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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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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thank you god book65-8_LRG

An Early Childhood Educator once told me, “Children are organically spiritual.” Children naturally explore the non-physical world. They wonder about it. For children, the whole world is new. They are curious and will hear from friends, TV, the internet, commercials, etc. about God. They will wonder about God. Is God really a man? Does he have a beard? Can you see God? Have you seen God, Mom? Whether you personally have a God concept or not, chances are that our society will give your children one – an American, socially appropriate concept. However, that concept may not sit well with you. So how CAN we talk to our children about God?

Begin by asking your child what they believe. Do they believe in “God”? If so, what is God like? See what things they say that you can affirm.

Working with your spouse or a good friend, try to articulate your own God concept – or your reason for disbelief. Put words to it. Make it real to you. Then listen to their beliefs and interpretations. I hope that you pick someone with whom you do not entirely agree; because, believe me, neither you nor I actually know what God is. Once you have a way to describe what you believe, you have something tangible to tell your child. You may express some doubt too, like “no one has ever seen God so no one knows exactly what God is like.” You may tell your child, “When you said X it made me really think.” Children can have some pretty profound ideas.

Then there is the challenge of sharing your ideas, plus those of your child’s other parent, into age appropriate words. What if the two of you disagree? Do you have to have an agreed upon message for your child? What if your child is going to Hebrew school and bringing home bible stories that anthropomorphize God and it’s driving you mad? What do you say to your child, your spouse, the clergy?

Rabbis have amazing conversations about God with children. They are pretty used to it and can help you sort out what you want to say to your child. In fact, all clergy are confronted with this task daily. Go talk to your rabbi, minister or priest. Share your awkward, unrealistic, doubting thoughts. Trust me, they won’t be surprised. Go as a couple.

Do you need to be on the same page as parents? Yes, it is best if you are. But you don’t have to believe the same thing. Perhaps what you’ll both be telling your child is, “Mommy believes in God, but Daddy doesn’t. Here’s why we each think as we do. No one knows for sure about God so we all are just trying to figure it out. We have decided to raise you Jewish/Christian/Hindu so you’ll get to learn from rabbi/minister/priest how Judaism/Christianity/Hinduism understands God. As you get older you’ll keep thinking and you’ll be able to tell us what ideas have come to you.”

This is a time when your interfaith family can come in quite handy. You can point out that Grandma doesn’t believe in God but she always goes to synagogue because she believes in keeping the Jewish people together. Grandpa believes in Jesus but doesn’t really like to go to church so he prays at home. Aunt Julie is an atheist; she can’t decide whether there’s a God or not, but she believes in being a good person so she chose to be a doctor.

Your core message about God will reflect those things that you want to see in your own and your child’s life. Is that kindness, service to others, patience, acceptance of the ideas of others? You will tie these actions/values to the way you speak of the BIG things in life: God, Purpose, Meaning.

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cloud scape

Miracles?
As a child didn’t you think of a miracle as a magical event, something that defied the laws of nature? Such a definition of miracles often leaves adults cold. Here is a quote from a handout I believe Vicky Kelman wrote: the correct question about miracles is not “Do you believe in miracles?” (Which is the one we usually hear) but rather “What miracle(s) have you experienced today?”

The word miracle derives from the Latin word mirari meaning wonder. According to several modern Jewish thinkers, the experience of miracle derives from the human capacity for wonder. This capacity for wonder, which Martin Buber called “abiding astonishment” and Abraham Joshua Heschel called “radical amazement” is the raw material of which miracles are made.

An extraordinary event (the exodus from Egypt, the victory of the Maccabees which we recall at this time of year, the recapture of Jerusalem in the Six Day War) is the kind of event likely to receive the label “miracle” but the prayer book teaches a complementary perspective on miracle by including the phrase “Thank you for … your daily miracles” among those prayers said three times a day. In this way otherwise ordinary events such as the birth of a baby, the blossom of a daffodil, the body’s recovery after illness are also miracles. The ability to experience daily miracles is at the core of the Jewish world view.

