LGBT Safe Zone

LGBT Safe Zone

Thanks to Keshet for this lovely sign.

I don’t have a huge amount of data about LGBT Jewish couples, but I do have the results of a survey done a few years ago of the East Bay LGBT Jewish population. Of the LGBT Jews in relationships 89% were in an interfaith relationship. If you didn’t think interfaith programming was important for the LGBT community before, I hope this changes your view.

Building Jewish Bridges is here to help ALL interfaith couples and families figure out their strategy for their family’s religious life. Please don’t hesitate to contact Dawn Kepler if you want to talk about the options you and your partner are exploring.

Happy Pride Month!

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Community Seder

Community Seder

Typically the first night of Passover (Pesach) involves a family Seder at home. But there are some places where there are community Seders for those who don’t have a family to invite.

Second night community Seders have become very common at synagogues and there are lots of them! If you don’t see what you need below just Google the name of your city and “community Passover Seder.”


Community Passover Seder
led by Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky
The Exodus from Egypt is not only something that happened to us thousands of years ago, but also something we continue to experience in our lives today. Seder night is the time to identify and share these stories of liberation as we weave the national and personal narratives into a tapestry of freedom. Come and experience the seder as you’ve never experienced it before with probing questions, the sharing of stories, lively discussion, festive singing, games for kids, and an evening of surprises for the whole family.

Friday, April 22 at 6:00 pm
Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto
Click here to register – but hurry. The deadline is Sunday, April 17, at midnight. We won’t be able to accept reservations after that, as we have to give final numbers to the caterer.

First Night Family Seder in Berkeley
Rabbi Bridget Wynne of Jewish Gateways and Oakland musician Eric Schoen will lead us through the night. A kid-friendly event, our seder includes singing, storytelling, and a light meal served picnic-style.

Date: Friday, April 22, 5:00-6:15 pm (Doors open at 4:30 pm)
Berkeley Branch – 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley
Details here

First Night Family Seder in Oakland
Rabbi Mike Rothbaum (Co-Chair at Bend the Arc and Director of Education at Congregation Beth El) and notable Yiddish musician Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell will lead us in a social justice themed Passover celebration. A kid-friendly event, our seder includes singing, storytelling, and a light meal served picnic-style.

Friday, April 22, 5:00-6:15 pm (Doors open at 4:30 pm)
Oakland Branch – 5811 Racine Street, Oakland
Details and cost here

First Night Community Seder in Berkeley
Rabbi Bridget Wynne of Jewish Gateways and Oakland musician Eric Schoen will lead us through the night. Join us for a warm, lively, and social celebration for people of all ages.
Friday, April 22, 7:30pm – 9:30pm
JCC of the East Bay, Berkeley Branch – 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley
Cost and details here.

First Night Community Seder in Oakland
Rabbi Mike Rothbaum (Co-Chair at Bend the Arc and Director of Education at Congregation Beth El) and notable Yiddish musician Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell will lead us in a social justice themed Passover celebration. A warm, lively, interactive full seder celebrating the Festival of Liberation — for us and all people! Full seder meal to be served. All are welcome!

Friday, April 22, 7:30pm – 9:30pm
JCC of the East Bay, Oakland Branch – 5811 Racine Street, Oakland
Cost and details here.


Peninsula Sinai Community Passover Seder
Join us for the 2nd Night of Passover at PSC. We will be hosting a seder on the 2nd night of the holiday, Saturday evening,April 23, at 6:30 pm. A great opportunity for people of all age. Kids and interfaith families welcome.

RSVP’s are due no later than April 15, 2016. Cost is $70 per adult and $25 per kid ages 3-12 (Kids under 3 eat for FREE). Vegetarian options available. This will be a great experience for the novice and the experienced at the seder table. Hope you can join us. Questions? Contact Rabbi Helfand at

April 23, 6:30pm
Peninsula Sinai, 499 Boothbay, Foster City
Please RSVP to by calling 650-349-2816 or
Details here.

