Bridget's photo of resistance

We are reeling from the events in Charlottesville. Across the Jewish community clergy and laypeople are moved to words and actions. Here are some from the Bay Area.

Cantor Chabon, B’nai Tikvah, Walnut Creek
The older I get, the more I understand that living a fulfilling life depends on how we respond to the joys and sorrows in our world. When we embrace the moments of grace and love, we feel empowered and inspired to fight against hatred and bigotry when we next encounter them. Too often it seems that those two experiences–spiritual nourishment and the reality of our broken world-are juxtaposed against one another. That was never more true than this weekend.

I am sure I was not the only person to have a version of this experience over Shabbat: on Shabbat morning, 75 of us gathered in our beautiful social hall to sing and pray and learn together in our Nishma service, to imbue ourselves and our community with light and hope. After a beautiful oneg we all got into our cars, only to learn of the horrific violence at a White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that same day. As we were praying for healing in our world, Heather Heyer z”l, was killed as she protested intolerance, inequality and violence across our country. Her mother, Susan Bro, says she wants her daughter’s death “to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion.”

In the spirit of that call, we will be gathering this evening at 7:00 at Civic Park (at the corner of Civic Dr and North Main Street) for an interfaith peace vigil along with members of many faith communities in our county. Please bring prayers and supportive, peaceful signs. A group of CBT members will hold our banner to represent our synagogue’s desire to stand in solidarity against discrimination and hatred. Please join us.

Rabbi Bridget Wynne, Jewish Gateways, El Cerrito
​Like you, I am horrified by the hatred and violence in Charlottesville, and the disturbing lack of condemnation by our president. Continue reading here.

Rabbi Ruth Adar, Coffeeshop Rabbi, East Bay educator at Lehrhaus Judaica.
The events in Charlottesville are a wake-up call to all of us who were asleep. People marched with Nazi regalia, with racist and antisemitic slogans in an American city and the President of the United States had to be prodded to say more than platitudes. The Justice Department had to be prodded into action.
Folks, we are beyond the pale. Continue to read here.

Rabbi Singer and the clergy of Congregation Emanu-el, San Francisco
Emanu-El Clergy Statement on the violence in Virginia and Minnesota
The clergy of Congregation Emanu-El condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the ongoing horrific display of white supremacist violence in our country. Continue reading here.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Netivot Shalom, Berkeley
The Day After Charlottesville
In the aftermath of a horrific day in Charlottesville, there is an image I ask us to hold onto.

Don’t just read this, do something!

Posted by admin under Community, In the News, Jewish Culture, Spirituality, Synagogues
No Comments

B'nai Tikvah's window

B’nai Tikvah’s window

This Shabbat Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman of B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek sent the following email to her congregation. You probably all know about the sequoia that fell in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Rabbi Gutterman draws a connection to this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi. Reading it gave me the shivers. For those of us who have lost loved ones and can remember places that don’t exist anymore this piece will be bittersweet.

“Brought down by California Storm,” the headline read.

The article that followed was not about anyone’s homes, moods or daily routines. It was about the Pioneer Cabin Tree, a sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Given that sequoias can easily live over 1,000 years, this particular one had seen horses and carts, cars and pedestrians pass through. The idea of such a giant falling as a result of this most recent spate of wind and rain seems unreal. But it’s true.

“It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch,” wrote Rabbi Chaim Stern of blessed memory. Yet these are exactly the circumstances under which we live and love, always. Loss is disorienting to say the least, and never more so when the person, thing, or grounding reality we lose is one we thought would always be here. Perhaps the mark of true resilience lies in finding new paths to walk and new sources of meaning, even with hearts forever altered.

Vayechi, this week’s Torah portion, marks the ending of the first book of the Torah. Appropriately enough, it concludes with the blessing of Jacob’s sons, immediately followed by both Jacob and Joseph’s deaths. These losses were not only significant for their families, but also life altering for their descendants – the tribes who would become an enslaved people in Egypt.