Looked at this way, a miracle is neither supernatural nor super-historical but an event which feels to people who experience it, as a miracle.

May we all experience the daily miracles and blessings that surround us. Make a list of your blessings. Science has found that people who spend a few minutes every day feeling grateful are happier and healthier. Sounds miraculous!

EVENTS
Tikvah Tots (Walnut Creek)
Child Friendly Service & Dinner (San Leandro)
The Road to Character by David Brooks (San Rafael)
Hanukkah Celebration and Crafts Fair (San Francisco)
A Hanukkah Celebration for All Ages (Berkeley)
Israeli Dancing for Chanukah (Los Altos Hills)
Shabbat YAFE Latkefest (Berkeley)
Reggae Shabbat and Chanukah Party (San Francisco)
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Conversion to Judaism (Walnut Creek)
The Eighth Night of Hanukkah (Oakland)
The Rivers Of Babylon (San Francisco)
InterFaith Chanukah Celebration at Blackhawk Plaza (Danville)
4th Annual One Bay One Book (Burlingame)
Songs from Israel and Palestine (Berkeley)

Tikvah Tots
Little ones are welcome at Tikvah Tots every Friday morning from 10–11am for an informal get together. Led by Rabbi Gutterman, the event will include free play, chat time for adults, and circle time with Shabbat songs and blessings (and juice and challah, of course).

Dates: Fridays
Time: 10 to 11am
Place: Bnai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
More info look at this downloadable PDF.

Child Friendly Service & Dinner
Join the members of Beth Sholom in San Leandro for child-friendly worship service led by the returning Hebrew students. Services will be followed by a delicious dinner.

Date: Friday, December 4
Time: 6pm
Place: Beth Sholom, 642 Dolores Ave., San Leandro
Cost: $10 per person 13 years old or older; free for children.
Call the office to reserve a place, 510.357-8505.
http://tbssanleandro.org

The Road to Character by David Brooks
with Rabbi Stacy Friedman
In The Road to Character, David Brooks focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success. Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “resume virtues” – achieving wealth, fame and status – and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed. Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth.

Date: Sunday, December 6
Time: 10:00 – 11:10am
Place: JCC Lounge, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
RSVP to Molly at molly@rodefsholom.org.

Hanukkah Celebration and Crafts Fair
It’s not too early to mark your calendars for our annual Hanukkah Celebration and Crafts Faire. We will have entertainment (Jewish Folk Chorus), lots of beautiful crafts, jewelry and of course, Hanukkah and other gift items from our B’nai Emunah Gift Shop. Yes, of course, we’ll have home-made latkes and a variety of children’s games and crafts.

Date: Dec. 6
Time: 11:30am to 3:30pm
Place: B’nai Emunah, 3595 Taraval St, San Francisco
www.bnaiemunahsf.org

A Hanukkah Celebration for All Ages
Join Chochmat HaLev for the first night of Hanukkah.
4:00 “Zaide Makes Latkes”
Playful puppetry and music with Jen Miriam & Alon Altman
4:45 Community Candle lighting
Bring your chanukiah/menorah and add to the light!
5:00 Community Sing with Gary Lapow, Maggid Jhos Singer, Julie Batz, and Friends
Songs, stories, and teachings for all ages

Date: Sunday Dec. 6
Time: 4pm- 8pm
Place: Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince Street, Berkeley
Cost: Public/$15; Children/$5; Members of Chochmat HaLev $10
http://chochmat.org

Israeli Dancing for Chanukah
Community Potluck Meal to Follow
The Beth Am community and friends are warmly invited to a community lighting of the 5th candle of Chanukah! We will sing the blessings and Chanukah songs, share a potluck dairy meal, and dance the Horah to tunes performed by Naomi Zamir and her lively klezmer group, Majorly Minor. Come and dance — anyone can dance the Hora!
Please bring your chanukiyah and candles as well as a potluck dish to share. (Kashrut information: please note that Beth Am serves food “kosher style,” which means no pork or shellfish and we do not serve milk and meat in the same dish, such as meat lasagna. Thank you for observing in this way.) Bring your partner, your friends and let us celebrate a holiday that so deeply calls for freedom of religion!

