A turkey challah

A turkey challah

Rabbi Milder of Beth Emek in Pleasanton sent out this delightful message to his congregants. I simply HAD to share it with you. There are so many great things in it.
1. There’s a lovely blessing to say at your Thanksgiving table. (Below in italics)
2. There’s the delightful learning about the meaning of a word (Hodu) and the way in which Jewish students & scholars love to dig into the root meaning of every letter!
3. There’s the history story about Turkey and India and America.

So whether you go away charmed, humored or touched, enjoy and give thanks for a life so full of good things.

How should Jews celebrate Thanksgiving?

For starters, let’s begin Thanksgiving with Motzi. If you don’t regularly recite this blessing for a meal, this is certainly the occasion that calls for it.

Now, if you would like to add something special, try this Thanksgiving hymn from the book of Psalms, Psalm 100:

Enter into the gates of the Eternal with thanksgiving
And into God’s courts with praise;
Give thanks to God,
And bless God’s holy name.
For the Eternal is good,
God’s kindness endures forever…

The words in Hebrew are particularly fitting for this holiday. “Give thanks to God” is “Hodu lo.”

Now, here is what you need to know to appreciate this accidental double entendre.

The word “hodu”, give thanks, is also the Hebrew word for India, as in the country. I don’t know why. It just is.

When Columbus arrived on these shores, and saw these strange birds running around, thinking he was in India, he dubbed them “Indian chickens,” which is what turkeys were then called. Turn “Indian chicken” into Hebrew, and you get Tarnegol Hodu, which has, over time, been shortened simply to Hodu.

This should not be surprising. After all, Americans name the bird after one Asian country, Turkey; Jews name it after another Asian country, India.

But, in a coincidence that only God could have planned, this etymology yields the magnificent double entendre of the Hebrew “Hodu lo,” which can mean either “Give thanks to God,” or alternatively, “Turkeys for God.”

And that, friends, is how Jews should celebrate Thanksgiving.

Rabbi Larry Milder

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Burning house from Pixabay

Burning house from Pixabay

When terrible things happen we want our spiritual leaders to find meaning in what seems meaningless. Rabbi Steve Chester recently sent this message to his congregation of Temple Israel. He leans more on actions than on faith. Maybe you feel that way also.

The last few months have been very difficult ones for many of us. Natural disasters seem to be running rampant. Hurricanes in Florida, Houston and Puerto Rico have killed a number of people and left thousands homeless. Fires in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties also have killed people and left thousands homeless. If this is not enough, human beings have perpetrated horrendous deeds. The massacre in Las Vegas; the mowing down of those in Manhattan; the recent shooting in the church in Texas. Hundreds are dead or wounded. We as a society are reeling because of these events. These tragedies, whether caused by natural forces or human forces cause us to ask many questions-some of the most frequent being “Why did God let this happen; Where was God when these events were happening; or did God have anything to do with these events.” “Were people so bad that God was punishing us in the same way God punished Noah’s generation?”

I recently read an article that attempted to answer these age old questions.The article, in brief, did not give AN answer, but gave many answers. These answers ranged from the most traditional: the people affected by these events, or at least many of them, were leading lives full of sin and thus God punished them through these horrific acts of nature or of humans in order to make them change their ways; to the non-religious response: God had nothing to do with this; to many beliefs in between. Depending on one’s theology, so went the answer.

What do I answer when people ask me what God’s role in this tragic events was? My answer is based on the approach taken by Rabbi Harold Kushner in his famous book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I agree with him when he says that God is not the cause of the act or event itself, but that God is in the response-in the response of human beings. God was found-was acting through those who risked their lives to save others as the winds roared, the waters rose, the fires raged and the bullets struck. God was in the many people who rushed to volunteer to help the hundreds of thousands who suffered losses of all kinds. God was in all who sent money to get food, medicine and shelter to those whose lives were filled with fear and suffering after each event. God is present when we do Godly deeds. God is present when we become partners with God to help those in need. God is present when we strive to do God’s work of repairing our broken world.

