There’s a little something for everyone this fall. Peruse the classes below, call if you have any questions, and I hope to see you at a program in the next few months.

Dawn

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3 faith traditions banner

Do You Have One Jewish Parent?
Do you see yourself as Jewish, half-Jewish, part Jewish, Jew-ish? Were you raised as a Jew, a Christian, a Hindu, some of this and a little of that? We are looking for people who have one Jewish parent and would like to talk about their experience, share their stories, their questions, their wisdom. What was good? What was not so good? Will you try to duplicate your parents’ path? What would you like to ask of or tell to the “organized” Jewish community? We will come together to discuss our shared experiences as well as our differences. What we want from life now and how we are going about making that happen.

Date: Thursday, Oct. 22
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, but please RSVP here.

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Mezuzot at Afikomen in Berkeley

Mezuzot at Afikomen in Berkeley

What Makes a Home “Jewish”?
A Jew may ask their spouse to agree to have a “Jewish” home. But what does that mean?
To a non-Jewish loved one it may mean simply that some of the people in the house say they are Jews. But our partners deserve a more in-depth answer. One Jew may say, a Jewish home has Jewish ritual objects – a menorah, Shabbos candlesticks, a ketubah on the wall. Another may add, but you need to do Jewish things in a Jewish home like observe Shabbat weekly or build a sukkah on Sukkot or recite the Shema before bedtime. Yet another will say we must act like Jews, give tzadakah, attend synagogue, refrain from eating pork.
Each Jewish partner will have their own ideas about what they need in order to feel that their home is “Jewish.” Or, they may have no clear idea at all! Every non-Jewish spouse deserves a clear statement as to what they are signing up for.
Join other curious couples for an enlightening discussion and go home with your own individualized plan.

Date: Sunday, Oct 25
Time: 9 to 10:30am
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame
Cost: $8/public; free to Peninsula Temple Sholom members
Register here.

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Who is a Jew?

Who is a Jew?

Are Our Children Jewish?
Patralineal Descent, Reform Judaism and those other Jews
In 1983 the Reform movement officially recognized children of Jewish fathers as Jewish. But if you read the statement it says that every child of a mixed marriage, whether the mother or father is Jewish, must establish their identity as a Jew “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people.” What are those acts? Do we really expect all kids from interfaith marriages to do so? What role do non-Reform Jews play in our lives and those of our children? Join Dawn Kepler for an exploration of Patrilineal Jews today.

Date: Sunday, Nov. 8
Time: 10:15am
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central St, Richmond
Free
Contact me, Dawn, if you have questions at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org or call 510.845.6420 x11
www.tbhrichmond.org

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Carly and her mom

Women in Interfaith Relationships:
A Discussion for Girlfriends, 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 about the assumptions and possibilities surrounding our roles as sustainers of the family. Women in any stage of relationship, any sexuality, and any age are welcome.

Date: Thursday, Nov. 19
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
Cost: $8 for non-members, free to Beth Am members
Register here.

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Ayad Akhtar

Ayad Akhtar

After the Play: Disgraced
You’ve heard that one should not bring up religion, race or politics in polite company but in Disgraced these are central issues. One reviewer said, “As much as “Disgraced” is a play about the potential tensions between old faiths and the modern world, it also dramatizes the complexity of identity, the interior tug of war between the culture into which people are born and the culture they claim as their own.” This friction speaks to every minority or immigrant population. How much can one assimilate? How much does one want to blend in?

Professor Senzai will respond to these themes, as well as putting the play into a broader context of life for American Muslims. He will reflect on some of the realities and statistics of the American Muslim community and issues of assimilation, discrimination and Islamophobia.

Date: Thursday, December 3
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: $8 public; free to Temple Sinai members
Register here

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Flora Scott Linda Calvin Panel

Conversion to Judaism
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Conversion
Are you curious about conversion to Judaism — for yourself or someone you love? Perhaps you know someone who is converting and wonder why someone would make that choice. Maybe this is the first time you heard that conversion to Judaism is a possibility. Curious? Confused? Join Jews by choice, born Jews and non-Jews as we work to answer all of your questions about conversion!