Date: Thursday, Dec. 10
Time: 7:00pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
For more information, please the office at (650) 493-466.
www.betham.org

Shabbat YAFE Latkefest
Sponsored by the Men’s Club
Join us for the Men’s Club’s famous latkes, candle lighting, Chanukah songs and birthday cake in honor of the 10th anniversary of our Oxford Street building.

Shabbat YAFE is an inter-generational Shabbat celebration filled with music and ruach (spirit)! This month’s theme is “Kavod (Respect) for Our Home”. Join us for a catered dinner (Please sign up here). All YAFE families and the entire congregation are invited and welcome at the service.

5:00 pm Tot Shabbat in the Beit Midrash
5:30 pm Catered Vegetarian Dinner in the Social Hall
(cost: $15/family with RSVP and $20 at the door )
6:15 pm Candlelighting, Chanukah sing-a-long, and festive Shabbat services in the sanctuary

Date: Friday, December 11
Time: 5:00 pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford, Berkeley
www.bethelberkeley.org

Reggae Shabbat and Chanukah Party
From Jerusalem and Jamaica to Sherith Israel, let the good times roll as we celebrate the sixth night of Chanukah. Rock out to the Jewish-themed reggae rhythms of Lior Ben-Hur and his band, Sol Tevel. We’ll recount the miracle of the burning oil and the Maccabees’ triumph over assimilation.

Our celebratory and light-filled Shabbat service will be followed by a catered latke dinner. And remember to bring your chanukiah to join in the festive congregational candle lighting.

Date: Friday, December 11
Time: 6 pm: Service and chanukiah lighting
7:30 pm: Dinner and dance party with Lior Ben-Hur and his band, Sol Tevel
Cost: Dinner: $36 for a family of four (two adults and two children under bar mitzvah age); $18 for adults, $10 for solo parent, and $8 for children.
Please purchase tickets by December 7th here
Questions? E-mail Eric Drucker or call him at 415.346.1720 x24.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Conversion to Judaism
Are you curious about conversion to Judaism — for yourself or someone you love? Perhaps you know someone who is converting and wonder why someone would make that choice. Maybe this is the first time you heard that conversion to Judaism is a possibility. Curious? Confused? Join Jews by choice, born Jews and non-Jews as we work to answer all of your questions about conversion!

If you are a member of a synagogue, of course you can speak with your own rabbi about conversion. And you are still welcome to come hear from our panel. If you currently do not have a rabbi, this program will help you find one.

Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015
10:30-12noon
B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Ln, Walnut Creek
Free
Hosted by B’nai Shalom and Building Jewish Bridges
Co-sponsored by B’nai Tikvah, Temple Isaiah, Lehrhaus Judaica

The Eighth Night of Hanukkah
Join us for a concert and a sing-along of traditional and contemporary songs in Hebrew, Yiddish and English with the Nigunim Chorus and Music Director Achi Ben Shalom. Nigunim Chorus is dedicated to learning, preserving and presenting folks songs of the Jewish people.

Date: Sunday, Dec. 13
Time: 4pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free and open to the community so bring friends!
www.oaklandsinai.org

The Rivers Of Babylon – The First Judeans In The Babylonian Exile
Guest Lecturer Dr. Laurie Pearce
Dr. Laurie Pearce presents dramatic new evidence about the Judeans exiled to Babylonia after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. She will explore their successful integration into Babylonian life, and offers insights into ways that it was possible for Judeans to maintain their unique identity in their host land and among other foreign populations.

Date: Sunday, December 13
Time: 9:30 – 11:00 am
Place: In the Rinder Chapel at Congregation Emanu-el, 2 Lake St., San Francisco
www.emanuelsf.org

InterFaith Chanukah Celebration at Blackhawk Plaza
Join Beth Chaim Congregation and their faith community partners in a public lighting of candles on the 8th night of Chanukah to celebrate religious freedom for all.

