(Pixabay, Natan)

(Pixabay, Natan)

Here come the holidays!

I love warm colors. I prefer gold to silver, red to blue. So you can imagine how much I want to change up the “traditional” colors of Hanukkah. Years ago I bought some gorgeous gold and red Hanukkah wrapping paper at my synagogue’s gift shop. It hit me – I don’t HAVE to have a blue and silver Hanukkah. Gold, red, green, silver, blue, purple are just colors, not religious symbols. I began to decorate my holiday with the warmth that I desired.

This year I was thrilled to find a craft blog that I follow, Chai and Home, has a Pinterest page called Hanukkah: Gold. Another resource for creating my personal home decoration style!

One of the things that Christianity has been really good at is absorbing the cultures of the countries and societies that it flows into. Christmas, aided by the American marketplace mentality, has been masterful at blending with just about anything. At Christmas time, a sale becomes a Christmas sale, a car becomes a Christmas gift, a dog gets a red bow, a train gets a wreath, trees get lights and bulbs, scarves get red & white candy stripes. One of the difficult things about reducing or giving up Christmas is that it is massive and everywhere. Some Jews react by downplaying Hanukkah. This can add to the feeling of loss for the non-Jewish partner. I don’t suggest that you try to make Hanukkah match Christmas – that’s truly not possible. But you can certainly borrow from American culture to spice up your Hanukkah. You can even look at your past Christmas practices and see what can be absorbed into Hanukkah celebration. What do you particularly love about Christmas? For some it is all the baking. There’s no law that says you can’t bake your heart out anyway. You can even look for themes that mesh with Judaism while using your already existing tools. Got a bunch of animal cookie cutters? Make a centerpiece of edible Noah’s Ark critters. Love to make gorgeous cakes? There are so many options. During the Gulf War one of my sisters had a friend who deployed as a nurse. For Christmas my sister and I baked a dozen different kinds of cookies to send to her.

Have you got ideas and suggestions for keeping a favorite non-Jewish tradition in a Jewish way? Please share it! Let’s get creative!
Email your ideas to me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org.

EVENTS
Ganeinu Jewish Playgroup (Lafayette)
Thanksgiving Shabbat (Palo Alto)
Tot Shabbat Morning (Lafayette)
Kol Neshama Minyan (Tiburon)
Shabbat in a Bag (Berkeley)
Patralineal Jews: Navigating the Jewish World (Oakland)
Folktales from Around the World (San Francisco)
Community Kristallnacht Commemoration (Walnut Creek)
Let’s Go to the Theater: Imaginary Comforts (Oakland)
Peninsula Sinai & Ramah Community Shabbat Dinner (Foster City)
November Community Shabbat Dinner (Pleasanton)
Glitter Kabbalat Shabbat and Trans Day (Piedmont)
A Benefit Performance for North Bay Fire Storm Victims (Richmond)
Is Judaism a Religion? (Palo Alto)
Shabbat Hallelu Service (San Mateo)
Making Shabbat Your Own: Shabbat Candlesticks (Berkeley)
Chanukah Shabbat w/Mizmor Band (Lafayette)
Hanukkah Celebration (Oakland)
Mizmor Shir! Service Friday Night Live! (Oakland)
Jews of Color: Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity (Oakland)

Ganeinu Jewish Playgroup
Temple Isaiah is proud to offer a free, weekly, Jewish, drop-in playgroup for parents and caregivers, and their infants and toddlers (0-30 months). All are welcome.

Date: Every Friday, next one is Nov 10
Time: 9:15am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette; in the Adult Lounge.
www.temple-isaiah.org

Thanksgiving Shabbat
Come join us for this special Thanksgiving themed Shabbat! We’ll give thanks by renewing the ancient Jewish ritual of Bikkurim, where we’ll share our achievements and news for the year and celebrate our successes together as a community.

Please bring a dish to share with the group.
We are also collecting canned food which will be donated to the needy.

