When we look at this photograph of a relief on the Arch of Titus celebrating his siege and destruction of Jerusalem, that historical event can feel as old and foreign as the stones depicting it. Yet for Jews the idea of ‘never forget’ is not a new one. Jews remember the events of the past, celebrating the times of joy and mourning the times of sorrow and destruction. It is tempting to brush aside ancient history. It was so long ago… it offers no present joy. It is easy to poo-poo the ‘old fashion’ Jews who change their daily behavior to observe the mourning period defined by Tisha B’Av. But what might we be missing by doing so?

1. There is George Santayana famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Isn’t this true of all knowledge? Burn books and you will lose the knowledge held there. Fail to pass on to the next generation what we have learned and they must learn it all over again.

(Santayana’s quote at Auschwitz)

2. In our American culture we tend to avoid the unpleasant. Keep old people, mentally disabled people and other ‘unsightly’ humans in institutions where we don’t have to think about them. We minimize death. Someone died in your family? Don’t mourn, ‘celebrate’ their life.

Frankly, that’s damn unhealthy. Life is far from perfect and we do better mastering our challenges if we see life for what it is and learn to cope.

3. All those rituals prescribed for Tisha B’Av – no purchasing of new clothes, minimal bathing, fasting, refraining from singing and dancing, etc., how unpleasant! I wouldn’t be having fun! I wouldn’t be thinking about ME!

How little in American life requires us to delay gratification, acknowledge that there are deeply sad and distressful times, or take time to care for others.
Rituals create a way for us to get in sync with a bigger idea. They formalize the way that we move through time and allow us the opportunity to reflect.

I invite you to choose one daily practice to observe. It could be not wearing leather shoes or not eating meat. But use it to allow yourself to be reminded – at least for one day – that we all will meet with pain, death and loss. In knowing that, we should be building for ourselves a network of support, a community, a circle, who will sustain us in our dark times. And, yes, we should be reciprocating by supporting others in their dark times too.

Read a brief description of Tisha B’Av from the Coffeeshop Rabbi here.

Read a full description of the traditional practices of Tisha B’Av here. Thank you to Beth Jacob of Oakland who provided this information.

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Laws and Customs of the three Weeks, the Nine Days & Tisha B’Av

The 17th of Tammuz, commemorating the fall of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the Temple, marks the beginning of a 3 week national period of mourning culminating with the 9th of Av.

The five events which we mourn on the 17th of Tammuz are:
1. Moshe broke the tablets at Mount Sinai – in response to the sin of the Golden Calf.
2. The daily offerings in the First Temple were suspended during the siege of Jerusalem, after the Kohanim could no longer obtain animals.
3. Jerusalem’s walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
4. Prior to the Great Revolt, the Roman general Apostamos burned a Torah scroll – setting a precedent for the burning of Jewish books throughout the centuries.
5. An idolatrous image was placed in the Sanctuary of the Temple.

On Tisha B’Av, five national calamities occurred:
1. During the time of Moshe, Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the 10 Spies, and the decree was issued forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel.(1312 BCE)
2. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BCE)
3. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Some two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. (70 CE)
4. The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. Betar, the Jews’ last stand against the Romans, was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered.(135 CE)
5. The Temple area and its surroundings were plowed under by the Roman general Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city – renamed Aelia Capitolina – access was forbidden to Jews.

Other grave misfortunes throughout Jewish history occurred on the Ninth of Av, including:
1. The Spanish Inquisition culminated with the expulsion of Jewsfrom Spain on Tisha B’Av in 1492.
2. World War One broke out on the eve of Tisha B’Av in 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.
3. On the eve of Tisha B’Av 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.

Aspects of Mourning During the Three Weeks
1. It is customary to refrain from getting married. (However, one may get engaged.)
2. It is customary to avoid public celebrations – especially those which involve singing, dancing and musical accompaniment.
3. It is customary to abstain from listening to live music. However if you make your living as a musician or teacher, or if you are a student practicing, but not performing, this does not apply.
Recorded music is debated amongst contemporary legal opinions.
4. It is customary to refrain from actions that would require the recital of the blessing Shechechiyanu i.e. on new food or clothes, except on Shabbat.
5. It is customary to refrain from getting haircuts or shaving.
A person who usually shaves daily and would suffer business or financial loss by not shaving may continue to do so.