That’s part of the reason why the closing lines of Vayechi are so significant. Joseph extracted one last promise from his brothers: that when their time of deliverance came, they would carry his bones out of Egypt with them. And so their descendants did, hundreds of years later. This gesture was a way of symbolizing that the most important parts of our pasts come forward with us into our future. As long as we guard our memories, tell our stories, create our legacies, then long ago fragments can be made whole again, even if differently so.

Ancestral bones. Remains of ancient trees. Let us set aside some time this Shabbat and during the coming week to think about what is most enduring in our lives, even in the midst of dislocation or loss. What is most worthy of being held inside and carried forward?

I leave you with a poem by Howard Nemerov that brought me solace and inspiration this week. I hope it brings the same to you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gutterman

TREES

To be a giant and keep quiet about it,
To stay in one’s own place;
To stand for the constant presence of process
And always to seem the same;
To be steady as a rock and always trembling,
Having the hard appearance of death
With the soft, fluent nature of growth,
One’s Being deceptively armored,
One’s Becoming deceptively vulnerable;
To be so tough, and take the light so well,
Freely providing forbidden knowledge
Of so many things about heaven and earth
For which we should otherwise have no word-
Poems or people are rarely so lovely,
And even when they have great qualities
They tend to tell you rather than exemplify
What they believe themselves to be about,
While from the moving silence of trees,
Whether in storm or calm, in leaf and naked,
Night or day, we draw conclusions of our own,
Sustaining and unnoticed as our breath,
And perilous also-though there has never been
A critical tree-about the nature of things.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Spirituality, Synagogues
No Comments

ptbe-clergy-2

The rabbis of Peninsula Temple Beth El sent out this email to their community.

Dear PTBE Community,

This morning the sun rose just as it did yesterday and as it will tomorrow, but for most of us it doesn’t feel the same.

Today greets our nation with feelings of unprecedented division. For some elation and optimism, for others despair and anxiety. As a Jewish people, when we have entered uncertain times, we have persevered by holding Torah close, by living the values that define us as a religion and as a people.

We hope that these values guide us all in the work of reaching toward one another to bridge political divides, affirm the sacredness of our community, and continue the work of justice that our country desperately needs.

This has to be a time of personal and communal healing, a time for personal and communal reflection, and a time for personal and communal hope.

For those who are feeling as if they don’t quite know what this means right now, or what to do, we invite you into your spiritual home to sit, reflect, talk, process, pray, and gain support from your clergy and friends. Our meditation room, sanctuary, and garden will be open for you. Rabbi Sara, Rabbi Lisa, and Rabbi Dennis will be around throughout the day to lend a comforting ear and a hopeful shoulder to lean on.

May God bless our congregation and our country.

L’Shalom,

Rabbi Dennis Eisner
Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin
Rabbi Lisa Kingston

For all those who are seeking healing, check the synagogues, churches and mosques near you. A number of communities of faith are coming together to discuss healing from the terrible divisiveness we have seen in this election. Find a community, find welcome and comfort.

From Rabbi Chaim at Etz Chayim in Palo Alto:
Dear Friends,

This election- and its results- has raised a lot of strong emotions.
I will be leading a gathering from 7:15- 8:30 pm this evening for anyone who wants to join together in prayer and reflection.
This will be an opportunity to connect to one another as we express care for our country at this important crossroads.
Feel free to invite your friends.
With you all in this moment of transition–
Rabbi Chaim

In the North Bay:

It’s been a hard election season on many levels. The rhetoric has been divisive and polarizing. Bring your neighbors, bring your kids, bring your soul, bring your heart. We join together in love and blessings for the future of our community and country. Tonight we gather to hold one another, reflect, pray, and stand together in hope.
Please join us for one or both of the following events this evening:

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 pm
at Congregation Rodef Sholom
Interfaith Gathering
in Prayer for Our Country

170 N San Pedro Road, San Rafael

7 p.m.
at Congregation Kol Shofar
Gatherings for adults and teens
with Rabbi Chai Levy & Jonathan Emanuel
and Meditation with Larry Yermack
215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon

In Walnut Creek
Rabbi Gutterman of B’nai Tikvah writes:
I hope we can give ourselves a wise and forgiving period of time to mourn our losses, to ache for what might have been, to be patient with ourselves, to quiet our racing minds and find a steady place.
Friday night November 11, our 6:30 Kabbalat Shabbat will be a time to offer up the prayers of our hearts together. We will also share in the joy of our 1st/2nd grade class’s participation – they are very excited to show you what they’ve learned! And more than ever, they are our light and our hope for the future.

