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.


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.

Posted by admin under Community, Community Activities, Holidays, Shavuot
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Rabbi Milder of Beth Emek in Pleasanton shared the following thoughts with his congregation on the overlap of Christmas and Hanukkah this year. He doesn’t just explain how it is that the two holidays can overlap one year but not the next, he explains the different calendars. It’s some pretty useful information. As Americans we often forget that the calendar we use is not really a secular calendar, but rather a Christian calendar that is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in 1582.

When Hanukkah and Christmas Coincide

Okay, this doesn’t happen very often. The first night of Hanukkah happens to fall on Christmas eve this year, December 24.

How unusual? It won’t happen again until 2027, and then it won’t come up again until 2073!

Of course, Hanukkah and Christmas overlap every few years, but the confluence of the beginning of the Jewish and Christian holiday is fairly rare.

Why is that? The holidays operate on two different calendars, and there is no relationship between the two. Even though Chanukah begins on the 25th of Kislev, and Christmas on the 25th of December, the months of Kislev and December have nothing to do with one another.

The calendar that we commonly think of as the secular calendar (on which today happens to be December 23, 2016) is actually a Christian calendar, known as the Gregorian calendar. It is based on the solar cycle, i.e. it has 365 days a year, plus a correction every four years to make up for the actual solar cycle. If there are 9 hours and 33 minutes of daylight today, next year on December 23 there will also be 9 hours and 33 minutes of daylight.

The Jewish calendar, however, is a lunar-solar calendar. Every month is a lunar month, with the first day being the new moon. Hanukkah will always begin on a waning crescent moon, near the end of the month of Kislev. Gregorian months, by contrast, have nothing to do with the moon.

Since a lunar month is either 29 or 30 days long, while the Gregorian months are 30 or 31 days long, twelve Jewish months wind up being about 12 days shorter than the Gregorian year. The Jewish calendar, therefore, has a correction to get it back in sync with the solar year. That correction is an extra month (Adar I), which gets inserted every two or three years.

For the next couple of years, Hanukkah will move earlier and earlier in December, until we add a leap month, which will push Hanukkah into late December again. The pattern keeps repeating, but the exact days of the respective months don’t sync up very often.

Wondrous? Fascinating? Yes, particularly if you like math and astronomy.

There is a lot to admire and appreciate about the holidays celebrated by other faiths. That Christmas and Hanukkah begin at the same time this year gives us pause to consider what we have to learn from one another. We may not believe the same things, but like the sun and the moon, we are in a kind of dance that goes round and round, shining light each in our own way.

Here’s to the alignment of our cosmic lights!

Happy Hanukkah,

Rabbi Larry Milder

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Christmas, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning
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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
Cost: Free to Beth Emek members, $8 public. No one turned away!
Sign up here or just show up.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Christmas, Holidays, Parenting
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I love summer and am a bit sad to see autumn arrive. But S’lichot gets me in the mood for the coziness of cool weather, the prayers of the High Holy Days, and the emotional warmth of returning my energies to the Jewish community from my garden.

S’lichot translates as forgiveness and refers to the prayers of repentance that are said as we approach Yom Kippur. Read more details here.) Just about every synagogue has a special late night service for S’lichot. They may include food (we are Jews, you know!) and teaching and possibly, music. To go into the sanctuary late at night surrounded by friends and family has such a loving, peaceful feeling. The congregants take the regular mantles off the Torah scrolls and redress them in white covers. There is both a solemnity and a joy to the activity.

An interesting thing to note is that the rabbis teach that Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av are the happiest holidays in the year. Why? Because they represent love and intimacy. Tu B’Av focuses on the relationship between lovers. Yom Kippur is said to be the day that each of us draws near to God, recites our failings and God says, “I know. I love you.” It is being accepted for who you are – warts and all. Of course, we strive to do better each year and, God willing, we are better people this season than we were last season. But what is nicer than being seen for who you are and loved just as you are?

Shabbat Shalom,


S’lichot Service (Lafayette)
S’lichot and Havdalah Service (Palo Alto)
Jewishness: A Cultural History (Oakland)
Exploring Judaism (San Rafael)
Judaism 101 (Tiburon)
5th Friday Shabbat: High Holy Day Melodies (Palo Alto)
Greatest Hits of the High Holidays! (Oakland)
Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity: Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish (Oakland)
Sukkot Shabbat Dinner (Palo Alto)
Isaac Zones Concert and Harvest Festival (Foster City)
Hollywood and Censorship (Walnut Creek)

S’lichot Service
Prepare yourself for the Days of Awe with our S’lichot program and service exploring repentance and forgiveness.
7pm Join us in the Social Hall where we will watch two short films: “The Science of Character” and “The Making of a Mensch,” followed by learning and discussion.
8pm Service in the Sanctuary. A beautiful and moving service setting us on the path of repentance, forgiveness and renewal. We will also participate in the ritual of changing the Torah mantles to white for the High Holy Day season.

A dessert reception will follow in the foyer. Please bring sweet treats to share.

Date: Saturday, September 24
Time: 7:00pm
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette

S’lichot and Havdalah Service
In preparation for the High Holy Days, Etz Chayim and Keddem will hold a co-led S’lichot observance with a short service, including Havdalah and changing the Torah covers for the High Holy Days. The service will include poetry, prayer, meditation and chanting. We hope you’ll join us for this beautiful and meaningful observance. Co-led by Elaine Moise from Keddem and by Jonathan Salzedo.