If you are a member of a synagogue, of course you can speak with your own rabbi about conversion. And you are still welcome to come hear from our panel. If you currently do not have a rabbi, this program will help you find one.

Sunday, Dec. 13
10:30-12noon
B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Ln, Walnut Creek
Free
Hosted by B’nai Shalom and Building Jewish Bridges
Co-sponsored by B’nai Tikvah, Temple Isaiah, Lehrhaus Judaica

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Two-Hearts

Let’s Talk Interfaith
Some people are not comfortable discussing their personal choices and dilemmas in a group. They want to discuss the key questions in an interfaith/intercultural home but they want to have that conversation in private. For those of you in this category Let’s Talk “Interfaith” is a great option. The two of you meet with me, Dawn, to cover topics like: How will we interact with our families? Where will we go for which holidays? Which holidays will we have in our home? How do we feel about each other’s religious and/or cultural tradition and how will we share them? What about children? We will focus on the topics you feel are most important to you. You can come with your own questions or just ask me “what should we be discussing?”
The first session is always free so you can determine whether this is something you want to do and whether you feel comfortable. Your first step is to contact me, Dawn Kepler, at 510-845-6420 x11 or dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org to set up your free session.

Dates & times to fit your schedule.
Location: You have three options – come into my office on Bancroft Way in Berkeley or via Skype or on a conference phone call.
Cost is $120 for three 1.5 hour sessions. Or we can schedule individual one hour sessions at $50 per meeting.
Read more here.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Conversion, Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Jewish Learning, Programs archive, Relationships
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Trang & Ron from behind (2)

Falling in love and finding “the one” is a wonderful experience. If you are Jewish and that “one and only” isn’t, you have some sorting out to do. How will your home reflect your dual identities, how will you raise the kids, what holidays will you celebrate. There are lots of choices — and honestly, aren’t you glad there are?

Interlove Story: When Jews Love Non-Jews… and Judaism
You are Jewish and you fell in love with a person who isn’t Jewish; now you want to make a Jewish home and raise Jewish children. How have other families managed Jewish commitment and interfaith love? We’ll begin with a tender film by the daughter of an interfaith couple (Interlove Story was her Stanford University Masters Film Thesis) and discuss the choices her parents made and what options we all have.
Join Rabbi Sarah Weissman, Dawn Kepler, and interfaith couples for a warm and open discussion.

Date: Sunday, April 26
Time: 9:15 – 11:00 am
Place: Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills
Cost: $5 for the public; Free for members of Beth Am
Register here

Posted by admin under Past Programs, Relationships, Weddings
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My Mixed and Matched column for February 2015 is a response to a young woman whose family includes Modern Orthodox cousins and her secular and intermarried relatives. My answer is on the J-Weekly website.

Th dinner 3

She is hurt by the conflict between the adults in her family. For many children, the most important thing is family harmony. If you are having trouble with family relationships, give me a call.

Posted by admin under In their own words, Relationships
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child with star

You’ve made the big decision – we’ll raise our child(ren) as Jews. Now what? Does this mean no Christmas or Easter? How do we interact with our non-Jewish family’s holidays? What synagogue should we join and how can we ask for specific support in our process? Is a lot of the effort falling on a non-Jewish woman who doesn’t have a gut feeling for Judaism; how can she be supported? Let’s talk about how to integrate non-Jewish family and their holiday expectations, what to say to parents and siblings, what you can expect from a synagogue community and how to support the non-Jewish parent.

(If the non-Jewish spouse is not Christian but a different minority religion like Hindi or Buddhist, a different set of issues arise. Living with two minority religions in America presents its own challenges. We can discuss this situation if it is impacting any of the participants.)

Sunday, Nov. 16
3 to 4:30pm
Peninsula Jewish Community Center, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City
Cost: $12 public, $10 for members of cosponsoring organizations
Register here.

Co-sponsored by Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Peninsula Temple Beth El, Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Peninsula Temple Sholom.

Posted by admin under Children, Parenting, Past Programs, Relationships
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three_generation

How do you tell your parents about the different choices you’ve made? It can be hard to say, we’re raising the kids Jewish. We will/won’t have a Christmas tree. The baby will/won’t be baptized, receive a bris, have a bar mitzvah. What can we tell the non-Jewish grandparents about what is appropriate and how they can be supportive? What do we do with negative Jewish grandparents who rail against raising kids Jewish for a range of reasons?
Join us for a compassionate and practical discussion of parenting and being parented in a multi-generational interfaith family.

