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

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!

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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
B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Ln, Walnut Creek
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!

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

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.

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 ( to let her know you plan to attend the class.

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.

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.

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

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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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Rosh Hashanah banner

Well, this is it – September. The Jewish year really ramps up! High Holidays are just around the corner, kids go back to school and we all go into our work mode. As we approach those Days of Awe let me remind you, please don’t think that High Holy Day services are the time to first expose your non-Jewish sweetheart to a Jewish religious service. Yes, there are the 3 people in the world for whom that worked (I’ll probably get an email from you) but the rest of the non-Jewish world DOESN’T like these extra long, extra religious services. Heck, lots of Jews don’t like them either but they go because they “have to.” Wait, they have to? Are the High Holy Day police cruising the streets looking for Jews? No, and most Jews can’t really tell you why they have to go, they just feel it. As one 20-something told me, “It would just be weird to not be in services on those days. That’s where all the Jews are. That’s just where I want to be on those days.”

Let me offer a different service choice for first timers – S’lichot. S’lichot is a late night service that brings to a close the last Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. I love it. My synagogue begins with a Havdalah service outdoors. From there we move inside where there is food (of course), and have a teaching on the High Holidays in the sanctuary. After that, the clergy leave to change into the white robes they will wear throughout the Days of Awe. We, the congregants, change the Torah scrolls from their usual Shabbat coverings to the special white covers. The clergy returns robed in white and lead a late night service.

It all has a wonderful warm and mystical feeling. The night, the ceremony, the soft lights, the music. I suggest you try that for a first timer.

Tot Shabbat (Walnut Creek)
Everything You Always Wondered about Torah Study (Palo Alto)
Blessing Etz’s Petz and Ice Cream Social (Palo Alto)
La Shuk by Omanoot (San Francisco)
Spiritual Preparation for the High Holidays (Walnut Creek)
The Pornography of Pain (San Jose)
Shabbat Yafe (Berkeley)
Chardonnay Shabbat (Palo Alto)
Shabbat Pizza Party for Families with Young Children (Pleasanton)
DIY Judaism: Jewish Greetings Cards (Oakland)
Re-Emergence: The Jews of Nigeria (Oakland)
Introduction to Judaism (San Francisco)
After the Play: Degenerate, Forbidden, Suppressed: Music (Berkeley)
Discussion series for Interfaith/Intercultural Couples (Berkeley)

Tot Shabbat
Tot Shabbat is a warm and friendly Shabbat experience with music, storytelling, and simple prayers for the littlest ones in our community. After Tot Shabbat, we’ll enjoy a simple pizza dinner* together, and at 6:30pm will move into our family service, for older children and the rest of the community. Kids will find that the service feels familiar and accessible, including a story told by special guests that you won’t want to miss.
Following this 6:30pm service, we’ll enjoy Oneg Shabbat including back to school treats for all the kids!
*Pizza dinner will begin at 6pm. To join us for dinner, please send your check for $10 adults / $5 children (5 – 12) to the Temple Office. RSVPs appreciated no later than Wednesday, September 3. Please be sure to let us know of any allergies.

Date: Sept. 5
Time: 5:30pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Call the office if you have any questions – 925-933-5397.

Everything You Always Wondered about Torah Study, but Didn’t Know to Ask
Join Rabbi Ari Cartun for an introduction to this quintessential Jewish practice.

Date: Saturday September 6
Time: 9:00am
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto

Blessing Etz’s Petz and Ice Cream Social
Connect and Reconnect with Shorashim friends. Bring a photo of your pet for the Giant Pet Collage. Learn a new
blessing just for pets! Come to the special PJ Library Story Corner. Another great chance to bring friends to see just how much fun we have at Etz!

Date: Saturday, September 6
Time: 3:00 – 4:30pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto

La Shuk by Omanoot
Here’s a fun and creative way to support Israel and Israeli artists! Presenting Omanoot’s first ever pop-up event in San Francisco. Please come support emerging Israeli artists, photographers, illustrators, jewelers and designers.
Omanoot means ‘art’ in Hebrew. Omanoot is a cultural e-commerce site and education portal that is committed to connecting the world to Israel’s vibrant culture and arts.

Date: Sunday, September 7
Time: 1:00 to 7:00pm
Place: Firehouse 8, 1648 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco
More info here.

Spiritual Preparation for the High Holidays
Join in our series of three hour-long sessions devoted to preparing for the coming holidays. Themes will range from the messages of our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Torah and Haftarah readings, to ways in which the music and liturgy complement each other, to themes of change and beginning again, and how they personally affect us. (Rabbi Gutterman will lead the first and third sessions. Cantor Chabon and Rabbi Gutterman will lead the second one together.)

