Joan Nathan's Foods of Israel

Joan Nathan’s Foods of Israel

Cultural Jews
“I’m culturally Jewish.” How many times have I heard this? Too many to count. What does it mean? It means different things to different people. The common thread is, “I don’t believe in God.” Let’s not even go into what “God” means; let’s jump right to what does “cultural” mean? For the non-Jewish partner this can be like a visit to a nonexistent country – a series of no statements. No God, no ritual, no prayers, no spirituality, no belonging. The non-Jewish partner may begin to believe that this means we can have an American home – but then the Jew adds some more Nos – no Christmas, no church services, no carols that include Jesus. Now “cultural” sounds stingy and flavorless.

The Jewish partner may try to explain Jewish culture. If it’s a meeting between me and the couple this is often when the Jewish partner turns to me and says, “You know, Jewish culture.”

So what the devil is “Jewish culture?” First the bad news, it comes from Jewish religion. There is no food, music, art, dance or even language that is universal to all Jews everywhere. What is universal is the religion of Judaism. BUT! Now the good news, where ever Jews went on the planet they took their religion and adapted it to the host country, creating a Jewish version of that place – i.e. Jewish culture. So you have the Jewish culture of Mexico and the Jewish culture of Morocco and so on – each with their own food, music, language, etc.

So when the Jewish partner says, “I’m culturally Jewish” there’s a lot to explore.

What country or countries does the Jew in question come from? I met a man a couple weeks ago who was born in Iran, his family moved to Israel when he was a little boy and then to the US when he was a teen. So he has multiple languages, foods, music, etc. to share with his soon to be spouse.

My sister-in-law’s family came from Tunisia. The family was expelled when her parents were young adults and fled to France. Her wedding to my Ashkenazi brother-in-law included arab, French and American elements. The food, all kosher, was middle Eastern at one of the banquets and French at another. Her parents speak three languages – Arabic, Hebrew, and French plus few words of English. The bridal parties included belly dancing and henna. My sister-in-law thinks American Jews eat too much “white food!” Bagels, challah and gefilte fish all horrify her. Why have a fiddle when you can use a drum?

What is YOUR Jewish culture?
Begin by exploring your roots. Most American Jews are Ashkenazi – that is, originating from Eastern Europe and from a community that spoke Yiddish. Go to the Jewish museums, music festivals, art & food fairs and find the elements that represent “Jewish” to you. That’s your Jewish culture. It will probably include Klezmer music, bagels, Yiddishisms, and images of bearded men dressed in long black coats. None of this would be culturally appropriate for my sister-in-law but it will be for the majority of American Jews.

Eastern European Jewish Food

Eastern European Jewish Food

Buy recordings of old Jewish comedians – and new/young ones. Talk about why the jokes are funny. Don’t assume that everyone gets the jokes you get. (I was at a Jewish conference a few years back and there was a Jewish comedian entertaining us. We were roaring. The young Hispanic facilities man sat by handling the sound with a placid expression. Finally the comedian turned to him after a wonderful bris joke and said, “So, you getting any of this?” “No,” smiled the man.)

Visit the local Jewish museums.

Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley
Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St, San Francisco

100 Jewish films

One of the easiest ways to learn is by watching a film. The fantastic San Francisco Jewish Film Festival comes every year and screens films at locations all around the bay area.

Or just go rent an old film and watch it with an interpretive eye. Try to explain the details.
The Producers
The Frisco Kid
The History of the World: Part one
Exodus
Fiddler on the Roof
Prince of Egypt
An American Tail
The Chosen

Old black and white Yiddish films like The Dybbuk or Yidl Mitn Fidl.

Modern films from around the world.
Being Jewish in France
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
Ushpizin
The Infidel

And Check out the site, Rabbi at the Movies for more ideas.

All of these can start conversations about what it means to be Jewish, for the most part, without a religious component. Religion exists on the sides of some of these films, just the way it hovers on the side of the lives of cultural Jews.

Posted by admin under Books, Film, Jewish Culture
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The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is in its 35 year.
Building Jewish Bridges is delighted to be a co-presenter of the following films at this year’s festival.

