Lehrhaus Judaica - This is Bay Area Jewry: Seidlitz-Smith

This is Bay Area Jewry:
Photo Essays on the Changing Nature of Our Community

Beth El, Lehrhaus Judaica and Building Jewish Bridges present a photo essay exhibition showcasing the range of diversity in our community. The exhibition features 21 intimate portraits of individuals and families (including Beth El congregants, Renee Passy-Zale and Seidlitz-Smith family) from a variety of backgrounds and levels of religious observance. The project is a combination of photographs and written profiles, shedding light on the unparalleled Bay Area Jewish community.

The exhibition will be on display until March 31, 2018.
Closing Celebration: Saturday, March 17 — details to come.

For more information you may contact Congregation Beth El, 510-848-3988 or Building Jewish Bridges, 510-845-6420 x111. Or email Dawn at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org

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I’m looking for a synagogue. Here are my (many) demands.

Beth Israel Judea, SF

Beth Israel Judea, SF

(This was published in my Mixed and Matched column in the J-weekly.)

I received an inquiry that, quite frankly, annoyed a number of people who read about it. A young man approached me about his desire to find the “right” synagogue. Here is his perspective.

I am serious about a woman who is not Jewish, and I want to expose her to Jewish community and traditions. I grew up as a Conservative Jew in the Midwest and I live in the Bay Area now, but I don’t think I’ll be able to find a synagogue that is right for me and my girlfriend. I can’t find a Conservative synagogue where all the men wear kippot when they are at shul, and I am also concerned that a Conservative shul won’t consider our children Jewish. But I don’t want to go to a Reform synagogue, because they don’t use Hebrew in services and are basically Jewish lite. I grew up with a male rabbi and I would be most comfortable with a male rabbi. Can you give me any suggestions? — Serious About My Judaism

Dear Serious: I’m going to be straight with you — this has little or nothing to do with your girlfriend’s religion. This is about you. You clearly have some very definite ideas of what Judaism needs to look like to feel authentic and to satisfy you. You’ve moved a great distance from your hometown, and the Jewish cultural norms here are different. I would bet that in the decades you’ve been gone, the norms have changed there to some extent. But you are here now, and this is the Jewish community where you are seeking connection.

I notice that you have some small and specific demands, like men always wearing kippot inside the synagogue and the rabbi being male, vs. some very large demands, such as the recognition of patrilineal descent and the use of Hebrew. My friend, you are going to have to compromise on some of your demands. Start by reconsidering the little things, and then let them go. Judaism is a communal tradition. That means the needs of the community are put before the individual desires of the members. There is nowhere that you will get all your wishes met. In fact, there’s not a synagogue anywhere in which every member is getting his or her way all the time. You can’t make all of the male members wear kippot just because you want them to. The synagogue that fits you in other ways may have a female rabbi.

You have some more significant issues to reconcile. The Conservative movement does not currently recognize patrilineal descent. Maybe it will in the future. For now, though, you will have to juxtapose that requirement with your idea that Reform Judaism is “lite.” Which is more important to you? Do you want a Hebrew-heavy liturgy, an observance of kashrut, more days of Hebrew school, greater Shabbat observance, a belief that halachah is binding? Or do you want a community that accepts patrilineal descent?

Next, do any of these concerns supersede issues like geographical convenience? A feeling of connection to the rabbi? Or a sense of comfort with the members? If you are certain you need a familiar Conservative service, start by visiting the shuls nearest to you. It is going to be a lot easier to attend activities if you don’t have to drive a half-hour to get there. It also will be easier for your girlfriend if you are in a familiar environment and feeling at ease. Introduce yourself to the rabbi and chat with members. How does the place feel? Check out the services — are they familiar on a gut level? Go to Torah study or an adult class — is the study at a depth that nurtures you?

Keep in mind that the Conservative movement does not want to reject interfaith couples, and you will find it offers Jewish avenues to giving your child a solid, halachic identity.

It is time to accept that you can’t control everything. As a woman, let me say, “Welcome to my world!” It is one in which typically men are calling the shots and getting their way. If a closer adherence to Jewish law and tradition is what speaks to you, then you will have to accept that sometimes that law doesn’t give you your way. This is also a wonderful opportunity to learn about privilege and humility. And it will benefit your relationship as you see the influence and impact your girlfriend has on your life.