Date: Sunday, December 7
Time: 9:30 – 11:00 am
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, please RSVP here.

Posted by admin under Grandparents, Non-Jewish family, Parenting, Relationships
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Distressed_woman

A Jewish woman marrying a non-Jewish man sent in this angst-ridden question to Boston’s Jewish Journal:

I am marrying into a lovely family that is not Jewish. My family is hosting a dinner to meet the future in-laws. My mother, who prides herself on being a superb cook, is planning to serve all her Jewish specialties. I feel this is literally putting our differences on the table.

You can read the equally angsty replies on their website.

Rather than get to the heart of the question, the ‘helpers’ jump in & answer their assumed questions.
I would have asked, what are your mother’s Jewish specialties? Brisket? Here’s some news, in the south that’s a common dish. Matzah ball soup? Brace your self, pretty much everyone has had it. Chocolate babka? Excuse me; everyone eats chocolate.
I would suggest the hostess find out about food preferences or restrictions. Do you guests eat wheat/gluten? Sugar? Any foods they don’t like – okra, squash, barley?
Why not tell your guests, “My mom is so excited you’re coming! She’d love to make a very special meal. Let me ask you about your dietary needs so she has a chance to shine and you have a good time.” Really, is there any more flattering message than that someone wants to pull out all the stops for you?

Don’t make trouble for yourself. Changes are that most non-Jewish relatives-to-be will be curious, friendly, interested and excited. I’ve had many soon to be in-laws say, “this will be our first Jewish wedding!”

So lighten up. Call me for a different perspective if you find yourself slipping down the worry shoot.

Here are some funny responses I got.

* Wait…the question is whether or not Jewish foods should be served because it will make them think about intermarriage too much? (Jen T)

* With apologies for the profanity, my reaction to this article was OMFG, only all spelled out. She’s gonna alienate the other family by serving unfamiliar food? News flash, Jewish food isn’t really that out there. There are Jewish delis – and even Jewish people! – every where in this country. The mother should cook what she loves to cook, taking into consideration dietary restrictions. And everybody should stop being so dumb as to worry about it.

* Now if the mom invited to dinner a mohel and starts asking the young man pointed questions… That might make everyone feel that religious differences were coming between them! (Tristan S)

* I agree with you and Tristan. Yes to asking about dietary restrictions. But also yes to letting her cook the way she usually cooks for company. It’s a way into talking about things that make for good conversation. Telling her mom the meal can’t be too Jewish strikes me as a fine way to make the religious difference the elephant in the room. The potential–unintended–result is a mother who feels like she’s supposed to make sure she doesn’t seem too Jewish to the in-laws (good luck figuring out what that means), and in-laws who pick up on the discomfort and assume they are the source of it. Yes, the families are from different backgrounds. Acknowledge it. Talk about it. What better way than food to open the door to conversations about family traditions? (Pam C)

* Ok. I’m baffled. Serving brisket, potato kugel and whatever else, could be offensive and culturally insensitive. Really? Does the other family know that this family is Jewish? They are probably either secretly or openly hoping for some good Jewish food!!! Maybe the incoming family is really tired of grammy Hall’s ham and will welcome something culturally specific to JEWS. Or maybe, must maybe, she could point out that everyone eats “Jewish” food. Bagels and lox. Those are not all Jews down at Noah’s. I see some non Jews buying challah. (Diane W)

Posted by admin under Grandparents, Non-Jewish family, Parenting, Relationships
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Navigating the Interfaith Elements of the Holiday

Pesach at Lauries

Grab a frozen yogurt at Menchie’s and join other Jewish spouses as we discuss the challenges of observing Passover while being sensitive to your non-Jewish spouse’s needs & wishes.

Will this be a week-long observance or just one night? Will there be bread in your home? Will your spouse be expected to participate in a Seder? Should you modify the Seder to soften the focus on the ‘Chosen people’? What Haggadah should you use and how long should the Seder be? Is your spouse comfortable with you setting the tone for the holiday? Does he or she follow willingly or is it a tug of war? Do you include your spouse’s extended family?