Dough-770x433

Dough
Food has always represented more than sustenance in Jewish culture, and its transformative power is on display in this delightful British dramedy which unites a widowed third generation kosher baker, Nat (a crusty yet compassionate Jonathan Pryce), and his new Muslim apprentice, Ayyash (Jerome Holder in a breakout performance). Dayan & Son Bakery is in a downward spiral. Nat’s customers are all moving or dying. To top it off, his adversarial competitor is moving in on his turf, and his son has no interest in carrying on the family business. Read more

Thursday, July 23, Castro Theater, San Francisco
Sunday, July 26, CineArts, Palo Alto
Wednesday, August 5, California Theater, Berkeley
Sunday, August 9, Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael

Red Leaves

Red Leaves
After the death of his wife, Ethiopian immigrant Meseganio Tadela makes a fateful decision. Settled in Israel for the past 30 years, the 74-year-old widower sells his apartment and informs his grown children that he has no intention of buying a new place. Instead, the obstinate Meseganio plans to shuttle between each of their homes for the remainder of his life. Read more

Sunday, July 26, CineArts, Palo Alto
Monday, July 27, Castro Theater, San Francisco

Dear-God1

Jews in Shorts
Five short films with a range of topics. Read the details here

Wednesday, July 29, Castro Theater, San Francisco

Posted by admin under Film, Jewish Culture, Past Programs
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I’m reading a wonderful book, The Mathematician’s Shiva. Of course, it’s about Jews – but also other Russians, Poles, Americans, scientists and more. I love the underlining Jewishness of the characters and I really love that it is not about the Holocaust. There is so much more to Judaism than misery and murder.

The Mathematician's Shiva

The Mathematician’s Shiva

Which leads me to the topic of cultural Judaism. What does it mean to be culturally Jewish? It can mean the books you read (see book groups below in the events). It could be the movies you see (films below). It could be a hike with other Jews and non-Jews or going to the Jewish Heritage Night at the Giants or the A’s. It could be hanging out at the pool. Hearing a lecture on God and science. But it does mean learning and doing Jewishly infused things. I’ve collected a number of them below. If you have an idea to add, please send it to me. If you have a favorite Jewish themed book or film, tell me about it. I’ll share it with the rest of our gang.

Dough showing at the SFJFF

Dough showing at the SFJFF

Building Jewish Bridges will again be co-presenting some films at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. I know for sure one of them will be Dough. Take a look at it on their website.

Cheers,
Dawn

EVENTS
Alfresco Shabbat (Burlingame)
Tot Shabbat Playgroup (Pleasanton)
Kumzits Shabbat! (Oakland)
Torah with Soul (San Rafael)
Poolside Sundays (Palo Alto)
Sneak Preview: 2015 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (San Rafael)
Men’s Book Group at Beth Am (Los Altos)
Saturdays Unplugged: Brazil-Flavored Family Fun (San Francisco)
A Scientist Looks at God (Los Altos)
Havdallah Hike in Redwood Park (Oakland)
Story Shabbat (Pleasanton)
Giants’ Jewish Heritage Night (San Francisco)
Oakland A’s Jewish Heritage Night (Oakland)
Congregation Beth Emek Open House (Pleasanton)

Alfresco Shabbat
Join us for special Shabbat evening services under the summer sky. We’ll begin in the Misle & Sosnick Families Foyer at 5:30 p.m. to enjoy some delicious wine and hors d’oeuvres. Then, we’ll move outside for an alfresco service in the Wornick Family Courtyard. We’ll finish with finger sandwiches and Oneg Shabbat treats. Come see how the prayer experience is enhanced when our voices are carried on a gentle summer breeze!

Dates: Fridays, Jul. 3 to Aug. 28
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame
www.sholom.org

Tot Shabbat Playgroup
Tot Shabbat, a playgroup geared toward young children (ages birth to toddler) and their parents or caregivers, meets Friday mornings. Activities include free play along with Shabbat or Jewish holiday-themed craft projects, play dough, and parachute play.

Date: July 3 and Every Friday
Time: from 9:30 to 11:30am
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org

Kumzits Shabbat!
Join us for this lively Erev Shabbat Kumzits (“come sit”) Family Service around the firepit. Yes, there will be s’mores!

Date: Friday, July 3
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, in the Upper Courtyard (you can see it from the parking lot), 2808 Summit St., Oakland
www.oaklandsinai.org

Torah with Soul
Whether you are a Torah veteran, or completely new to Torah, all are welcome. Shabbat by Shabbat, we will study the weekly parsha, based on the first year of the triennial cycle. Additionally, time permitting, we’ll continue our study of the Book of Psalms. On the third Saturday of each month, weather permitting, Torah with Soul becomes Torah on the Trails, where we take a short hike on a local trail before studying Torah surrounded by nature. To be added to the Torah with Soul and/or Torah on the Trails email lists, please contact Molly at molly@rodefsholom.org.

