Secrets of the (Synagogue) Sanctuary
Most Americans have never been inside a synagogue. Those that have may not know the parts of the sanctuary and their meaning. What is the bema? What’s the Eternal Light and is it really eternal? Do Jews kneel? Where should you sit? Should visitors wear head coverings? What about prayer shawls? Why do some people sit up in front, not with the rest of the congregation? Where is the Torah scroll kept and what does a Torah scroll actually look like? Do Jews use prayer books or hymnals? Where does the rabbi stand and what exactly is a cantor? Join Rabbi Andrew Straus and other inquisitive people to learn the secrets of the synagogue sanctuary.

Date: Feb. 7, 2013
Time: 7:30pm to 9pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, please RSVP so we’ll get enough snacks. Email with the number in your party. See you there!

Posted by admin under Conversion, Finding a Synagogue, High Holidays, Jewish Culture, Past Programs, Prayer, Spirituality
No Comments

After the rush of the holidays comes this long quiet period – no more Jewish holidays until Chanukah which begins Dec. 8 this year. That leaves a lot of time for those families who find the Christmas – Chanukah period to be a challenge to think it through. Feel free to give me a call or drop me an email if you’d like to talk.

Getting Connected
The last couple weeks I made some calls to see how folks were doing. One person said, “I just use your list of events, Dawn. I go and I participate.”

Not everyone can do that. Several others told me different stories.

* I don’t really like to go into a crowd where I don’t know anyone.
* Our congregation is nice, but we haven’t really made friends yet.
* I wish I could talk to someone one-on-one.

I confess, I’m the same way. I’m a people person. I prefer to go places with a friend. I like to have someone I know to sit next to, eat lunch with, go with to the museum or park or movie. If you are trying to connect in a congregation, call me. After all these years at this job I know someone just about everywhere. I think it’s easier if you go to services with a potential friend. Maybe go out for lunch or coffee so you can talk about what it is you hope to find at the congregation.

One young woman told me that all she needed was that first family to sit with. They introduced her to a couple people. “The second time I went, I saw someone I already knew!”

You may not feel a connection in just two visits, but that’s OK, maybe you’ll go with a few different potential friends.

Mussar: Emulating God’s Goodness (San Francisco)
Judaism 101 (Foster City)
Connected – Film Screening & Discussion (San Rafael)
Sit and Schmooze (Berkeley)
Ganeinu: Parenting My Jewish Baby (Lafayette)
Cookie Minyan (San Francisco)
Blessing of the Animals (San Francisco)
Jewish Blues: Saul Kaye in Concert (Fremont)
Shabbat Kumsitz! (Los Altos)
Open House at Kehillah Jewish High School (Palo Alto)
Tree of Life Yoga: Yoga with a Jewish Focus (Pleasanton)
Jewish Book Group (Lafayette)
If I Convert, What Will Change? (Oakland)
Children of Abraham: Islam Through a Jewish Lens Series (Oakland)
Movie Night: Noodle (Orinda)
The Search for Jewish Identity (San Francisco)
Women in Interfaith Relationships (Berkeley)
Yemen Blues (San Rafael)

Mussar: Emulating God’s Goodness
With Rabbi Larry Raphael
Discover Mussar, which literally means “ethics,” but is also understood as “Jewish Sprituality for Better Living.” This tradition of Jewish ethical teaching emanated from 19th-century Eastern Europe centered in Lithuania.
The Mussar movement teaches us to think broadly about the behaviors that God might require of us, to emulate God’s goodness and become better, wiser, more loving people. Students will be invited to cultivate personal growth and spiritual realization in their daily lives.
Required book: Everyday Holiness by Alan Moranis (Trumpeter, 2007). Class fee: $18. Book available in class. Registration requested: Eric Drucker, 415.346.1720, x24, or email

Dates: 8 Tuesdays, October 9–November 27
Time: 6:30–8 pm
Place: Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco

Judaism 101
Judaism 101 is a twelve-session course designed for Jews who seek a deeper connection with their heritage and for people who are not Jewish who desire an introduction to Jewish life and ideas. Topics include fundamental Jewish ideas and beliefs, ethics, the Sabbath and holidays and Jewish identity. Each one of the senior rabbis of the community will teach two sessions of the course so that participants may have the opportunity to get to know them.
This course will be facilitated by Rabbi Lavey Derby, Director of Jewish Life at the PJCC.