Saturday night November 12 at 6:00pm, Cantor Chabon and I will lead a community Havdallah in the Amphitheatre, followed by time to continue singing, and to be there for and with each other. There will not be speeches, strategizing or partisan debate; rather, it will be an opportunity to stand with each other and let our presence speak for itself.

Bring a candle (a friend too if you’d like) and dress warmly – unless it rains, we will be outside.
May we be blessed with a measure of peace as Shabbat approaches.

From Berkeley
Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Netivot Shalom says:
All ye who are weary and suffer from post-election shock syndrome:
Join us at Good Shepherd for a multi-faith service of togetherness at 7:00pm. 9th and Hearst in Berkeley.

Posted by admin under Community, Community Activities, Spirituality, Synagogues
No Comments

torah-script

It’s no secret that one of my dearest friends is an Orthodox rabbi with whom I have studied for years. I’ve learned A LOT from him, including the fact that one should ignore all the prejudices that are directed at the Orthodox. Rabbi Judah Dardik (previously rabbi of Beth Jacob in Oakland) is one of the kindest people I know and NO he has never turned away from a non-Jewish person or a patrilineal Jew. So it was a personal loss to me when he made aliyah.

I loved getting a traditional perspective on topics. Having belonged to a Reform congregation for more than 30 years I am well versed in Reform teachings. But I needed to stretch myself.

THE GOOD NEWS is that Rabbi Gershon Albert, who is now the rabbi at Beth Jacob is running a series of classes that are right up my (and your) alley.

Judaism’s Big Questions
“Ask good questions.” This piece of advice has fostered a thirst for knowledge in the Jewish people for generations. This year, we have compiled some of the most important and interesting Jewish questions; let’s engage in the study of some answers (and of course more questions) together!
With Rabbi Gershon Albert

Date and Time: Tuesday Evenings at 7:15 – 8:15pm
Location: Beth Jacob Congregation, 3778 Park Blvd, Oakland, Main Sanctuary

Tentative Schedule (Subject to Change – contact Beth Jacob at 510-482-1147 for up to the minute details.)

November 8: Introduction: A brief history of Jewish history and thought
November 22: Is the world actually 5777 years old? And other contradictions between science and tradition?
November 29: What is the soul?
December 6: Evil Part 1: What is evil and why does it exist?
January 10: Evil Part 2: why did God create man with an evil inclination?
January 17: Does Judaism believe in the afterlife and reincarnation?
January 24: What is the Messiah? What do we believe about the end of days?
January 31: Does Judaism believe in free will?
February 7: Do Jews need to believe? (Do we need to believe in God?)
February 14: Why do Jews call themselves the “Chosen People”?
February 21: What does Judaism think about other religions and cultures?
February 28: What are Jewish attitudes towards work?
March 7: Kashrut, Shatnez, Mikvah, and more. Are there reasons behind the laws I can’t wrap my head around?
March 21: Why do observant Jews dress funny? Modesty in the Jewish tradition.
March 28: What is Torah and what is the significance of its study?
May 2: Philosophical Responses to the Holocaust.
May 9: What is Halacha and how did it develop?
May 16: It’s just a hug! What does Halacha say about interactions with the opposite gender?
May 23: What is the value of Israel in traditional Judaism?
June 6: What is Judaism? A nation, ethnic group, religion, or culture?
June 13: It’s your turn – send in your big questions about Judaism!