Rodef Sholom’s 2nd Night Seder
Once again we are hosting a 2nd Night Seder. Join Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown and Cantor David Margules, along with many of our own Rodef Sholom musicians as they host a beautiful, meaningful and musical Seder.

Saturday, April 23, 5:00 pm
Social Hall of Rodef Sholom, 170 No. San Pedro Road, San Rafael

RSVP to Molly at by April 18. Prices for congregants are $50 for adults and $35 for children; prices for non-congregants are $60 for adults and $45 for children. Spaces are limited so RSVP soon!

Second Night Passover Seder
Join us for a warm, celebratory and multi-generational seder. We’ll share stories of slavery and freedom, join together in song, and enjoy a delicious Passover feast.

Saturday, April 23, 6:00 to 8:00pm
Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame
Cost: $50/adult, $32/child 12 and under. Make your reservation by Friday, April 15.
Details here.

Beth Am’s Annual 2nd Night Community Seder
Led by Rabbi Jennifer Clayman
Rabbi Jennifer Clayman will lead this year’s Beth Am Community Seder on the 2nd night of Passover. Enjoy a delicious multi-course meal without having to cook, clean up or remember where you hid the afikomen.

Saturday, April 23, 6:00pm
Social Hall of Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
Cost $47 per adult; $27 per child (12 and under). Seating is limited. Please sign up for Beth Am’s Community Seder by Friday, April 15. For more information, please contact Emily Osterman or call (650) 493-4661.
Details here

Temple Israel of Alameda’s Community Second Night Seder
Details here.
(seating is limited) Click here
or call the Temple office 510-522-9355

April 23, 5:00 – 8:00pm
Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Road, Alameda

Temple Sinai’s Annual Community Passover Seder
Let all who are hungry- for food and community- join us!
Join Rabbi Ruth Adar and Cantor Ilene Keys as we retell the story of Passover, enjoy delicious foods catered by Z Cafe, meet new friends and sing!

Saturday, April 23, 5:30pm (doors open at 5:00pm)
Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Please purchase tickets early as seats are limited and sell out every year.
Purchase tickets online here.

Sherith Israel’s Second-Night Community Seder
Let all who are hungry come and eat. We say these words every year as we sit down to tell the Passover story of the Israelites’ journey from bondage to freedom.
Once again, the festive Sherith Israel community Seder is the congregation’s annual fundraiser for our Chicken Souper and HaMotzi programs. They feed homebound seniors, people with chronic illnesses, and adults and children at the Women’s Shelter of San Francisco and the Compass Family Center.
Our wonderful volunteers, who sustain these critical programs year after year, will cater dinner. Joel Siegel will lead us in song. Rabbis Larry Raphael, Jessica Graf and Julie Saxe-Taller will keep us all on the same page.

Saturday, April 23, 5–8 pm
Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
Pricing and details here.

Oshman JCC Community Passover Seder Dinner
The Oshman Family JCC is holding a Jewish Passover Seder for all who would like to join us. The meal will be catered (Kosher for Passover).
Share your Jewish journey while sharing a meal with friends and family. Experience Passover in a warm and welcoming setting at a Seder which combines tradition and creativity. Meet people in the community and make new friends.

Date: Friday, April 22
Time: 6:30–9:00pm
Place: Palo Alto JCC, Room E-104, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Suggested donation of $36; subsidized places available for those in need
Contact: Robin Vasilakos | (650) 223-8791 |
Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Community, Community Activities, Passover
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Larry Milder with torah

I wanted to share with you this message that Rabbi Larry Milder sent to his congregation earlier this month.

Are You Intermarried? We Welcome You!

We are an intermarried congregation. I haven’t counted; I don’t know what the numbers are. It’s just an impression. Honestly, I don’t always know who is a Jew and who is not.