So, where was God in the horrible happenings in the past few months? God was there in the work that we did, in the help we gave, in the prayers we delivered. We are created in God’s image: as God is merciful, so are we to be merciful; as God is caring, so are we to be caring; as God is comforting, so are we to be comforting. May we continue to be merciful, caring and comforting as we do God’s work here on earth.

Rabbi Chester
Temple Israel in Alameda

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(from Pixabay)

(from Pixabay)

This mom wrote to my Mixed and Matched column about her desire for her child to have God in their life.

One of the things I felt strongly about was having God in my home. I agreed to raise my kids as Jews as long as we really practiced Judaism. Now my 12-year-old middle son says he doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t want a bar mitzvah. He has educational disabilities and I feel he needs the extra support of a faith in God. My husband doesn’t feel as I do and is willing to let him drop out. I’m furious with my husband and upset about my son. Where can I get some help?
— A Believer

Dear Believer: My heart goes out to you as you traverse this challenging time. Preadolescents and teens can be quite difficult to parent. It makes sense that you would want to offer your son comfort and support for his educational struggles.

It is also understandable that you want to give that support in the way that has worked for you. As hard as this is to swallow, your son may not be similar to you and may never feel close to God, or even have a God belief. Some kids, as one Jewish educator put it, are “organically spiritual,” and I’m guessing that applied to you as a kid and does so now.

As a believer myself I share your experience of being comforted by faith and prayer. But not everyone is like us. Many people — especially in the Jewish community— don’t believe in God and yet are quite content.

At age 12, your son is still a literal thinker. So while there are interesting writings about God’s existence penned by scientists, I wouldn’t suggest pushing them at this time. Your son is looking for tangible, provable facts.

Think about what it is that you believe a faith in God provides. Is it a strength beyond yourself? A great love? Someone who has your back? Proof that good will win out in the end? Some of this you yourself can give to your son.

Listen to his struggles. Point out the things you admire about him. Remind him that he is part of the Jewish community of your synagogue and beyond. Invite over adults who think well of your son and share some of his interests. Consider having a talk with him and the rabbi together. You and your community are the most solid provable support he has.

At the same time, you have a right to the comfort that you derive from your belief. You should continue to pray, go to synagogue — or church— as you normally do. Just as you are not telling your son what to say or believe, he must respect that you have your own belief system and intend to live by it.

Make an appointment to talk to your rabbi. He or she has experienced this issue so many times. Your rabbi can talk to you about the value of living a good life even without a God belief. That is what you are trying to give your son — an upbringing to become a mensch.

Having a bar mitzvah is about accepting responsibility in the Jewish community for your own actions. Discuss the ethical meaning of this public demonstration with your rabbi. Perhaps he or she can help you talk to your husband and son about having the bar mitzvah as a statement of his attaining the Jewish age of responsibility.

Do you think that your son’s educational difficulty is part of what makes him want to forgo a bar mitzvah? Could he feel like it is just too much to tackle? Many rabbis and congregations will adjust a bar mitzvah to fit the abilities of the child. If he is feeling overwhelmed by school and homework, it may be too much for him to add this time-consuming responsibility. Maybe scheduling a bar mitzvah for late next summer would allow him to practice and prepare during the summer rather than during the school year.

As for your husband, the two of you need to talk. He needs to grasp how important this is to you, and you need to understand why it is not the same for him. The two of you are a team. If your conversations have taken a downturn, consider seeing a therapist or going in to talk to your rabbi together.
Finally, let me give you a mantra: However things are going, good or bad, don’t get too attached because it will change.

There is no age limit to having a bar mitzvah. Your son may have his at age 18 or 35. Time changes all of us, and your son will mature. If he comes to you at age 21 and says, “Mom, why didn’t you make me have a bar mitzvah?!” Just be ready to say, “You had to come to it in your own time.”

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9 11

Every 9/11 we remember that hellish morning when we learned that planes had hit in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. We know just where we were standing, what we were doing when we learned of the attack.

One young man, an Oakland firefighter who went to New York as part of the mobilization of firefighters emailed me a few weeks later. He told me that he had been dating a Jewish woman and the relationship was important to him. But he told me that in the smoke and debris of the Towers he had knelt with a priest and reaffirmed his Catholic beliefs. He told me that it was a time and place when God suddenly mattered to him a great deal. Over the following months we emailed as he healed mentally from the trauma and his relationship with Catholicism because stronger.