Date: Wednesdays, Oct. 10, 17, 31; Nov. 7, 14, 28; Dec. 5, 12, 19; Jan. 2, 9, &16.
Time: 7 to 8:30pm
Place: Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City
Cost: PJCC Members $72; Public $108
Check out for information and registration:

Connected – Film Screening & Discussion
with Director Tiffany Shlain
Can’t go five minutes without checking your smartphone? What is our digital addiction doing to us?
In this funny, inspiring film, Shlain discovers what it means to be connected in the 21st century. From founding The Webby Awards to passionately advocating for The National Day of Unplugging, her love-hate relationship with technology serves as the springboard for a thrilling exploration of our interconnected future. A personal film with universal relevance,Connected suggests that it may be time to declare ourinterdependence. Shlain will also discuss and show clips about her new endeavor, Cloud Filmmaking and “Let It Ripple,” which offers nonprofits free socially minded films to promote their causes.

Date: Thurs, Oct 11
Time: 7pm
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd., San Rafael
Cost: $12 members / $15 public

Sit and Schmooze
With Dr. Zvi Bellin
This low-barrier contemplative practice group is perfect for the beginner and experienced meditator alike. What makes this group special is that it focuses on the social aspect of spiritual practice. We will begin with greetings and gratitude, and then continue with a sitting meditation period that is interspersed with Hebrew chants. We will culminate our practice with a facilitated check-in over tea, tapering off into friendly discussion and connection. This is a great opportunity if you are curious about Jewish contemplative activities, if who want to deepen your practice, and/or for those who simply enjoy intentional community togetherness.

Date: Starting October 11
Time: 7pm to 8:30pm
Place: Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince Street, Berkeley

Ganeinu: Parenting My Jewish Baby
Join our Friday morning facilitated group for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and their infants and toddlers. Play, sing, and celebrate Shabbat and holidays with your child and others. Ganeinu meets in Temple Isaiah’s Adult Lounge inside the Temple House building.

Dates: Fridays
Time: 9:15 to 10:45am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Rd., Lafayette
Pre-registration is encouraged. Drop-in rate $20. More information and registration at or contact Joanne Peterson

Cookie Minyan
Designed for youths 6-12 years old, but open to everyone. Included are songs, stories AND cookies. Rabbi Mark and one of our younger adults will lead the service.

Date: October 13
Time: 10:45-11:15am
Place: B’nai Emunah, 3595 Taraval St., San Francisco

Blessing of the Animals
led by Rabbi Chai Levy
The bond between human and animal is not a mere coincidence, but a deep connection that stretches back to creation. Join our Rabbis and Beit Binah students as we rejoice with singing and blessings and celebrate the bond with our pets.
Please leash and clean up after your pets. Everyone is welcome!!

Date: Sunday, October 14
Time: 11:45 am – 12:15 pm
Place: Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Dr., Tiburon

Jewish Blues: Saul Kaye in Concert
Join Fremont’s Temple Beth Torah as we present our second Coffeehouse Event with a night of Jewish Blues music performed by artist Saul Kaye.

Date: Saturday Oct 13
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
Cost: $10 adult, $7.50 youth (under 13)
Tickets are available online ( and at the door.
More info: Temple Beth Torah office at 510-656-7141

Shabbat Kumsitz!
Bring your instrument and play with us! Make music, schmooze and celebrate Shabbat with other music lovers in an informal, relaxed setting. Bring your instrument of choice, whatever it is: guitar, flute, fiddle, recorder, drum, voice or other and we will make Jewish music together. You should have basic knowledge of your instrument, meaning you can play basic chords or melodies. Rabbi Adam will lead the group. We will of course have snacks and refreshments for you to enjoy. If you are interested in joining us, please email Rabbi Adam at

Date: Saturday, Oct. 13
Time: 2:30pm
Place: Room Aleph at Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills

Open House at Kehillah Jewish High School
Come discover Kehillah Jewish High School at its Admissions Open House, open to all middle school families! Can’t make it? Additional Open Houses on Sunday December 9 and Sunday January 13.

Date: Sunday October 14
Time: 2:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Kehilla Jewish High School, 3900 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
RSVP to Marily Lerner at at or 650-213-9600 x154..