Date: Sunday, Dec. 13
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Blackhawk Plaza
For more information contact the office of Beth Chaim Congregation of Danville at 925-736-7146.
www.bethchaim.com

4th Annual One Bay One Book
Join Rabbi Delson for a discussion of The Periodic Table, a memoir of the years before and after Primo Levi’s transportation from his native Italy to Auschwitz as an anti-Fascist partisan and a Jew.

Defying categorization, The Periodic Table is a pioneering work in its creative approach to memoir; it is the winner of the Royal Institution of Great Britain’s survey as the greatest science book ever written, and it is an invaluable record both of Levi’s life and of the experience of Jews in northern Italy.

Date: Monday, December 14
Time: 7:00pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame
RSVP to Rabbi Delson (rabbidelson-at-sholom.org) to let her know you plan to attend the class.
www.sholom.org

Songs from Israel and Palestine
A Concert with Lior Tsarfaty and Naser Musa
Join Palestinian musician Naser Musa and Israeli musician Lior Tsarfaty for an evening of prayers for peace. During this time when violence and hatred are escalating between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East we join together in this concert to say that we refuse to be enemies. Join us.
With special guest Bouchaib Abdelhadi.

Date: Thursday, December 17
Time: 8pm
Place: Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince Street, Berkeley
Cost: Public/$20; Members of Chochmat HaLev $15
Get tickets here.

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Yom Kippur white tallit

Rabbi Aderet Drucker sent an email to her congregation, B’nai Shalom, explaining the practices of Yom Kippur. I am sharing them here with you. Don’t worry if you don’t do all these things. If one or more of them speaks to you, you can plan to include it next year.

Before sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when the community has gathered in the synagogue, the Ark is opened and the Torah scrolls are removed from the Ark. The Hazzan chants the Aramaic text of Kol Nidrei. Kol Nidrei or Hatarat Nedarim, is a legal formula that in essence annuls all vows, obligations and oaths made by every member in the community. Therefore, Kol Nidrei should not take place during Shabbat or Yom Tov (a Festival) and that is why we gather together prior to sunset and the start of Yom Kippur.

Before Yom Kippur:
Last Meal Before The Fast:
The rabbis considered it a mitzvah to eat a festive meal, Seudah Mafseket (last meal before a fast) before Yom Kippur begins. Before the meal one is to do the ritual hand washing with blessing followed by a blessing over bread. Click here for the blessings for hand washing (netilat yadayim) and over bread prior to eating the meal (hamotzi).

Yizkor (Memorial) Candle or Ner Neshama (Soul Candle):
If a parent or other close relative has died, before lighting the holiday candles, light a Ner Neshama, soul candle, also known as a memorial candle, that will burn throughout Yom Kippur. There is no traditional blessing for lighting the memorial candle. Click here for private intentions to recite upon lighting the candle.

Resting Candle:
Before Yom Kippur begins, light a separate long-burning candle to be used at the conclusion of Yom Kippur – the Havdalah candle will be lit from this “Ner Sheshavat” – a candle that rested – meaning the flame was burning before Yom Kippur. One may also use the Yizkor (Memorial) Candle for this purpose. Ensure that this is a candle that will burn for at least 26 hours.

(If you don’t have such a candle, don’t worry. You can plan to have one next year.)

Candle Lighting for Yom Kippur:
One may light candles at home prior to coming to synagogue, here are instructions for doing so:
1) Light candles at least 18 minutes before sunset (candle lighting is at 6:47pm).

2) As one may light candles before going to services, and thus do so considerably earlier than the latest posted time, please remember as you light candles, to have in mind a proviso that you are not actually accepting the sanctity of the day until your arrival at synagogue.

3) Recite 2 brachot (blessings):

Yom Kippur Candle Lighting Blessing:
Ba-ruch a-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam a-sher ki-de-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu le-had-lik ner shel Yom Ha-kipurim.

Translation:
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the light of
the Day of Atonement.