In the end the relationship did not survive. He couldn’t turn away from his faith, nor could his girlfriend accept the idea of a Catholic home. I realize that this is not the happy ending that we are programmed to want. But it is an honest ending, one with integrity. My Catholic friend found the religion of his upbringing. His girlfriend realized that being Jewish mattered to her.

Every year on this date, I email him both to thank him for his service and to say that I remember his personal sacrifice. Sadly, his email began bouncing just one month ago. So Jay, wherever you are out there, I’m thinking of you and wishing you a rich and fulfilling life.

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Bridget's photo of resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t just read this, do something!

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seeds-of-light Jhos

I want to share with you a beautiful piece that Jhos Singer sent out to his community, Chochmat Halev. It is a reminder to take time to notice the blessings around you. Slow down, enjoy this life.

There are seeds of light planted everywhere if you can see them

Shabbat Shalom Chaverim,

There is a line from Psalm 97 that says, Or zarua l’tzaddik, u’l’yishrei lev simcha. It isn’t the easiest snippet to translate, but here’s my take:

There are seeds of light and gladness planted everywhere, you just gotta be curious and openhearted enough to see them.

During the week we might be driving too fast, working too hard, or stressing too many details to notice that we are literally surrounded by life affirming miracles. Maybe you are trying to get a budget to balance while a bird flies, unnoticed, past your window. Or you are wrangling your squirrely children into the car just as there are strawberries silently ripening in a raised bed near your parking place. You are racing to beat a deadline oblivious that your own body is turning that hastily gobbled lunch into energy and nutrients that fuel your maxxed out brain. And that’s OK for the rest of the week—but on Shabbat, we have an excuse to slow down and take notice of all the incredible points of light that surround us.

It has been another rough week in our country—sigh. It’s easy to obsess and stay tapped into the madness when our political and gubernatorial systems seem so completely broken. Yet without some respite from it we grind ourselves down to dust with worry, over exertion, stress and anger. And then we miss the light show. We miss the way the trees are growing regardless of what happens in Washington, we don’t take time to stick our feet in the frigid Pacific and feel the sand shift to hold our weight, we forget to marvel at the delightful curve of our best friend’s smile, or the way a perfectly ripe peach is impossible to eat with out making a mess. We miss the or zaruah, the glinting, sparkling light that revives our hearts—so, here we go, friends. Shabbes is upon us. Stow away meddlesome things, take a deep breath and look around for the dazzling array that surrounds you.

Blessin’s—Jhos

You can sign up to receive Chochmat HaLev’s email newsletter at the bottom of their home page.

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Have you ever felt out of step with those around you? Sometimes, even among those we love most, we feel “different.” I witnessed several experiences of that this week. In the first, I read Cantor Jennie Chabon‘s beautiful drash, “Is God the one thing?

Jennie Chabon singing

When my brother was in college, he and his friends began what became a years-long search for one thing-one place, one food, one anything- that everyone in the world either loves or hates. No one can be neutral about it or it doesn’t count. He would ask this question whenever he was hanging out with new people, to see if someone could come up with an answer.

New York? That has to be a place that people either love or hate. But no, it turns out that some people have neutral feelings about NYC.

Anchovies? I am firmly planted in the hate category with anchovies, but apparently some people could take them or leave them.

Camping? That is such a love-hate activity! I love camping, but I certainly know people who can’t stand it. Alas, some people like it just fine.

My brother and his friends never did find their one thing, and over time the question stopped being very interesting. But I have found myself thinking about it again lately as we have been diving into interfaith work here at Congregation B’nai Tikvah.

We have had two interfaith dialogues over the past several weeks, the first with members of the United Church of Christ in Orinda, the second with members of the Sam Ramon Valley Islamic Center. These two communities are obviously very different from each other–one Protestant, one Muslim–but there was one striking similarity between them: a love of God is at the center of their communities and their faith.