Date: July 4, and most Saturdays, contact Molly at 415.479.3441 to make sure before you go.
Time: 9:15 am
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 No. San Pedro Road, San Rafael
www.rodefsholom.org

Poolside Sundays
Join us all summer long for the best poolside parties in Palo Alto! Meet your friends or make new ones while relaxing on our spacious outdoor deck. Entertain the kids with water games, arts activities, a bounce house and sports activities led by our enthusiastic J-Camp counselors. Poolside Parties are FREE for OFJCC Center Members. Non-Member guest passes may be purchased.

Dates: Every Sunday, for the July 5 schedule look here
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
www.paloaltojcc.org

Sneak Preview: 2015 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
See clips of this year’s upcoming festival highlights, peek “behind the scenes”, learn how the films are selected, and discover the history of the largest Jewish film festival in the world!

Date: Wed, July 8
Time: 7:00 pm
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
Cost: Free!
www.marinjcc.org

Men’s Book Group at Beth Am
In July, the Beth Am Men’s book group reads All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. The blind girl, Marie-Laure, and her father flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo to save a valuable museum piece. Werner, an orphan in a mining town in Germany, develops a skill for repairing radios. The Nazis recognize this talent and send him to track the French Resistance. He winds up in…. Saint-Malo! Join us to discuss this fascinating historical novel set at a critical time for European Jewry.

Date: Thursday, July 9
Time: 4:00pm
Place: Beth Am Library, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
www.betham.org

Saturdays Unplugged: Brazil-Flavored Family Fun
Live music, fun for the kids and caipirinha cocktails for the big people. It’s Saturdays Unplugged and July’s version features the amazing Fogo Na Roupa Brazilian Carnaval Ensemble. Enjoy the rest of Shabbat.

Date: Saturday, July 11
Time: 3:00 pm
Place: San Francisco JCC, 3200 California St., San Francisco
Free & Open to Everyone
www.jccsf.org

A Scientist Looks at God
Taught by Rabbinic Intern Adam Lutz
Knowing the evils that occur in the world, how can God be all powerful, all knowing and all good? Come find out how a scientist (and soon to be rabbi) tries to create a Jewish belief system that reflects our experience in the world and honors God at the same time. Learn about Adam Lutz, our summer rabbinic intern from Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).

Date: Sunday, July 12
Time: 10:00am
Place: Beth Am, Conference Room, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
www.betham.org

Havdallah Hike in Redwood Park
What a lovely way to wind down your Shabbat with a gentle stroll in the redwood forest , a spirited Havdalah service in a meadow, followed by a light snack and a chance to shmooze with others. Join the Green Committee of Temple Sinai for a peaceful close to Shabbat.. Please bring a snack to share if you are able..

Date: Saturday, July 18
Time: 5:30pm
Place: In the last parking lot of Redwood Park: 7867 Redwood Road, Oakland
Questions? Please contact Richard Hart at richard.p.hart at gmail dot com

Story Shabbat
Story Shabbat is geared toward families with children ages 3-6. During this special Shabbat celebration, children are introduced to Shabbat in an age-appropriate service which includes music and a story, followed by a snack and craft project. Siblings are welcome. For more information about Story Shabbat, contact Lisa Kama (925.461.3591).

Dates: July 25 and August 29
Time: 10:30am
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org

Giants’ Jewish Heritage Night
Giants vs. Brewers
Join the Bay Area Jewish community and Congregation Sherith Israel at the Giants’ annual Jewish Heritage Night. As you may know, CSI always has a huge section on Jewish Heritage Night. Your ticket includes a seat in the Jewish Heritage section, a limited-edition Giants Kiddush cup, and admission to the Jewish Heritage Night pregame party in Seals Plaza from 5 – 7 pm.