Rabbi Albert with daughter

Rabbi Albert with daughter

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning, Synagogues
No Comments

colored-pencils-pixabay-horizontal

Yes, being different is a fine thing to be

I received this question to my column, Mixed and Matched:

I’ve heard people say that Jews shouldn’t refer to people who aren’t Jewish as “non-Jews.” Is that really a pejorative term? What should one say? Many of my non-Jewish friends don’t have a religion at all. I’ve seen researchers refer to people who have no religion as “nones,” but that sounds ridiculous.
— Want to Be Appropriate

Dear Want to Be Appropriate: I’m so glad you asked this question! Most of the people who are disturbed by the term “non-Jew” are Jews who have decided to attribute a negative overtone to the word. Frankly, I think it’s a fine word. I work with couples in which the non-Jewish partner is Hindu, Muslim, Mormon, Catholic, etc. Some are atheists and would be most upset to have anything having to do with religion attributed to them. What do all these people have in common? They aren’t Jewish! And that’s about it. Some are Chinese Buddhists, some are African American agnostics, some are French Catholics and so on. Their common ground is not being Jewish.

Does adding “non” make a descriptor instantly negative? I say no. I’m rather fond of many such terms; my favorite is nonviolent, though there are plenty more: nonsmoker, nonabrasive, nonpoisonous, nonfattening, nonaddictive. So I can’t accept that something that is “non” is necessarily bad. It may be quite good.

Why do some Jews get bent out of shape by the term? Sadly, many of those people are working out some of their own issues. They want to be seen as “nice, open, welcoming.” It is really about their own sense of self. Am I a good person? Do interfaith couples like me? Am I seen as one of the good guys?

A great way to be the good guy is to have a bad guy to attack. The attackers have written articles and given talks with righteous indignation condemning the use of the term. I’m always suspicious of righteous indignation. Very few people use it for the good of others. If a word is truly pejorative, like shiksa, one should certainly take the speaker aside and ask, “Do you know what that word means?” They should be enlightened, but there is no need to get righteous about it — unless you simply want to aggrandize yourself and humiliate that person.

I note also that people who aren’t Jewish do not react to the word unless they are told to. Giving people a reason to feel that others are disparaging them is a terrible thing to do.

I had a Catholic woman call me and say, “Interfaith! I’m in an interfaith marriage! I finally found out what to call it so I look for resources.” The number of non-Jews married to Jews in America is a tiny portion of the population. Jews make up about 2 percent of American society. Even if half of them are married to non-Jews, that means only 1 percent of Americans make up this “non-Jewish” part of the Jewish community. It’s easy to see why the caller was having trouble finding resources.

I do agree that the most appropriate way to refer to someone is by who they are. So if you know someone is a Methodist, it is proper to call them that. If a person is an atheist or agnostic, you can use those terms. This doesn’t mean that any of us needs to ask the religion of everyone we meet in synagogue. If it comes up, fine, but no layperson has a need-to-know situation over the oneg.

Identifying the role of non-Jews in Jewish environments is very important and I urge every Jewish group or synagogue to be transparent about their policies. In any religious environment, it may be that there are activities performed only by the members of that religious community. It is so much more welcoming for a non-Jewish person to know right from the website just what they are permitted to do. Imagine walking into a Muslim religious service and wondering, “Is it appropriate for me to do what everyone is doing? Or is that insulting?”

The most important thing we all can do is simply use good manners.

Posted by admin under In their own words, Mixed & Matched, Non-Jewish family, Synagogues
No Comments

apple-tree-boughs

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,

Dawn

EVENTS
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
www.temple-isaiah.org

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
www.etzchayim.org

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 Ashahbaz@kolshofar.org 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
www.etzchayim.org

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
www.bethjacoboakland.org

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.
www.paloaltojcc.org

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
No Comments

Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA

Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA

Here’s a comment I get frequently – I’m going to take my non-Jewish sweetheart to the High Holy Days this year. Here is one woman who posed it as a question —

I am getting serious about my boyfriend (who is not Jewish) and I want him to understand what’s important to me about being Jewish. I’m thinking that this year I should take him with me to High Holy Day services. Chabad has free services and I was always treated kindly by the Chabad rabbi on my college campus, so I thought about going there. I was raised Reform; do you think I’ll be able to follow the traditional service and explain it to my boyfriend? — Wondering

Dear Wondering: I appreciate your growing awareness that your boyfriend deserves to know more about what Judaism is and especially what it means to you. However, starting with the High Holy Day services is really pushing him into the deep end of the pool. I don’t recommend it.