Yes, you may be laughing or angry about this man’s strict requirements for a synagogue. But we make very narrow demands do this at times. It’s worth taking seriously; it’s also a good idea to really consider whether what you want should take precedence over the desires or needs of others.

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christmas ornaments Pixabay

I wrote the opinion piece for the J-Weekly because so many Jews told me they felt pressured to embrace Christmas. Please expand your idea of what other people “should” like.

Growing up without a formal religion in the United States can lead many people to insist, “I have no religion. I’m certainly not a Christian.” They define “real” Christians as people who go to church, believe in Jesus as savior and observe Christmas and Easter as religious holidays.

But the reality is more nuanced. Despite the diversity we value and enjoy in this country, America’s culture is shaped by the Christian people who settled it. As a result, Christmas and Easter are federal holidays when government offices close. And the holidays are populated by figures like Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty and the Easter Bunny. All of this is so ingrained in the culture that most Americans don’t see it as unique. But for those who come from a different culture or nation, American culture is indeed quite distinct.

I like to call these Americans who claim no religious identity but follow the customs “folkloric Christian Americans.” They have Christmas trees, give gifts, leave out cookies for Santa and truly love the holiday and all its trappings. To a lesser extent, they also love Easter, with its emphasis on chocolate, bunnies, Easter baskets and Easter egg hunts. They make no reference to the resurrection of Christ and don’t go to an early morning Easter service. But they love the food and decorations that accompany the holiday. They enjoy getting together with family over a big meal — very much like Thanksgiving.

They observe these Christian holidays as folkloric, cultural practices.

Now, here’s the rub: folkloric Christian Americans believe the holidays are about fun, and that no one should have to go through life without them. I’ve heard people say quite sincerely, “It would be cruel to deprive a child of the magic of Christmas.” This kind of statement implies that their cultural norms hold some ultimate truth that every human being should follow.

For Americans who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Native American and others, this perspective can feel like a frontal attack on their own cultural norms and practices. Members of minority communities who grew up surrounded by American norms may feel uncomfortable when they are put on the spot with such statements. And the less able they are to articulate why a particular holiday or practice is not for them, the more upset it makes them feel. They are defending themselves on a primal level but without the vocabulary to express their concerns.

To the Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Sufis, my fellow Jews and others, I want to say that each of us has the human right to be who we are and to decline to adopt the cultural holidays of mainstream Christian America. While some minority folks are happy to get on board and have Easter baskets and Christmas trees, know that you don’t have to. Do not be defensive or angry. Express your sense of self in a soft voice. Graciously decline invitations that would make you feel inauthentic. Let others have their fun. You have your own.

And to the folkloric Christian Americans, I want to say, please wake up to the reality that most of the people on this planet do not have a Christmas tree or Easter basket, and they are doing just fine. Children who don’t practice your cultural holidays won’t feel deprived unless you make a point of trying to make them feel deprived. If you truly welcome diversity, then show it with your actions. Allow others to be different from you. And we should all enjoy and celebrate these differences in one another.

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Anti Semitism

Being an interfaith couple doesn’t protect you from anti-Semitism, not in Nazi Germany, not in America. Having one partner who is NOT a Jew doesn’t prevent people from hating the Jewish members of your family, and even hating the person who loves Jews. Sadly there has been a spike in anti-Semitism in the bay area. Several families have contacted me asking for help. A couple of them said the problem was in their public school. There will be a program next week in San Rafael about Jewish kids in public schools. The Marin Jewish Community Center is hosting a program with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The RSVP link goes to a Facebook event. If you are not on Facebook contact the JCRC to get more information or to ask for help in your own community.