We’ll discuss plans and strategies to harmoniously celebrate the holiday for your family and bring more unity and enjoyment for everyone.

Date: Sunday, March 23
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Menchie’s, 1862 Euclid Ave., Berkeley
Cost: $10, Cost includes yogurt/sorbet

Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Couples, Passover, Past Programs, Programs archive, Relationships
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Camp Kee Tov

Camp Kee Tov

I’ve begun writing a column, Mixed and Matched, for the local San Francisco Bay Area Jewish newspaper, the J-Weekly. My first column is No Follow-through on Agreement to Raise Jewish Kids.

A Jewish father wrote to me:

I’m Jewish, my wife is not. I told her before we got married that I wanted our kids to be Jewish, and she agreed. But she’s not doing anything — she’s not even trying to teach the kids how to be Jewish. How can I get her to move on this and keep her promise? — Frustrated Dad

Many of you have heard me respond to questions of this sort. I am a strong advocate of the idea that the Jewish partner must step up. You can read my reply here.

Posted by admin under In the News, Mixed & Matched, Parenting, Relationships
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From the Maggie Semple blog

From the Maggie Semple blog

Here it comes, the holidays! The time that songs tell us is “the happiest time of the year.” Which raises the question, what makes us happy? American capitalist culture has a perpetual campaign to answer that question with THINGS! Things will make you happy! Cars, electronics, toys, whatever they are selling, THAT will make you happy. The trouble is, it doesn’t. Many people feel empty during or shortly after Christmas because it didn’t live up to the hype.

Did you know that there are universities around the country that now study happiness? UC Berkeley has a center, The Greater Good Science Center, that focuses on the things that make us happy – and it turns out much of what makes us happy is how we behave. People who express compassion, gratitude, and empathy are actually happier! People who have relationships – friends, a community – are happier. Being with others, doing things together, creates happiness. That means you are more likely to enjoy and remember serving food at a shelter or ice skating with your kids than what gifts you opened.

Here’s an interesting blog post, A Very Greedy Christmas on a fashion blog of all things, articulating the challenge of unwanted gifts and concluding that it’s those utterly unique gifts that are remembered. True, but we just can’t pull those off every year for everyone we know. So what can we pull off every year? It is possible to create and sustain rituals that make us happy. Like what, you ask. Like having a Games party with good friends or a latke making gathering with your favorite neighbors or cookie making day with your kids. There is something about winter that puts my family in the mood for games. Since they were little the approach of dark evenings signaled game nights galore!

Create a ritual, something you do every year; you’ll be surprised how meaningful it will become and how much those who share it with you will come to depend on it.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Chanukah, Children, Christmas, Relationships
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Discussion Series for Interfaith/Intercultural Couples

Gabby s wedding small

Interfaith couples get it – this is going to take some discussion, some compromise. But what exactly is ‘fair’? Can each of us get what we want and that will be OK for our kids? Then there’s our parents, grandparents, and siblings – how do we get them on board with our choices?

There’s a step-by-step process of breaking down the parts of this puzzle and finding out what you want and how to go about getting it. Join us! This may surprise you but it will actually be enjoyable! Groups form year round.

8 Sessions
Exchange ideas about such issues as:

 Holiday Observances – Which holidays will be celebrated in our home?

 Dealing With Our Families – How will we talk to our parents about our choices?

 Raising Children – How can we make sure our child is “part” of each of us?

 Spiritual Concerns – How do we satisfy our needs and recognize our Partner’s?

 Cultural Differences – How do communication styles and familial expectations impact our relationship?

This is one of the most meaningful and powerful things you can do for your relationship. I encourage every couple to participate in a couples group.

Cost: $120/couple
There is a sliding scale. NO ONE turned away. Tell me you work evenings, tell me you can’t get a babysitter, but don’t tell me it’s the money because we can make it work.

7 sessions, Feb. 12 to March 26

call Dawn at 510-845-6420 x11or e-mail Dawn to register or receive more information.
More information here

extended_family

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Couples, Non-Jewish family, Past Programs, Relationships
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