Date: Monday, July 27
Time: Pregame Party: 5 – 7 pm; First Pitch: 7:15 pm
Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco
Cost: Bleacher seats $35/ticket
Details on the Giants’ website

Oakland A’s Jewish Heritage Night
This season’s fifth annual Jewish Heritage Night on Tuesday, August 4 is all new. The pregame event will take place in the spacious Eastside Club. All participants that purchase a special ticket through the link below will be able to attend the pregame event, as well as enjoy a traditional food item and receive an exclusive A’s Jewish Heritage giveaway item. As an added bonus, August 4 is one of the A’s Chevy FREE PARKING Tuesdays.
For more information, please contact Jeff Perlmutter at 510-563-2250 or jperlmutter@athletics.com.
Please note, you must purchase a special ticket for this event to attend the pregame event in the Eastside Club and receive the giveaway item and food item.
EVENT HIGHLIGHTS
Pregame event in the Eastside Club
Exclusive A’s Jewish Heritage giveaway item
Traditional Jewish food item
Chevy FREE PARKING Tuesdays

Date: Tuesday, August 4
Time: Game starts at 7:05, Jewish festivities at 5:30pm
Place: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland

Congregation Beth Emek Open House
Whether you are new to the area or just new to Beth Emek, we invite you to educational programs for all ages. Meet Rabbi Larry Milder, Education Director Judith Radousky, and Preschool Director Melinda McDonald. Take a tour of the building and visit our sanctuary and classrooms. Light refreshments will be served. Congregation Beth Emek is an inclusive Reform synagogue with an open and participatory atmosphere. We welcome all people on their Jewish journey.

Sunday, August 9
Time: 10:00a to noon
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
For more information, call the synagogue at 925.931.1055

Posted by admin under Books, Film, Jewish Culture
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Sometimes it’s easier to learn about something by watching a video. That can be especially true when the thing you are learning about is a sensitive topic. G-dcast has created a number of videos addressing elements of Jewish life. This one, on Jewish mourning practices, covers the basic issues that you will encounter in regard to a death and mourning.

A Jewish Guide to What To Expect at Shiva, and How to Help Your Friend in Mourning

G-dcast Guide to Mourning (2)

Posted by admin under Death & Mourning, Jewish Culture, Life Cycle
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I always check the food column in the J-weekly and am frequently rewarded with something healthy, delicious and kosher.

I love Mediterranean food, love bell peppers, mint and chick peas so Josie Shapiro’s Braised Peppers with Turkey and Mint were a big SCORE.

Peppers Stuffed with Turkey & Mint

A couple friends have already asked for the recipe. Give them a try and keep your eye on the Food column.

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture
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2 rings small size

I received this inquiry recently:
Some gay friends wanted a “fully multifaith ceremony.” They felt rejected when no rabbi would agree to co-officiate, but Christian clergy would. I’m not sure how to help them address their feelings in the aftermath. — Sympathetic Friend

I answered the question in my monthly Mixed and Matched column for the J-weekly.

Here’s my reply:
Your friends’ desire was to find a rabbi to co-officiate. Any rabbi they spoke with should have first explained that they don’t need a rabbi to have a Jewish wedding.

A Jewish wedding requires four things, according to halachah (Jewish law), and none of them are a rabbi. Many modern couples focus not on the four legal requirements but on the minhag (custom). Most want the chuppah, breaking the glass, dancing the hora — all of which can be incorporated into any wedding. My guess is that your friends wanted a rabbi to represent the Jewish spouse’s heritage simply by his or her presence, and to make the couple feel that Judaism validated their marriage.

Since your friends are gay, the emotional stakes became much higher. From the start it was the rabbi’s responsibility to have a kind conversation that drew out the couple’s longings and needs, before addressing the rabbi’s boundaries. Beginning like this would have allowed the couple to identify aspects of the wedding — special food, music, symbols — that they controlled and could integrate into their ceremony. That would have met their first need for the wedding: representing the Jewish spouse’s heritage.

Second was the need for Judaism to validate their wedding. American rabbis from liberal branches of Judaism are rapidly moving toward embracing same-sex marriage, and your friends told you that they were not rejected as a gay couple. Perhaps the rabbis they spoke with did not clearly affirm the authenticity of their relationship as a beshert (destined) match, something they could have done even if they did not plan to co-officiate at the wedding.

The rabbi could have opened the conversation about boundaries with an I-statement: “Since you have come to me, I must tell you my personal stand on co-officiation and multifaith ceremonies.”

All Jews, rabbis included, have the right and responsibility to study Jewish tradition and their personal values to develop a meaningful relationship with their faith. Just as your friends chose to create a relationship they hope will never be dissolved, the rabbi is in a permanent relationship with tradition/God/ethics that he or she does not desire to dissolve.

