The Rainbow Challah

The Rainbow Challah

For those of us in the liberal bubble of the bay area we may need to put some extra energy into Pride this year. We may be feeling downtrodden and helpless.

If you are wondering, what can I do?, read this empowering and succinct post from Rabbi Ruth Adar, the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

If you want to make your own Rainbow Challah take a look at for a guide to coloring and braiding your bread.

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Here’s autumn! Time to consider what we want to do in the upcoming Jewish year of 5777. Here are all the workshops and classes scheduled from Building Jewish Bridges. I hope you’ll find something you like. As always, feel free to email me ( if you have a topic that you’d like to see offered.


The High Holidays…
Do I Want to or Do I Have to?

What is it about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that pulls Jews into the synagogue by the droves? Obligation? Faith? Remembrance? What do these holidays mean? What part do they play in our lives? Should our children miss school to observe these holidays? Join us in a discussion of history and meaning.

Date: Sunday, September 18
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Register here

Adults from Interfaith Families: A Roundtable Discussion
Join other adults who grew up in an interfaith family to discuss how that went for you and to consider challenges and desires. Do you think of yourself as Jewish? Half Jewish? Jew-ish? Does it annoy you that other Jews want to put their own label on you? Do you have a comfortable relationship with your Jewish community or not? Come share your insights and suggestions with others who have dealt with similar life situations.

Thursday, September 22
7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Free, please sign up here as we have limited space.

Kim Carter Martinez

Kim Carter Martinez

Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish: Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity
Adults from interfaith families often have their Jewish identity challenged by both Jews and non-Jews. Having a name that is not perceived as Jewish, like Anderson, Christiansen, O’Toole, or Wong, can lead to questions like, “How did you get to be Jewish?” For biracial Jews the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial or interfaith family can arm themselves for these micro-aggressions. Join Kim Carter Martinez, the biracial daughter of an African American father and a white Ashkenazi mother. Kim has spent years honing her skills and is pleased to teach others how to own your identity in spite of the doubts of others.

Date: Sunday, October 9
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, but space is limited so reserve your spot here.

Making Shabbat Your Own
Would you like to start doing Shabbat? Do you need an easy way to start or do you want to take your current observance up a notch? Come learn easy steps to create “your” Shabbat. We’ll tell you how to have warm, homemade challah even if you work until 6pm. How to engage children of all ages. Ways to approach teens or other skeptics in your family. As a bonus, we’ll tell you how one simple ritual can improve your child’s and your health, happiness and wellbeing. No kidding!

Date: Sunday, October 30
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Register here.


Raising a Confident Child in an Interfaith Family
A child needs happy, loving parents more than anything else. They also deserve to feel comfortable with their own identity. We’ll come together to discuss what parents are currently doing, what they may want to alter and to talk about planning for your child’s religious traditions.

Date: Thursday, November 10
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $12 per couple, $8 per person
Register here.

Double Roots: A Film and Discussion
A young woman with a Jewish mother and a Christian father was raised religiously “nothing.” She was told that “if the Nazis were here, they’d kill you” and that was the extent of her Jewish education. Decades later she went out to learn what others with one Jewish parent had been taught and how their lives were similar or different from her own. When asked, “Why did you make this film of interviews with adults from interfaith families she replied, “I wanted our voices to be heard.”
Please join us to hear these voices as they were interviewed and to hear from some of the interviewees about their lives today.

Date: Thursday, December 1
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont
Free, please sign up here.

To Tree or Not to Tree: What Will We do for the Holidays?
You may want to decorate a Christmas tree while your partner wants to make latkes. What will work for you as a family? Whether December is your favorite month – full of Christmas cookies and chocolate gelt – or your most dreaded month – material surfeit and cultural overwhelm – you are invited to join this open and supportive discussion on how to handle the December dash.

This year will be especially interesting because the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 4
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Register here

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Chanukah, Children, Christmas, High Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Jews of Color, Parenting, Programs archive, Shabbat
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Mizmor Shir musicians

Mizmor Shir musicians

I’ve often told you to look for musical services, outdoor services, and that sort of twist on a regular synagogue service to expand your own idea of what Jewish prayer can be like and to give your non-Jewish family members another way to access Jewish liturgy.

Mizmor Shir is a good example of a Musical service. It is held every 3rd Friday at Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation in Oakland. Here’s their description:

Mizmor Shir!
Mizmor Shir! is a popular phrase found in the Book of Psalms which means ‘Sing a Song,’ and was used during ancient times to direct the Levites, the musicians in the Temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 150 lists the many instruments the Levites played in the Temple as they sang the liturgy during worship. Some of these instruments include: cymbals, harp, lyre, drums, strings and shofar.
In the spirit of the Levites and our ancient heritage, we have created our own Mizmor Shir!Shabbat service featureing guitar, mandolin, percussion, piano, clarinet and flute.
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

How do children learn the words and tune? They listen over and over again to the same music. You can do that. Go every month for a year and see if that was new becomes familiar.

Posted by admin under Shabbat, Synagogues
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In our 24/7 world, with constant electronic access there is little chance of powering down. I invite you to pause and reflect for a moment. Were there times in your childhood when you were out in nature, up a tree, by a lake, when you were completely out of touch with “the rest of the world”? You may have been on the floor of your bedroom or in the attic, but no one could reach you and your imagination was your companion. Do you recall your free ranging thoughts, your daydreams leaping from one amazing concept to another? Now I ask you, is there any time like that for you now? How about for your kids?