Date: Friday, November 10
Time: 5:30–8:00 pm
Place: Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, in Room E-104
Cost: $10 per Family
Register here.
Contact: Tova Birnbaum | (650) 223-8694 | tbirnbaum@paloaltojcc.org

Tot Shabbat Morning
Geared toward families with children 0 to 5 years old, Tot Shabbat is an interactive and friendly Shabbat experience. Enjoy a free bagel brunch, activities and prayer with other young families.

Date: Saturday, November 11
Time: 9:30am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette, in the Adult Lounge
RSVP here.
www.temple-isaiah.org

Kol Neshama Minyan
with Rabbi Chai Levy
This musical, meditative, and participatory prayer experience is a chance to open your heart through song, to sink into the peace and joy of Shabbat, and to find a meaningful personal connection to the Torah portion and to others in our community. “Kol Neshama” means “voice of the soul/breath.” No Hebrew knowledge required.

Dates: Saturdays on Nov. 11, Dec 9, Jan 13, Feb 10, Mar 10
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Place: Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Dr, Tiburon
http://kolshofar.org

Shabbat in a Bag
Celebrate Shabbat together with other families with young children!
We’ll enjoy song, dance, and instruments, led by Rabbi Bridget and beloved Jewish songleader Isaac Zones, plus challah, juice, and other Shabbat treats.
Each family will also decorate your own “Shabbat in a Bag” to bring home, including candleholders, challah cover, and Shabbat kiddush cup, along with blessings, songs, and family-friendly Shabbat ideas to create your own traditions.
This event is part of Jewish Gateways’ HandsOn Holidays series for children 1-5 and their grownups. Older siblings and babies are welcome, too.

Date: Saturday, November 11
Time: 10:30am-12:00pm
Place: Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley
Cost: $30 per family
Register here.

Patralineal Jews: Navigating the Jewish World & Keeping Your Identity Strong
Are you the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother? At some point in life patrilineal Jews usually are told, “You know you’re not really Jewish, right?” Let’s talk about how to be a confident Jew even if others don’t affirm your identity. Share your stories and ideas with others. Join us for coffee at We’ll offer you an array of approaches for dealing to unwanted comments.

Date: Sunday, Nov. 12
Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Café Dejena 3939 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland
Free, but preregistration is requested.
Sign up here.

Folktales from Around the World
Join us for a magical storytelling experience with Muriel Johnson, telling folktales related to themes from the current exhibition Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid.

Date: Sunday, November 12
Time: 11:30am-12:00pm
Place: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
Cost: FREE with regular admission as follows: Members and youth 18 and under, Free; General Admission, $14; Students with a valid ID and Seniors, $12.
http://www.thecjm.org

Community Kristallnacht Commemoration
If you are a bystander and witness a crime, should intervention to prevent that crime be a legal obligation? Or is moral responsibility enough? Law professor Amos Guiora, the former Commander of Israel’s School of Military Law, examines these profound questions from a deeply personal and legal perspective, focusing on the Holocaust and then exploring cases in contemporary society.

Date: Sunday, November 12
Time: 3pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Admission is free. Open to the public.
www.bshalom.org
Co-sponsored by the Israel and World Jewry Committee.

Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit
Join us this fall for Berkeley Rep’s new play by Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket, that “celebrates ordinary people trying to make sense out of life in the midst of endless, comedic chaos.” The play is described this way,

The genius behind Lemony Snicket brings his relentlessly mischievous style to a new play for adults. Sarah’s father is dead, her mother is in hysterics, and the new rabbi totally bungled the funeral. To further the absurdity, the ghost of a rabbit hops into her life, pushing her to confront her deepest issues. Fantastical and wise, hilarious and sobering.

Jews have often felt that life is chaotic, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic. Join Rabbi Chester to reflect on how Judaism makes sense of life that often feels nonsensical.

Date: Thursday, Nov. 16
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: Free to Temple Sinai members; $10 to the public
Register here.

Peninsula Sinai & Ramah Community Shabbat Dinner
Celebrating Jewish camps!
Join us for a delicious community Shabbat dinner at 6:15 pm co-hosted by Peninula Sinai Congregation and Camp Ramah. This is a great opportunity to learn about and connect with the Ramah community! After dinner, stay for a spirited and music-filled Shabbat Sovev led by our clergy.