Date: Saturday, September 24
Time: 8:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto

Jewishness: A Cultural History
with Shaina Hammerman, PhD
Jewish cultures span thousands of years and at least as many villages and urban centers, political ideologies, theologies, rituals, and literatures. Indeed, it is impossible to point to a singular entity called “Jewish Culture.” If we contend that Jewish cultures are so varied, what about these cultures makes them “Jewish”?
In this session, we will take a look at the variety of Jewish cultures from Jewish societies in antiquity through the contemporary Jewish-American scene. We will focus on the theme of “the Other”: how Jewish cultures create themselves by constructing boundaries between themselves and their neighbors, as well as themselves and their historical predecessors.

Date: Sunday, September 25
Time: 9:30-11:00am in the Albers Chapel
Place: Temple Sinai, in the Albers Chapel, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
For course and registration information go here.
Co-sponsored by Lehrhaus Judaica and Temple Sinai

Exploring Judaism
Part One, with Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown
This course will give participants a foundation in the basic tenets of Judaism. We will explore areas such as history, holidays, life-cycle events, theology, Torah and prayer through foundational Jewish texts, beliefs and customs. Whether you grew up Jewish and are looking to explore more deeply as an adult, are entirely new to Judaism, or are part of an interfaith family and want to study together, we welcome you to join us!

Dates: Select Sundays starting September 25
Time: 9:15 – 10:15 am
Place: Rodef Sholom, in the Library, 170 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael
RSVP here

Judaism 101
with Rabbi Leider
This 18-week course is for those who would like to learn about Judaism from the ground up, or to fill in gaps from what they learned (or didn’t learn) as a child. The class also prepares those considering conversion. It covers Hebrew pronunciation, biblical and rabbinic writings, history and culture, holy days, festivals, Shabbat, Jewish concepts of God and ethics, life cycle, dietary laws and Israel.
By the end of the course, students will be able to read aloud any Hebrew text with vowels. Students who wish to take a single class by topic may do so. Topical learning begins a half hour into the session.
See course details here

Dates: Sundays, September 18 though May 7, 2017
Time: 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Place: Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon
Tuition: $180 for the 18-week series; or $20 per class; Free for members
To register, contact Alona Shahbaz at or (415) 388-1818, ext. 100

5th Friday Shabbat: High Holy Day Melodies
Come get in the mood for Rosh Hashanah with this special Fifth Friday service led by Rabbi Chaim and Karen Kennan. The service will incorporate High Holy Day melodies and reflections as an opportunity for introspection and preparation for welcoming the New Year.

Friday, September 30
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto

Greatest Hits of the High Holidays!
Are you interested in learning more about the High Holidays, but not ready for (or want to supplement) traditional synagogue services?

Join us at Beth Jacob Congregation for the Greatest Hits of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur!

All are invited to join Rabbi Fox for “The Greatest Hits of Rosh HaShanah” on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, Monday, October 3rd at 6:15 PM and Rabbi Albert for “The Greatest Hits of Yom Kippur” on Wednesday, October 12th at 8:00 AM in the Small Sanctuary. Both are only one hour long.

This is a learners’ service that will include some of the special prayers of the day, learning, and discussion. Please feel free to invite family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues! Anyone and everyone is welcome!

Dates: Rosh HaShanah, Oct. 3 at 6:15pm
Yom Kippur, Oct. 12 at 8:00am
Place: Beth Jacob Congregation, 3778 Park Blvd, Oakland

Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity: Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish
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.

Sukkot Shabbat Dinner
The Jewish holiday of Sukkot commemorates the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert after being freed from Egypt. Huts, or Sukkahs, represent the temporary shelters that the Israelites lived in during those 40 years.

Join the OFJCC in our community Sukkah for a festive Shabbat dinner celebration, with music from Jewish musicians Jeremiah Lockwood and Jewlia Eisenberg.

Sukkot and Shabbat are times to come together with family and sit in the Sukkah, connecting with nature and each other as we express gratitude for the good things in our lives.

Date: Friday, October 21
Time: 6:00pm-8:00pm
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost: $20 per person | $10 per child | $50 per family | Free for children under age 2.

Isaac Zones Concert and Harvest Festival
Wornick and PJ Library invite you to a joyful concert and a morning of fun learning activities for children ages 3 to 5 and their families. Lunch will be provided.

Date: Sunday, October 30
Time: 10:00 am to Noon
Place: Wornick Jewish Day School, 800 Foster City Blvd, Foster City
This event is free, but you must register.

Hollywood and Censorship
From the earliest days of motion pictures in America, bluenose reformers accused the film industry of poisoning the minds of its viewers with scenes of illicit sex and wanton violence.
With the use of film clips, we will explore how the push for film censorship led to the 1934 Production Code Authority, the near erasure of Jewish characters in American films and the prohibition of movies that explored what was happening in The Third Reich.

Dates: 5 Wednesdays, November 2 – December 7 (no class 11/23)
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek
Cost: $70 for the public; $50 for members of B’nai Shalom
Register here.

