Shabbat candles

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 Rabbi Glazer, Dawn Kepler and other curious couples for an enlightening discussion and go home with your own individualized plan.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth Sholom, 301 14th Avenue (near the corner of Clement Street), San Francisco
Cost: Free to members of Beth Sholom, $8 for a non-member individual, $12 for a non-member couple.

Register here.

Posted by admin under Couples, Jewish holidays at home, Programs archive
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Are you a crafter? Let’s do something fun and Jewish!

Homemade Rosh Hashanah Card

Homemade Rosh Hashanah Card

DIY Judaism: Jewish Greeting Cards
Hallmark shops don’t have cards for Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot. When it comes to the December holidays, can Jews send greeting cards in December? Should they be Chanukah cards? Can they send Christmas cards? What about solstice cards or those annual update letters? Join Dawn Kepler to discuss Seasons Greetings questions and make your own special Holiday cards while we talk. Plus we’ll have some card fixings to make your own unique cards for Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Purim!

Date: Sunday, Sept. 14
Time: 2 – 4pm
Place: Private home in Oakland
Cost: $10

Register here.

Some of the beautiful cards that were made.

card by Louis

card by Natalie

card by Susan

Posted by admin under Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Past Programs, Programs archive
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Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, is a minor holiday with few customs. In modern times it has become a sort of Jewish Valentine’s Day in Israel. You can read a traditional view of the holiday here.

To add some romance to the day my friend, Faith Kramer, came up with two recipes that are made with roses. Why not give them a try? They will be equally delicious any time of year.

If you would like to try more of Faith Kramer’s recipes you will find them on her site, Her site features many Jewish recipes so check it for other holiday foods.

These recipes originally appeared in the J-Weekly, which features a food column every week.

Chocolate Rose Berry Cake

Chocolate Rose Berry Cake

Chocolate Rose Berry Cake
Serves 8-12
1/2 cup butter plus extra for pan
10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
6 eggs, divided
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup ground almond flour
1 cup raspberry jam
1/2 to 1 tsp. rose water
3 Tbs. confectioner’s sugar
Whipped cream topping, optional (see below)
Raspberries for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter. Line bottom with parchment and grease.

Cut 1⁄2 cup butter and chocolate into pieces and melt, stirring occasionally until smooth. Separate four of the eggs and whip whites until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat yolks and remaining eggs with sugar, vanilla, cocoa and almond flour until smooth. Working in batches, fold in chocolate. Gently fold in egg whites in batches. Pour into pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until top is firm and springs back to the touch. (Cake will be wet inside). Let cool in pan, remove sides, invert on plate and remove bottom of pan and paper.
Stir jam with 1⁄2 tsp. of rose water. Taste. Add more as needed. Once cake is completely cool, use a serrated knife to horizontally cut in half. Spread top of bottom layer with jam, place second layer on top, cut side down. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Spread with whipped cream topping and decorate with raspberries.
Whipped Cream Topping: Whip half-pint heavy cream with 2 Tbs. sugar and 1⁄2 tsp. (or to taste) rose water until soft peaks form.

North African Chicken Sauté

North African Chicken Sauté

My husband has already put dried apricots on his shopping list and is eager to try out Faith’s second recipe.

North African Chicken Sauté
Serves 2-3

2 cups chicken stock, warm
1/2 cup dried apricots
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs. oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
2⁄3 cup 1/4 sliced carrots
2 cups (6 oz.) artichoke hearts (defrosted if frozen)
1 Tbs. crumbled rose petals
1/2 cup chopped mint
Soak apricots in warm stock. Sprinkle chicken with half of salt and pepper. Heat oil in large pan over medium high heat. Brown chicken. Cook until somewhat firm but not cooked through. Set aside.
Sauté onions and garlic until golden. Add remaining salt and pepper and other spices. Sauté briefly. Add carrots. Sauté until carrots begin to soften. Add artichoke hearts. Sauté 2 minutes. Add stock and apricots, bring to and keep at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked and sauce thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in rose petals. Return chicken and juices to pan. Lower heat. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Stir in mint.