Dates: Tuesday September 9 at 7:30pm
Sunday September 14 at 11:00am
Saturday September 20 at 7:30pm.
(This last meeting will be followed by dessert and Havdallah, leading into our Selichot service.)
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way | Walnut Creek

The Pornography of Pain: How the Media Promotes Violence and Hinders Peace in the Middle East
Presented by Hillel of Silicon Valley
In his talk on media policies of going for the “juicy story”, Aryeh Green will speak about media portrayal of the Middle East, and how it does more to hinder the peace process, than help it. Aryeh Green, originally from Menlo Park and a UC Berkeley grad, has been on the front lines promoting human rights and peace in the Middle East for 30 years. Today the head of MediaCentral in Jerusalem, he has served as a senior advisor to Israeli minister Natan Sharansky and in management positions in some of Israel’s leading companies. A frequent visitor to the Bay Area, Aryeh offers an insider’s view of current developments in Israel and the region, and is a captivating and knowledgeable speaker; his talks with Q&A always inform and inspire. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Yael at (408) 775-7534 or

Date: Wednesday, September 10
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Duncan Hall Room 351, San Jose State University, San Jose

Shabbat Yafe
Celebrate Shabbat together with an all-ages service & spirited song-leading! This month’s theme is K’hillah K’dosha, Holy Community. Here’s the schedule —
5:00 pm Tot Shabbat (geared to preschool families)
5:30 pm Catered Dinner: (Sign up for dinner here
6:15 pm Community-Wide Service
7:00 pm Oneg and Board Games

Date: September 12
Time: 5:00pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley
Cost: $10/household in advance; $15 at the door

Chardonnay Shabbat
Come celebrate the end of summer with us and discover what makes our community so special. Enjoy refreshing wines/other drinks, tasty appetizers, and relaxed , interesting chats. Families with children 3-9 years are welcome. We will have snacks and activities for the kids with teens to give the adults time to schmooze.

Date: Friday, September 12
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto

Shabbat Pizza Party for Families with Young Children
All young families with children ages 0-5 and their older siblings are invited for a Shabbat pizza party. This will be a very relaxed evening where kids can play and their parents can enjoy each others’ company.
We’ll begin the evening by singing Shabbat songs with Rabbi Milder. Then, following the pizza dinner, there will toys out for the little ones and crafts and board games for their older siblings.

Date: Saturday, September 13
Time: 5:00pm
Place: Congregation Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
Cost: Each family is asked to contribute $20 at the door to cover the cost of pizza, salad, fruit and dessert.
For more information, contact Lisa Kama, Pre-K Youth Chair, at

DIY Judaism: Jewish Greetings Cards
Hallmark shops don’t have cards for Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot. When it comes to the December holidays, can Jews send greeting cards in December? Should they be Chanukah cards? Can they send Christmas cards? What about solstice cards or those annual update letters? Join Dawn Kepler to discuss Seasons Greetings questions and make your own special Holiday cards while we talk. PLUS we’ll have some card fixings to make your own unique cards for Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Purim!

We will meet in a private home in Oakland. Children 10 and older may enroll at half price with their parent.

Date: Sunday September 14
Time: 2 to 4pm
Place: Private home in Oakland
Cost: $10
Register here

Re-Emergence: The Jews of Nigeria
Film Showing & talk by David Tobis about bringing a Torah to the Igbo Jews of Abuja, Nigeria
Thirty million Igbos live in Nigeria. Many consider themselves to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. At least 3000 of the Igbos are practicing Jews. They have come to Judaism in the past quarter of a century though some believe their Jewish roots go back to the bible. Re-emergence describes the Igbo’s Jewish communities, the hundreds of overlaps between Jewish and Igbo customs and practices, and their desire to be part of the larger Jewish community.
After the film, David Tobis, who is working in Nigeria and befriended the Igbo Jewish community, will speak about his experiences. He is working to repair a Torah in New York City and have it brought to Abuja.

Date: Sunday, September 14
Time: 10:00 am – Noon
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
For more information contact: Rayna Arnold, 510-832-0936

Confusion and Clarity in Zippori:
A 3rd Century Talmud Conversation with actress/educator Joyce Klein
Join us for an interactive dramatic presentation set in the House of Study in Zippori during the time of the Mishna when a seamstress comes looking for advice and guidance.

Date: Sunday, September 14
Time: 1:00 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St, Palo Alto
Cost: $10 at the door.