Jewish Students, Public Schools
Resources & Tools for Addressing Anti-Semitism, Intolerance & Bias
In the wake of Charlottesville, and in response to the J Weekly article about rising anti-Semitism in Bay Area schools, the Osher Marin JCC and the Jewish Community Relations Council is hosting a program designed to provide parents with the tools and resources to be advocates, resources and proactive partners in addressing challenges facing school age children and schools in Marin. Free event. For more information and to RSVP go to https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/JCRCSanFrancisco/schools.html

Date: Wednesday, October 25
Time: 7-8:30pm
Place: Center for Jewish Peoplehood, 200 N. San Pedro Rd., San Rafael

EVENTS
Practicing Power (Lafayette)
Pumpkin Carving (Foster City)
Jewish Meditation (Oakland)
Parenting and Grandparenting in an Interfaith Family (Pleasanton)
Introduction to Judaism (San Mateo)
Family & Friends Shabbat (San Francisco)
Patralineal Jews & Identity (Oakland)

Practicing Power: How to Think Jewishly About Accomplishing Anything Together
What comes to mind when you hear the word “power”?
Is it good, bad, or ugly?
Join Rabbi LeVine for a special three-part course examining the concept of power, what Judaism has to say about it, and how to practice power more effectively.

While attending all three sessions will allow you to make the most of the learning, please feel free to join for just one or two sessions as well.

Dates: Sundays, October 22, 29 and November 5
Time: 11:15am
Meets at the Contra Costa Jewish Day School, across from Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette
Offered by Temple Isaiah
Please RSVP to daniella@temple-isaiah.org or call (925) 284-9191.

Pumpkin Carving
(BYOP – Bring your own Pumpkin)
Please join us at the park for a little bit of fun in the sun before winter creeps in. This kid-friendly event will be fun for all ages. Don’t forget to bring your own pumpkin and cutting tools. Card games and light snacks will be provided.
RSVP to karenbberman@gmail.com if you are interested.

Date: Thursday, October 26
Time: 4:30-6:00pm
Place: Catamaran Park, 479 – 499 Catamaran St, Foster City
Sponsored by Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay Ave., Foster City
www.peninsulasinai.org

Jewish Meditation
Please join us to chant, meditate, learn and share together in community. Open to everyone, absolutely no previous experience required.

Meditation supports the practice of presence. It boosts your immune system, calms your nerves, and helps us stay connected with what is most important.

The evening will be facilitated by Temple Beth Abraham member Jueli Garfinkle who is certified and been teaching Jewish meditation since 2004. Jueli’s classes are based on the Jewish mystical tradition and calendar, and always include meaningful everyday practices to cultivate presence, joy, and connection. She leads ongoing meditation groups, workshops, and retreats throughout the Bay Area, as well as meets one-on-one with individuals to provide support and guidance.

Dates: Thursday, Oct 26, Nov 16, Jan 18, 2018, Feb 22, March 22, April 19, May 26
Time: 7 pm to 8:30 pm
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland
Cost: $18 cash or check for each session
Please RSVP by email jueligarfinkle@gmail.com, if you know you are planning to attend. Walk-ins always welcome!
www.tbaoakland.org

Parenting and Grandparenting in an Interfaith Family
Techniques for listening and talking to adult children
Your child has married a non-Jewish person, maybe a Christian. Possibly they have not yet determined whether to have a Jewish home. The question of children may also be up in the air. You know that any children they have are THEIR children but you hope to impart some of your Jewish identity to your grandchildren. How can you talk to your own child and child-in-law about your desire while respecting them as parents? What is reasonable to say or request? How do you open the conversation?

Join other grandparents and Dawn Kepler to discuss this delicate conversation and come away with ideas for being the fabulous grandparent you know you can be!

Date: Monday, Oct. 30
Time: 7 – 9pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Free, preregistration required.
Please register here

Introduction to Judaism
Join this 12-week course taught by Rabbis Dennis Eisner, Sara Mason-Barkin, and Lisa Kingston. This course is for anyone who wants to learn more about Judaism. Course will cover life cycles, holidays, culture, and belief. Text: Living Judaism by Wayne Dosick.

Dates: Thursdays, November 2, 9, 16, 30; December 7, 14; January 11, 18, 25; February 1, 8, 15
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
Cost: Public/$180 and members are free
www.ptbe.org

Family & Friends Shabbat
The whole family is invited to a short, joyful monthly Shabbat service led by Isaac Zones and Rabbi Copeland. Bring babies, toddlers, and young school aged kids for music, stories, and dinner.