Posted by admin under Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, symbolic foods
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Alef Bet

In January 2014 my Mixed and Matched column addressed the concerns a Jewish Dad had about his wife’s ‘failure’ to raise the kids Jewish. Many people reacted to the article with some anger at his failure to take responsibility for raising his own children. But some non-Jewish spouses had other thoughts.

One non-Jewish mother had this to say:

I agree that the Dad needs to get more involved but I would not want him to necessarily “lead the way”. I am not Jewish but am raising my children Jewish. I don’t take a back seat to my Jewish family members and would not want them to “lead the way” in my children’s spiritual upbringing. I think instead it is important for the non-Jewish parent (who has agreed to have a Jewish home) to determine how best to embrace Judaism in a way that resonates personally with him/her.

In fact, I chose the Jewish preschool that felt most comfortable to me. I chose our temple. I go to the schools to spin dreidles and host parties for the Jewish holidays. I have one chance to raise my children and their spirituality is important enough to me that I want a central role in guiding my children (rather than deferring that to others). That is why, when I learn of Jewish traditions, I determine which ones are meaningful to me and have the most parallels with my own upbringing. And then I embrace these traditions and weave them into the fabric of the family that my husband and I are building, together.

I would suggest that the husband ask his wife what spiritual traditions were meaningful to her growing up. For instance, did she say a certain prayer? Can she weave elements of this prayer into Shabbat? Make date nights to go to services and let her choose the temple that feels best to her.

As you point out, his wife agreed to raise their children in a religion that is somewhat foreign to her. As much as possible, he should let her take the lead in defining elements of a Jewish life that resonate with her—including choosing a temple and adopting meaningful traditions. I believe this is the surest way for her to embrace Judaism, and therefore their family to embrace Judaism.

Every couple will have their own approach to raising their children. Just be sure that you and your partner are openly discussing both your desires.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, In the News, Jewish holidays at home, Jewish Learning, Parenting, Spirituality
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No previous experience necessary!

Suzannes Elena challah horizontal

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

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

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Jewish Learning, Programs archive, Shabbat, symbolic foods
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A friend of mine who is in an interfaith family recently told me, “I’m jealous of Christmas. My kids absolutely know they are Jewish but they LOVE Christmas and no Jewish holiday can touch it.”

It is true that there is nothing we can do about the massive marketing blitz that this country launches for the Christmas season. Garfield becomes Christmas Garfield, cars become Christmas cars, blenders become Christmas blenders. The entire world is transformed into a saleable object or moment. I’m not suggesting that you compete with this. Instead let’s think about what parts of it are good and which are bad.

Massive materialism isn’t good for anyone. Parents tell me that they want to raise their children with values other than greed and conspicuous consumption. So please, don’t go down the slippery slope of Christmas plus Hanukkah means more presents so our children are luckier; they get more! More? More what? More future landfill trinkets?

Studies show that it is human interaction that makes us happy, being with others whom we love or at least enjoy. Our strongest memories are those of experiences that have an emotional charge. So chances are you remember that surprise birthday party your friends gave you ten years ago but you don’t remember the presents they each gave you.

Now what about Christmas envy? Forget about competing in the world of presents, go for experience. There are Jewish holidays that are packed with fun but most Jews don’t know how to access them. In the words of Auntie Mame, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Sukkot, which begins tonight, wasn’t just A holiday in ancient times, it was THE holiday.* It was a week of harvest festival, community barbeques, huge communal meals, and I feel confident, some singing, dancing and drinking! What about the kids? We are commanded to build a ‘hut’ a temporary structure in which to live during the week. We are to eat our meals there and to sleep there. How would your kids like to have you build a little wooden structure in the yard, equip it with some chairs, a small table and in the evening, a sleeping bag? You can have a little fire in your patio fire pit and roast marshmallows! Sounds like a blast!