Tree of Life Yoga: Yoga with a Jewish Focus
Like yoga? Come join us for a beginning/intermediate vinyasa-style yoga class with a Jewish twist. Taught by Carolyn Cohen, this class is ideal for people who are looking to try something new or who have a standing yoga practice they would like to deepen.

Date: Tuesday mornings, beginning Oct 16
Time: 9:00am
Place: Congregation Beth Emek, 400 Nevada Ct., Pleasanton
For detailed information and to register here:

Jewish Book Group
Now reading, The Spinoza Problem, by Irvin D. Yalom
Meet for lively discussions of the book of the month. All are welcome! This is not a ‘club’ but a dynamic group of people who love Jewish books, reading, discussions and expressing strong opinions. Book group meets Wednesday mornings from 10:30 – 12pm in the Adult Lounge.

Next Date: Wednesday, October 17
Time: 10:30am-12pm
Place: Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Rd., Lafayette

If I Convert, What Will Change?
Panel and Discussion

When you consider conversion to Judaism the theological issues may come easily. But what about the personal and interpersonal? What will change in one’s relationships? Can I still go to church with Mom when I visit her? Will co-workers see me differently? What will I do about Christmas? Will I be miserable giving up bacon? If I’m married to a Jew, with my spouse expect a lot more from me? If I’m married to a non-Jew, will my spouse feel alienated? Bring your curiosity and hear from a panel of Jews by Choice about the personal and interpersonal changes that they experienced. Questions are welcome!

Date: Friday, October 19
Time: After the 6:30 Musical service – probably around 8pm.
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: FREE

Children of Abraham: Islam Through a Jewish Lens Series
Old Traditions and New Trends: A Look at the Next Generation of Jews and Muslims in the U.S. with Professors Ari Y. Kelman & Farid Senzai
Cultural and political change from one generation to the next is inevitable. New generations develop new terms by which they see the world and operate in it, often generating friction between themselves and other generations. What can we learn from national studies on the next generation of Jews and Muslims in the United States? Can we identify shifts in perspective, culturally, politically, and religiously? Do Jewish and Muslim young adults share similar concerns? Are they being regarded in similar ways, both from within their communities as well as from outside? Join professors Ari Y. Kelman and Farid Senzai in a lively discussion on the political and cultural changes emerging nationally in Jewish and Muslim communities.

Date: Sunday, October 21
Time: 9:30-11:00am
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free and open to the community.

This film’s name just caught my eye – Noodle. So I emailed Bob and said I’d like to join him & the guys and bring a couple friends. He said, fine! If you want to come along, email Bob and come on over to Orinda!
Movie Night: Noodle
Join B’nai Shalom’s Men’s Club for Movie Night at the International Film Showcase (Orinda Theatre) for a showing of the Israeli film Noodle. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at the box office. The show begins at 6:30pm. Join us for a no-host dinner before the show at La Piazza (across the street from the theatre) at 5:15pm. After the movie, we will meet for coffee and dessert to discuss the film. Efi Lubliner, Director of the International Film Showcase, will join us. See you at the movies!

Date: Tuesday, October 23
Time: 6:30pm
Place: International Film Showcase (Orinda Theatre), 2 Theatre Square, Orinda
Please RSVP to Bob Levine at or if you want to join us.
Hosted by B’nai Shalom:

The Search for Jewish Identity
The post-Temple era demanded an answer to the question, “Who is a Jew?” This inquiry remains vital to the Jewish community, especially in our modern era of diversity, assimilation and new forms of Jewish expression. Explore this question with Rabbi Daniel Landes, Talmud professor and Rosh HaYeshiva of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He will discuss the sages’ views of Jewish peoplehood and the borders of the Jewish community.

Date: Nov. 4
Time: 4pm
Place: SF JCC, 3200 California St., San Francisco
FREE! Advanced reservations required. Call 415-292-1233 or email

LADIES! Join me for this program; you’ll love it!
Women in Interfaith Relationships
A discussion for wives, partners, mothers and grandmothers
Join other women, Jewish or not, to examine interfaith relationships in relation to culture and gender. What are the unique expectations and responses that a woman encounters as she creates a home and builds a family life in which her religion is not that of her partner? Join a multi-generational discussion, facilitated by Dawn Kepler of Building Jewish Bridges, about the assumptions and possibilities surrounding our roles as sustainers of the family. Women in any stage of relationship, any sexuality, and any age welcome.