Date: Friday, November 17
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay Ave., Foster City
Cost: $5 for non-members, free for members
Please RSVP here
https://www.peninsulasinai.org

November Community Shabbat Dinner
Come celebrate Shabbat!
Prior to Shabbat services, we invite you to come for a potluck dinner. This is a wonderful opportunity to eat great food and connect with the Beth Emek community.
As with many of Beth Emek’s best events, the Community Shabbat Dinner relies on community volunteers for its success. We appreciate all participants helping at the end of the meal by putting away tables and chairs and assisting in kitchen clean-up.
Please RSVP by 3:00 pm on Friday, November 17.
Feel free to bring your own bottle of wine to go with dinner.
Please contact the CBE office if you have any questions at 931-1055.

Date: Friday, November 17
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
Here is the sign-up sheet for what folks are invited to bring.

Glitter Kabbalat Shabbat and Trans Day of Remembrance & Resistance
Glitter Kehilla invites the community to join us for our annual Shabbat observance that centers and honors the resilience of the trans community and remembers lives lost to anti-trans violence. We will be collecting tzedakah for the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGI Justice Project).

Date: Friday, November 17
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont
Details here.

A Benefit Performance for North Bay Fire Storm Victims
An Evening of Wine and Music with Award-winning Singer and Songwriter Steve Seskin
Steve Seskin, singer-songwriter and acoustical guitar player, will perform and all proceeds from the evening will go to the Jewish Federation of East Bay North Bay Wildfire Emergency Relief Fund.
“Steve Seskin is an electrifying performer. His voice has a natural lilt that can’t be learned,” writes Joel Selvin in the San Francisco Chronicle; he is “a really exceptional talent,” says Alan Lewis in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. His “presentation is simple, affective, and effective,” writes Jim Carnes in the Sacramento Bee.

Our neighbors in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and other counties in the North Bay, suffered from devastating wildfires with loss of residences and lives. Temple Beth Hillel provides its support to fire victims by donating all the proceeds from the Steve Seskin Benefit concert to the North Bay Wildfire EmergencyRelief Fund. Please join us for an evening of wine and music. Details here.

Date: Saturday, November 18
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central (Hilltop exit off I-80), Richmond
Cost: Admission is $18 and any extra amount you would like to donate at the door.
To make your reservations: call 510-223-2560 or email alisby@tbhrichmond.org.

Is Judaism a Religion?
Is Judaism a religion, and if so, how is it similar to, and different from, other religions? Join UCSC Professor Nathaniel Deutsch as he explores when and why Jews, themselves, began to adopt the category of “Judaism” to describe the basis of their collective identity.

Date: Sunday, November 19
Time: 10:00 am
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Shabbat Hallelu Service
Welcome in Shabbat with joyous singing and music with Elana Jagoda Kaye and the Hallelu Band. Elana Jagoda Kaye is a local star; people love her music. This is a great way to experience Peninsula Temple Beth El.

Date: Fri, December 1
Time: 7:15pm – 8:15pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
http://www.ptbe.org

Making Shabbat Your Own: Shabbat Candlesticks
Come make Shabbat candlesticks from metal foil, discuss how to make the celebration of Shabbat work for yourself or your family, and learn the “Secret of Shabbat!” While discussing Shabbat we will explore lots of options for decorating our candlesticks: emboss lines, attach beads, add color, and cut decorative holes for the light to shine through. No artistic talent or prior knowledge required to create incredible candlesticks. Appropriate for age 8 and up. Join Claire Sherman, artist and mensch for this fun filled workshop.

Date: Dec. 3
Time: 10am to noon
Place: Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley
Cost: $20
Register here

Interfaith Shabbat
with the Islamic Center of North Marin and Mill Valley with keynote speaker Imam Fasih
Last year Rodef Sholom hosted the Islamic Centers of North Marin and Mill Valley for a wonderful service of sharing stories and getting to know our neighbors’ faith. Since then we have joined in each other’s homes for conversations and learning. Imam Fasih serves as Imam for the Islamic Center of North Marin community. He is an active member of the Marin Interfaith Council and travels extensively as a visiting scholar to Muslim communities throughout the United States.

Potluck dinner to follow. Please bring a vegetarian dish for approximately eight to share.