Isaac Zones is a Bay Area musician specializing in Jewish, spiritual, folk and family music, and has led for years here at Sha’ar Zahav and at Camp Tawonga.

Dates: Friday, Nov 10 & Dec 15
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St., San Francisco
RSVP to education@shaarzahav.org to accommodate for dinner. Thank you!
www.shaarzahav.org

Patralineal Jews: Navigating the Jewish World & Keeping Your Identity Strong
Are you the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother? At some point in life patrilineal Jews usually are told, “You know you’re not really Jewish, right?” Let’s talk about how to be a confident Jew even if others don’t affirm your identity. Share your stories and ideas with others. Join us for coffee at We’ll offer you an array of approaches for dealing to unwanted comments.

Date: Sunday, Nov. 12
Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Café Dejena 3939 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland
Free, but preregistration is required.
Sign up here

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Bridget's photo of resistance

We are reeling from the events in Charlottesville. Across the Jewish community clergy and laypeople are moved to words and actions. Here are some from the Bay Area.

Cantor Chabon, B’nai Tikvah, Walnut Creek
The older I get, the more I understand that living a fulfilling life depends on how we respond to the joys and sorrows in our world. When we embrace the moments of grace and love, we feel empowered and inspired to fight against hatred and bigotry when we next encounter them. Too often it seems that those two experiences–spiritual nourishment and the reality of our broken world-are juxtaposed against one another. That was never more true than this weekend.

I am sure I was not the only person to have a version of this experience over Shabbat: on Shabbat morning, 75 of us gathered in our beautiful social hall to sing and pray and learn together in our Nishma service, to imbue ourselves and our community with light and hope. After a beautiful oneg we all got into our cars, only to learn of the horrific violence at a White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that same day. As we were praying for healing in our world, Heather Heyer z”l, was killed as she protested intolerance, inequality and violence across our country. Her mother, Susan Bro, says she wants her daughter’s death “to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion.”

In the spirit of that call, we will be gathering this evening at 7:00 at Civic Park (at the corner of Civic Dr and North Main Street) for an interfaith peace vigil along with members of many faith communities in our county. Please bring prayers and supportive, peaceful signs. A group of CBT members will hold our banner to represent our synagogue’s desire to stand in solidarity against discrimination and hatred. Please join us.

Rabbi Bridget Wynne, Jewish Gateways, El Cerrito
​Like you, I am horrified by the hatred and violence in Charlottesville, and the disturbing lack of condemnation by our president. Continue reading here.

Rabbi Ruth Adar, Coffeeshop Rabbi, East Bay educator at Lehrhaus Judaica.
The events in Charlottesville are a wake-up call to all of us who were asleep. People marched with Nazi regalia, with racist and antisemitic slogans in an American city and the President of the United States had to be prodded to say more than platitudes. The Justice Department had to be prodded into action.
Folks, we are beyond the pale. Continue to read here.

Rabbi Singer and the clergy of Congregation Emanu-el, San Francisco
Emanu-El Clergy Statement on the violence in Virginia and Minnesota
The clergy of Congregation Emanu-El condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the ongoing horrific display of white supremacist violence in our country. Continue reading here.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Netivot Shalom, Berkeley
The Day After Charlottesville
In the aftermath of a horrific day in Charlottesville, there is an image I ask us to hold onto.

Don’t just read this, do something!

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lemons & blossoms

It’s JUNE! Summer brings big changes to Jewish institutions and synagogues. You’d think it were the year 100 and we were all farmers again. There are very few holidays in the summer, Hebrew school is closed, rabbis go on vacation, apparently Jews are tending their gardens and flocks. However, many synagogues take advantage of the good weather and have outdoor Shabbat services on Friday nights and Shabbat in the Park or the Woods for Saturday mornings. This is a lovely time to visit synagogues and get to meet some members and the clergy. Go “shul shopping” if you don’t have a synagogue or are seeking a change. Take a look at some of the alternative services I’ve listed below and if you don’t see one near you – email me. I’ll find some. Next week I’ll send you info about some of the alternative Jewish organizations you can explore. (If you are currently involved with one of them – like Urban Adamah or The Kitchen – let me know what you think of them.)