The Shehechiyanu blessing:
Ba-ruch a-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam
she-he-che-ya-nu vi-kee-yi-ma-nu vi-hi-gee-an-u liz-man ha-zeh.

Translation:
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and let us reach this time.

Blessing the Children:
Before leaving for the synagogue, it is custom to bless the children, with the Priestly Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26):

יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ May God bless you and keep you
יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ May God cause the divine light to shine upon you and be gracious to you
יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם May God turn toward you, and grant you peace

What to Wear? Wearing White & Tallitot Throughout Yom Kippur:
It is custom to wear white on Yom Kippur and to wear one’s tallit (prayer shawl) from the evening of Yom Kippur throughout all of Yom Kippur. In Rabbinic tradition the precept of tzitzit (the fringes on the tallit, the prayer shawl) applies only during the day. Consequently, the tallit is only worn during the morning prayers except on Yom Kippur when the tallit is worn, as a token of special reverence for the holy day, during the night service of Kol Nidrei and throughout the entirety of Yom Kippur. Therefore, when you arrive at the synagogue before sunset tonight, recite the blessing for tallit prior to putting on your tallit.

Yom Kippur Prohibitions & Practices:
The Torah (Leviticus 23:32) refers to Yom Kippur as Shabbat Shabbaton – a Sabbath of complete rest. Thus, even when Yom Kippur does not fall on Shabbat, cooking, use of fire, and carrying are not permitted. Unlike other Yom Tov (Festival) days, Yom Kippur always takes on all the restrictions of Shabbat.

In addition, the following are not permitted until dark after Yom Kippur has ended (Yom Kippur ends on Wednesday night, September 23rd @ 7:43pm)
Eating and drinking
Intimate relations
Bathing or washing (except for minimal washing of hands to remove dirt after using the bathroom)
Using skin or bath oils
Wearing leather shoes

Wishing us all a meaningful and introspective Yom Kippur and an easy fast.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year!

Shana Tova and G’mar Chatima Tova,
Rabbi Aderet Drucker

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Rabbi David Booth

Rabbi David Booth

I just love this message from Rabbi David Booth of Kol Emeth in Palo Alto. Don’t make your introspection on the High Holy Days negative, find the joy.

It is Good to be Joyful
I feel the need to advocate for joy this week. We’re entering a time traditionally associated with introspection. Yet too often that introspection becomes an exercise in unproductive guilt rather than a more honest and potentially joyous assessment of who I am and who I have the potential to be.

When I teach converts, I have them write me three essays, one of which is an annotated list of their current observance. I always have to coach them to write what they are doing, because left to their own devices, they have become Jewish enough to focus only on what they are failing to do.

So exercise number one: I invite you to make a list of your mitzvoth. They could be Jewish-related observance like coming to shul or lighting candles on Friday night. They could be more humanly-related mitzvoth like volunteer work or thoughtfulness around issues of speech at work or at home. Now that you have this remarkable list, feel happy with yourself. You should feel good because you are making lots of meaning-filled choices, and that is always hard. If you want, examine which of these motivate you to do more and set some goals for the coming year.

When I do pre-marital counseling, I urge couples to work on a budget together as a communication tool. I urge them to name their values first, and plan their budget second. How we spend time and money are two of the most powerful ways in which we express ourselves in the world.

Exercise number two: write down three values that matter to you. Limit yourself to no more than four and no less than two. More, and most of us can’t honor so many values; less, and we are below our human capacity. Now, take a look at how you spend time and money. Does it match your values? In what ways do you feel good, and are there changes, places where you feel out of balance?

As you conclude these two exercises, return to joy. The easy and unproductive path is to turn now towards guilt and to allow feelings of unworthiness to prevent any ability to value ourselves in this moment, let alone to find the strength to change. Remind yourself of joy, of valuing what you ARE doing and the values you DO hold. Joy can enable us to find strength and affect real inner change.

For me, and for many, the last step is a turn towards God. There is joy in knowing that I am charting a path towards God, towards a lure in the Universe that invites blessing and goodness. It is joyous to know I am not alone in finding my path. It is joyous to know that I am on a path towards a Being of love who can fill me with blessing.

