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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With all the hype about Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapping I decided to try making a pumpkin challah. I was a bit suspicious since I love pumpkin and wasn’t sure it would be good as bread. But boy was I wrong! IT IS DELICIOUS! Here’s the recipe – as I modified it to be a better loaf, according to my preferences. Give it a try. As I usually do, I’ve given you a bread machine option. I just think it’s faster and easier on a busy Friday (or any day) to use my bread machine.

Pumpkin Challah makes the party!

Pumpkin Challah makes the party!

Pumpkin Challah

1 package yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (Or 1/4 tsp ginger & 1/4 tsp allspice)
3 3/4 cups white flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg (+ 1 egg for glaze)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Combine yeast and warm water; let stand until foamy (about 7 minutes). Stir gently to combine.

Put flour and spices in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in yeast mixture. Gently mix some of the flour into the water–just enough to form a soft paste. (Don’t try to completely incorporate–there should be a lot of dry flour left around the dough.) Cover bowl with a towel and let it get foamy, about 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, egg, and salt. Pour into the flour mixture and mix well. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is pliable. (If it’s too wet, keep adding flour a tablespoon at a time. If it is too dry keep adding pumpkin puree a tablespoon at a time.)

OR put the dough into your bread maker and set the machine to ‘dough’ and start.

If you are kneading by hand continue here:
Let dough rest 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly oil the bowl, put the dough in it and re-cover with the towel. Let dough rise in a warm place until it has tripled in size, 2-3 hours. Punch down dough, knead it a bit more.

If you are using the bread maching continue here.
When the dough setting has finished the dough take it out.

If you want two loaves, divide the dough in half. If you want one large loaf keep the dough as one lump.
For each loaf you want to make divide the dough into three parts and braid them.

Spray oil on a baking sheet and place the braided dough on the sheet. You can spread some olive oil on the loaves to keep them moist.

Cover and let rise again. Let bread rise until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Brush the loaves with a beaten egg yolk. Bake at 350° F for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Dreidel glass  - flat

A non-Jewish friend of mine loves to decorate for holidays so when she married a Jewish man she got busy finding the appropriate decorations. She told me that she, ‘doesn’t have much’ but you decide. Here are some of her decorating and party-making items.

menorahs
blue table cloth
many votive candle/tea lights
Chanukah garland (blue and silver) – Looks great running down the middle of the table or wound in the chandelier
Happy Hanukah banner
variety of dreidels
a couple dreidel games
Latke Bingo
101 Chanukah Activities
The Chanukah Box of Questions
Dancing Rabbi
Chanukah CD
Colorful Chanukah candles

Most of this she bought at places like Michael’s Crafts and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Decoration options

Decoration options

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Buzzfeed.com Thanksgivukkah

Buzzfeed.com Thanksgivukkah

This year Hanukkah begins on Thanksgiving! That has given way to fun, silly words like Thanksgivnukkah. How can you blend your second night of Hanukkah with Thanksgiving? We’ll introduce you to some new recipes that are right for both holidays – like sweet potato latkes and pecan rugelach.

Want to plan a Hanukkah Party? We’ll tell you how to put together a Latke Bar Party with unique California cuisine touches.

What about decorations? Wishing for a little more glitter and sparkle? Come see examples of home and table decorations that you can get locally or make yourself.

Interfaith families are especially welcome! Come join the fun – cooking, crafting, eating and preparing for the holidays ahead!

Date: Sunday, Oct. 27
Time: 1 to 4pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills
Cost: $35/person
Register here.

Buzzfeed.com rugelach

Buzzfeed.com rugelach

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Past Programs, Programs archive, symbolic foods
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We’ve done this one before and this year we are adding Hanukkah Party planning & recipes! This year Hanukkah begins on Nov. 28, the same day as Thanksgiving. We’ll talk about what that means for us THIS year but also how to balance Hanukkah and Christmas in future years.