BIG NEWS: As you recall my program belongs to Lehrhaus Judaica and we are located in the same building as the UC Berkeley Hillel in Berkeley. Well, the decision has been made to redo the foundation of our building and do a remodel too. So we all moved OUT of the building on Bancroft Way and have temporary offices being set up in Albany. During our transition next week the best way to reach me is by email. Once we’ve settled in at the temporary building and our phones are turned on, I’ll let you know.

Happy Summer and Shabbat Shalom!

EVENTS
Pride Shabbat (San Rafael)
Torah with Soul (San Rafael)
The Home I Love: Cabaret from Berlin to Tel Aviv (San Francisco)
Welcome Shabbat Outdoors (Los Altos)
Story Shabbat (Pleasanton)
This is Bay Area Jewry: Photo Essays on the Changing Nature of Our Community (San Rafael)
Bagels & Babies (Tiburon)
Outdoor Potluck Shabbat Dinner (Redwood City)
Grief and Growing Weekend (Santa Rosa)

Pride Shabbat
Join us for our Pride Shabbat – a celebration of LGBTQ Jews, friends, allies and their families. Services will include liturgical additions, musical celebration, special readings for Pride and speakers from our Rodef Sholom community. Everyone is welcome at this important Shabbat where we celebrate our shared commitment to justice and community!

Date: Friday, June 2
Time: 5:45 pre-oneg, 6:15 pm Shabbat service
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael
www.rodefsholom.org

Torah with Soul
Whether you are a Torah veteran, or completely new to Torah, all are welcome. Shabbat by Shabbat, we will study the weekly parsha, based on the third year of the triennial cycle. Additionally, time permitting, we’ll continue our study of the Book of Psalms. On the third Saturday of each month, weather permitting, Torah with Soul becomes Torah on the Trails, where we take a short hike on a local trail before studying Torah surrounded by nature. To be added to the Torah with Soul and/or Torah on the Trails email lists, please contact Molly at molly@rodefsholom.org.

Dates: Most Saturdays
Time: 9:15 am
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael
www.rodefsholom.org

The Home I Love: Cabaret from Berlin to Tel Aviv
Join us as Emanu-El hosts a concert event in honor of the German Consul General Stefan Schlüter’s service to the Bay Area community! Cabret and Jazz singers, Karen Kohler and Noa Levy will be joined by pianist, Tracy Stark.

Date; Wednesday, June 7
Time: 6:30 pm Check-in
Place: Emanu-El (Martin Meyer Sanctuary), 2 Lake Street, San Francisco
RSVP for this free concert via email at paconsul@sanf.diplo.de
Attendance is free and open to the community. We look forward to seeing you there!
www.emanuelsf.org

Welcome Shabbat Outdoors
Summer worship outdoors is a tradition at Beth Am, giving congregants an opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of our campus. If you wish, feel free to bring friends and enjoy a picnic dinner before or after the service.

Dates: June 9, 16, 23, 30
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
www.betham.org

Story Shabbat
Bring your young children or grandchildren to celebrate and observe Shabbat in a service and program that is designed for families with children ages 3-7.
We begin the morning with a developmentally appropriate, music-filled service and a story relating to the weekly Torah portion. After the 20-minute service, we join for motzi and kiddush before enjoying a luncheon together. We conclude with a project for the children and some outside time (weather permitting). It’s a great opportunity to get our youngest friends excited about Shabbat!

Date: Saturday, June 10
Time: 10:30am
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
For more information about Story Shabbat, contact Anna Kalman at prekyouth@bethemek.org

This is Bay Area Jewry: Photo Essays on the Changing Nature of Our Community
Lehrhaus Judaica and Building Jewish Bridges present a photo essay exhibition showcasing the range of diversity in our community. The exhibition features 16 intimate portraits of individuals and families (including longtime Rodef Sholom congregants, the Giacomini family) from a variety of backgrounds and levels of religious observance. The project is a combination of photographs and written profiles, shedding light on the unparalleled Bay Area Jewish community.