Date: Friday, December 8
Time: 6:15 pm
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 North San Pedro Rd., San Rafael
https://rodefsholom.org

Chanukah Shabbat w/Mizmor Band
Join us for a special Shabbat service with Chanukah celebration and sing along with our Mizmor Band. Remember to bring your chanukiyah to light!

Date: Friday, December 15
Time: 6pm Oneg and 6:30pm Service
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette
www.temple-isaiah.org

Hanukkah Celebration
Join our community Hanukkah celebration including music, latkes, arts and crafts, and menorah lighting. This is a child-friendly celebration for people of all ages.

Date: Dec. 15
Time: 6 to 7:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free
www.oaklandsinai.org

Mizmor Shir! Service Friday Night Live!
A musical Shabbat service featuring Cantor Keys and the Mizmor Shir! musicians which include: piano, guitar, mandolin, flute, saxophone, clarinet, drums and other percussive instruments. This service features congregational melodies and eclectic, contemporary music which compliment the creative service booklet compiled by Rabbi Mates-Muchin specifically for this service.

Date: Dec. 15
Time: 7:30 to 8:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free
www.oaklandsinai.org

Jews of Color: Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity
It is not unusual for a Jew of color to be asked, “How did you get to be Jewish?” Quite simply the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial Jewish 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, Dec. 17
Time: 10am to 11:30am
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
Free, but preregistration is required.
Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Christmas, Community Activities, Current Programs, Holidays, Jewish holidays at home
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Faith Kramer's Cheesecake

Faith Kramer’s Cheesecake

I have a friend who is a food writer and chef. She blogs about food and she writes a food column for the J-weekly (the San Francisco bay area Jewish newspaper). She called me a couple months ago as she was writing her December column to ask, “Is having Christmas and Hanukkah overlap fantastic for interfaith families?” For some families, I told her, it’s fine. But a lot of families have the December dumps and some have told me that they ‘run away to Hawaii’ during the school break so that they won’t have to face the (pick your poison) conflict/sadness/stress/sufit of the December holidays.

“Well, what food would be good for interfaith families this time of year?” Faith asked. She took my feedback and came up with a Mint Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust! You can read her recipe in her December column of the J.

If nothing else studies have shown that chocolate increases serotonin levels in the brain. So you’ll feel better just having a slice!

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Christmas
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blue-balls

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

When Hanukkah and Christmas Coincide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to the alignment of our cosmic lights!

Happy Hanukkah,

Rabbi Larry Milder

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Christmas, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning
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candy-canes-and-candles

Thinking ahead to the December holidays, here’s a question that was sent to my Mixed and Matched column in the Jweekly:

My boyfriend is Jewish and I’m not. I really love Christmas and he doesn’t want to have it in our apartment. I’m not religious; I just love all the fun things about Christmas. A friend of mine suggested that I just start small and gradually introduce Christmassy things each year until I wear him down. I feel awkward doing that on purpose. Is it a good idea or is it kind of sneaky?
— Loving Christmas

My reply.

Dear Loving: I’m with you; it’s not a good idea. You’d be surprised how many non-Jewish partners use that very phrase, “I’ll wear him/her down.” What that, in fact, involves is deception. It is an attempt to gradually change the dynamics of your home, so gradually that presumably your loved one won’t notice. For some people that could work. But for many, the change hits them one day, and they feel tricked.

What can add to the negative reaction at the moment of realization is that a part of them questions whether they have a right to reject Christmas practices when they know full well that last year they went along with the big tree and the year before that they went along with the party on Christmas Eve. They feel sort of guilty and ask themselves, when did I accept all this because clearly I did. The guilt leads to increased anger at themselves and at their partner.

Additionally, the Christian or secular person can feel like, hey, you were fine with this last year. You didn’t say anything about the tree and the caroling, why are you so upset about Christmas wrapping paper? Since the Christian spouse has gotten used to the evolving arrangement too, she may feel surprised and hurt by this sudden shift of emotions. Even worse, the Jewish partner may respond with silent anger and withdrawal. It can turn into a passive-aggressive reaction of, “I’m not mad. It’s just your thing; I’ll be working late.”