As liberal Jews, we are taught that belief in God is an optional part of our spiritual and cultural identity. You don’t have to believe in God to be Jewish, or even to be an observant Jew. I have clergy friends who don’t believe in God and who were outspoken about their atheism in seminary. They are happily serving congregations and leading prayers that praise God week after week, even though they don’t actually believe what they are saying. For them, God is a magnificent character in the greatest story ever told.

This concept is absolutely unfathomable to a Muslim or a Christian. God IS their faith. Which makes me wonder, would Christians and Muslims say that God is the answer to my brother’s question? Is God the one thing, the one being about whom no one has ambivalent feelings?

I think the reason I love doing interfaith work is this: when I spend time with people of other faiths, people who are unashamed of their love of God, I feel like I fit in in a way that I don’t among liberal Jews. I was at an ice cream parlor yesterday with my son, when I noticed a young couple walk in together, hand in hand. Around the girl’s neck was a large key chain with “I love Jesus” written all the way around it. My heart sang for that girl and her shameless faith.

It’s true that we are not a people that publicizes our Judaism or proselytizes in any way. That caution has grown out of centuries of needing to protect ourselves. But sometimes, I wish I could shout out my faith like that girl with her ice cream cone. I wish I could exclaim my love of God without feeling like I need to defend it to my own people.

When Jews believe in God they are often assumed to be fundamentalists. Most likely, they are not. Why? Because highly educated Jews don’t believe there is ONE way to interpret or experience God. Don’t let someone who lacks knowledge to make you feel bad. Take a look at the book, Finding God: Selected Responses, by Rabbi Rifat Sonsino and Daniel B. Syme. The book was originally titled, Finding God: Ten Jewish Responses.

* * *

PJ Our Way logo

My second experience was during a discussion of a PJ Library book with 9 and 10 year olds. We were talking about Confessions of a Closet Catholic, a book for PJ My Way kids. The kids were puzzled and then pleased as they realized that each of their families does Judaism a bit differently. I think that being young and not yet stuck with a TRUTH, they were quite comfortable letting others be different from themselves. Some keep kosher, one doesn’t drive on Shabbat, another family does the opposite. I’d like to see us adults strive to be open to the different practices and choices of others.

* * *

Rabbi Steven Abraham

Rabbi Steven Abraham

Third, I received an article from a colleague; the article is written by a Conservative rabbi titled It’s Time to Say Yes and describes his personal decision making process to determine that he will officiate at interfaith marriages. My colleague assumed I would be thrilled with this article, after all, I refer interfaith couples to rabbis who will officiate at their wedding all time. But I was not thrilled, because the rabbi argued that the Right thing to do is to officiate at interfaith weddings. That means that rabbis who choose otherwise are “wrong.” Like my nine year old friends I strive to see the path that I have chosen while acknowledging that there are other paths that are valid for other travelers.

Jewish tradition teaches that there are 70 paths up the mountain to God. The number 70 is a metaphor for “many”. Seventy is also used when referring to all the humans on earth, i.e. the Seventy Nations. Thus, Judaism teaches that there are different AND VALID paths (religions). In fact there are as many paths as there are different kinds of people.

Shouldn’t Jews allow other Jews to be different? I am delighted to have a large list of rabbis who will perform an interfaith wedding. Do I need to condemn those who are not on my list? Nope. I believe that diversity is a good thing — even among Jews!

Speaking of all different kinds of Jews, try to get over to see the photo exhibit, This Is Bay Area Jewry. It will be showing at the Marin JCC from June 12 to Aug. 25, 2017.

Giacomini-Takasaki family

Giacomini-Takasaki family

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B'nai Tikvah's window

B’nai Tikvah’s window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gutterman

TREES

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

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ptbe-clergy-2

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

Dear PTBE Community,

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless our congregation and our country.

L’Shalom,

Rabbi Dennis Eisner
Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin
Rabbi Lisa Kingston

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

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

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

In the North Bay:

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

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

170 N San Pedro Road, San Rafael

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

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

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

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

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

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apple-tree-boughs

I love summer and am a bit sad to see autumn arrive. But S’lichot gets me in the mood for the coziness of cool weather, the prayers of the High Holy Days, and the emotional warmth of returning my energies to the Jewish community from my garden.