Things used to be different. When I began my career as a rabbi, back in the Pleistocene Age, intermarrieds were a cohort of members. They were a group, distinct. Sadly, they were sometimes marginal members, whether by their own choice or as a result of the reactions they received from in-marrieds.

It’s just not that way anymore. I don’t pretend for a moment that an intermarried family doesn’t have discussions that may be different from in-married families, or unique questions around extended family relationships. But something more fundamental has changed.

Intermarriage has moved from the periphery to the center of Jewish life, and that transition has taken place during our lifetime. We are a place where any Jew and his/her partner are integrated into the life of the congregation.

So, here is a shout out to all the non-Jewish moms and dads who bring their children to religious school, participate in family education, go to our early childhood programs, and learn Hebrew and Jewish prayers along the way. Here’s to all the non-Jewish partners, young adult and empty-nesters, who take classes, do social action projects, volunteer on committees and behind the scenes. Many are deeply moved by Judaism, and, while not Jewish themselves, hold Judaism and our traditions in high regard. Many are fellow travelers, understanding of their partner’s faith, and devoted to raising Jewish children. I am grateful for every hour you have put into what is a sacred task for us as a congregation. We simply could not achieve the raising of Jewish children, or realize our congregation’s potential, without your help.

Which leads me to a statement of Reform Jewish principles which bears repeating: Unlike the traditional movements of Judaism, we regard the child of either a Jewish mother or a Jewish father as potentially Jewish. We do not consider it an automatic identity; the parents must choose what religion their child will be, and must act upon that choice. But we do not follow the matrilineal descent principle which is practiced by Conservative and Orthodox Jews. We are egalitarian. A child may inherit his/her Judaism from either parent.

Sometimes, we take the commitments of intermarried couples for granted. That should not be the case. Their presence here in our congregation is a blessing to all of us. I hope that more will join us, and know that they are welcome here, too.

Rabbi Larry Milder is the spiritual leader of Beth Emek in Pleasanton, CA.

Are you looking for a synagogue that will be comfortable for an interfaith family? Don’t hesitate to call and make an appointment to speak with the rabbi. Be honest, say what you are looking for. If it isn’t a match, fine, shake hands and keep looking. If it is a match — then it’s good to be home!

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I was delighted to receive this letter from an annoyed reader! They wrote:

Your column is always suggesting convoluted ways that interfaith couples can deal with more traditional Jewish views. Why bother? Why don’t you just tell them to join a Reform synagogue and be done with the people who don’t agree with their life choices or see their kids as Jewish? — Annoyed with Traditional Jews

So I answered —

Dear Annoyed: I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that you asked this question! I’ve been wanting to discuss this topic since I started writing the column. Read on here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, Couples, Relationships
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Oneg Shabbat

Oneg Shabbat

Rabbi Milder of Beth Emek in Pleasanton sent out an email to his congregation last Friday reminding them of the importance of food – as a gesture of hospitality, as a social mixer, as a gesture of caring.

Here’s what he had to say:

Shabbat services don’t feel complete without Oneg Shabbat. It’s like dinner without dessert.

For many of us, Oneg Shabbat is where we sense belonging to our Jewish community. It is a Brigadoon kind of community, magically appearing each week, sometimes with new guests.

Oneg means joy, like a cookbook, “Joy of Shabbat.” The service is the meaty stuff, the deep thinking; the Oneg is the icing on the cake.

We need Oneg, the simple pleasure of being together with others in celebration of Shabbat. The schmooze, catching up on the past week, on where our kids went, on which relatives are visiting.

Of course, what makes it feel right to schmooze is that someone, very thoughtfully, put out a nosh, a snack. Maybe some nice cheese and crackers, whatever fruit is in season, perhaps a pie. They set out plates and napkins, made a pot of decaf, brought some lemonade. Maybe they made it pretty in some personal way.

We’ve gotten used to thinking that Oneg Shabbat just happens. Instead, it should be something that we do for one another, something that we each take pride in creating for our community.