Posted by admin under High Holidays, Holidays, Prayer, Rosh Hashanah, Spirituality, Synagogues
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Elul2 reduced

This is one of those years when you hear “the holidays are SO late this year!” While the Jewish holidays always fall on the same day of the Jewish calendar, the Jewish calendar and the Gregorian calendar are always moving around.

The Gregorian calendar was put into practice by Pope Gregory in 1582. Just thinking about how the calendar shapes our daily thinking makes you realize how Jewish time & culture are naturally different than Gregorian/Christian time and culture. It’s really quite fascinating. One of these days I’m going to as a rabbi to teach about Jewish time – that’ll blow your mind!

Back to the High Holy Days – they fall late in the Western calendar this year, Rosh Hashanah begins the evening of October 2. The month leading up to Rosh Hashanah is Elul and it will begin Sept. 3 at sundown. For the entire month of Elul Jewish tradition teaches that we reflect on our selves. How are we doing? What would we like to improve? Similar to the January 1st New Year, this is a time to reassess one’s life.

For those of you who like to reflect here are some interesting options.

Take a look at a calendar where the Jewish dates are dominant and the Gregorian dates are subordinate.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat discusses the two times a year that Jews count the days here.
She gives this reason for counting:
We count the days between one thing and the next because that helps us stay situated in this moment in time. The counting can help us combat the tendency to draft either into the remembered past or into the anticipated future. Beyond that, it links us both with that past and with that future.

Rabbi Ruth Adar discusses Teshuvah (often translated as repentance but a better translation is return, as in returning to the right path) and how we can go about it without beating ourselves up.

What do you hope to do better in the coming year? Please tell me; I’d love to hear from you.

Shabbat Shalom,


Mussar & Meditation (Lafayette)
Shabbat for Baby and Me (Redwood City)
Sunset Picnic and Havdallah (Tiburon)
Shabbat with Rabbi Amy Eilberg (Foster City)
Young Families Havdalah Pizza Party (Pleasanton)
Open-Faith Salon: Ecumenical Exploration of Forgiveness (Berkeley)
The High Holy Days…Do I Want to? Do I Have to? (Pleasanton)
Temple Beth Hillel’s Religious School Open House (Richmond)
The Jewish Refugees of Syria (San Francisco)
Introduction to the Jewish Experience (Berkeley)
Preparation for the High Holy Days and Selichot Service (Richmond)
Erev Roshanah Family Picnic (Mill Valley)
Introduction to Judaism (Sam Francisco)

Mussar & Meditation
We often associate Shabbat with prayer. But Shabbat is also a story: For six days God created our world, and on the seventh, God rested. And we, who are in the image of God, live out this sacred story of creativity (a.k.a. work) and stillness. At Mussar and Meditation we are reminded of this story, and asks ourselves – who are we and who will we become? We reconnect to the art of creative, soulful Jewish living through singing, silence, community and discussions of Mussar wisdom. Mussar, a Jewish path toward menschlichkeit, deepens our commitment to ethical behavior and a more compassionate embrace of the unique qualities we find in ourselves and others.

This Shabbat we will focus on the middah (quality) of kashei oref, having a stiff neck. As the month of Elul begins and we start the journey towards teshuva (repentance), we ask together: where am I stubborn, and to what purpose?

Mussar and Meditation services are held the first Saturday each month. Join us!

Date: September 3
Time: 10:30am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Rd., Lafayette

Shabbat for Baby and Me
Tot Shabbat and Childcare
For children ages 2.5 to 8. No prior registration or payment required. Come for
supervised Shabbat-friendly play, indoors and outdoors (weather permitting), with a Tot Shabbat service starting at about 10:45 a.m.

Date: Saturday, Sept. 10
Time: Childcare is open at 9am in case you want to attend services
Tot Shabbat is at 10:45am if you want to come just for that
Place: Beth Jacob, 550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City

Sunset Picnic and Havdallah
The end of summer is the perfect time to enjoy an evening al fresco! Gather a dairy picnic dinner, beach blanket and pillows, family and friends and come celebrate a communal Havdallah with our Kol Shofar community and Rabbi Leider. We’ll meet in the parking lot at Blackie’s Pasture and take a 5 minute walk out to the South Knoll Park. Chai Lights will provide wine, sparkling cider and sweet treats. Rabbi Leider will provide spiritual inspiration. After the sun sets at 7:26 pm we’ll locate 3 stars in the sky, form a circle and bid Shabbat farewell.

Date: Saturday, Sep. 10
Time: 6:30pm
Hosted by Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Dr, Tiburon
Call for more information 415-388-1818

Shabbat with Rabbi Amy Eilberg
Rabbi Amy Eilberg is the first woman ordained as a Conservative rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She serves as the director of the Pardes Rodef Shalom (Pursuer of Peace) Communities Program, helping synagogues and Jewish organizations place the pursuit of peace in interpersonal relationships at the center of their communal mission. Rabbi Eilberg also serves as a spiritual director, interfaith activist and conflict counselor. Her book, From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace, was published by Orbis Books in March 2014

Sermon during Services: Seeing You is Like Seeing the Face of God A Spiritual Practice For Our Times and Relationships
At Kiddish: The Pracatice of Peace Training the Heart and Mind For Peace and Tshuva For more information please contact Rabbi Helfand at

Date: September 10
Time: Services begin at 9:30am
Place: Peninsula Sinai, 499 Boothbay, Foster City

Young Families Havdalah Pizza Party
Join Beth Emek Young Families for a night of playing, socializing, eating, and Havdalah with Rabbi Milder. Kids will play, parents and grandparents will socialize and supervise, and we’ll all eat dinner together before doing Havdalah as a group. Event is $20 per family, collected at 6 pm, and includes a pizza dinner with salad, fruit, and dessert. Hope to see you there to kick off the school year!