Aspects of Mourning During the Nine Days
The period commencing with Rosh Chodesh Av until the 9th of Av is called the ‘Nine Days.’ During this time, a stricter level of mourning is observed, in accordance with the Talmudic dictum: “When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy.” (BT Taanit 26)
1. It is customary to refrain from eating meat (including poultry) or wine. These foods are symbolic of the Temple service, and are generally expressions of celebration and joy.
*On Shabbat, meat and wine are permitted.
*This is also permitted at other seuduot mitzvah – for example, at a Brit Milah, or at the completion of a tractate of Talmud.
2. It is customary to limit bathing to the purpose of daily hygiene. Therefore, one should continue to bathe but in a manner that is somewhat less enjoyable.
*Those taking swim lessons or who swim for medical reasons may continue to do so.
3. It is customary to wait on purchasing any items that bring great joy.
*However, one may buy things if they will be difficult to find after the 9th of Av, or even if they will be more expensive later, but if possible one should wait to use/wear them until after this period.
*Purchases necessary for one’s livelihood are permitted.
4. It is customary to postpone beginning home improvements, or the planning of trees and flowers, until after the 9th of Av, as it would seem inconsistent to focus upon our home decor as we mourn the destruction of God’s house.

5. If one has the option, it is preferable to refrain from wearing newly laundered exterior garments(except on Shabbat)
* If the “freshness” has been taken out of a garment prior to the Nine Days (by having worn it for even a few moments), it may be worn. Some suggest before the Nine Days start to put on for a few moments any exterior garments you wish to wearin the coming
* EXCEPTION: The clothing of small children, which gets soiled frequently, may be laundered& worn during the Nine Days.

Aspects of Mourning On Tisha B’Av
Upon sundown, the laws of Tisha B’Av commence – consisting of the following expressions of mourning:
1. No eating or drinking until nightfall the following evening.
2. Other prohibitions include:
*Any bathing or washing, except for removing specific dirt – e.g.from your the eyes(OC 554:9, 11). (Upon rising in the morning, before prayers, or after using the bathroom, wash only the fingers.)
*Anointing oneself for pleasure. (Deodorant is permitted.)
* Having marital relations.
* Wearing leather shoes. (Leather belts may be worn.)
* Learning Torah. It is permitted to learn texts relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning — e.g. the Book of Lamentations, Book of Job, parts of Tractate Moed Katan, Gittin 56-58, Sanhedrin 104, Yerushalmi end of Ta’anit, and the Laws of Mourning. In depth study should be avoided.
3. Other mourning practices include:
* Sitting no higher than a foot off the ground. After midday, one may sit on a chair.
* Not engaging in business or other distracting labors, unless it will result in a substantial loss.
* Refraining from greeting others or offering gifts.
*Avoiding idle chatter or leisure activities.

Following Tisha B’Av, all normal activities may be resumed, except for the following which are delayed until midday of the 10th of Av, because the burning of the Temple continued through the 10th of Av:

* Haircuts and washing clothes
* Bathing
* Eating meat and wine
* Music and swimming

Special thanks to Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland. I have copied from this information from their newsletter.

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It can be quite difficult for some non-Jews to grasp the profound depth of feeling that many Jews have about the Holocaust. I’ve heard non-Jews says, “Why dwell on something so terrible? Just get on with your life.” Others fear that it will frighten the children or that negative thinking will bring on negative events.

Whether you’re Jewish or not, teaching your children about the Holocaust is challenging. How do you tell an innocent child about such evil? We adults want there to be fairness and justice, yet nothing in the story of the Shoah supports the idea that ultimately good triumphs. Yes, some lived, but too many died.

Begin by understanding your own child(ren). Some kids have a lot of bluster but are quite vulnerable inside. Others are very clear about their fears. Next talk to a rabbi. Rabbis have to deal with this question all the time. Meet with your rabbi and discuss what you want your child to know. He or she will be able to point out age appropriate times for various messages. The rabbi will also have suggestions for books to share with your child.

Some true life experiences shared with me about kids’ reactions to learning about the Holocaust.