Rabbi Milder continues and urges his congregants to take a hand in producing the oneg at their shul. Cooking, baking, or just buying food, is something each of us is able to do. Getting involved in a synagogue for the first time can feel hard. But we can all manage food. Join the Hospitality or Oneg committee at your shul. You’ll meet friendly people who like good food. You’ll share a favorite recipe or get a new one from a new acquaintance. I like to bring edible flowers from my garden to decorate the trays (pansies, calendula, roses). Food (and flowers) can start up a conversation with someone new. Give it a try. If you are already an old hand at your synagogue, make it your goal to chat with someone who looks new this coming Shabbat.

Then please email me and tell me how it went.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, Finding a Synagogue, symbolic foods
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Camp Tawonga Dining Hall

Camp Tawonga Dining Hall

Here comes summer! I asked Liora, the Youth and Family Concierge for the East Bay Federation to share some thoughts about Jewish Summer Camp. I did so because she has a marvelous spreadsheet of summer camp options and I want you to feel welcome to give them a try. Here’s what she has to say about her own take on Jewish Summer Camp:

With Memorial Day and Shavuot (The holiday marking the giving of the Torah) on the same weekend this year, nothing says “Summer” like ending the Jewish holiday cycle and BBQ at the same time! Shavuot is the last holiday until Rosh Hashana (mark your calendars, Evening of September 13th!) and with that Jews are officially on summer vacation. What better way to rejoice in the season than to meet new friends and reunite with old friends at summer camp?

Summer camp was a formative experience for me. I recently met up with a former camper from a summer when I was a bunk counselor. She is now married and seeing her again was so special for me. In the songs I sing to my own children (silly, serious, English, Hebrew) or the memories I cherish (Games of “capture the flag,” or cozy in my sleeping bag among my bunkmates) camp is really a special time.

In our first year of the Sprout Initiative at the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, it seemed only natural to produce a Summer Camp Guide for Families in the East Bay. From day camps to overnight camps in the region there are many wonderful options. Want to speak with someone to help you sort through the possibilities? I’m here for your family! As the Youth and Family Concierge, my job is to help families connect to Jewish life in the East Bay. I’d love to connect with you.

Not sure your children are camp material? Are your children too young to attend day camp or overnight camp? Try family camps. Specialty family camp weekends are a great way to test the waters or have a getaway while in community. Tawonga has family weekends and Be’chol Lashon has a weekend in November.

Check out our 2015 Summer Camp Guide for Families Click here to view the guide. (PDF)
Whatever your family has planned, all of us at Sprout wish you a wonderful summer.


I urge you to try something Jewish this summer. It’s a great time, no pressure, that wonderful summery feeling. If you’re not sure what you want to try, feel free to give me a call.

Camp Kee Tov campers

Camp Kee Tov campers

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Community
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Thank you Keshet for this sticker.

Thank you Keshet for this sticker.

I’m not going to pretend that LGBTQ folks are our primary audience just because it’s Pride Month. BUT LGBTQ folks do show up at many programs we offer. Why? Because 11% of the US population identifies as LGBTQ and 2% identifies as Jewish. So if you’re gay and Jewish the chances of finding another gay Jew is statistically challenging. It isn’t surprising that a study done a few years ago by the Jewish Federation of the East Bay found that 89% of LGBTQ Jews who are in a relationship are in an interfaith relationship.

Our doors are open to all interfaith couples whether they identify religiously or culturally with their traditions. We are here to provide honest answers and insightful suggestions. We have terrific resources and compassionate ears.

So go on, be old or young, gay or straight, any color you prefer, the faith/spirituality that moves you — we’re happy to hear from you.


The Pride Parade in San Francisco will be June 28 this year. The synagogues are taking contingents and you can join your own synagogue’s group. If you don’t have a group with whom to march Keshet, the Jewish LGBT organization, is delighted to have you sign up to march with them. Just go to this link to sign up. Note, they are marching with American Jewish World Service so when you get to the link it will be on AJWS’s website. You’re in the right place. Go here.