In the 20-plus years I’ve been working with interfaith couples, I’ve seen exactly two people, both practicing Christians, who liked High Holy Day services. Two!

If you have grown up going to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, you are acclimated to the length of the service, the language and the atmosphere. But for your boyfriend it is utterly unknown and probably uncomfortable. The liturgy is unique; so is the music. The intention is to jolt Jews into a heightened state of awareness. Additionally, the reference to sins is heard by most Jews as “missed the mark,” but to most people raised in American culture, it can sound like the precursor to a quick trip to hell.

I suggest you take your boyfriend to a regular Shabbat service. At this time of year, many synagogues have outdoor services or services that include a picnic dinner or lots of music. Since you were raised Reform, I suggest you help him get familiar with a Reform environment. That is going to be most comfortable for you, and your comfort level will significantly influence his.

I would not recommend a Chabad or Orthodox service as his first experience because, for one, you would be sitting on opposite sides of the mechitza, which would preclude you from sharing a prayerbook and explaining things. Additionally, there are parts of a traditional Shabbat service that the Reform movement has deleted, so you too would be a bit confused.

I understand the concern about the cost of High Holy Day tickets, and I have a few suggestions. Rosh Hashanah starts the evening of Oct. 2. A couple of weeks before the holidays, this newspaper will print a long list of free services in the area (last year’s list could give you a lead). Additionally, look at websites of Reform synagogues near you; many have lower prices for students, military and young adults. Or feel free to call me at (510) 845-6420 ext. 11; I can help you find options near you.

I also want to reflect on this idea you’ve formed: wanting your boyfriend to understand what is important to you about being a Jew. This is very important and he deserves to know. And you are doing the right thing by making this effort.

I want to you to consider the best way to go about assisting him. First, it is best if you and he learn together. Don’t make this a job for him with you as boss. Look for a basic Judaism class that you could attend together. Since most adult Jews haven’t studied Judaism since their teens, you’ll find yourself able to take in more of the details and the subtleties of Jewish history, practice and theology.

Many synagogues offer basic courses, and certainly Lehrhaus Judaica offers classes throughout the Bay Area, including an online option if you are located far afield.

Should you take him to services? Yes! But go easy. Find a service that is a bit shorter and has a lot of music. And, if you can, go with friends. Also, prepare a Shabbat dinner at home for him. Explain the elements of Shabbat at home. Demonstrate how Judaism is, in fact, a home-based religion. It is likely that the Jewish activities you will want him to do with you are home-based: Shabbat, Hanukkah, Passover. Have fun and be prepared to do this together.

This letter is from the monthly column, Mixed and Matched, in the Jweekly.

Posted by admin under Couples, High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Synagogues
No Comments

Isaiah Light is Sown for the Righteous

The High Holidays are coming – this year in October – so you still have weeks in which to do some shul shopping to determine whether you’d like to join a synagogue and have a “home” for the holidays and beyond. I’ve often told you to explore the lighthearted services of summer. Look below to see an outdoor service, a chocolate oneg, and a pre-High Holiday festival. Whether you find your Jewish place in a synagogue, a JCC or a Jewish day school, do find one for your self and your family. Feeling like you can’t figure this out? Call or email me. We can chat about it.

EVENTS
PTBE Book Club Discussion (San Mateo)
Last Outdoor Sanctuary of the summer (San Rafael)
5th Annual Tu B’Av Wine & Chocolate Oneg Shabbat (Los Altos Hills)
Shabbat on the Farm (Berkeley)
Tot Shabbat (San Mateo)
Prospective Members Open House (San Rafael)
Kindergym Sunday PlayDay (Oakland)
Rabbis Roundtable: Does Prayer Work? (Foster City)
Pre-Holiday Festival and Bazaar (Palo Alto)

PTBE Book Club Discussion
Milton Steinberg’s As a Driven Leaf will be this summer’s reading. Also known as Rabbi Dennis’s favorite book, it’s a great read.
This masterpiece of modern fiction tells the gripping tale of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah’s struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Steinberg’s classic novel also transcends its historical setting with its depiction of a timeless, perennial feature of the Jewish experience: the inevitable conflict between the call of tradition and the glamour of the Modern world.