Date: Thursday, November 8
Time: 6:15 pm
Place: Congregation Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley
Cost: $7 public; free to Beth El members
Childcare is available by reservation. Please request childcare by October 15.

Yemen Blues
Shaped by his origins as a Yemeni Jew, the fascinating voice of Ravid Kahalani brilliantly evokes the musical universe of his ancestors. This 21st century brew of Yemenite-Jewish song and poetry, West African grooves and American jazz, blues and funk, is why Yemen Blues is the most exciting new world music act out of Israel. The nine-piece ensemble creates a breathtaking musical experience, brimming with innovation, celebration and virtuosity. National Geographic described Yemen Blues as an ensemble combining traditional Yemenite melodies and instruments – including all sorts of percussion – with jazz, blues, and funk to come up with a sound that’s like nothing we’ve ever heard before.

Date: Sun, Nov 18
Time: 5:30pm
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd., San Rafael
Cost; $12 members / $15 public

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, Finding a Synagogue
No Comments

Below is a list of synagogues and links to purchase tickets for High Holy Day services.

Most synagogues offer tickets for the High Holy Day services to non-members. Here are some synagogues, their websites, and location, so you can check out your options online.

For the synagogues listed below you can go to the link or call their office.
Generally speaking current ticket costs are running about $500 to 600 for a household for all services; about $250 for one adult for all services; About $40 to 60 for a child age 5 to 18; Toddlers are free. College student or active military are free.

Date: Rosh Hashanah is evening of Sept. 16 & day of Sept. 17; Yom Kippur is evening of Sept. 25 and day of Sept. 26
Note that Conservative and Orthodox shuls observe a second day of Rosh Hashanah and you typically do not need to buy tickets but they may require that you get a ticket for security reasons.

Congregation Beth Jacob, Redwood City (Conservative)

Etz Chayim, Palo Alto (Renewal)
Etz Chayim is again offering tickets to non-members. Their services will be off site in Palo Alto. You can go to the link or call their office.
If this cost is prohibitive, contact Ellen at the shul or use the online form to indicate what you can afford. For more information call 50-813-9094 or go online to

Beth Am, Los Altos Hills (Reform)

Beth Jacob Congregation, Redwood City (Conservative)

Chochmat HaLev, Berkeley (Renewal)

Kol Shofar, Tiburon (Conservative)

Sherith Israel, San Francisco (Reform)

Beth Emek, Pleasanton (Reform)

Temple Isaiah, Lafayette (Reform)

Temple Sinai, Oakland (Reform)

Beth Jacob, Oakland (Orthodox)
Beth Jacob’s balcony is open to anyone wishing to attend services, free of charge.

Temple Beth Abraham, Oakland (Conservative)
They don’t have their tickets listed on their website. Tickets cost $150/person per each day. Call Virginia or Rayna to get tickets at (510) 832-0936.


Berkeley – ALL Synagogues
The Berkeley congregations are again offering a High Holy Days Passport. You buy one pass and you can attend services at any of the synagogues. They still have tickets even though the deadline has passed. But get yours quickly before they are sold out!
Additionally a member of Beth El tells me: We absolutely have non-member tickets available, and we also have services that don’t require tickets (all our family/tot services, and the new Multigenerational Service on Rosh Hashana afternoon at Lake Anza with Debra Newbrun — not just tashlich, but a RH service too!

Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont/Oakland (Renewal)
Click on GET HH TICKETS in the lower left side of the page.

Synagogues that do NOT have non-member tickets available are:
Temple Emanu-el, San Francisco
Peninsula Temple Sholom, Burlingame

Posted by admin under Community, Finding a Synagogue, High Holidays, Holidays
No Comments

Raising a Jewish Pup? Enjoy Doggy Day Shabbat

Friday, June 29, 5:00 – 6:00 PM, Mill Valley Dog Park
Join us as we start off our Shabbat with our four-legged friends. Take in the fresh air while your dog runs and plays and you enjoy time with your Kol Shofar community. No need to have a dog to attend. Challah will be provided! Bring a beverage to share. RSVP to Hagar Ben-Eliezer at or 388-1818 ext. 111.