If one rabbi could not perform the wedding, so be it. But your friends apparently were turned away by many rabbis. Now they must go beyond the hurt and try to understand: What happened here, and why does Judaism generally seem so unresponsive to a “fully multifaith ceremony”?

First, our understanding of the world is often from an American, not Jewish, viewpoint. As America’s dominant faith and culture, Christianity doesn’t fear the loss of its existence. Not so for Judaism, Zoroastrianism or Native American traditions. Many Jews readily understand the Zoroastrian’s rejection of the dominant religion because we support the underdog. We forget that Judaism is right there with these minority faiths.

Most rabbis are not willing to participate in a ceremony that does not feel Jewish and in fact feels threatening. One rabbi said to me, “I don’t want to be the only Jewish thing at the wedding.”

Second, it is important to understand that religious adherents of a particular faith are making heartfelt decisions based on their own spirituality, not on our personal desires. Mixing in another religious tradition may feel expansive to us, but it may feel disrespectful to those for whom the religion is a way of life. Just as we want rabbis to respect our choices, we need to respect theirs.

This moment of rejection hurt. But now it is time for your friends to move on and grow from the experience.

Spouses will not agree with each other at every turn; they can still love each other. They can love and respect a rabbi while not agreeing. For their own sake, the couple might determine that this experience will open their eyes to how others differ from them, what their boundaries are, where those boundaries can stretch and where they cannot.

You can listen to my podcast on how to find a rabbi here.

Posted by admin under In the News, Intercultural, Jewish Culture, Weddings
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Women in Interfaith Relationships: A Discussion for Girlfriends, Wives, Partners, Mothers and Grandmothers

Carly and her mom

Join other women, Jewish or not, to examine interfaith relationships in relation to culture and gender. What are the unique expectations and responses that a woman encounters as she creates a home and builds a family life in which her religion is not that of her partner? Join a multi-generational discussion, facilitated by Rabbi Lisa Delson and Dawn Kepler of Building Jewish Bridges, about the assumptions and possibilities surrounding our roles as sustainers of the family. Women in any stage of relationship, any sexuality, and any age welcome.

Date: Thursday, April 30, 2015
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame
Cost: Free to members of Peninsula Temple Sholom, $8 to non-members

Register here.

Rabbi Lisa Delson

Rabbi Lisa Delson

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Programs archive, women
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Passover begins April 3

Passover begins Friday, April 3 at sundown. Most people will be cozily ensconced in a house well before the 7:34pm sunset time. If you are a member of a synagogue and have no where to go for first night you should contact your synagogue’s office. Most shuls are doing seder matching.

Almost all the bay area synagogues are offering Second Night Community Seders. If you are too exhausted on Friday night to go anywhere then hop onto a Saturday night Second Seder.

The one place I know of that is offering First Night Community Seders is the East Bay JCC. There will be Seders at both their Oakland and Berkeley sites. The Jewish Community Relations Council is offering a Seder on Thursday, March 31. Browse through your options below. If I have not listed a Seder near you, don’t despair. There are just too many for me to get them all! Call the synagogues in your city and ask. SIGN UP VERY SOON!

2015 Community Seders

19th Annual San Francisco Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder
Join a joyous gathering of friends, neighbors and fellow San Franciscans at our 2015 Multicultural Freedom Seder! All are welcome!

Date: March 31
Time: 6:30pm
Place: JCCSF, 3200 California Street, San Francisco
Purchase your tickets before Friday, March 27, 2015! Call the JCCSF box office at 415.292.1233 and avoid the service charge or buy online.
Cost: Seating is limited. Tickets are $40 for adults or $35 for JCCSF members, and $15 for children under 12.
Presented by JCRC, JCCSF and Congregation Emanu-El. This event is successful because of the many San Francisco organizations who co-sponsor each year. If you would like to learn more about how your organization can easily become a co-sponsor, or have other questions, please contact Joe Goldman at jgoldman@jcrc.org or 415.977.7418.

Kehilla Annual Passover Seder
Join us to celebrate Passover! With Rabbis David J. Cooper, Burt Jacobson & Diane Elliot, and special guest Rev. Deborah Lee, director of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Delicious catered vegetarian dinner. Pre-registration required.
The theme this year will be: Social Justice & Spirituality
We will enjoy a delicious catered organic, mostly vegetarian, mostly gluten-free meal featuring your favorite holiday ritual foods.