May this season of introspection bring you joy and growth!!

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Booth

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Spirituality
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Jennie Chabon

I love this article by Cantor Chabon of B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek. Have you ever heard of ‘lamed vavniks’? No? Read on.

A couple of weeks ago, Steve and I took our boys on a family trip to Portland for a few days. We rarely have free weekends to travel together because of Shabbat, so we were really excited for this little adventure. Plus, we were visiting Steve’s family, so we had the added bonus of time with uncles and grandparents to look forward to.

It didn’t take long for us to remember that traveling with three boys under ten is most definitely a trip, not a vacation. While we had some nice moments that made the trip enjoyable, there were many more moments of exhaustion and frustration and just plain herding of children from one place to the next. We were quite happy to get back on the plane to return home when the time came.

As we were waiting at the gate, I saw a mom with three girls standing in line to board the plane in front of us. She was very cheerful, talking to other people in line, introducing her girls to them. Her youngest daughter looked to be about eight years old. The mom was explaining that they were on their way to southern California to go to Universal Studios. She wanted to do anything to bring joy to her littlest girl’s life. It was only then that I really looked at the girl and realized that under her cozy green hat was a bald head with a large scar peeking out above her eyebrow. Pain and compassion flooded my heart.

We happened to sit across from this family on the plane and the little girl ended up next to a woman she didn’t know. No matter. She took off her hat and started chatting away with this stranger, entertaining her and engaging her in lively conversation. When we landed, the woman turned to the little girl and said that it had been her great fortune to sit next to her and meet her that day. More pain and compassion, but also joy.

As we muscled our way through the airport towards the exit, the mom and I exchanged some mom-glances meant to say, “Ack, this traveling with kids thing is for the birds!” She commented on how cute my boys are and I did the same about her girls, just as you would with any parent in passing who could use an encouraging word along the way. Except that this mom was not just any parent. She was a remarkable stranger who crossed my path and taught me something valuable that day.

One of our most famous mystical Jewish teachings is that at all times there exist 36 righteous people in the world whose role in life is to justify the purpose of humankind in the eyes of God. Jewish tradition holds that their identities are unknown to each other and that, if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. The two Hebrew letters for 36 are lamed, which is 30, and vav, which is 6. These 36 are referred to as the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim, the 36 righteous people.

It happens occasionally that I meet someone who reminds me that I believe in those lamed vavniks, that there are special souls who walk this earth to remind us of the spark of God within each person. The thing about the lamed vavniks is that you never know who they are, so they could be anyone you meet. Any passing stranger could have something to teach you. That beautiful family in the airport reminded me not only to be appreciative of my exhausting boys, but even more so, to remember that we have the opportunity every day to choose how to react to life. I’m sure that mom has plenty of days where she cannot approach her challenges with a smile, but on that day, she was a reminder of the power of grace, even when life throws you something incredibly difficult.

The longer I am a cantor, the more I see God not only within the walls of the sanctuary, but sometimes even more so out in the world as I move through my days. As we all travel this summer and find ourselves perhaps away from CBT more than usual, I wish us all clear eyes to see God within the people we meet, and maybe, if we’re lucky, a glimpse of one of the righteous 36.

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Christian child

The Christian spouse knows how to ‘do’ Christianity and is supported in this by our American Christian culture, but you may still want to introduce a concept of Jewish heritage to your child. We’ll discuss how to offer the concept of Jewish roots without disrupting your child’s Christian identity.

Also, if your child’s mother is Jewish then your child will be considered Jewish by the Jewish community. What should you tell your child about this belief about them by people they may know very peripherally?

Sunday, Nov. 9
3 to 4:30pm
Peninsula Jewish Community Center, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City
Cost: $12 public, $10 to members of co-sponsoring organizations.
Register here.

Cosponsored by Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Peninsula Temple Beth El, Peninsula Temple Sholom

Posted by admin under Children, Jewish Culture, Non-Jewish family, Parenting, Past Programs, Spirituality
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