Date: Sept. 10
Time: 5pm
Place: Congregation Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
For more information, contact Anna Kalman,

Open-Faith Salon: Ecumenical Exploration of Forgiveness
In this first of three Open-Faith Salons, we will explore the theme of forgiveness from a Jewish, Muslim/Sufi, Christian and native Hawaiian perspective. Like the European-inspired salons of yore, this will be an evening of shared stories and practices, spiritual edification and dialogue involving leaders and members of different faith communities. At a time when so many people are erecting walls to keep “others” out, we seek to build bridges of understanding made up of our shared values and aspirations. This gathering is our special way of marking the 15th anniversary of 9-11.

Date: Sunday, September 11
Time: 7 – 9:30pm
Place: Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St., Berkeley
Details here

The High Holy Days…Do I Want to? Do I Have to?
All are invited for this first workshop in the series “Interfaith Homes, Jewish Choices” facilitated by Dawn Kepler of Building Jewish Bridges. 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: 10:30am to Noon
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
Cost: $8 for the public, free for members of Beth Emek
Register here if you are not a member.

Temple Beth Hillel’s Religious School Open House
Interested parents and children are invited to meet teachers and students, participate in classroom activities, and learn about the school’s educational program.

Temple Beth Hillel’s Religious School offers an exploration into Jewish history, culture, holidays, customs and Hebrew for toddlers 2 1/2 through Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation and beyond. First day of class is September 18th.
Also available is Mazel Tots, a special free class for toddlers, 2 1/2 through four years.

Date: Sunday, September 18
Time: 10:15 a.m.
Place: Temple Beth Hillel,
For enrollment or more information look here.

Rock ‘n Roll Shabbat
Join Rabbi Bloom and the TBA Band for a ruach (spirit) filled service with music! Shabbat services will be followed by a Family Shabbat Chicken Dinner, if you chose to sign up for it.

Date: Friday, September 16
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland
Cost for the dinner is $18 per adult $7 per child (4 years old and under are free) Vegetarian option available only when requested in advance
RSVP to by September 12
Virginia’s email reply is your confirmation. Money is sent to the synagogue care of Virginia.

The Jewish Refugees of Syria
JIMENA invites you for a night of learning through the eyes Syrian Jews and those working with displaced Syrian communities. Rabbi Eli Joseph Mansour, of Syrian Jewish decent, will discuss his tight knit community and their response to current events in Syria. Rabbi Mansour is a Jewish Orthodox Sephardic Rabbi of Syrian descent. He is an eminent Torah scholar, internationally renowned and a highly sought out speaker. The Rabbi co-authored a Sephardic Hagada Shel Pesach with commentary that was published by Artscroll.

Date: Sunday, September 18
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Magain David, 351 4th Ave, San Francisco
Free admission, light drinks & snacks afterwards.
JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa

Introduction to the Jewish Experience
Introduction to the Jewish Experience is a three-part series of classes to introduce students to Jewish culture and practice. Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds: Jews who did not receive a Jewish education, Jews who wish to resume their education as adults, persons interested in conversion to Judaism, and others who wish to learn more about Judaism. The three parts of the series may be taken in any order. Click here for more information and to register. Taught by Rabbi Ruth Adar.
Co-sponsored by Congregation Beth El with Lehrhaus Judaica.
Three sessions—the first starts October 19, Wednesdays, 7:30–9:00 pm

Preparation for the High Holy Days and Selichot Service
Prepare for the High Holy Days with Cantor Fran Burgess. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and explore the meaningful liturgy found in the Mishkan HaNefesh, Machzor for the Days of Awe. Cantor Fran and the High Holy Days Choir continue with a Havdalah ceremony followed by Selichot (forgiveness), a moving and beautiful service introducing the themes of the season through music and meditation. Selichot provides a quiet time for personal reflection and self examination.

Date: Saturday, September 24
Time: 8:00 pm
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central St, Richmond
More information here.

Erev Roshanah Family Picnic
Join our community to welcome in the new year, 5777 at Boyle Park in Mill Valley! We will enjoy an evening of fun activities for families, music, and food. This event is open to everyone. Bring your picnic dinner to the park, hear the shofar and an enjoy a sweet way to celebrate the new year with a beautiful evening among friends!

Date: Oct. 2
Time: 5:00-7:00pm
Place: Boyle Park, Thalia St, Mill Valley
Sponsors: Kol Shofar is partnering with the PJ Library and Marin Mishpacha for this family picnic.
Details here.