Learn more about Keshet here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, LGBT
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mourning candle

Some of you know that I receive just about all of the synagogue e-newsletters. Sometimes the rabbis use that vehicle to contact their members. Not long ago I received an email from a Conservative congregation who had a recent loss. It is a useful way of illustrating some aspects of Shiva practice.

The rabbi said:

Yesterday we had the sad and moving funeral, burial, and first day of shiva for our beloved Lottie. Lottie’s daughters Janet and Myra are sitting shiva in Lottie’s home.

While most of our members receive shiva visitors around the time of the minyan service, the more traditional practice that Janet and Myra observe is to receive visitors throughout the day.

Please visit any time in the upcoming days after 9 in the morning: today, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (until Shabbat). Minyan in the evening is at 6:45. Please note the time is different from our usual, to allow for both the afternoon and evening services to be observed. It is very important to have a minyan each evening, and I encourage attendance there as well.

There is no public mourning on Shabbat, but we will have a service following the conclusion of Shabbat at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Finally, our Cares Committee is coordinating people to help set up the home around 6:30 in the evening, and clean up at the end of the evening (around 8:45).

What do we learn from this?
First, that the traditional shiva practice is to hold a daily minyan for a week, minus Shabbat (Friday night at sundown to Saturday at sundown). Second, that a minyan is present three times a day for the traditional three daily prayer services. Third, that the community takes care of the mourners, sets up in preparation of the gathering and clears up afterwards. The mourners are mourning; that’s all that is expected of them. Period.

Posted by admin under Community, Death & Mourning
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Passover begins April 3

Passover begins Friday, April 3 at sundown. Most people will be cozily ensconced in a house well before the 7:34pm sunset time. If you are a member of a synagogue and have no where to go for first night you should contact your synagogue’s office. Most shuls are doing seder matching.

Almost all the bay area synagogues are offering Second Night Community Seders. If you are too exhausted on Friday night to go anywhere then hop onto a Saturday night Second Seder.

The one place I know of that is offering First Night Community Seders is the East Bay JCC. There will be Seders at both their Oakland and Berkeley sites. The Jewish Community Relations Council is offering a Seder on Thursday, March 31. Browse through your options below. If I have not listed a Seder near you, don’t despair. There are just too many for me to get them all! Call the synagogues in your city and ask. SIGN UP VERY SOON!

2015 Community Seders

19th Annual San Francisco Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder
Join a joyous gathering of friends, neighbors and fellow San Franciscans at our 2015 Multicultural Freedom Seder! All are welcome!

Date: March 31
Time: 6:30pm
Place: JCCSF, 3200 California Street, San Francisco
Purchase your tickets before Friday, March 27, 2015! Call the JCCSF box office at 415.292.1233 and avoid the service charge or buy online.
Cost: Seating is limited. Tickets are $40 for adults or $35 for JCCSF members, and $15 for children under 12.
Presented by JCRC, JCCSF and Congregation Emanu-El. This event is successful because of the many San Francisco organizations who co-sponsor each year. If you would like to learn more about how your organization can easily become a co-sponsor, or have other questions, please contact Joe Goldman at or 415.977.7418.

Kehilla Annual Passover Seder
Join us to celebrate Passover! With Rabbis David J. Cooper, Burt Jacobson & Diane Elliot, and special guest Rev. Deborah Lee, director of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Delicious catered vegetarian dinner. Pre-registration required.
The theme this year will be: Social Justice & Spirituality
We will enjoy a delicious catered organic, mostly vegetarian, mostly gluten-free meal featuring your favorite holiday ritual foods.

Date: April 4
Time: 4:45pm
Place: Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave, Oakland
Details here.