S’lichot translates as forgiveness and refers to the prayers of repentance that are said as we approach Yom Kippur. Read more details here.) Just about every synagogue has a special late night service for S’lichot. They may include food (we are Jews, you know!) and teaching and possibly, music. To go into the sanctuary late at night surrounded by friends and family has such a loving, peaceful feeling. The congregants take the regular mantles off the Torah scrolls and redress them in white covers. There is both a solemnity and a joy to the activity.

An interesting thing to note is that the rabbis teach that Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av are the happiest holidays in the year. Why? Because they represent love and intimacy. Tu B’Av focuses on the relationship between lovers. Yom Kippur is said to be the day that each of us draws near to God, recites our failings and God says, “I know. I love you.” It is being accepted for who you are – warts and all. Of course, we strive to do better each year and, God willing, we are better people this season than we were last season. But what is nicer than being seen for who you are and loved just as you are?

Shabbat Shalom,

Dawn

EVENTS
S’lichot Service (Lafayette)
S’lichot and Havdalah Service (Palo Alto)
Jewishness: A Cultural History (Oakland)
Exploring Judaism (San Rafael)
Judaism 101 (Tiburon)
5th Friday Shabbat: High Holy Day Melodies (Palo Alto)
Greatest Hits of the High Holidays! (Oakland)
Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity: Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish (Oakland)
Sukkot Shabbat Dinner (Palo Alto)
Isaac Zones Concert and Harvest Festival (Foster City)
Hollywood and Censorship (Walnut Creek)

S’lichot Service
Prepare yourself for the Days of Awe with our S’lichot program and service exploring repentance and forgiveness.
7pm Join us in the Social Hall where we will watch two short films: “The Science of Character” and “The Making of a Mensch,” followed by learning and discussion.
8pm Service in the Sanctuary. A beautiful and moving service setting us on the path of repentance, forgiveness and renewal. We will also participate in the ritual of changing the Torah mantles to white for the High Holy Day season.

A dessert reception will follow in the foyer. Please bring sweet treats to share.

Date: Saturday, September 24
Time: 7:00pm
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette
www.temple-isaiah.org

S’lichot and Havdalah Service
In preparation for the High Holy Days, Etz Chayim and Keddem will hold a co-led S’lichot observance with a short service, including Havdalah and changing the Torah covers for the High Holy Days. The service will include poetry, prayer, meditation and chanting. We hope you’ll join us for this beautiful and meaningful observance. Co-led by Elaine Moise from Keddem and by Jonathan Salzedo.

Date: Saturday, September 24
Time: 8:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Jewishness: A Cultural History
with Shaina Hammerman, PhD
Jewish cultures span thousands of years and at least as many villages and urban centers, political ideologies, theologies, rituals, and literatures. Indeed, it is impossible to point to a singular entity called “Jewish Culture.” If we contend that Jewish cultures are so varied, what about these cultures makes them “Jewish”?
In this session, we will take a look at the variety of Jewish cultures from Jewish societies in antiquity through the contemporary Jewish-American scene. We will focus on the theme of “the Other”: how Jewish cultures create themselves by constructing boundaries between themselves and their neighbors, as well as themselves and their historical predecessors.

Date: Sunday, September 25
Time: 9:30-11:00am in the Albers Chapel
Place: Temple Sinai, in the Albers Chapel, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
For course and registration information go here.
Co-sponsored by Lehrhaus Judaica and Temple Sinai

Exploring Judaism
Part One, with Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown
This course will give participants a foundation in the basic tenets of Judaism. We will explore areas such as history, holidays, life-cycle events, theology, Torah and prayer through foundational Jewish texts, beliefs and customs. Whether you grew up Jewish and are looking to explore more deeply as an adult, are entirely new to Judaism, or are part of an interfaith family and want to study together, we welcome you to join us!