It can be extremely hard to put down your cell phone and gather your multi-tasking thoughts when you haven’t been doing that for… well, maybe for years. But the gift of Shabbat is that you can choose to be commanded to relinquish the jittery world for the calm of a different world, the world of Shabbat.

I invite you to take a short vacation Shabbat, whether you do it just for Friday night or choose to extend it into Saturday, give yourself and your family a little staycation. Let me know how it goes.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Relationships, Shabbat
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challah loaf

Shabbat (the Sabbath) is the central observance or holy day of Judaism. Just about everything gives way before Shabbat – including Yom Kippur. Because it is the day that God gave us for rest and enjoyment, it should be a day of joy. It’s a great time to put something absolutely delicious on the table for Shabbat. How about warm bread, roasted chicken, a savory kugel, and a mouthwatering dessert. We won’t stop at the food. We’ll share lots of secrets for making Shabbat something worth staying home for, even if you have teenagers.

Date: May 1
Time: noon to 4pm
Place: Beth Am Congregation(in the kitchen), 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills
Cost: $35
Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Programs archive, Shabbat, symbolic foods
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2 challah loaves sweet cropped

Now I ask you, is there anything better than hot homemade bread? I’ll answer, No!

Come make challah, the most delicious bread ever! We’ll mix, knead and braid our own challah dough. Learn how to braid with 3 or 5 strands as well as making round loaves. You’ll take home your own loaf of warm bread.

Date: Sunday, July 12
Time: 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Place: A Private home in Oakland, near Lake Merritt. Registrants will receive the address.
Cost: $25/person

Every Friday I make challah. It is a ritual in my home and everyone loves it. I’ve experimented with both dairy and parve* recipes and found the BEST RECIPE in the world. Got one you think is fantastic too? Bring it! We’ll share.

Email to sign up for the class.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Holidays, Past Programs, Programs archive, Shabbat, symbolic foods
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No previous experience necessary!

Suzannes Elena challah horizontal

Everyone loves the smell of baking bread or the taste of warm homemade bread from the oven. Do you wish you could make delicious challah for Shabbat, but don’t consider yourself a baker or are short on time?
Join us in the kitchen, and we’ll quickly put your mind at ease. We’ll talk about the secrets of baking, the power of food as a part of ritual, and favorite recipes for challah.
Experienced bakers are welcome to come and brag about their fabulous recipe. Just be sure to bring copies of the recipe for everyone. Everyone will go home with a loaf of bread, a packet of ideas, and the confidence to bake challah like a professional.

Date: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013
Time: 2 to 4pm
Place: Private home in Oakland
Register early as space is limited to eight participants.
Cost: $20/person
We’ll meet in a private home in Oakland; students will receive the address upon registration.
Register here.

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Jewish Learning, Programs archive, Shabbat, symbolic foods
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Braided Havdalah Candle

Braided Havdalah Candle

Havdalah is a wonderful ritual that ends the Sabbath on Saturday evening. It’s a time that gathers loved ones together with a little wine, a candle, and some spices to look forward to a new week. It’s a nice way to spend family time, or to connect with friends. It also affords each of us a moment of awareness to reflect on what we want from the coming week.

Date: Sat., Dec. 7
Time: 4 to 6pm
Place: Private home in Oakland
Cost: $20/family; $10/person
Register Here

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Children, Past Programs, Programs archive, Shabbat, Spirituality
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Jewish Holiday Calendar

Jewish Holiday Calendar


This course is intended for graduates of “Intro” courses as well as for those who have a basic knowledge of Judaism but who wish to look more deeply into the introductory topics.

These three parts roughly follow the outline of topics in Introduction to the Jewish Experience, but they assume that students have been exposed to some basic vocabulary and concepts. We will review those concepts and then dive into deeper questions. The focus here is to look at these issues in such a way that the individual student can think about his choices for engaging more deeply in Jewish life.

Fall 2013

The cycle of the Jewish holidays has provided a framework for communal and individual spiritual growth for millennia. To those newly observing the Jewish holy days and celebrations, the holidays can be perceived as episodic. We will look at the ways that they flow into one another, and how they may contribute to the growth of the individual and the community. Connections and tensions between points on the calendar offer rich insights into the meanings of the days. We’re going to look more deeply into the holiday cycle for the roots of the festivals and the logic that informs their flow.

6 Thursdays, beginning October 3 – November 14 (no class 10/31)
7:30 – 9:00 pm at Beth El, 1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley
$85 for the public and $75 for members of Beth El.


Taught by a favorite Lehrhaus instructor, Rabbi Ruth Adar.

Rabbi Ruth Adar

Rabbi Ruth Adar

Posted by admin under Holidays, Introduction to Judaism, Past Programs, Shabbat
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Cilantro in bloom horizontal

I am like a kid out of school for the summer – I don’t want to sit quietly at my computer and compose a message to all of you. I want to be outdoors with the bees, chattering birds, my dog and my kids. I am betting you feel the same. Summer is a good time to take a few hours on a Friday evening to shul shop – check out synagogues in your area; go to a light-hearted Shabbat service with music or wine or both; invite friends over to have a home Shabbat filled with giggling kids, extra glasses of wine and lots of laughter.

Do me a favor – email me and tell me one thing you love to do in the summer that you find has Jewish content or a Jewish flavor.

From me to you – the best Challah recipe EVER!
And make it easy, use your breadmaker!

Shabbat Shalom,

Posted by admin under Finding a Synagogue, Shabbat, Synagogues
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