Second Night Congregational Seder
Join Rabbis Yoel Kahn and Rebekah Stern and Beth El members, old and new, in their annual Second Night Congregational Seder. We will enjoy a festive Pesach celebration and a delicious Kosher-for-Passover meal. Dinner will be catered by Lucy Aghadjian.
We are never too old nor too young to learn and retell the story of Passover. Through song, ritual and discussion, we will retell the ancient story, making connections to our own lives and our world.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley
Cost: Adults: (members) $48, (guests) $60
Seniors: $36
Young Professionals (30 and under): $36
Students/Youth/Children: $25
Through the generosity of anonymous Beth El members, no one will be turned away because of inability to pay. Kids are warmly welcomed to join in the seder and/or the parallel kids’ Pesach activities.
RSVP by March 31 here.

Beth Am’s Annual 2nd Night Community Seder
Rabbi Heath Watenmaker will lead this year’s Beth Am Community Seder on the 2nd night of Passover. Enjoy a delicious multi-course meal without having to cook, clean up or remember where you hid the afikomen. Cost $46 per adult; $26 per child (12 and under). Seating is limited.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Social Hall of Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
Please sign up for Beth Am’s Community Seder by Friday, March 27 using the downloadable sign up for here.
For more information, please contact Emily Osterman or call (650) 493-4661.

THREE Second Night Seders at Emanuel in San Francisco
Look here.

Multigenerational seder guests

Second Night Multigenerational Seder
Join us for a warm, celebratory, and multigenerational Seder! We’ll share our stories of slavery and freedom, join together in singing songs old and new, and enjoy a delicious Passover feast. New this year: Sharing the Journey Visual Haggadah.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00pm
Place: In the Social Hall of Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame
Cost: $49 (adults); $32 (children under 12). Scholarships are available; contact Rabbi Delson Please join us; click here for more information.

Community Passover Seder
Rabbi Gutterman will be leading the Community Seder at B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek. The seder is being catered by Sunrise Bistro.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Details here.
We regretfully cannot accept reservations after Tuesday morning, March 31. or you can call the office at 925-933-5397

Two Second Seders at Etz Chayim
Join us for Second Night Seder. We’ll have two different Seders happening in different rooms at the same time. Both seders will offer the traditional songs and symbolic foods, a catered, gourmet dinner with a chicken or vegetarian option, and a wonderful community to share the celebration with.

For more information or to register go here.
But hurry – the deadline is Sunday, March 29th, at midnight. This will be enforced, as we have to give final numbers to the caterer.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 5:30 pm, Kiddush begins at 6:00 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto

Posted by admin under Community, Community Activities, Jewish Culture, Passover
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Easter Eggs Sweden

I’ve received many questions this month about painting eggs. Spring brings Passover and Easter, sometimes right on top of each other. While Jews are focusing on slavery, emancipation and unleavened bread, Easter seems to be focusing on bunnies, candy baskets and egg hunts. The real meaning of the holiday gets lost on a lot of Jewish families, especially the children. So I did some research on Easter that may be helpful in deciding what is best for your own family.

Dear Jewish parents everywhere,
We hear just bits and pieces about the meaning of Easter. I did some research so that we could have a more thorough understanding. Then, we can make our own determinations about what is best for our family. My firm belief is that knowledge makes our decision making easier and more comfortable. It can help to cut down on arguments between spouses and between parents and children. I want you to know what Easter observances are about, where they came from and, armed with this knowledge, decide what works for you. And yes, I know many Jews with two Jewish parents who colored eggs as kids. It was basically a craft activity for them.

The Easter Story
Easter is not a jolly holiday about the birth of a baby; rather it is a grim story of a gruesome death. The story’s ending is positive for believers in that Christ’s resurrection symbolizes salvation. Religious Easter is impossible to separate from its Christian message. Many Jews can’t put aside the fact that the person who is horribly killed is a Jew and yet all Jews get blamed for it… for all eternity. So be prepared for many Jews to have a visceral reaction to the idea of celebrating Easter in anyway. You may feel that you’re just doing the chocolate part of the holiday, yet others may see that as unacceptable. Be prepared to deal with these emotions. Remember that that’s what they are, emotions, and as such are neither right nor wrong.

