offered alternative solutions.

They decided to choose a loan fixed for 5 years with a substantially lower interest rate, but make the monthly payments as if it was a 30 year fixed rate offered by the banks. As a result, there is a significant reduction of the principal after the end of 5 years. At that time or during, they can refinance again at no out of pocket closing costs to keep their rate low.

Whom do you know that might benefit from our tailored mortgage solutions?



What Is The Meaning Of Life?

 “Life is long. Enjoy it.” 


Last Monday on the day of the celebration of Cinco de Mayo, our very close friend, Arkady Fomin died. He lived in Dallas, played violin for the Dallas Symphony for many years, and organized a summer festival in Durango and was awarded a special medal of honor from the Latvian government (the country where we were both born) for his contribution to the music world. He played with the orchestra all over the world, was a member of a quartet which played at Carnegie Music Hall in New York, had many students, and together with Sophie—his wife of 47 years, he enjoyed life immensely. We were very good friends for almost 50 years. Since we liked to exchange jokes, he would often phone us after his concerts at midnight (his time), and without even saying hello, he would share a joke that someone in the orchestra had just told him. To honor Arkady’s memory, I want to share with you some of the jokes—which we call anecdotes:


The old revered Rabbi was dying. All of his disciples gathered around his bed standing in line in the order of importance. Suddenly, the guy at the end of the line requested to ask the teacher about the meaning of life, before his last breath. This request was passed from one disciple to the other until the question reached the Rabbi. He opened his eyes and with great effort and said, “Life is like a river”. The Rabbi’s reply was passed back, until it reached the guy who asked the question. “But what does it mean that life is like a river?” He questioned again. When this question reached the Rabbi, with his last effort he responded, “Well, then it is not like a river.


When I think about Arkady, a smile comes to my face. (Not only because I remember his jokes.) Besides other accomplishments, he knew how to enjoy life; be it travels (they often came to San Francisco and we would go together to the Sea Ranch), food, or good cigars. I can picture his face in my mind, while enjoying a meal, or having a cognac after dinner, with his eyes closed in delight.

Arkady really enjoyed life and this brings to mind another joke:

The pious Catholic priest died and was greeted in Heaven by St. Peter himself. “To honor your devotion to God, we will extend to you a special honor”, he was told. “You can read from the Old Testament scroll, written by Moses’ hand.” They sat him in a beautiful room—the walls were covered with old books. Suddenly, while reading he started to yell, “Oh no! Oh no!” Everyone rushed in and asked “What happened?” He replied, “It is written here thatwe have to celebrate…not be CELIBATE!”

Please do not wait until your friends are gone—celebrate life together.



Arkady celebrated life in many ways. One of them was to smoke cigars. Cuba is known for its cigars, so I’ve captured some photos of beautiful ladies enjoying the pleasure of fine cigars. You can find more images in Soy Cubano available here for purchase.

A short film about my friend, Arkady Fomin from Quin Mathews Films on Vimeo.



Jumbo Loans Niches


*Interest rates are subject to change without notice and do not constitute a commitment to make any loan at any specific rate.

 client was buying a home in San Francisco for $1,200,000, but he only had $100,000. Most lenders require borrowers to show reserves for the jumbo loan in addition to the down payment. We used $60,000–5% for the down payment. His parents face hi m $180,000 as a gift and he had $40,000 left for the reserves. There were no out of pocket closing costs!

 Whom do you know that might benefit from our tailored mortgage solutions?



Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Mothers



 “Optimism, Courage, and Love are the three pillars of a good life.” 






I was privileged to live with three mothers. My mother, who gave me birth and with whom I lived until I got married at the age of 20. We called her Mama Liza. My wife’s mother (I do not like the term mother-in-law) with whom I lived together after Elfa and I married, who immigrated with us to Israel and to San Francisco, until she passed years later. We called her Mama Masha. Lastly, my wife Elfa— the mother of our two daughters, Alona and Tamar.