Beth Am group

Food plays a big part in Jewish culture and holidays. What if you’re not Jewish but want to create a wonderful festive meal for your family and friends? What if you are Jewish and you want to make the holiday more joyous, meaningful and delicious? Then come cook and chat with us!
Food alone doesn’t make a family meal or holiday complete. You have to put more into the day. Recipes and rituals come together to build memories and strengthen family bonds. We’ll discuss the ways to use food to build those relationships and happy memories. Join us to make latkes & other delicious holiday dishes that are perfect for a dinner or a Hanukkah party!

Date: Sunday, Oct. 27
Time: 1 to 4pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills
Cost: $35/person
Register here

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There are Hanukkah events going on all around the bay. Find some of the below. Email me with others you want to share. Light some lights! Have some fun!

Light It Up! Casino Royale Style
Join hundreds of young adults for the most rockin’ Hanukkah party in the South Bay!
The evening will feature DJ, dancing, delicious treats, dreidel, blackjack, and an open bar!

Black Tie Affair
DJ & Dancing
Raffle Prizes
For young adults 21 + with ID

Date: Sat., Dec. 8
Time: 9pm
Place: Hillel at Stanford, 565 Mayfield Avenue, Palo Alto
Cost: $15 pre-registration; $20 at the door

Congregation B’nai Shalom Hanukkah Blast!
Come celebrate Hanukkah together! Community candle-lighting; please bring your own hanukkiah. Dinner prepared by the Men’s Club – latkes galore! Soup, salad, sides and more!
Art Show, displaying the art of Gan B’nai Shalom preschoolers, Community Singalong: Performances and songs led by our students.
After dinner, the celebration continues…
Crafts and carnival games for children and families
Wine tasting with Brett Drucker
And…dessert! Reservations required.

Date: Sunday, December 9
Time: 4:00pm to 6:30pm
Place: Social Hall of B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek
Cost –$18 per adult; $12 teens 14 and older; Free for children 13 and under.
To RSVP, please call Barbara at the synagogue office at 925-934-9446 or send an email to officeassist@bshalom.org
Because of planning and preparation, we regret that we are unable to issue refunds after December 4th.

Kol Emeth Annual Chanukah Party
Join Kol Emeth Religious School for a Grand Chanukah Celebration this Tuesday, open to the entire community!
Sing Chanukah songs, watch our courtyard glow with a spectacular community candle-lighting, and rejoice with Israeli dancing.
Enjoy an authentic, homemade Persian feast alongside traditional latkes. We’ll also have piping hot gourmet donuts from a vintage donut-making machine, compliments of Harvey’s Donuts!
From Israeli dancing to olive oil making, to art projects and more, we’ll have festivities for all ages to enjoy!
Schedule:
5:35-6:10pm School Chanukah Assembly
6:10-6:25pm Community Candle-lighting (bring your own menorah!)
6:30-7:00pm Gourmet Persian Feast with Latkes & Fresh Donuts
6:45-7:30pm Fun Chanukah Activities for all ages!

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 11
Time: Starts at 5:35pm
Place: Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela Avenue, Palo Alto
Cost is $10/person in advance, $12/person at the door.
To RSVP, sign up at: tinyurl.com/KEParty2012!

The Festival of Lights
Food for Purchase! All are Welcome! Join the Osher Marin JCC for the most festive and fun Hanukkah party in the Bay Area!
The Festival of Lights will include games, crafts, shows, stories and songs. We’ll have an Artisan Marketplace where you can buy jewelry, Judaica, and more.

Date; Sun., December 9
Time: 9:30am to 2:30pm
Place: Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Road, San Rafael
FREE
More details here: http://bit.ly/WvO2tr

Hanukah Festival of Light
Join the JCC East Bay for latkes, menorah-making, arts & crafts, and storytelling for the whole family. Come sing and dance with Isaac Zones at noon. Please bring new or gently worn athletic shoes to donate to our partner, the World Wear Project.