Dates: Select Sundays starting September 25
Time: 9:15 – 10:15 am
Place: Rodef Sholom, in the Library, 170 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael
RSVP here

Judaism 101
with Rabbi Leider
This 18-week course is for those who would like to learn about Judaism from the ground up, or to fill in gaps from what they learned (or didn’t learn) as a child. The class also prepares those considering conversion. It covers Hebrew pronunciation, biblical and rabbinic writings, history and culture, holy days, festivals, Shabbat, Jewish concepts of God and ethics, life cycle, dietary laws and Israel.
By the end of the course, students will be able to read aloud any Hebrew text with vowels. Students who wish to take a single class by topic may do so. Topical learning begins a half hour into the session.
See course details here

Dates: Sundays, September 18 though May 7, 2017
Time: 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Place: Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon
Tuition: $180 for the 18-week series; or $20 per class; Free for members
To register, contact Alona Shahbaz at Ashahbaz@kolshofar.org or (415) 388-1818, ext. 100

5th Friday Shabbat: High Holy Day Melodies
Come get in the mood for Rosh Hashanah with this special Fifth Friday service led by Rabbi Chaim and Karen Kennan. The service will incorporate High Holy Day melodies and reflections as an opportunity for introspection and preparation for welcoming the New Year.

Friday, September 30
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Greatest Hits of the High Holidays!
Are you interested in learning more about the High Holidays, but not ready for (or want to supplement) traditional synagogue services?

Join us at Beth Jacob Congregation for the Greatest Hits of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur!

All are invited to join Rabbi Fox for “The Greatest Hits of Rosh HaShanah” on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, Monday, October 3rd at 6:15 PM and Rabbi Albert for “The Greatest Hits of Yom Kippur” on Wednesday, October 12th at 8:00 AM in the Small Sanctuary. Both are only one hour long.

This is a learners’ service that will include some of the special prayers of the day, learning, and discussion. Please feel free to invite family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues! Anyone and everyone is welcome!

Dates: Rosh HaShanah, Oct. 3 at 6:15pm
Yom Kippur, Oct. 12 at 8:00am
Place: Beth Jacob Congregation, 3778 Park Blvd, Oakland
www.bethjacoboakland.org

Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity: Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish
Adults from interfaith families often have their Jewish identity challenged by both Jews and non-Jews. Having a name that is not perceived as Jewish, like Anderson, Christiansen, O’Toole, or Wong, can lead to questions like, “How did you get to be Jewish?” For biracial Jews the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial or interfaith family can arm themselves for these micro-aggressions. Join Kim Carter Martinez, the biracial daughter of an African American father and a white Ashkenazi mother. Kim has spent years honing her skills and is pleased to teach others how to own your identity in spite of the doubts of others.

Date: Sunday, October 9
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, but space is limited so reserve your spot here.

Sukkot Shabbat Dinner
The Jewish holiday of Sukkot commemorates the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert after being freed from Egypt. Huts, or Sukkahs, represent the temporary shelters that the Israelites lived in during those 40 years.

Join the OFJCC in our community Sukkah for a festive Shabbat dinner celebration, with music from Jewish musicians Jeremiah Lockwood and Jewlia Eisenberg.

Sukkot and Shabbat are times to come together with family and sit in the Sukkah, connecting with nature and each other as we express gratitude for the good things in our lives.

Date: Friday, October 21
Time: 6:00pm-8:00pm
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost: $20 per person | $10 per child | $50 per family | Free for children under age 2.
www.paloaltojcc.org

Isaac Zones Concert and Harvest Festival
Wornick and PJ Library invite you to a joyful concert and a morning of fun learning activities for children ages 3 to 5 and their families. Lunch will be provided.

Date: Sunday, October 30
Time: 10:00 am to Noon
Place: Wornick Jewish Day School, 800 Foster City Blvd, Foster City
This event is free, but you must register.

Hollywood and Censorship
From the earliest days of motion pictures in America, bluenose reformers accused the film industry of poisoning the minds of its viewers with scenes of illicit sex and wanton violence.
With the use of film clips, we will explore how the push for film censorship led to the 1934 Production Code Authority, the near erasure of Jewish characters in American films and the prohibition of movies that explored what was happening in The Third Reich.

Dates: 5 Wednesdays, November 2 – December 7 (no class 11/23)
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek
Cost: $70 for the public; $50 for members of B’nai Shalom
Register here.

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