If extended family, parents and siblings have become a part of the expanding Christmas, it adds to the awkwardness. You may find yourself saying, “What am I supposed to do? Tell my parents you refuse to attend their Christmas celebration?” The Jewish partner feels trapped and betrayed and the non-Jewish partner feels hurt and misunderstood.

You say you love Christmas, so be honest with your boyfriend. Tell him you know he doesn’t want to have the holiday in your home. Discuss which aspects of the holiday are particularly meaningful to each of you. You may love being with your family, making your grandmother’s special gingerbread and trimming the tree. He may feel that he is drowning in a culture not his own and that the world really doesn’t understand what it means to be a Jew, especially at this time of year. Try to hear what each other is feeling and to understand how this holiday elicits these emotions.

At a workshop I ran, there were two non-Jewish wives. One told the group that she did “everything Jewish,” but she wanted Christmas to be the one concession to her upbringing. So she and her husband celebrated it in their home.

The other wife said that her husband felt overwhelmed by the Christmas season, which permeated everywhere. She said that her husband needed for their home to be a sanctuary where he could escape from the onslaught of Christmas, so they did not observe Christmas.

You and your boyfriend need to find your place in that continuum. There are so many options that I can’t list them all. But here are some things to consider:

• What are the strong feelings that each of you have — positive and negative?

• Who will be impacted by your decisions — extended family, your spiritual communities, children, whether current or future.

• Are there elements of Hanukkah that can meet your need to celebrate? A party, seeing friends, baking?

• Don’t let the commercialism of Christmas define your activities. Look for actions that hold deeper meaning than a mere material item.

• Ask your boyfriend what he is doing that is Jewish? He may need to get Jewishly active.

Posted by admin under Christmas, Relationships
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jewsandchristmas

You may want to decorate a Christmas tree while your partner wants to make latkes. What will work for you as a family? Whether December is your favorite month – full of Christmas cookies and chocolate gelt – or your most dreaded month – material surfeit and cultural overwhelm – you are invited to join this open and supportive discussion on how to handle the December dash.

This year will be especially interesting because the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 4
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Cost: Free to Beth Emek members, $8 public. No one turned away!
Sign up here or just show up.
www.bethemek.org

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Christmas, Holidays, Parenting
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emanu-els-dome-horizontal

Here’s autumn! Time to consider what we want to do in the upcoming Jewish year of 5777. Here are all the workshops and classes scheduled from Building Jewish Bridges. I hope you’ll find something you like. As always, feel free to email me (dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org) if you have a topic that you’d like to see offered.

Dawn

The High Holidays…
Do I Want to or Do I Have to?

What is it about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that pulls Jews into the synagogue by the droves? Obligation? Faith? Remembrance? What do these holidays mean? What part do they play in our lives? Should our children miss school to observe these holidays? Join us in a discussion of history and meaning.

Date: Sunday, September 18
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here

Adults from Interfaith Families: A Roundtable Discussion
Join other adults who grew up in an interfaith family to discuss how that went for you and to consider challenges and desires. Do you think of yourself as Jewish? Half Jewish? Jew-ish? Does it annoy you that other Jews want to put their own label on you? Do you have a comfortable relationship with your Jewish community or not? Come share your insights and suggestions with others who have dealt with similar life situations.

Thursday, September 22
7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Free, please sign up here as we have limited space.

Kim Carter Martinez

Kim Carter Martinez

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

Making Shabbat Your Own
Would you like to start doing Shabbat? Do you need an easy way to start or do you want to take your current observance up a notch? Come learn easy steps to create “your” Shabbat. We’ll tell you how to have warm, homemade challah even if you work until 6pm. How to engage children of all ages. Ways to approach teens or other skeptics in your family. As a bonus, we’ll tell you how one simple ritual can improve your child’s and your health, happiness and wellbeing. No kidding!

Date: Sunday, October 30
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here.

2gens-cropped

Raising a Confident Child in an Interfaith Family
A child needs happy, loving parents more than anything else. They also deserve to feel comfortable with their own identity. We’ll come together to discuss what parents are currently doing, what they may want to alter and to talk about planning for your child’s religious traditions.