Introduction to Judaism
Join with Emanu-El clergy to learn about the breadth and wonder of Jewish tradition. This class is a pathway for the adult learner who wishes to discover or deepen Jewish knowledge, non-Jews who are marrying a Jewish partner, and those who are considering conversion to Judaism. Mark your calendars now for the 2016-2017 classes:
Fall: Oct. 25; Nov. 1, 8, 15; Dec. 6, 13
Winter: Jan. 17, 24, 31; Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28
Spring: Mar. 21, 28; Apr. 4, 25; May 2, 9, 16

Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Place: Temple Emanu-el, 2 Lake St., San Francisco
Cost: Emanu-El Member Cost: $54, Non-member cost: $75
Register here

Posted by admin under High Holidays, Holidays, Rosh Hashanah
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Flower heart from Pixabay

Flower heart from Pixabay

I really enjoyed this article by Rabbi Larry Milder. He sent it to his congregation, Beth Emek of Pleasanton. It gives you a nice summary of the rather obscure holiday, Tu B’Av. Why not take his advice and tell someone that you love them, maybe even give them flowers.

The Jewish Day of Love

Today, the 15th of Av on the Jewish calendar, is the best holiday you’ve never heard of.

Tu B’Av (“Tu” equals 15) is a rabbinic holiday, i.e. one that isn’t mentioned in the Bible. According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:8), on this day, young women would dress in white and dance in the vineyards, to attract the attention of young men.

Sounds a lot like Friday night Israeli folk dancing at summer camp!

Shimon ben Gamliel explains, “The Israelites had no greater holidays than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.”

It is a rather odd comparison. It is true that on Yom Kippur, it is also customary to dress in white. But we don’t usually think of Yom Kippur as a joyous holiday; rather, it strikes us as serious.

That was not how the rabbis of the Mishnah viewed it. Yom Kippur, too, was supposed to be a day for women, dressed in white, to dance. I don’t know how they did it while they were fasting, but the rabbis claim that these two days were the premier match-making days of the Jewish calendar.

I actually get it. People often do meet their bashert, their destined one, on the High Holy days. It is a time when Jews come together, and it is inevitable that some unmarried Jews will find one another, perhaps reacquaint after an absence of some years, and maybe fall in love. Or, at least, go get a snack together after services are over.

As widespread as the observance of Yom Kippur is, however, the celebration of Tu B’Av has somehow fallen by the wayside. What a shame! We can use a good holiday devoted to love, and nothing more! No fasting required, no hours of prayer, just a good hora, a line dance, Cajun two-step or Texas boot scootin’.

The wearing of white (Shimon ben Gamliel says “borrowed”) suggests a kind of equality, a way of getting beyond the surface appearance of who has fancier clothes. We are encouraged to consider character, the deeper qualities of a partner, the things that will lead to a lifetime of happiness.

I prefer not to think of Tu B’Av as a Jewish St. Valentine’s Day. Among other reasons, we don’t have saints, and the story associated with Saint Valentine isn’t a pretty story, either. There is nothing but beauty and simplicity in the tradition of Tu B’Av.

More importantly, we were celebrating Tu B’Av for centuries before St. Valentine’s Day.

Sometimes, the riches of our tradition are just waiting to be discovered.

Go out and get someone you love some flowers. It’s Tu B’Av!

Rabbi Larry Milder

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Holidays
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Photo via Israeli PikiWiki, some rights reserved

Photo via Israeli PikiWiki, some rights reserved

This week I had the following communication:

Delightful woman: Hi Dawn, I receive your newsletter and am wondering what is the best way to honor my (Jewish) daughter-in-law on Tu B’Av?

Me: What a lovely idea you have! Tu B’Av is “observed” to the extend that is it observed at all, as a day of romantic love and couples finding each other. But, not unlike Valentine’s Day, a day of love is always a good time to tell a person what they mean to you. I think a card would be very sweet. If you want to do something, as in go somewhere, since the ancient celebration included dancing in vineyards you could have brunch together or go to the Wine Country. But believe me, I’m just punting. Anything you do will be just fine. It’s very dear of you to want to do anything for this minor holiday. I’ve very touched.

Delightful woman: Thanks so much, Dawn! I made a card, filled with words of love, and I made a donation to Jewish Family Services of the Bay Area. I’m all about love, so couldn’t pass this holiday up…no matter how minor.

I was so touched by this woman’s desire to impress upon her daughter-in-law that she loves her and SEES her Jewish identity. Too bad there is so much bad press given to the mother – daughter in-law relationship because it just isn’t true. I’ve heard many stories that dispell this negative myth.

(If you’d like to learn more about Tu B’Av you can read here and here.)

Whether family or friends, telling someone that you love them shouldn’t be reserved for special occasions. I am betting that you’ve noticed how touched people are when you tell them you love them. When a friend is going through a tough time I like to call and say, “I haven’t mentioned it today but I should: I love you.” Sometimes a loving word really helps you get through the day. Do you do this? If not, try it and let me know how your family and friends respond.