1. My daughter was nine and a member of our synagogue’s children’s choir. They were asked to sing at a community Holocaust program. After they sang they went to sit with their parents. The first survivor to speak was a woman who said she had lost seven brothers during the Holocaust. My daughter whispered to me, “Does she mean brothers, like David?” (David is her little brother.) “Yes,” I told her. She promptly put her head on my lap and went to sleep. I don’t think she wants to hear anymore about people losing their siblings.

2. My kids were 8 and 12 when we went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. I had asked my rabbi about it and he assured me that the exhibits had barriers around them that were high enough that little children couldn’t see over them. He also said there was a part of the museum just for kids. We started there, at the kids’ section. It was still powerful and painful. When we came out of it my eight year old turned to my husband and said, “Let’s go now.” My 12 year old said, “Mom, I want to see the rest!” So my husband left with our younger child and I took our daughter through the entire museum. She had to see every single thing.

3. Our son (age 16) went on a class trip to DC and they took the kids to the Holocaust Museum. I asked him how it was. “Traumatic, of course.” I wondered whether I should have sent him.

4. Our daughter is in middle school and they were assigned the Diary of Anne Frank. She loved it! She asked me to get her more books on kids who lived during the Holocaust. Yes, she thinks it’s terrible but she wants to know everything about it.

You will have to decide for your family whether you will go to a memorial program and whether you will take your children.

Finally, I want to share with you a teaching that I have heard from many rabbis. The Jewish approach to evil is not to ask “Why? Why did this happen to me/her/them?” Rather it is to ask, “What do we do about it?”

None of us can know why the universe is as it is. But all of us can act to make it better for all those living on our planet.

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This year — 2013/5773 — Holocaust Memorial Day begins at sunset on April 7. Community observances will take place from April 7 to April 10 around the bay. Anyone is welcome to attend any of the memorials and you should expect large crowds. We still have among us the generation who lived through the Holocaust, who survived the camps, who fought in WWII. The children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors attend services to honor their family members. All the community comes to remember those who perished and those who lived out their lives, but have now passed on.

Never forget.

Sunday, April 7

Yes, We Sang!
Yom HaShoah concert. Jewish Folk Chorus of San Francisco, Cantor Linda Hirschhorn and Nigunim Community Folk Chorus perform.
JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. 4pm
$10, free for children & seniors.

Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah 5773
The Day of the Holocaust and the Resistance
The program will include song, reflection, testimonials and prayer. Our guest speaker this year will be Rita Kuhn, a Holocaust survivor, long-time Berkeley. Our annual service is jointly organized Congregations Beth El, Netivot Shalom and Beth Israel and is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation of the East Bay.
Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley, 7:00 pm
Free. www.netivotshalom.org

They Did Not Stand Idly By
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. For Holocaust Remembrance Day, the JCC of San Francisco will present “They Did Not Stand Idly By,” an half-day program with study sessions, a panel discussion and a reading of names.
JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St., San Francisco, 1:30 to 6 pm
Free. http://www.jccsf.org

11th Annual City of Berkeley Holocaust Remembrance Day
“Surviving in the Shadows” honoring survivors Sam Genirberg and Kathryn Winter
Music by composer Aaron Blumenfeld
Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life; 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, 11:00 am
Free. Refreshments will be served.
Parking is available at the Brower Center Garage on Kittredge St., Berkeley

Life and Resistance in the Ghettos:
70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Remembrance with a message from Israel by Consul General Andy David.
Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills. 5 pm Free.http://www.betham.org.

Future of Holocaust Memory
Sonoma County’s Yom HaShoah community commemoration theme will be memory; with perspectives from three generations.
Friedman Center, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. 2 p.m.
Free. http://www.jccsoco.org.

Yom HaShoah Service
Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central, Richmond. 7 p.m.
Free. http://www.tbhrichmond.org.

Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah
Holocaust commemoration featuring Yiddish music by opera singer Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell.
Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette. 4 p.m.
Free. http://www.temple-isaiah.org.

Yom HaShoah commemoration
With a ceremony honoring a Torah from an unknown town in Czechoslovakia. Congregation Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton. 6pm

Holocaust commemoration for Teens
With talk by Holocaust survivor Lillian Judd.
Congregation Beth Ami, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. 10:30am
Free. http://www.bethamisr.org.