The Easter Egg
The early Christians actively proselytized and one of the effective methods of doing so was to absorb the traditions of the community into which they spread their faith. Reinterpreting a ritual and reframing it in Christian symbolism was a less obvious way to monopolize the religion practices of indigenous peoples and to ease them into Christianity. It may feel creepy to our modern ears, but it’s better than being killed. So, Easter, like many Christian holidays, borrows heavily from pagan practices; in this case, springtime rituals.

The tradition of coloring eggs goes back thousands of years in pagan traditions. The egg was widely used as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. Painted eggs are still used at the ancient Iranian spring holiday, Nooruz, which is from the Zoroastrian religion. Just a note, Zoroastrianism is as old as Judaism; both of us have our beginnings in the earth based rituals of early civilization. Pysanka eggs, those gorgeous wax-resist eggs from the Ukraine, also date back to a pagan religion from a time when Ukrainians worshipped a sun god, Dazhboh. Part of that worship included decorated eggs.

Easter Pysanky eggs

Easter Pysanky eggs

The Easter egg is the latest addition to these springtime egg festivities. It is also called the Paschal egg, Paschal meaning “pertaining to Easter or Passover” How’s that for mixing things up! The egg was re-interpreted to symbolizes the sealed tomb in which Jesus’ body was placed. Think: just as a bird hatches alive from an egg, so too did Jesus emerge alive from the tomb. The message being that believing Christians will also experience eternal life. Traditionally the eggs were dyed red to symbolize Christ’s blood.

The Easter Bunny
The rabbit has always been known to be quite fertile so their association with springtime, fertility and rebirth is natural. Ancient Greeks believe that the rabbit was a hermaphrodite and could reproduce without a partner. Christianity interpreted this to mean that the rabbit remained a virgin even though it gave birth and it became associated with the Virgin Mary.

Now, what do we do with this knowledge?
Clearly there is nothing Jewish about Easter. Celebrating or observing any of the rituals of Easter, whether you see them as Christian or pagan, is going to be seen as “not Jewish” in the Jewish community. Now you must ask yourself, what do I want to teach my children? And what do I feel about other people’s opinions?

So, what about the kids?
If you want to color eggs because “it’s fun” I suggest you teach your children the historical meaning of painted eggs. By teaching them the truth you are equipping them to respond with confidence, and probably greater knowledge, to anyone who challenges them. You can say, “Decorating eggs has been a tradition for thousands of years in other religions, here are some of the ways that it was done and understood by people from other places in the world. We are painting them because it’s fun and pretty and we are learning about their history.”

To the Jewish mom who said her daughter wants to paint eggs to represent the 10 plagues I say, wow, your daughter is wonderfully creative! You could tell your daughter that people from different backgrounds borrow from each other and you are borrowing the idea of painted eggs and turning it into a Jewish expression for your family. You could use the eggs as part of your Seder table decorations and get the kids to guess which egg is which plague. This practice isn’t a Jewish tradition now, but who knows, maybe she’s starting something!

What about the opinions of others?
I’m not going to tell you to ignore or denigrate them. Judaism is a communal practice; we do it together for better or worse. I suggest you use your now superior knowledge to explain to them what you’ve learned, what you’ve decided based upon that and your family’s best interests. If they still can’t accept what you are doing AND they are important to you, I suggest you ask them if there is a Jewish practice that seeing you do would comfort them. Explore whether they feel that these eggs are going to curtail your Jewish practice or damage your child’s Jewish identity? If you currently send your child to Hebrew school, observe Shabbat, and have a Passover Seder gently point out to them that your Jewish practice far outweighs some colored eggs. If they still can’t accept your practice, or these are people you don’t really care about anyway, tell them that you will have to agree to disagree, and walk away.

Posted by admin under Children, Community, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning, Parenting
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