The exhibition will be on display June 1 – August 31. Click here for more information.
Opening event: Tuesday, June 13, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
www.marinjcc.org

Bagels & Babies
Kids under the age of 18 months should bring their parents for this fun chance to nosh, schmooze, exchange parenting tips & have some special baby play time.

Date: Friday, July 7
Time: 11:30am – 12:30pm
Place: Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon
www.kolshofar.org

Outdoor Potluck Shabbat Dinner
Join us for a potluck dairy Shabbat dinner, followed by a beautiful, outdoor musical service.

Date: July 14
Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Place: Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City
RSVP to Rebecca@bethjacobrwc.org

Grief and Growing Weekend
Now in its 21st year, the retreat is professionally guided by griefcare specialists, providing a supportive Jewish environment where people of all ages and backgrounds can meet and work with those who have experienced similar losses. For more information and to register, visit www.jewishhealingcenter.org

Dates: September 15 – 17
Place: Camp Newman, Santa Rosa
https://jewishhealingcenter.org

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image from Wikipedia

image from Wikipedia

Beginning tonight at sundown is Shavuot. This holiday is a bit quirky. It is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage holidays, so very important, and yet doesn’t have the foods, actions and traditions of the other two big festivals, Sukkot and Passover. My Jewish Learning has a lot of good information and you can delve into this holiday’s roots as much, or as little, as you like.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area a number of synagogues and Jewish Community Centers get together to offer a joint All-Night Study, Leil Tikkun Shavuot, or provide a study evening on their own.

I believe that the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot (note the different spelling) that the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay offers is the oldest continuously offered program in the country. You can go to their website to read all the details including their extensive schedule of teachers.

icecream

In San Francisco a number of the synagogues have come together for Shavuot Shul Stroll: The Kabbalah of Ice Cream. Participating are Congregation Chevra Thilim, Congregation Beth Sholom and Toy Boat Dessert Café – because, of course, you’ll need ice cream. See the schedule here.

Also in San Francisco, in the Sunset District, four congregations are collaborating on a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot from 7 to 11 pm at Beth Israel Judea & Or Shalom Community, 625 Brotherhood Way. See their flier here.

In the South Peninsula, Congregations Kol Emeth, Beth Am, Etz Chayim, and Keddem, together with the Oshman Family JCC, Jewish LearningWorks, and Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, invite you to an all-night experience of learning and prayer celebrating the gift of Torah. They will be meeting in Palo Alto. See their schedule here.

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Oshman JCC Logo

Several bay area JCC’s have received bomb threats and had to evacuate their facilities. When the Palo Alto/Oshman Family JCC was the victim of a threat they got a wonderful response from the Muslim-Jewish Women’s Group. Here’s what the JCC posted on their Facebook page.

Today we had a personal visit from a remarkable group of women—the Muslim-Jewish Women’s Group. Thank you for your support, and thank you to the Evergreen Islamic Center, the Mayor’s office and the many other organizations and individuals who have offered an outpouring of encouragement. #IStandWithTheJCC

PA JCC letter

Did you note the sentence, “Your suffering is our suffering; your children are our children.” No matter what faith tradition you follow there is always talk of God’s children. We are the single family of humankind. How beautiful this letter is!

Be ready to stand as a protective presence for Muslims, immigrants, LGBT. As Rabbi Menachem Creditor said at gathering at the Good Shepherd Church, “We are ready to make a circle around this church.”

Go out there and say something kind to someone. Maybe even to 4 or 5 someones.

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Purim at East Bay JCC

Purim at East Bay JCC

Dear friends, it has been an extremely difficult couple of months for those of us with multiracial, multi-ethnic families. Many of us are related to immigrants and some of us ARE immigrants. Please know that the Jewish community is acutely aware of what it feels like to be harassed and fearful. (There have been more than 60 bomb threats to Jewish community centers and Jewish schools in the last month.)

I was heartened to read the email Amy Tobin, CEO of the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay sent to the JCC members. I asked permission to share it with all of you. Here it is.

Dear Friends,

Over the last two months, Jewish organizations around the United States, including JCCs, have received threatening phone calls. While the JCC East Bay has not received such a threat, we remain vigilant and committed to the security and safety of our community above all else. We maintain strong security protocols and evacuation procedures, and the JCC continues to work closely with local and federal law enforcement.