Welcoming Prospective Members (Los Altos Hills)
Potluck Dinner and Services (Walnut Creek)
August Community Shabbat Dinner (Pleasanton)
Outdoor Shabbat Service at Temple Isaiah (Lafayette)
Shabbat in the Park (Lafayette)
Congregation Beth Emek Open House (Pleasanton)
Courtyard Service and Pot-luck dinner (Alameda)
Shabbat Service Under the Trees (Berkeley)
Build Your Own Sukkah! (Pleasanton)
Jewish Heritage Night at the Giants (San Francisco)
“Transparent”: A New Take on Gender & Jewish Identity (San Rafael)

Welcoming Prospective Members
Are you curious about Congregation Beth Am? All prospective members are invited to celebrate Shabbat with Beth Am in our Outdoor Chapel at 6:15 PM every Friday in August. After the service, prospective members will have a chance to get to know clergy and lay leaders, and ask any questions they may have about our community.

Date: All Fridays in August
Time: Picnic 5:30pm; Service 6:15pm; and Oneg Shabbat 7:30pm
Place: Outdoor Chapel of Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Details here

Potluck Dinner and Services
Join us and bring your friends or someone who might want to visit our congregation for a night of good food, good friends, and music as we celebrate Shabbat as a community.
Please sign up to bring one of the food item and a beverage. See the details here

Date: Friday, August 19, must RSVP by noon on Aug. 18!
Time: Pot Luck Dinner at 6:00 pm; Shir Joy Shabbat Services begin at 7:30 pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek

August Community Shabbat Dinner
Celebrate Shabbat with Congregation Beth Emek at the August Community Shabbat Dinner!
Prior to Shabbat services, we invite you to come for a friendly, fun dinner. This is a wonderful opportunity to eat great food, meet new members, connect with existing members, and catch up with long-standing friends!

Date: Friday, August 19
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
Please RSVP by 3:00 pm, Friday, August 19.
Please contact the CBE office if you have any questions 931-1055
Details here

Outdoor Shabbat Service at Temple Isaiah
Join us for a one-hour intergenerational come-as-you-are service that takes advantage of the beautiful summertime in our outdoor Amphitheater. Happy Half-Hour Oneg beforehand at 6pm in the Beit Knesset.

Date: Friday, August 19
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Temple Isaiah Amphitheater, 945 Risa Rd, Lafayette


Shabbat in the Park
Bring Your Pets!
Hate driving in traffic? No problem! We’re bringing Shabbat to you. Meet at Heather Farm Park this Friday for family-friendly services. Bring your own picnic dinner, blankets, chairs, and pets on a leash for a special pet blessing. We hope to see you there!

Please find us at the picnic tables at the far end of the parking lot between the playground and the pool. Look for the sand volleyball court.

Date: Friday, August 19
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Heather Farm Park, 301 N San Carlos Drive, Walnut Creek
Sponsored by Temple Isaiah of Lafayette

Congregation Beth Emek Open House
Whether you are new to the area or just new to Beth Emek, we invite you to drop by our Open House to learn about worship opportunities, our community, and educational programs for all ages.
Meet Rabbi Larry Milder, Education Director Judith Radousky, and Preschool Director Melinda McDonald. Take a tour of the building and visit our sanctuary and classrooms. Light refreshments will be served.

Date: Sunday, August 21
Time: 10:00am-12:00pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
For more information, contact Lisa Kama, Membership Chair, at

Courtyard Service and Pot-luck dinner
Do you live on the island of Alameda? Join the friendly folks at Temple Israel for services in the courtyard plus a potluck dinner.

Please bring a dish to share using this guide:
families with last names beginning
A-G Salads
H–M Drinks
N-S Main Dish – (dairy – no meat or shellfish – to avoid the possibility of mixing meat and dairy dishes in t he same course.)
T-Z Dessert
If you have any questions you can call Maya, Temple Israel’s office administrator, at 510-522-9355.

Need a friendly face to meet you there? Email me, Dawn at, and I’ll put you in touch with someone.

Date: August 26
Time: 6pm
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda

Shabbat Service Under the Trees
Join us for an end of summer Shabbat morning service under the oak trees as we celebrate nature, community and the peace of Shabbat with music, meditation and joyful learning.

Date: Saturday, August 27
Time: 10:15 am
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley

Build Your Own Sukkah!
Thought of building your own Sukkah, but worried that it’s too difficult? Think you don’t have space in your yard for a sukkah or storage to keep the materials the rest of the year? Join Lisa and Alon Kama for a workshop on how to build a simple Sukkah out of PVC pipes. All participants will receive a detailed supply list, blueprint for building, and ideas for decorating.

Date: Tuesday, August 30
Time: 7:00p
Place: Beth Emek, Classroom 1, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
Questions? Contact Lisa Kama at

Jewish Heritage Night at the Giants
Join the Bay Area’s Jewish community at the Giants annual Jewish Heritage Night at AT&T Park! You are invited to bring your family and friends, or even your entire congregation! Your Special Event ticket package includes a seat in one of the Jewish Heritage sections for the game versus the Diamondbacks, a collector’s-edition Jewish-themed Giants hat, as well as admission to the Jewish Heritage Night pregame party on Terry Francois Boulevard from 5:00-7:00PM! Live cultural entertainment will take place at the pre-game party, and cultural food and drink specials will be available for purchase. Partial proceeds from every special event ticket sold will benefit Project Homeless Connect and Everybody Is A Star . Don’t miss this fun-filled night out at the park to celebrate Jewish Heritage!