After the Play:
Degenerate, Forbidden, Suppressed: Music and Otherness in Fascist Europe

You liked it so I did it again. Here’s another class with a Berkeley Rep play!
This fall, the Berkeley Rep presents An Audience with Meow Meow, about an international singing sensation and uber-award winning comedienne. This workshop explores music as a “degenerate” art form. The attitudes displayed by European fascist regimes (especially Italy, Germany, and Vichy France, from the early 1920’s to the end of WW2) towards musical cultures of the “other” — including Jewish, Romani, North African, and African American music, as well as cabaret and popular song — ranged from unambiguous condemnation and suppression, to more nuanced tolerance and even inclusion. This class will examine Fascist rules about music, examples including Brecht and Weill’s musical theater, Django Reinhardt’s “Gypsy Jazz,” Italian adaptation of American blues and jazz, and traditional music in colonial North Africa, exploring myths and facts about music history in the early 20th century.

Whether you take the class to prepare to see the play or as post play expansion, you’ll love the wild ride through degenerate music!
Info and play tickets here

Date: Wednesday, September 17
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: Lehrhaus, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $12
Register for the class here.

Introduction to Judaism
Fall: Seasons of Joy
Join with Emanu-El clergy to learn about the breadth and wonder of Jewish tradition. This class is a pathway for the adult learner who wishes to discover or deepen Jewish knowledge, non-Jews who are marrying a Jewish partner, and those who are considering conversion to Judaism.
Intro to Judaism meets on Tuesday evenings over three trimesters and has rolling admission. A student can begin in any of the trimesters. Trimesters do not have to be completed in a particular order.

Date: Tuesdays, October 7, 21, 28; November 4, 11, 18; December 2, 9
Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Place: Emanu-El, 2 Lake Street, San Francisco
Cost: Emanu-El Member $18; non-member $25 (per trimester)
One-time book fee: $65 (for members and non-members)
Register here.

Discussion series for Interfaith/Intercultural Couples
Interfaith couples get it – this is going to take some discussion, some compromise. But what exactly is ‘fair’? Can each of us get what we want and that will be OK for our kids? Then there’s our parents, grandparents, and siblings – how do we get them on board with our choices?
There’s a step-by-step process of breaking down the parts of this puzzle and finding out what you want and how to go about getting it. Join us! This may surprise you but it will actually be enjoyable! Groups form year round.
8 Sessions
Exchange ideas about such issues as:
Holiday Observances – Which holidays will be celebrated in our home?
Dealing With Our Families – How will we talk to our parents about our choices?
Raising Children – How can we make sure our child is “part” of each of us?
Spiritual Concerns – How do we satisfy our needs and recognize our Partner’s?
Cultural Differences – How do communication styles and familial expectations impact our relationship?

This is one of the most meaningful and powerful things you can do for your relationship. I encourage every couple to participate in a couples group.

Dates: 6 Tuesdays, Oct. 14, 21, 28, Nov. 4, 11, 28. Plus one social gathering to be arranged with the group.
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Cost: $120/couple
There is a sliding scale. NO ONE turned away. Tell me you work evenings, tell me you can’t get a babysitter, but don’t tell me it’s the money because we can make it work.
Register here

Posted by admin under Community Activities, High Holidays, Introduction to Judaism, Spirituality
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boy with star resized

Interfaith Couples Raising Children:
Identity for Your Child & Your Home

Three Workshops, come to one or come to all of them

Choosing a religious identity for your child is often feels like the hardest decision an interfaith couple faces. If both of you are attached to your religious/cultural heritage you may have gotten stuck in a circular conversation that nobody wins. How can you get free and make a decision?
Or, perhaps you have made a decision, Christian or Jewish.* If only one of you is attached to your faith tradition it may be easy to pick that tradition. But having done so, what comes next?

What Religion Will We Pick for our Child? We Can’t Decide
Couples want to be fair to each other, but what if both feel strongly about their own tradition? What about doing both? How would that work? In this workshop we’ll discuss tools for making a decision, key elements to consider and how to test out your choice.

One of Us is Jewish but We’ve Chosen Christianity, Now What?
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.

Raising a Jewish Child in an Interfaith Home
You’ve made the big decision – we’ll raise our child(ren) as Jews. Now what? Does this mean no Christmas or Easter? How do we interact with our non-Jewish family’s holidays? What synagogue should we join and how can we ask for specific support in our process? Is a lot of the effort falling on a non-Jewish woman who doesn’t have a gut feeling for Judaism; how can she be supported? Let’s talk about how to integrate non-Jewish family and their holiday expectations, what to say to parents and siblings, what you can expect from a synagogue community and how to support the non-Jewish parent.

*If the non-Jewish spouse is not Christian but a different minority religion like Hindi or Buddhist, a different set of issues arise. Living with two minority religions in America presents its own challenges.