Date: Thursday, November 10
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $12 per couple, $8 per person
Register here.

Double Roots: A Film and Discussion
A young woman with a Jewish mother and a Christian father was raised religiously “nothing.” She was told that “if the Nazis were here, they’d kill you” and that was the extent of her Jewish education. Decades later she went out to learn what others with one Jewish parent had been taught and how their lives were similar or different from her own. When asked, “Why did you make this film of interviews with adults from interfaith families she replied, “I wanted our voices to be heard.”
Please join us to hear these voices as they were interviewed and to hear from some of the interviewees about their lives today.

Date: Thursday, December 1
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont
Free, please sign up here.

To Tree or Not to Tree: What Will We do for the Holidays?
You may want to decorate a Christmas tree while your partner wants to make latkes. What will work for you as a family? Whether December is your favorite month – full of Christmas cookies and chocolate gelt – or your most dreaded month – material surfeit and cultural overwhelm – you are invited to join this open and supportive discussion on how to handle the December dash.

This year will be especially interesting because the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 4
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Chanukah, Children, Christmas, High Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Jews of Color, Parenting, Programs archive, Shabbat
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Christmakah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date: Dec. 25
Time: Begins at 6:30p
Place: Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St, San Francisco
Cost: Adults: $10 and Children under 12 free.
Reservations for dinner will be accepted until 12:00pm on Wednesday, December 23rd.
Please call the Congregation Sha’ar Zahav office at 415-861-6932 for details.
Register here http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07ebzipusm43aa6f5e&llr=l9calgcab

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

Date: Friday, December 25
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto
Free but you must sign up by 12/23
Sign up here https://etzchayim.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=9845

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

Date: Thursday, December 31
Time: 9:00pm-12:00am
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael
Register here. http://www.marinjcc.org/events/2015/12/31/performing-arts/the-6th-annual-new-year-s-eve-stand-up-comedy-show-after-party/9282/
www.marinjcc.org

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

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

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

Dates: Sundays, January 10, January 31, February 28, March 13 and April 17
Time: 9:00-11:00am
Place: Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Suggested donation: $36 per person (includes bagels, cream cheese, juice and coffee).
Registration required. Find details and sign up for here http://www.betham.org/learning-adult-education/event/modern-jewish-literature-class-1

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 18, 2016
Time: 8am to 7pm
Place: Osher Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Details here http://paloaltojcc.org/Events/2016-community-wide-mitzvah-day-martin-luther-king-jr-day-of-service

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

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

Register here for Festival & Avodah (work exchange)
www.wildernesstorah.org

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

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

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

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

Christmas is magical. The mystic that has been built around it in America is demonstrated in every store and television special. What we expect to feel – and what many do feel – about the entire Christmas season is a sense of elation.

If you have loved Christmas all your life then there are many reasons that make it remarkable for you. Here are three powerful aspects of Christmas.

1. Family – this is one of the two most family-oriented holidays in America. (The other being Thanksgiving.) Everyone gets together; everyone makes an effort to get along. Even cynical Uncle Fred wears a Santa hat and gets into the spirit of family rituals – games, meals, decorating, etc.

2. Ritual – the repetition of words and actions is tremendously powerful. Even two Christians getting married can have conflict over doing it “my” way vs. “yours.” Buying the tree, making Grandma’s special cookies, decorating together – all the things that you did for year after year are rituals that you simply see as a part of you. What you did as a child has, by this time, become a core part of you.

3. Cultural affirmation – the entire country is doing this together. I remember a woman, not religiously Christian, but what I would call American Folkloric Christian, saying, “I love Christmas; it’s the only time of year that everyone is together.” What she meant was during the Christmas season postal workers, BART riders, retail sales people, courthouse clerks, are all more cheerful, wish you a Merry Christmas, wear a Christmas pin and have a small bowl of peppermints on their desk; these a national sense of togetherness.

If you are the non-Jewish partner you ‘get’ what I am saying here. I hope if you are the Jewish partner you can now better understand why you may feel so threatened by the massive event that is Christmas.