A huge part of the Christmas, and any holiday, is the anticipation and build up. With Sukkot there is the gathering of the building materials, the actual building (more fun when done with friends), and then there’s the decorating! My daughter and I are absolute suckers for crafts and decorations. We also love to add those little strings of lights.

So what to do about Christmas envy? Try offering some awesome Jewish experiences. I’m not saying they will replace Christmas, but you’ll probably feel happier to see your kids’ enthusiasm and anticipating for a Jewish holiday.

As for Christmas, if you celebrate it, work on making it about family over presents.

Note: I found this image (pile of gifts) on the blog of a financial planner writing about the Holiday Madness. Interestingly enough he’s in an interfaith marriage. Read his article here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Christmas, Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home
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In 2010 there was a contest called Sukkah City. People were invited to construct unusual sukkahs. Now the movie about this wild and crazy event is out; you can see a trailer here. What the contest illustrated is that sukkahs can come in all sorts of shapes, colors and materials. Even kosher ones! I thought I’d share a few images with you to get your creative juices flowing.



Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, NY had this structure built for them in 2011.

batman guards my sukkah

Here is my own sukkah from a couple years ago. This is one of my FAVORITE photos as you’ll note that Batman guards my sukkah! So stay away bad guys!



Here is B’nai Shalom of Walnut Creek’s congregational sukkah. Big enough to accommodate community gatherings.

sukkah with flags

Here’s a sukkah with a table and a comfy seat. Jewish prayer flags have become available in recent years. Also, with a heightened awareness of avoiding food waste, many people use paper mache fruit instead of real fruit.



This is a crowded street in an ultra Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem – from

A friend of mine artfully hangs diaphanous fabric from branch to branch in her garden and adds lights. It is magical.

Email me a photo of YOUR sukkah that I can share here. Send it to

Posted by admin under Film, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Sukkot
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Decorating the Sukkah

Decorating the Sukkah

Sukkot is one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals—that means very important! It’s fun for kids and adults alike. Imagine building a playhouse + decorating for an autumn festival + picnicking outside — you’ve got Sukkot.

How do you get started with the fun? Come to a no-experience-needed gathering to learn about Sukkot. You’ll leave with several plans on how to make your own sukkah (hut or playhouse), recipes for yummy Jewish fall foods, and craft designs for decorations.

Sunday, September 22
2:00 – 4:00 pm
Private home in Oakland
Limited to 6 families so sign up asap!

Sign up HERE

Posted by admin under Children, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Jewish Learning, Programs archive, Sukkot
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Here’s a list of eight commonly asked questions on Purim. Plus a fun fact! Take a look.

Purim masks half size

Purim commonly asked questions

Posted by admin under Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Purim
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Sukkah Lights

Sukkot: The Next Holiday!
If I could go back to the beginning of the creation of the calendar I would plead for a few more days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The High Holidays are so all encompassing and then, BOOM, it’s time for one of the pilgrimage holidays. I LOVE sukkot. Putting up the sukkah, decorating it, eating in it, having guests over. It’s all fun!

You can buy one online, you can go to a synagogue or JCC, you can build your own.

How to Make a Sukkah
Here is a fast, clear cartoon about the basic BASICS of building a sukkah.

I love this video by a guy who looks like he lives in Berkeley. He explains how to make a sukkah AND how to erect one of his mail order sukkahs.

Decorate your Sukkot
Many families make paper chains to hang in their sukkah. Try something old that’s new again. Here is a link to a free download of a bird /egg decoration that was popular back in the 17th century throughout European Jewish communities – and was passed on throughout the generations. Unfortunately they have just about disappeared from the modern sukkah decor.

If all that sounds like too much then throw a sheet over the kitchen table and let the kids crawl underneath and pretend. Get creative.

What no Sukkah!?
Are you reading this thinking, “But I don’t have a sukkah and Sukkot starts too soon. I’ve missed out.” No, you haven’t. Go to a Sukkot event at a synagogue, build something this weekend. Or like I said above, crawl under a table and just pretend. The good news is there are no Sukkah police to check your way of observing.


Posted by admin under Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Sukkot
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