Date: Tuesday, August 30
Time: 7:15pm
Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco
In Community Partnership with Jewish Community Federation, Chabad of San Francisco and Everybody Is A Star
Details on the Giants website

“Transparent”: A New Take on Gender & Jewish Identity
Calling all “Transparent” fans: Season 3 will be released to Amazon Prime members beginning September 23! Join us as we explore the impact that the show has made on how LGBTQ+ and Jewish characters are presented in popular culture. “Transparent” writer and producer Micah Fitzerman-Blue takes us behind-the-scenes into the writer’s room of this groundbreaking series, to discuss the show’s multi-faceted portrayal of Jewish identity and family dynamics. Immediately following the presentation, Jhos Singerexamines gender fluidity and its impact on his work as a Jewish transgender leader, teacher, and activist. A moderated panel discussion and audience Q&A will follow.

Date: Sun, September 11
Time: 5:00 pm
Place: Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
Cost: Advance Tickets are $18 public / $15 Osher Marin JCC members.
To order tickets, please call 415-444-8000
Details here

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Holidays
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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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You may have heard me tell this story because it had a deep impact on me – years ago in a workshop a non-Jewish wife told me that she waited all year for Christmas. She described herself as “a pressure cooker waiting to let off steam.” She recounted her love of the rituals of Christmas. She didn’t identify as Christian and she had considered conversion but she felt deeply attached to Christmas and her annual festive BANG.

It didn’t seem to me that she needed to convert; I thought she needed to have more than one day, one season, of celebration. Since she was married to a Jewish man and raising her children Jewish I suggested that she try adding the observance of Jewish holidays. I conjectured that her husband might be more engaged and participatory and that that would improve her celebrations/holidays quota. I even suggested she try Shabbat.

Two years later I saw her in the lobby of a JCC. She dashed to my side and in glowing terms told me that she had indeed begun observing Jewish holidays including Shabbat. She felt that her needs for ritual, spirituality and celebration were being met at last.

I have never forgotten that image of a pressure cooker. How very hard to have to “save up” your emotions for one holiday. What if this year Christmas doesn’t live up to your expectations and needs? I know that there are lots of people in danger of that happening. If you have set your heart on a bang-up Christmas please identify a few easy to accomplish activities. You might even plan them for after Christmas. You could have:

A games night with your kids & friends
A sing-along
A cookie bake-athon
A volunteer day at an animal shelter
A walk in the woods
A drive through the most Christmas decorated blocks in your town
Go out to dinner and a movie
Watch an old, beloved movie in pjs with popcorn.

Do one or more of these things with people that you love. Being with loved ones perks up any day of the year.

I wish you a Merry Christmas if you celebrate Christmas and to those who don’t, you can still schedule one or more of these activities.

Mu Shu & a Movie, Starring Uncle Yu’s and ‘Deli Man’ (Lafayette)
Chopshticks (Palo Alto)
Chinese Food and a Movie! (San Francisco)
Early Shabbat Service & Vegetarian Chinese Food Dinner (Palo Alto)
New Year’s Eve Stand-Up Comedy Show & After Party (San Rafael)
DIY Jewish Home traditions: Empower Yourself! (San Rafael)
Modern Jewish Literature (Los Altos)
A Walk Through the Many Levels of Tu B’Shevat (San Francisco)
2016 Community-Wide Mitzvah Day (Palo Alto)
Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods with Wilderness Torah (Oakland)
Jewish Film Series (Los Altos)

Mu Shu & a Movie, Starring Uncle Yu’s and ‘Deli Man’
It’s become a Jewish tradition that almost rivals hot pastrami on rye. While Santa makes his global deliveries on the eve of December 24, deliver yourself, your family, and your appetite to Temple Isaiah for Mu Shu and a Movie!
Feast on a delicious Chinese “take in” buffet by Uncle Yu’s Restaurant in Lafayette, and then savor – what else! – ‘Deli Man’, a sweet, juicy movie about Jewish delicatessens that features Larry King, Jerry Stiller, and plenty of haimishe maykholim (Yiddish for ‘home-style cooking’). Jingle Bells, Fortune Cookies, Corned Beef and Matzah Balls! Bubbe might plotz, but we’re eating it up.
Dinner includes that gourmet buffet, movie snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages. You may bring and share your own wine and beer.

Date: Thursday, December 24
Time: 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Temple Isaiah Adult Lounge, 945 Risa Rd, Lafayette
Cost: Non-Members: $25 (Adults/Teens), $17 (12 & under)
Questions? Please contact Bob Coleman at
Sign up here

Enjoy Chinese food and gut-busting comedy at our annual holiday laugh fest! Our guest comedian this year is Wayne Federman, a comedian, actor, author, comedy writer and musician.

Date: Thursday, December 24
Time: Dinner at 7:45p | Show at 8:45p
Place: Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost: In advance: $60 General Public | $55 Member
$65 at the door, space permitting
Contact: Robin Vasilakos | (650) 223-8791 or
Sign up here

Chinese Food and a Movie!
What better way to spend Friday night, December 25th! Plan to join us for Chinese food, an abbreviated Shabbat service, and a movie.
Dinner at 6:30 pm, Erev Shabbat service at 7:30, and a screening of the film, Yentl following the service.