Come to one or the entire series.
Sundays, Nov. 2, 9, 16
3pm to 4:30pm
Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd, Foster City
Cost: Series of three sessions: $25 for members of the sponsoring organizations; $30 for the public
Individual session: $10 to members of the sponsoring organizations; $12 to the public.
Register here.

Co-sponsored by Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Peninsula Temple Beth El, Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Peninsula Temple Sholom.

Posted by admin under Children, Couples, Parenting, Past Programs, Spirituality
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sleeping child from British website

A prayer before bedtime
A Christian mom on this list told me that she was raised saying a prayer before bedtime. In thinking over the prayer she realized that there was nothing about Jesus, nothing anti-Jewish in it and began saying it with her own children. She loves having something from her own childhood that she sharing with her kids.

Here’s the prayer she uses:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray dear Lord my soul to keep
Please help me be the best I can be
Please watch over our family
Thanks for all you’ve give me; Please forgive me for all I’ve done wrong.

Note from Mom: “and then I go into specific prayers for people I hope feel better, etc.”

Which brings us to some questions I get, “Do Jews say a prayer before bed?” “Do Jews have a prayer for sick people?” “Do Jews believe in angels?”

The prayer traditionally said before bedtime is the Sh’ma. Cantor Ilene Keys, of Temple Sinai in Oakland and the mother of three, suggests this version of the Sh’ma before bed:
Blessed are You our God, who casts sleep upon my eyes and slumber upon my eyelids. May You lay me down to sleep in peace and raise me up in peace. Blessed are You who illuminates the entire world with Your Glory.
Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
God of Israel, may Michael be at my right, Gabriel at my left, Uriel before me and Raphael behind me; and above my head the Presence of God, Sh’chinat El.

Who, you may ask are Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael? They are angels. Michael traditionally represents God’s love; Gabriel, God’s strength; Uriel, God’s light; and Raphael, God’s healing. There’s a lovely song about the Angels of Israel that I used to sing to my children when they were little. It has a sleepy tune and a reassuring message.

What about praying for sick people? Yes, congregations traditionally chant or sing a prayer asking for a complete healing after reciting the names of those who are ill, the prayer is called the “Mi Sheberach.”

There’s a small paperback book called,

    Thank You, God! A Jewish Child’s Book of Prayers

, that has brief prayers for children in English, Hebrew and transliteration. You can get it at your local Jewish bookstore or go online to the publisher, Kar-Ben Publishing at or call 800-452-7236.

There is a Shabbat CD for the little ones, Shabbat Shalom! Jewish Children’s Songs & Blessings for Shabbat
It is aimed at preschoolers and offers non-Jewish (and Jewish parents) an easy way to learn bedtime songs. It is from URJ Press. (That’s Union for Reform Judaism’s publishing arm.)

Shabbat Shalom CD from URJ

Posted by admin under Books, Children, God, Parenting, Spirituality
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Friendly faces

Friendly faces

Judaism is an ancient tradition with its roots in an agricultural society. That means that for the first thousands of years summertime found the Jews out tending the flocks and the crops. Not surprisingly then, summer lacks the plethora of holidays that we get the rest of the year. What to do in the summer? Well, it’s a great time to shul shop. Try going to services at the synagogues near you. Introduce yourself to the rabbi. Go to the oneg after services. See how you like the music, the chanting, the people. Services will be low key and at some point the rabbis will be on vacation. When they are typically lay leaders will step in. Get to know the place.

Student home from college sings on the bema

Student home from college sings on the bema

It was in June, so many years ago, that my daughter picked our synagogue. She was four years old and she picked it because she loved Tot Shabbat. If you have kids, take them to some of the summer services that are outdoors, or mostly musical, or just for kids.

This is a good time to take your non-Jewish sweetheart to synagogue. Services during the summer lean towards a more casual feel. If you feel shy you can always sit in the back and slip out before anyone slides up and greets you or invites you to the after services goodies. Then talk it over between the two of you and see what you each liked most.

A story
Years ago a woman I knew, not Jewish, was feeling very blue. Life was tough, she was young and her relationship was struggling. Because she knew me, she decided to go to services at her local synagogue. Later she called me and told me about it. She said, “I cried a lot. And after services a tiny old woman came up and hugged me. All she said was, it’s hard to be young.”

Why did she go to a synagogue? Why did the old woman speak to her? Why did it help? I don’t know. I just know there is something about community, something about a spiritual moment, something about Shabbat, that can heal.

Give it a try. You may want some succor or you may just want some smiles and music. Go see if it will work for you.

Feeling shy? Want to go with someone else to services? Then you need a Shabbos buddy – that’s a member of the synagogue who meets you at the door, sits with you, explains anything you don’t understand, and introduces you to others at the oneg. Want one? Call me and I’ll get you one.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Finding a Synagogue, Spirituality
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