Yom HaShoah V’Hagevurah Observance
Three Holocaust survivors tell their personal stories of survival.
At Congregation Rodef Sholom, 170 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. 4 pm

Never Again: How Can We Make It So?
Yom HaShoah and genocide memorial with talk by Sonoma State professor Elaine Leeder, former visiting scholar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 10:30 am
Free http://www.shomreitorah.org.

Monday, April 8

Yom HaShoah V’Hagevurah Remembrance
Reading of names followed by service with talk on the contributions of Jewish soldiers in World War II.
Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay Ave, Foster City. 6:30pm
Free. http://www.peninsulasinai.org.

Tuesday, April 9

Yom Hashoah: Telling Our Stories
A community-wide commemoration in Oakland featuring survivors, Eva Libitzky & Missia Nudler. Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, 7:45pm
Free, www.oaklandsinai.org

The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning
Talk by James E. Young, professor of English and Judaic studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Sonoma State University, Warren Auditorium, Ives Hall, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 4 p.m.
Free. http://www.sonoma.edu/holocaust.

Santa Clara County Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony
Music, candlelighting, prayer and focus on “turning points” in the stories of survivors.
County Government Center, board chambers, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose. 4 p.m.
Free. kstiller@jcrc.org.

Wednesday, April 10

Defense Language Institute Holocaust Commemoration
Speakers include professor of Hebrew studies Avner Even-Zohar.
Presidio of Monterey, Building 518, Monterey. 4 p.m.
Free, but RSVP to Avnerez1@yahoo.com by April 3.

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I think the best time to talk about death is on a summer day when dying seems preposterous and one can’t be sad because the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping and all is right with the world. So let’s take a moment and talk about Death and Mourning while it is not at our elbow.

When someone dies
We’ve talked about shiva in the past – the Jewish ritual of honoring the death of someone. I came upon this excellent outline resource* from Temple Emanu-el of San Francisco on how to behave in a house of mourning, how to speak and how to remain silent. Note that when going to shiva, a person may not know the deceased or the mourners; it is a mitzvah (a commandment) to attend the house of mourning to be sure there is a minyan (10 Jews) which is necessary to say Kaddish (a special prayer). Therefore, you or your partner may attend a shiva simply to do good.

Here is the resource I mentioned.
*Shiva Minyan Instructions

If you have more questions, these articles may help:
What If One of Us Dies?

and Sitting Shiva

If you still have questions please do not hesitate to call or email me.

I have a friend who is a Funeral Director and has worked with many interfaith families with sensitivity and kindness. I am in discussion with her about offering a workshop. Please let me know if you are interested in this type of program.

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If not now when? NOW is the time to learn and to act so that your last wishes will be fulfilled. NOW is the time to decide questions of end-of-life medical care, the disbursement of your wealth and possessions, plans and funeral arrangements, mourning rituals that will bring comfort to your survivors. Few experiences are more agonizing than trying to intuit or guess the wishes of a loved one. Give yourself and your family and friends a gift by deciding NOW.

We have gathered a panel of experts to present, to give you relevant materials and to answer your questions.

Rabbi Judy Shanks will moderate the seminar and describe the Jewish practice of ethical wills, bequeathing our loved ones advice, wisdom and memories to carry to the next generation and the next.

Dr. Mitchell Tarkoff will review health care directives, how they work and how to ensure they are followed in the hospital, by medical personnel and family members.

F. William Dorband will cover the basics of estate planning, the administration of your wishes, the role of trustees and executors, and the proper and consistent content of personal legal documents.

Dawn Kepler will describe the many unique questions that interfaith couples and families face when making end of life plans.

Susan Lefelstein will review Jewish mourning rituals from the traditional perspective and also describe non-traditional choices some families make with regard to death and burial.

The seminar will include a light lunch.

Please RSVP to Nina Jones at Temple Isaiah (925/283-8575 or ninaj@temple-isaiah.org) so we have enough food for everyone and will have enough copies of all materials.

February 27th, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Social Hall at Temple Isaiah, 3800 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette

For more details look here http://bit.ly/hCLfIf

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