Date: April 4
Time: 4:45pm
Place: Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave, Oakland
Details here.
www.kehillasynagogue.org

Second Night Congregational Seder
Join Rabbis Yoel Kahn and Rebekah Stern and Beth El members, old and new, in their annual Second Night Congregational Seder. We will enjoy a festive Pesach celebration and a delicious Kosher-for-Passover meal. Dinner will be catered by Lucy Aghadjian.
We are never too old nor too young to learn and retell the story of Passover. Through song, ritual and discussion, we will retell the ancient story, making connections to our own lives and our world.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley
Cost: Adults: (members) $48, (guests) $60
Seniors: $36
Young Professionals (30 and under): $36
Students/Youth/Children: $25
Through the generosity of anonymous Beth El members, no one will be turned away because of inability to pay. Kids are warmly welcomed to join in the seder and/or the parallel kids’ Pesach activities.
RSVP by March 31 here.

Beth Am’s Annual 2nd Night Community Seder
Rabbi Heath Watenmaker will lead this year’s Beth Am Community Seder on the 2nd night of Passover. Enjoy a delicious multi-course meal without having to cook, clean up or remember where you hid the afikomen. Cost $46 per adult; $26 per child (12 and under). Seating is limited.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Social Hall of Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
Please sign up for Beth Am’s Community Seder by Friday, March 27 using the downloadable sign up for here.
For more information, please contact Emily Osterman or call (650) 493-4661.

THREE Second Night Seders at Emanuel in San Francisco
Look here.

Multigenerational seder guests

Second Night Multigenerational Seder
Join us for a warm, celebratory, and multigenerational Seder! We’ll share our stories of slavery and freedom, join together in singing songs old and new, and enjoy a delicious Passover feast. New this year: Sharing the Journey Visual Haggadah.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00pm
Place: In the Social Hall of Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame
Cost: $49 (adults); $32 (children under 12). Scholarships are available; contact Rabbi Delson atrabbidelson@sholom.org. Please join us; click here for more information.

Community Passover Seder
Rabbi Gutterman will be leading the Community Seder at B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek. The seder is being catered by Sunrise Bistro.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Details here.
We regretfully cannot accept reservations after Tuesday morning, March 31.
www.tikvah.org or you can call the office at 925-933-5397

Two Second Seders at Etz Chayim
Join us for Second Night Seder. We’ll have two different Seders happening in different rooms at the same time. Both seders will offer the traditional songs and symbolic foods, a catered, gourmet dinner with a chicken or vegetarian option, and a wonderful community to share the celebration with.

For more information or to register go here.
But hurry – the deadline is Sunday, March 29th, at midnight. This will be enforced, as we have to give final numbers to the caterer.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 5:30 pm, Kiddush begins at 6:00 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Posted by admin under Community, Community Activities, Jewish Culture, Passover
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Easter Eggs Sweden

I’ve received many questions this month about painting eggs. Spring brings Passover and Easter, sometimes right on top of each other. While Jews are focusing on slavery, emancipation and unleavened bread, Easter seems to be focusing on bunnies, candy baskets and egg hunts. The real meaning of the holiday gets lost on a lot of Jewish families, especially the children. So I did some research on Easter that may be helpful in deciding what is best for your own family.

Dear Jewish parents everywhere,
We hear just bits and pieces about the meaning of Easter. I did some research so that we could have a more thorough understanding. Then, we can make our own determinations about what is best for our family. My firm belief is that knowledge makes our decision making easier and more comfortable. It can help to cut down on arguments between spouses and between parents and children. I want you to know what Easter observances are about, where they came from and, armed with this knowledge, decide what works for you. And yes, I know many Jews with two Jewish parents who colored eggs as kids. It was basically a craft activity for them.

The Easter Story
Easter is not a jolly holiday about the birth of a baby; rather it is a grim story of a gruesome death. The story’s ending is positive for believers in that Christ’s resurrection symbolizes salvation. Religious Easter is impossible to separate from its Christian message. Many Jews can’t put aside the fact that the person who is horribly killed is a Jew and yet all Jews get blamed for it… for all eternity. So be prepared for many Jews to have a visceral reaction to the idea of celebrating Easter in anyway. You may feel that you’re just doing the chocolate part of the holiday, yet others may see that as unacceptable. Be prepared to deal with these emotions. Remember that that’s what they are, emotions, and as such are neither right nor wrong.