Date: Dec. 25
Time: Begins at 6:30p
Place: Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St, San Francisco
Cost: Adults: $10 and Children under 12 free.
Reservations for dinner will be accepted until 12:00pm on Wednesday, December 23rd.
Please call the Congregation Sha’ar Zahav office at 415-861-6932 for details.
Register here

Early Shabbat Service & Vegetarian Chinese Food Dinner
We’ll be mixing things up a little this Shabbat – the service will start at 5:30 followed by a vegetarian Chinese food dinner hosted by Rabbi Chaim. The dinner is free and open to all, but an RSVP by Wednesday, December 23, at noon is required so that we can order appropriate quantities of food. No RSVP is necessary if you are coming to the service but not staying for dinner.

Date: Friday, December 25
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto
Free but you must sign up by 12/23
Sign up here

New Year’s Eve Stand-Up Comedy Show & After Party
A New Year’s Eve celebration made easy & funny. The 6th Annual Stand-Up Comedy Celebration is the perfect experience for New Year’s Eve in Marin. Group tables allow folks to bring their Party to a great comedy show with nothing to clean up. The evening is timed with maximum flexibility so attendees can enjoy an early dinner at a favorite restaurant, go elsewhere for the stroke of midnight, or stay for the festive After Party with the Comics, featuring complimentary bubbly and a big-screen countdown!
Smart, funny and clean stand-up comedy from 5 comedians in ONE hilarious show with a rare Bay Area appearance by Kevin Meaney.
Osher Marin

Date: Thursday, December 31
Time: 9:00pm-12:00am
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael
Register here.

DIY Jewish Home traditions: Empower Yourself!
A Creative Jewish Traditions Series with Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown
There are so many beautiful Jewish traditions, stories, rituals, recipes and songs that are intended entirely for the home and take place outside the walls of the synagogue. But what are they? Where do they come from? And how can you feel empowered to create these traditions for yourself or your family in a way that is uniquely your own?
If you’re looking for guidance on how to create a meaningful Shabbat experience with your family, celebrate the Jewish holidays in creative ways, or how to incorporate simple Jewish teachings into daily moments then this class is for you! You will leave the class with many tools and resources for creating new Jewish traditions for yourself and your family.

Dates: Second Friday of the month, next date is Jan. 8
Time: 11:30 am – 12:30pm
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
RSVP to Molly

Modern Jewish Literature
Taught by Rabbi Marder and Dr. Joyce Penn Moser
This five-session seminar explores fascinating works by American, European and Israeli Jewish writers that illuminate the human condition. Come prepared for a lively discussion!
For book details and/or to register for this course, download and complete the signup form (coming soon) and return with a check to “Congregation Beth Am” attention Sheba Solomon.

Dates: Sundays, January 10, January 31, February 28, March 13 and April 17
Time: 9:00-11:00am
Place: Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Suggested donation: $36 per person (includes bagels, cream cheese, juice and coffee).
Registration required. Find details and sign up for here

A Walk Through the Many Levels of Tu B’Shevat
Tu B’Shevat is the first of the four new years in the Jewish calendar and is known as the “new year for the trees.” It celebrates the signs of life returning to earth in the form of green sprouts and blossoms. According to Kabbalah, it is the Tree of Life itself that is the ultimate source of this celebration.

In preparation for Tu B’Shevat seder join congregant Shulamit Sofia for a workshop exploring such Kabbalistic aspects as the four cups of wine, the four species of fruits and nuts, and the overarching context of the Four Worlds. To learn more about Shulamit, visit:

Date: Tuesday, January 12
Time: 7:00 pm
Place: Temple Emanu-El, Room 56, 2 Lake Street, San Francisco

2016 Community-Wide Mitzvah Day:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
Join hundreds of your neighbors for a community-wide day of “tikkun olam” (“repair of the world”) as part of a National Day of Service to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This inter-generational event will feature a range of hands-on service projects; participants will work in small groups on projects addressing issues of poverty, hunger, housing and homelessness, aging, the environment, and more.
Come on your own or with your family and friends! We ask that any volunteers under the age of 15 be accompanied by a parent. We look forward to working with you to promote Dr. King’s legacy of tolerance, peace, and equality and increase our community’s commitment to service & justice. This fun and inspirational day will leave you feeling accomplished and energized!

Monday, January 18, 2016
Time: 8am to 7pm
Place: Osher Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Details here

Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods with Wilderness Torah
Come to the redwoods to celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the unseen awakening of spring. In the tradition of the Tsfat mystics, we gather in the forest to create an experiential Tu B’Shvat seder that connects us to the trees and the elements. Morning seder, kids program, and afternoon workshops!

Date: Sunday, January 24, 2016
Time: 10 am to 3:30 pm
Place: Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Oakland.

Register here for Festival & Avodah (work exchange)

Jewish Film Series
This month’s Jewish Film Series presents When Comedy Went to School in the Beit Kehillah. Come see this saucy and spirited documentary about this country’s greatest generation of comics — the generation that includes the likes of Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl and Jerry Stiller, all of whom make appearances in the film, sharing hilarious and personal experiences. With charm and wit, When Comedy Went to School seeks to answer why there are so many Jewish comedians.

This program is free, the community is welcome and refreshments will be served.

Date: Saturday
Time: 3:30p
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Christmas, Community Activities, Couples, Holidays
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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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