Date: Dec. 9
Time: 10am-2pm
Place: JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St, Berkeley
www.jcceastbay.org

Festival of Lights Community Hanukkah Party
ICC and OFJCC Preschool invites you to bring the family and join us on the third night of Hanukkah for candle lighting, songs, driedel games and traditional Israeli jelly donuts and Latkes.
Whether it’s your first Hannukah experience or your 50th, come enjoy its traditions and camaraderie as well as a concert for the whole family with Isaac Zones and Melita Silberstein. This event is open to everyone.
We invite you to bring your own menorah and candles to help us light up the night!
Arts and crafts activities at a nominal fee from 5:30-6:00PM

Date: Monday, Dec. 10
Time: 5 to 7pm
Place: Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Free
www.paloaltojcc.org

Hanukkah for Adults
Come together to light holiday candles, participate in stimulating workshops, make menorahs, and enjoy live music, drinks, and dessert! Join us for an evening of Hanukkah pleasures.

7:00 – 7:15 Candle lighting & Song (You are welcome to bring your own menorah & candles and join in the lighting!)
7:20pm Workshops. Choose from:
* Dawn Kepler – The Scents & Tastes of the Holidays: Hanukah and Christmas
* Zvi Bellin of Moishe House- Chanukah: The Holiday of Inner and Inter- Revelation
* Adam and Alli of Hazon – Sweet potato, Purple potato, Parsnip, Carrot, Turnip, Vegan Latkah Making and social justice in the food system.
* Rabbi Bridget Wynne of Jewish Gateways – Fanatics or Freedom Fighters: The Real Story of Hanukah!
8:15-9:00: Israeli Folk Dancing, Hot and Cold alcoholic drinks, and Middle Eastern desserts.

Date: Thursday, Dec. 13
Time: 7 to 9pm
Place: East Bay JCC, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley
Suggested donation: $5 to $10
For more information contact me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org
Co-sponsored by, Building Jewish Bridges, Moishe House, Jewish Gateways, the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay and Hazon.

The Subterranean Arthouse’s 3rd annual Chanukah party!
For three years local singer Heather Klein has worked together with Bay Area communities, local artists and musicians to present “Hungry for Yiddish; A Mitzvah Project.” Several klezmer bands, Yiddish singers, classical, and world musicians pitch in to present a series of concerts to raise money and awareness for the Bay Area’s homeless and hungry population. Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Berkeley Food Pantry, which provides hunger relief in Berkeley and Albany.
This year featuring:
Heather Kleins’ Inextinguishable Trio – Yiddish song
Anthony Mordechai Russell – Yiddish song
Bruce Bierman – Yiddish dance
Saul Goodman’s Klezmer Orkestar – klezmer dance band
9-10pm: Yiddish song with Heather Klein’s Inextinguishable Trio and Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell. Both Heather and Anthony bring a captivating deep artistry and operatic technique to Yiddish song. Their voices call audiences to rapt attention, their songs deep with history infused with new life.
10pm on: klezmer dance party! The Bay’s favorite Yiddish dance instructor and instigator Bruce Bierman will lead dances.

Date; Thursday December 13
Time: 9pm
Place: Subterranean Arthouse, 2179 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $10-$20 sliding scale donation, no one turned away for lack of funds
Advance tickets here http://klezmer.brownpapertickets.com/

Shabbat Sha-Boogie: Chanukah Shabbat
Join your friends at Beth Am for a special rockin’ high-energy Chanukah Shabbat service. Come sing and pray with us in a special Shabbat Service — a Chanukah celebration for all ages! Please bring your chanukiyot with you to the service for a special candle lighting. Then, if you want join us after the service for a delicious dinner click on the link to sign up for dinner. Start here: http://www.betham.org/node/2455

Date: Friday, Dec. 14
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills

Celebrate Shabbat and Hanukkah in the Sephardic & Oriental Style
Join Cantor Ilene Keys and the Temple Sinai Adult Choir with Middle Eastern instruments for Jewish Music of the Middle East: The music of the Sephardic and Oriental Jews.