Join Rabbi Lisa Kingston and Lisa Meltzer Penn for an exciting conversation based on the book.

Date: Thursday, August 18
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
Details here.
www.ptbe.org

Last Outdoor Sanctuary of the Summer
Join us for the last outdoor Shabbat service this summer! Many of us feel spiritually rejuvenated when we’re drinking in the natural beauty that surrounds us in Marin County, and Outdoor Sanctuary offers a perfect opportunity to commune with God while connecting with nature. Bring a blanket or some lawn chairs, a picnic dinner, and a dessert to share. We’ll bring the challah. Feel free to invite your friends and neighbors -Outdoor Sanctuary services are extremely kid-friendly!

Date: Friday, August 19
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: China Camp Village in San Rafael
Sponsored by Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
www.rodefsholom.org
Co-sponsored by PJ Library and Kesher.

5th Annual Tu B’Av Wine & Chocolate Oneg Shabbat
Celebrate Tu B’Av, the Jewish Day of Love, with a wine and chocolate Oneg Shabbat under the trees. The 15th of Av is a post-Biblical holiday of joy and matchmaking, rejuvenated in modern Israel with singing and dancing beneath the full moon. This service will include a short talk by Nancy Federman, the new President of Beth Am Women; and we’ll welcome the new 2016-17 Beth Am Women Board as they receive a special blessing. Then stay for our popular Oneg Shabbat featuring fragrant wines and delectable chocolates.

Date: Friday, August 19
Time: Immediately Following the Shabbat Service; Outdoor Chapel
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
www.betham.org

Shabbat on the Farm
Center your heart, clear your mind, and celebrate Shabbat with a special musical service led by Urban Adamah and Wilderness Torah. We are excited to also partner with JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) who will lead a few Morrocan melodies and Middle Eastern Beats as we bring in Shabbat.

Poetry, meditation and movement guided by a collective of musicians will transport us into the night. A community vegetarian potluck will follow the service. Kindly register in advance for this free event.

Date: Friday, August 19
Time: 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Place: Urban Adamah, 1050 Parker St. Berkeley
Register here.

Tot Shabbat
A fun-filled morning of songs, challah and playtime.

Date: Sat., Aug. 20
Time: 4 to 5pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
www.ptbe.org

Prospective Members Open House
Want to share your Rodef Sholom community with your friends and neighbors? Here’s the perfect opportunity! Your guests will get to meet the clergy and other members of the Rodef Sholom community. RSVP to Molly at molly@rodefsholom.org.

Date: Friday, August 26
Time: 5:45 pm reception in Rabbi Stacy Friedman’s study; 6:15 pm Shabbat services
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
Please remember to RSVP to Molly.
www.rodefsholom.org

Kindergym Sunday PlayDay
Join other parents of 3 year old children on weekdays starting again 8/24-26 for our 34th year! Siblings under 3 are Free!

As we enjoy our expansive, NEWLY RENOVATED play space at Temple Beth Abraham, near the Grand Lake Theater. Come for sliding, climbing, jumping, rocking horses, music, ballpit, stories, bubbles and so much more. Open to families of ALL beliefs, our inclusive classes celebrate kindness, fun and friendship.

Date: August 28
Time: 10:30-12noon
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
Cost: $15 per family/cash please
Free Parking
Details here.

Chardonnay/Shiraz Shabbat
Come celebrate the end of summer with us, and discover what makes our community so special. Enjoy refreshing wines/other beverages, tasty appetizers, and relaxed, interesting conversation. We will have snacks and activities for the kids to give the adults time to shmooze. Followed by our participatory service at 7:30.