The Easter Egg
The early Christians actively proselytized and one of the effective methods of doing so was to absorb the traditions of the community into which they spread their faith. Reinterpreting a ritual and reframing it in Christian symbolism was a less obvious way to monopolize the religion practices of indigenous peoples and to ease them into Christianity. It may feel creepy to our modern ears, but it’s better than being killed. So, Easter, like many Christian holidays, borrows heavily from pagan practices; in this case, springtime rituals.

The tradition of coloring eggs goes back thousands of years in pagan traditions. The egg was widely used as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. Painted eggs are still used at the ancient Iranian spring holiday, Nooruz, which is from the Zoroastrian religion. Just a note, Zoroastrianism is as old as Judaism; both of us have our beginnings in the earth based rituals of early civilization. Pysanka eggs, those gorgeous wax-resist eggs from the Ukraine, also date back to a pagan religion from a time when Ukrainians worshipped a sun god, Dazhboh. Part of that worship included decorated eggs.

Easter Pysanky eggs

Easter Pysanky eggs

The Easter egg is the latest addition to these springtime egg festivities. It is also called the Paschal egg, Paschal meaning “pertaining to Easter or Passover” How’s that for mixing things up! The egg was re-interpreted to symbolizes the sealed tomb in which Jesus’ body was placed. Think: just as a bird hatches alive from an egg, so too did Jesus emerge alive from the tomb. The message being that believing Christians will also experience eternal life. Traditionally the eggs were dyed red to symbolize Christ’s blood.

The Easter Bunny
The rabbit has always been known to be quite fertile so their association with springtime, fertility and rebirth is natural. Ancient Greeks believe that the rabbit was a hermaphrodite and could reproduce without a partner. Christianity interpreted this to mean that the rabbit remained a virgin even though it gave birth and it became associated with the Virgin Mary.

Now, what do we do with this knowledge?
Clearly there is nothing Jewish about Easter. Celebrating or observing any of the rituals of Easter, whether you see them as Christian or pagan, is going to be seen as “not Jewish” in the Jewish community. Now you must ask yourself, what do I want to teach my children? And what do I feel about other people’s opinions?

So, what about the kids?
If you want to color eggs because “it’s fun” I suggest you teach your children the historical meaning of painted eggs. By teaching them the truth you are equipping them to respond with confidence, and probably greater knowledge, to anyone who challenges them. You can say, “Decorating eggs has been a tradition for thousands of years in other religions, here are some of the ways that it was done and understood by people from other places in the world. We are painting them because it’s fun and pretty and we are learning about their history.”

To the Jewish mom who said her daughter wants to paint eggs to represent the 10 plagues I say, wow, your daughter is wonderfully creative! You could tell your daughter that people from different backgrounds borrow from each other and you are borrowing the idea of painted eggs and turning it into a Jewish expression for your family. You could use the eggs as part of your Seder table decorations and get the kids to guess which egg is which plague. This practice isn’t a Jewish tradition now, but who knows, maybe she’s starting something!

What about the opinions of others?
I’m not going to tell you to ignore or denigrate them. Judaism is a communal practice; we do it together for better or worse. I suggest you use your now superior knowledge to explain to them what you’ve learned, what you’ve decided based upon that and your family’s best interests. If they still can’t accept what you are doing AND they are important to you, I suggest you ask them if there is a Jewish practice that seeing you do would comfort them. Explore whether they feel that these eggs are going to curtail your Jewish practice or damage your child’s Jewish identity? If you currently send your child to Hebrew school, observe Shabbat, and have a Passover Seder gently point out to them that your Jewish practice far outweighs some colored eggs. If they still can’t accept your practice, or these are people you don’t really care about anyway, tell them that you will have to agree to disagree, and walk away.

Posted by admin under Children, Community, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning, Parenting
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purim-family-carnival

Though Purim is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, it is widely observed and a favorite of children. According to the scroll of Esther 9:22, we are to observe Purim as a time of “feasting and gladness.” The holiday is marked not only the by reading of the scroll, but by Purim plays (spiels) and the wearing of costumes. A festive meal is eaten (se’udah) on Purim afternoon. These led to the rise of carnivals, incorporating these traditions and often adding games for children. In Israel, Purim is joyfully observed by parades and people of all ages dressed in costumes.

(From ReformJudaism.org, read more on their website.)

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning, Purim
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