Date: December 14
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free and Open to the public!
www.oaklandsinai.org

Hanukkah Farm Fest & Open Mic
Join the farming folks at Urban Adamah for a Hanukah celebration. Open Mic! Fresh food, candlelighting and a gift exchange.
Here’s the schedule:
7:00pm Light dinner of hearty soups, cob-oven fired flat breads, herbed olive oil bar, homemade chai and more
7:30pm Candle lighting – bring your own menorah and candles
8:00pm Open Mic – sign up to perform music, poetry, stories, spoken word, puppetry or another talent, limit 3 songs per person
In the spirit of holiday gift giving, we will also have a gift exchange. If you would like to participate, please bring something with a value of less than $10 you’d like to share

Date; Saturday, December 15
Time: 7pm
Place: Urban Adamah, 1050 Parker St., Berkeley
Cost: $10 in advance; $12 at the door.
Go here to order tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4761735479

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Children, Community Activities
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Come together to light holiday candles, participate in stimulating workshops, make menorahs, and enjoy live music, drinks, and dessert!

7:00 – 7:15 Candle lighting & Song (You are welcome to bring your own menorah & candles and join in the lighting!)

7:20pm Workshops. Choose from:
* Dawn Kepler – The Scents & Tastes of the Holidays: Hanukah and Christmas
* Zvi Bellin of Moishe House- Chanukah: The Holiday of Inner and Inter- Revelation
* Adam and Alli of Hazon – Sweet potato, Purple potato, Parsnip, Carrot, Turnip, Vegan Latkah Making and social justice in the food system.
* Rabbi Bridget Wynne of Jewish Gateways – Fanatics or Freedom Fighters: The Real Story of Hanukah!

8:15-9:00: Israeli Folk Dancing, Hot and Cold alcoholic drinks, and Middle Eastern desserts.

Date: Thursday, Dec. 13
Time: 7 to 9pm
Place: East Bay JCC, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley
Suggested donation: $5 to $10
For more information contact me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org
Co-sponsored with Moishe House, Hazon, Jewish Gateways, and the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay.

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Past Programs
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Chocolate Mousse from www.kveller.com

Kveller is a website that describes itself as “A Jewish Twist on Parenting.” After the glut of oily foods for Chanukah they offer a switch to chocolate with this Chocolate Mousse recipe.

8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Melt chocolate with water and sugar in a double boiler. Stir until velvety and thoroughly blended.
2. Set in a pan of cold water.
3. Add egg yolks and vanilla. The mixture should be semifluid–if it’s too firm, add up to 5 tablespoons of tepid water.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into chocolate.
5. Spoon into individual dessert cups.
6. Chill 4-6 hours.

They have other recipes! Check them out here.

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Etz Chayim, Palo Alto

Rodef Sholom, San Rafael

Where ever you are, I wish you a light-filled holiday!

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from the Beth Emek E-letter

Many interfaith families find the month of December to be easier to manage with Christmas and Chanukah do not overlap. That way they can devote time to each holiday with the side of the family that celebrates it. But when, like this year, they are on top of each other the sorting out can be hard. Remember this, the majority of American families deal with trying to do THE SAME HOLIDAY (Christmas) with two families, or even more. Some suggestions:

1. Since Chanukah covers eight days, chose time before or after December 25th to spend with the Jewish family members. Give December 25 (or in some families, Dec. 24) to the other side of the family. (I hesitate to say the Christian side of the family because many of you have told me that you do not identity as Christian but you love Christmas as a family holiday.)

2. Accept that Chanukah is neither a national holiday nor a significant Jewish holiday and let it be low key. Just light the candles as many evenings as you can manage and promise yourself to make a bigger deal of another Jewish holiday.

3. Experiencing angst, depression or conflict? Feel free to call me. You can also simply get through this year and we can discuss making next year better during the religiously neutral months of January or February.

4. Go away for the holidays. A significant number of families tell me that they avoid the issue by taking a skiing vacation or a tropical vacation. The vacation is their gift to each other – no cooking, no house cleaning, no office.

HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE “OVERLAPPING” YEARS?
Share your solutions with me and I’ll send them out to everyone. If you have something that works, please, offer it to others.

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Christmas
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