Posted by admin under Community, Community Activities, Finding a Synagogue
No Comments

Make the most of summer! This is a good time to shop around for a synagogue if you don’t yet have one. Summer services are casual – there are outdoor services in some places, lay led services, shabbat dinners, music, etc. If you need some help deciding where to go, or you want someone to meet you there and host you for the evening, call me. I can match you up with a friendly member.

Posted by admin under Community, Finding a Synagogue
No Comments


August time

August is here and that always signals the end of summer.  That means you have just about a month to do some shopping around if you want to join a synagogue this fall.  If you want a buddy to go with you, just email me.  I’ll set it up – I have friends everywhere.



Why look for a synagogue? 

Because there can never be too many people looking out for you.  I told you that I would ask my synagogue’s women’s group to bake with me for my nephew in Iraq.  I did.  Some came to my house, some delivered cookies.  Some gave me sheets to sent to his unit (they don’t have enough), some brought me tuna packs and cup-of-soup.  Some just sat and chatted.  I got comfort, my nephew got eight boxes of goodies.  My friends did a mitzvah.  Win-win-win.



Can we understand why we are here?

Packing those boxes made me wonder, what should I be doing?  Should I quit my job and devote myself to ending war on the planet?  Should I fly to Texas to take care of his young wife and baby?  Just why am I here?  I don’t have an answer but I got some help from Rabbi Larry Raphael’s comments on last week’s Torah Portion, Masei.  What he said is eternal so I am sharing it with you:


Tradition provides ways to arrange and understand our lives, which can often be understood through the struggles and successes of our predecessors. Gradually we watch as out of our own deeds a design emerges.


Kierkegaard writes that life must be lived forward but can only be understood backward. To put the insight differently, we might recall the poignant words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who writes that God speaks slowly in our lives, a syllable at a time; not until we reach the end of life can we read the sentences backward. Judaism offers us a way to understand God’s words in our lives so that they are meaningful, even eloquent.


You can speak to Rabbi Raphael yourself if you go to services at Sherith Israel in San Francisco.  Or you can email him at 

Posted by admin under Community, Finding a Synagogue, Jewish Learning
No Comments

If this is August (or late July), then the High Holy Days are near! Every year I get calls and emails asking about where to go for the High Holy Days. Pretty soon you too will be thinking about this. What if you’re not affiliated, in an interfaith relationship and thinking of attending services – what should you consider?

First, let’s look at why a person might enjoy the holidays.

Once a year (for four services) my entire congregation gathers. The babies are in one room, the little ones get checked into classes with their teachers, the teens mill around the back of the hall, and the seniors tend to sit on the right side close to the front. I am filled with the excitement. I love seeing the little ones singing. My teenager and college student will be reconnecting with friends. I visit with the seniors for lots of hugs. My best friend is saving me a seat. There sits my beloved rabbi and my cantor with the voice of an angel. The familiar mournful tunes arise. I feel a shiver of expectation. The air is electric with love and a sense of reunion.

Now let’s look at why a person might NOT enjoy the holidays.

Once a year you gather with a bunch of strangers. Who are these people!?  I had to pay for this?  The music is foreign, people are all doing the same thing – but what is it? It’s a combination of chaos and uniformity. The service is so long. Why must I fast? I’m hungry. I don’t know anyone. When does this end? The Hebrew is alien; the English is appalling – what’s all this about death and sin? I thought Jews didn’t do that whole “sin” thing.

If you have never gone to services or when you did it was no fun, you need something different. You need to use this month to do a bit of shul shopping. Find a nice group of people, a friendly place, a rabbi that will look familiar. Maybe even go to a pre-holiday service to hear the music and get to know the tunes.

Don’t drop your non-Jewish partner in the deep end of the pool. Do a little pre-holiday planning and visiting. Need help? Give me a call.

High Holidays and Ramadan September
Rosh Hashanah will fall on the evening of September 12. That also marks the beginning of Ramadan. For Jewish – Muslim families it is time to sort out the options. Feel free to give me a call if you want to talk through any concerns.

Yom Kippur will begin at sundown on September 21, a Friday. This means that Yom Kippur will fall on Shabbat – all the extra passages will be read – that means a longer service. Keep that in mind when considering your non-Jewish partner.

Posted by admin under Finding a Synagogue, High Holidays, Holidays
No Comments

« Previous Page