In recent weeks, the rise in anti-Semitism has received increased national attention. This is, in part, due to the terrible desecration of two Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia. The number of threats against Jewish institutions has grown. At the same time, the Jewish community has increased its public pressure on government leaders to take a strong stand against hate and to step up its investigation of these incidents.

We know that these events have been painful to absorb. We recognize that members and program participants may have specific concerns and encourage you to continue to share them with us. This is your community center, a place that vibrates with life and learning because of you.

At the JCC East Bay, we are concerned not only about the rise in anti-Semitic behavior, but about the rise in hateful rhetoric and crimes against many sister faiths and communities. We have seen arson attacks at two Islamic Centers. Latino and Muslim individuals are concerned for their safety and freedom, both in their communities and at the borders. In the last two years, we have seen unspeakable acts committed against the African-American community at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and against the LGBTQ community in Orlando.

This moment is not just a Jewish moment. This is a cultural moment, in which we are challenged to stand united against hatred and discrimination. This is an opportunity to work for our shared values: freedom, safety and equal rights for all.

As Jews and as Americans, we take inspiration from past generations. Our history has taught us to find strength under difficult circumstances. Our community will not be intimidated by hatred. We will work more passionately for tolerance among all people. We will celebrate and thrive in community.

Thank you for being a part of the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay.

Warmly,
Amy Tobin
Chief Executive Officer

You are not alone. I am not alone. Together we will support and protect each other. I hope you have a community – whether Jewish or Christian or Muslim, whether religious or a group of friends – that is supporting you. If you don’t, it’s time to get one now. Contact me if you need help.

May we all reach Shalom – peace and wholeness.

Dawn
dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org

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Angel prayer amulet

Many people of all faiths are suffering right now. There is fear and a sense of helplessness. But we are not helpless. There are large, communal actions we can take. But there are also small intimate actions that build a sense of trust, community, safely — in our very own neighborhoods.

Cantor Jennie Chabon of B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek sent the following personal and powerful message to her congregation.

Sometimes when the vastness of the pain and injustice in the world feels overwhelming, a small gesture on a local level can be a soothing balm to our troubled souls.

Yesterday was one of those days when I needed something tangible to combat my sense of helplessness against the barrage of bad news on the radio and tv. So my family and I went to the store and bought delicious food to give away: cookies, dates, fresh bread, oranges. When we got home, we arranged the food in a basket and walked across the street to our neighbors’ house.

Our neighbors are Muslim, and though they have lived in their house for a long time, I have had only one conversation with them, a few years ago when the grandmother of their family brought over a plate of lemon cake and candy during the height of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At that time, she offered us the plate with no explanation, just that she wanted to give it to us to enjoy. We all understood why she was there and we were so moved by her gesture. We closed the door praying for peace on our little street, even if it doesn’t exist world-wide.

Yesterday, her daughter in law opened the door in her hijab, 8 months pregnant and very surprised to see us on her doorstep. I gave her the basket and told her that it was an offering of peace for their family. I could almost not get the words out because of the tears fighting to pour out of my eyes. She put her hand to her heart and introduced herself. She told us about her family. I wished her the traditional Hebrew blessing for a pregnant woman, that the baby should come out b’sha’ah tovah, at the good, right, blessed time. She is naming her baby Maya, meaning princess.

The whole interaction lasted just a few minutes, but staring into that woman’s eyes and talking with her filled me with hope, and renewed my commitment to continue working for justice and peace. I didn’t need to explain that I was moved to bring her food because so many Muslims have been detained at airports across the country. We all understood. I see you, I tried to say with my eyes. I see the holy spark of the Divine in you and I pray with all of my heart that peace will come to Jews and Muslims and all people across our country during this divided time.

My prayer this Shabbat is for us all to find small moments of holiness to help us navigate the fear and uncertainty in our world. May Shabbat be a day of restoration and renewed faith and joy for us all.

Right now is a very good time to belong to a synagogue (or religious institution of your own choice) because you will give and receive both the personal comfort that one person can offer another, and because as a community your efforts have greater impact. Don’t go it alone.

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