Date: Friday, September 9
Time: Snacks & conversation at 6:30 pm, services at 7:30pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Rabbis Roundtable: Does Prayer Work?
So much of the High Holidays are focused on prayer, at home and in the synagogue. But what is prayer? Is prayer a plea we address to a God outside ourselves or in praying do we awaken our own virtues and values buried deep within. Either way, does prayer work? Four of our local rabbis will teach texts about prayer and discuss their own personal views about if, and how, prayer works.
Participants will include Rabbi Nat Ezray of Congregation Beth Jacob, Rabbi Corey Helfand of Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Rabbis Dennis Eisner of Peninsula Temple Beth El, and Rabbi Lisa Delson of Peninsula Temple Sholom.

Date: Wednesday, September 14
Time: 7 to 8:30pm
Place: Wornick Jewish Day School, 800 Foster City Blvd, Foster City
This program is free but pre-registration is required. Register here.

Pre-Holiday Festival and Bazaar
Make cards for Rosh Hashanah, create sukkah decorations and get up and dance!

Date: Sunday, Sept., 25
Time: 11:00am to 2:00pm
Place: Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Free
Details here

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Synagogues
No Comments

Mizmor Shir musicians

Mizmor Shir musicians

I’ve often told you to look for musical services, outdoor services, and that sort of twist on a regular synagogue service to expand your own idea of what Jewish prayer can be like and to give your non-Jewish family members another way to access Jewish liturgy.

Mizmor Shir is a good example of a Musical service. It is held every 3rd Friday at Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation in Oakland. Here’s their description:

Mizmor Shir!
Mizmor Shir! is a popular phrase found in the Book of Psalms which means ‘Sing a Song,’ and was used during ancient times to direct the Levites, the musicians in the Temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 150 lists the many instruments the Levites played in the Temple as they sang the liturgy during worship. Some of these instruments include: cymbals, harp, lyre, drums, strings and shofar.
In the spirit of the Levites and our ancient heritage, we have created our own Mizmor Shir!Shabbat service featureing guitar, mandolin, percussion, piano, clarinet and flute.
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
www.oaklandsinai.org

How do children learn the words and tune? They listen over and over again to the same music. You can do that. Go every month for a year and see if that was new becomes familiar.

Posted by admin under Shabbat, Synagogues
No Comments

Rabbi Larry Milder

Rabbi Larry Milder


I’ve been pleased and impressed by Rabbi Larry Milder‘s clear statements about acceptance within his synagogue, Beth Emek of Pleasanton. Here’s another good one that he sent to his congregation.

Are You Gay? Lesbian? Transgender? We Welcome You!

I am heterosexual. I expect my synagogue to be accepting of my gender identity. I was born this way.

And if I were gay, or transgender, or gender non-conforming, I would have exactly the same expectation of my synagogue.

The truth is, gender may not be as clear as many of us think it is. I know I first started thinking about the permeability of gender identity reading novels by Hermann Hesse.

Getting out of the simple dichotomies with which I grew up, however, is challenging. Judaism is filled with customs associated with traditional gender roles.

Even worse, a lot of prejudice about gender identity permeates the vocabulary of Jewish life.

We can do better than that.

That is why I am proud of the Reform movement’s public advocacy of the value of full inclusion in our synagogues and institutions for Jews regardless of gender identity. That ethical commitment extends to the public sphere, as well, continuing a legacy of advocacy for the civil rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and gender non-conforming people.

This past year, the Union for Reform Judaism adopted a resolution to that effect, saying that the URJ:
1. Affirms its commitment to the full equality, inclusion and acceptance of people of all gender identities and gender expressions;
2. Affirms the right of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to be referred to by their name, gender, and pronoun of preference in our congregations, camps, schools, and other Reform affiliated organizations.
The resolution continues with additional commitments. You can read the entire text here:
Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People

The Reform movement’s seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, admits transgender rabbinical students. NFTY and the URJ summer camps have become places that are safe and inclusive of transgender participants.

I am certain that thoughtful congregants will find ways that we can be more inclusive as a synagogue, too. What must be said, though, is that LGBTQ Jews are welcome here.

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

Next Page »