If you do not yet have children, experiment with Christmas. Together, practice some or all of the Christmas activities of the non-Jewish partner. Each of you should make note of what you feel about each of activity. BE HONEST with your self and each other. Don’t make excuses like, the Christmas tree is really pagan. NO ONE is putting up a tree because they are pagan.

With each activity consider these things:
*How do I feel? – Elated? Anxious? I would be embarrassed for my parents/friends/ clergy person to see me doing this.
*How does my partner feel? Listen to each other describing how they feel. Take it in.
*Is this OK for us as a couple but I worry about how a child will perceive this? – I worry that this will make any child turn Christian, or at least less Jewish.
*I’m afraid doing ‘this’ will lead to my giving in about something else.
*How would we explain this to our children? – Write down some possible explanations and feel free to run them by me.

Also consider, how long does Christmas last for us? Is it one week, we dash out get a tree, decorate, shop, and celebrate and take down the tree and clean up all in 7 days? Or does it begin sometime in October and last through early January?

If you don’t have kids, or the kids are pretty young, you can do a lot of experimenting with no need for explanation. Go for it.

Have many conversations. Be completely honest with your self. If you are the Christmas lover, let it in that Christmas is not a pagan ritual or we wouldn’t be celebrating it in this country. This holiday is Christian at its heart and in the eyes of other religious minorities – Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. That may not be what it means to you, but that is how the others view it. Understand that your Jewish partner has every right to be anxious, unhappy and uncomfortable. He or she may not have the experience of ‘losing’ a family tradition but he has lived in a subordinate culture all his life – frankly, that is hard for a lot of people. Show some sympathy and try to understand what he/she is going through in a Christian country day and especially from October to January.

If you are the Jew, own your discomfort, don’t just act it out. Talk about your feelings; your partner can’t read your mind. If you are having a hard time articulating what you feel, call me and we can sort it out. Notice what it is your partner loves at its core – is it being with family? Creating a fantasy wonderland? Having a buzzing social life? Baking all day? Ask your self, in what ways have I (or could I) offer them Jewishly based activities that would help to meet this need? I’m not saying you will be able to replace Christmas, I am saying that if there is very little fun in your Jewish life you aren’t offering much and shouldn’t expect Judaism to look very attractive to them.

Each of you should mentally step back and try to see Christmas through your partner’s eyes. You don’t have to take on their view, but you should understand it.

Now, Christmas is next week, so embrace whatever it is that the two of you have decided to do. If Christmas is going to be a part of your lives and you want to raise your children Jewish, you have some work ahead of you. But remember, no one said raising children would be easy no matter what you choose for your home observance.

Posted by admin under Christmas, Couples
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Santa_Claus wikipedia

A mom wrote me with this question: Last year we took our preschool age daughter to celebrate Christmas with the Christian relatives. Everything went smoothly because she was so young and didn’t ask any questions. This year she knows that we are helping to celebrate her cousins’ holiday not ours, but she is asking if Santa will bring her a gift. What should I say?

The first thing to do is to ask your self, what do I feel and believe about this question?

1. Do you wish you could celebrate Christmas and this is a way to break down that wall?
2. Are you afraid this means that Christmas is encroaching on your child’s awareness and about to compromise her Jewish identity?
3. Did you grow up with Santa and consider failure to instill a Santa belief to be a deprivation for your child?
4. Are you worried that your child will ‘spill the beans’ and tell her cousins that there is no Santa if you pursue the truth?
5. Do you not want your child to feel left out when all the other cousins receive gifts from Santa?

For your child this is still just a question. For you it is probably bringing up the baggage of a lifetime – whether you’re Jewish or not. For starters, don’t load your emotional memories or worries onto your child. To prevent that you need to:

Figure out what you are feeling
Find out what your partner and any other parental figures are feeling
Have an adult conversation with them while putting the wellbeing of your child first.

Now let’s walk through the concerns.

If your child’s innocent interest in getting a present feels like a way to get Christmas back then it is time to review your feelings of loss and discuss them with your partner. Is your feeling of loss being honored and is there effort made to provide nurturing experiences for you that meet your needs?

If you are afraid that this question is the advance guard to crush her Jewish identity, you’re feeling hemmed in and isolated as a Jew/Jewish family and you need to enrich and expand your Jewish lives.