Mama Liza became a schoolteacher when I started the first grade. She taught first graders as well, but not at my school. She commuted for an hour by bus to her work. At the end of the day, she brought the children’s homework home in her big briefcase, and different items that she confiscated from her students. I in turn would “confiscate” from her: pocket knives, whistles, and flashlights to barter with my friends. Later on when my brother Aron was born, she went back to school (while working) and became a biology teacher. I would go with her to the public library and copy articles and DNA graphs from the books for her studies. Then our sister Rosa was born. Mom survived World War II working on a farm that grew watermelons. (She couldn’t look at them afterwards.) Life was never easy, but I had a happy childhood.  It didn’t matter what happened, my Mom would say “Budet harasho”—everything will be good. I learned from her to be a perpetual optimist. For many years when someone asks me how I am doing, my response is “always good”.


Mama Masha had a different personality. She had a very challenging life, as well. She was born in St. Petersburg before the Russian Revolution. At an early age, she learned how to survive and manage in difficult situations. She married and moved to Riga, Latvia. When the German Army was approaching Riga, she demanded that she, her husband, their five-year-old boy and newborn son leave the city right away. They starved and barely survived and unfortunately their infant son died. But, with her skills as a dressmaker, she managed to get her family back to Riga after the war. My future wife Elfa was born there and after her dad died when she was a child, Mama Masha built their lives as a single mom. She was my courageous conspirator and supported all of my adventures.


My wife Elfa, with whom I have been married to for 47 years, is a symbol of love. She taught me that regardless of what upsets, frustrates or angers me, which I express verbally, I need to connect with my heart. In those moments, all those other feelings go away and what remains is love.


Mothers are mothers in every place in the world. Here are images that I took of some of the mothers I met in Cuba, and are in my book Soy Cubano available here for purchase.



Mortgage Solutions For You // Jumbo Stated Income

 JUMBO Stated Income Programs


*NO TAX RETURNS REQUIRED. Interest rates are subject to change without notice and do not constitute a commitment to make any loan at any specific rate.

client who owned a rental property wanted to buy a residence for over $1 million. Part of his income was generated abroad and was not reported in the US tax returns. To enable him to get a mortgage without tax returns, he had to show reserves (after the down payment) of $250,000.

To accomplish this, we refinanced his rental property which did not have a mortgage.

Whom do you know that might benefit from our tailored mortgage solutions?



Can We Change?

 “We all change. Are you happy with the results? Good.” 


Believe it or not, you are actually a nice person—and so am I. I found out about this while on a plane to Phoenix, Arizona for an InfusionSoft ICON conference. A woman sitting on the plane diagonally in front of me was reading The Wall Street Journal. I noticed the headline of article—“We Actually Get Nicer With Age”. Wow! What a revelation!

When we reached our hotel, The Wall Street Journal lay in front of our room’s door  (miracles do happen). According to the article, “from the age of 20 to 65, people report an increase in positive traits, such as conscientiousness, and decreases in negative traits such as neuroticism”. Of course, “nicer” is a relative term. It is like beauty “in the eyes (heart) of the beholder”.


But, what happens after the age of 65 (I am 67)? I have met some grouchy older people, but I think that in their core, people are nice. The question is “Do we want to change?” Most of us are comfortable with our status quo, even when others might not like it. When my wife, Elfa, points out my shortcomings to me, I often do not like her criticism, but in my heart I know that she is right. (You know the platinum rule: “The wife is always right”, right?) But can I change? My common response to her is if I do what you suggest, I am going to become Elfa—not Manny. In the business, it is sometimes easier to just change externally by finding new ways to market without changing who we are (since I am already a nice person).


This was the reason we came to the seminar. InfusionSoft is a very powerful database management system that we use in our business to communicate with clients. At the conference besides listening to very interesting speakers and authors like Seth Godin, Simon Sinkek, and JJ Ramberg (check out their books on Amazon), we met vendors offering different ways to improve our connection to our clients and how to attract new ones. We signed up with one of them, who promised to increase the company’s ratings on the social media channels. This will also help you refer more of your friends and co-workers to us for which I am always grateful.



Even in Cuba, change is coming all the time and I think the young people there are ready to create change. You can see more images of beautiful people in Cuba (and buy the book, Soy Cubano) on my website.