If you grew up with Santa and all things Claus and feel that the entire glorious fantasy is as close as it gets to innocent and total joy on earth you need to pause and remember that the Santa extravaganza is a relatively modern and very American commercial invention. The majority of children around the world do not experience it or even necessarily know about it. Not having Santa visit is not at all necessary to a joyful and happy life. However, it has made a huge impact on you and you need to explore your feelings of depravation with your partner.

If your concern is that your child is too young to keep a secret and will tell her cousins that there is no Santa and those presents are all from Mom and Dad, then you could (a) tell her that yes, Santa will bring her a present – and bring along a Santa gift. You’ll tell her the truth in a few years. Or you can (b) tell her that Santa will not bring her a gift because you asked that he now because you are giving/gave her all those Hanukkah presents and that’s enough.

If you are worried that your daughter will feel left out when the others receive a gift from Santa you could do what I mentioned above about kids who are too young to keep the secret or you could say Jewish people don’t get gifts from Santa, (a) you have plenty of presents already or (b) Mom/Dad and I are bringing you a special present for the celebration.

If your particular concern is not addressed here, please feel free to email me. I love to hear from you.

Posted by admin under Children, Christmas, Community Activities
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Christmas_tree_English

Let’s talk about Christmas for the children in an interfaith family. Let me remind you of two truths:

1. Your child is not exactly like anyone else, so you can’t duplicate another parent’s choices.
2. Your child is not so unique that you can’t learn from other parents.

In today’s world there is a bonus, many people have grown up in interfaith homes and can give us personal accounts of things that were successful and things that were not. Guess what? What works for child 1, didn’t work for child 2. So you need to stay tuned in to your child. If your child is normal they will go through the same developmental stages as all children and you can use developmental guidelines to help you with your decisions.

The big question this time of year is, Is it OK to have Christmas in our home? How will it impact our children?

Yes, Christmas matters. So let’s look at how it matters to kids.

First there is how you as parents handle it. Are you both comfortable? No one is unusually quiet or holding their breath? Because if one or both of you are tense, your kids will know that there is something stressful about Christmas. They may love the presents, food etc, but they will also feel bad. Talk to your partner; talk to me. Try to put your children’s needs first. The argument is not about which one of you “wins,” it’s about seeing to it that your child wins. In order for that to happen you have to find a comfortable meeting place.

Are you raising them as Jews? Christmas is a big symbol; even if you don’t believe in Christ and are not religious at all, the world sees observing Christmas as a Christian act. (Christmas stands for Christ’s Mass.) Be aware that the world around your kids may see this as evidence that they aren’t “really” Jewish. Other children may say things like, “You have Christmas so you’re not Jewish.” The kids aren’t saying that to be mean. They are trying to sort out life and its many parts. You need to be ready with a non-defensive, non-angry statement. Something like, “Dad isn’t Jewish and he loves having Christmas because he did it as a child. So we have Christmas now to show how much we love Dad.” Or to the little friend, “Actually, Christopher, we are Jewish. We have a Christmas tree because Adam’s mommy isn’t Jewish and we have Christmas with her because she loves Christmas and we love her.”

There is something else you want to think about. You are developing in your child a love of Christmas. When your child grows up and moves out of your home do you want him/her to continue celebrating Christmas? When the Christian parent who is the “holder” of Christmas eventually pass away, what do you expect your adult child to do about Christmas? Often we think only in the present. But think into the future. Your children may go through some challenging times as they sort out their Christmas celebration questions. I have adult children of interfaith families who are very conflicted about their continued attachment to and/or practice of Christmas. Others are not bothered at all. My point is that you need to be aware. Think about what you’re instilling in your child. Notice what they say about themselves. As they reach the teen years and adulthood, be ready to have them make different choices, possibly even different from their own siblings. Be ready to talk about your choices and about how they see your role in their choices. Most of all, be ready to love them just as they are.

You’ll note that none of this is religious – it’s cultural and familial. Much of Christmas is about family. And frankly, all of Judaism is inextricable tied to family.

Posted by admin under Children, Christmas
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