A song of ascents

I offer workshops specifically for patrilineal Jews who want to solidify their confidence in their own Jewish identity. I ask those who are confident to share ideas and strategies that helped them reach this secure place.

Jeffrey, a gentleman in his 60’s had this wisdom to offered.

Very briefly, as a patrilineal Jew, what I would say is this: if you want to be Jewish and to be accepted as such, educate yourself. Serious ongoing study of Judaism is incredibly enriching, and it is definitely respected in the Jewish world. The other thing is to hang out primarily with Jews who are inclusive and accepting. Join such a community. Be an active learner, committee member, etc. Acceptance (and self-acceptance) will arise…then, the slights, which are probably inevitable, are just that: slight, i.e. insignificant. The other thing is to do your own psychological work…face and dispel pernicious shame.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, In their own words
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A turkey challah

A turkey challah

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

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

How should Jews celebrate Thanksgiving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Larry Milder

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Holidays, Intercultural, Prayer, Spirituality
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KIm Carter Martinez, our speaker

KIm Carter Martinez, our speaker

It is not unusual for a Jew of color to be asked, “How did you get to be Jewish?” Quite simply the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial Jewish 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, Dec. 17
Time: 10am to 11:30am
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
Free, but preregistration is required.
Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Current Programs, Jews of Color, Parenting
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Burning house from Pixabay

Burning house from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Chester
Temple Israel in Alameda

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, God, Spirituality
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hanukah candles4

While I believe we can’t make Hanukkah into Christmas because we don’t have 99% compliance from the American public, we can certainly make Hanukkah a big date on our own social calendar. My sister-in-law throws a big Christmas Eve Party for Jewish Orphans — that is Jews who don’t do Christmas. It has turned into a major event in snowy Minnesota.

The person who made me think of this was Mary, a member of this list. She replied to my inquiry about what interfaith couples do for the holidays with this statement:

My husband Bill is Jewish, and we joke that he married a Christian because he likes all the pageantry of Christmas. We only celebrate Hanukah at home, but we really do it up. We are known in our neighborhood as the Hanukah House because we have a giant homemade menorah on our roof, and every night Bill climbs up the ladder to the roof and plugs in another bulb. The whole house is covered in flashing blue and white lights. And every year on the Saturday of Hanukah, for 25 years, we’ve had a huge latke fry that you can smell for blocks away. A whole array of frying pans are set up in the backyard, like a winter barbeque, where all the guys stand around and fry while the guests party inside the house. I have a Hanukah “charm belt” that I add something onto every year – a potato, a fork, gelt, matches, silly stuff. People bring their menorahs and we line them up and light them – and pass out song sheets to the crowd so that everyone can sing along – prayers and old favorites like the Dreydl song. Jews and non-Jews feel equally at home. People love this party – it’s a beloved tradition in our neighborhood, and it beats any Christmas party I’ve ever been to!

The Hanukkah House

The Hanukkah House

Here’s Mary’s house with the massive roof menorah!

Mary with her belt

Here’s my favorite invention – Mary’s Hanukkah Charm Belt! See the potato, the menorah and the dreidel? This year Mary is on the lookout for a little plastic jar of applesauce. Let me know if you find one!

Now go get creative!

Posted by admin under Chanukah, In their own words, Jewish holidays at home
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(Pixabay, Natan)

(Pixabay, Natan)

Here come the holidays!

I love warm colors. I prefer gold to silver, red to blue. So you can imagine how much I want to change up the “traditional” colors of Hanukkah. Years ago I bought some gorgeous gold and red Hanukkah wrapping paper at my synagogue’s gift shop. It hit me – I don’t HAVE to have a blue and silver Hanukkah. Gold, red, green, silver, blue, purple are just colors, not religious symbols. I began to decorate my holiday with the warmth that I desired.

This year I was thrilled to find a craft blog that I follow, Chai and Home, has a Pinterest page called Hanukkah: Gold. Another resource for creating my personal home decoration style!

One of the things that Christianity has been really good at is absorbing the cultures of the countries and societies that it flows into. Christmas, aided by the American marketplace mentality, has been masterful at blending with just about anything. At Christmas time, a sale becomes a Christmas sale, a car becomes a Christmas gift, a dog gets a red bow, a train gets a wreath, trees get lights and bulbs, scarves get red & white candy stripes. One of the difficult things about reducing or giving up Christmas is that it is massive and everywhere. Some Jews react by downplaying Hanukkah. This can add to the feeling of loss for the non-Jewish partner. I don’t suggest that you try to make Hanukkah match Christmas – that’s truly not possible. But you can certainly borrow from American culture to spice up your Hanukkah. You can even look at your past Christmas practices and see what can be absorbed into Hanukkah celebration. What do you particularly love about Christmas? For some it is all the baking. There’s no law that says you can’t bake your heart out anyway. You can even look for themes that mesh with Judaism while using your already existing tools. Got a bunch of animal cookie cutters? Make a centerpiece of edible Noah’s Ark critters. Love to make gorgeous cakes? There are so many options. During the Gulf War one of my sisters had a friend who deployed as a nurse. For Christmas my sister and I baked a dozen different kinds of cookies to send to her.

Have you got ideas and suggestions for keeping a favorite non-Jewish tradition in a Jewish way? Please share it! Let’s get creative!
Email your ideas to me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org.

EVENTS
Ganeinu Jewish Playgroup (Lafayette)
Thanksgiving Shabbat (Palo Alto)
Tot Shabbat Morning (Lafayette)
Kol Neshama Minyan (Tiburon)
Shabbat in a Bag (Berkeley)
Patralineal Jews: Navigating the Jewish World (Oakland)
Folktales from Around the World (San Francisco)
Community Kristallnacht Commemoration (Walnut Creek)
Let’s Go to the Theater: Imaginary Comforts (Oakland)
Peninsula Sinai & Ramah Community Shabbat Dinner (Foster City)
November Community Shabbat Dinner (Pleasanton)
Glitter Kabbalat Shabbat and Trans Day (Piedmont)
A Benefit Performance for North Bay Fire Storm Victims (Richmond)
Is Judaism a Religion? (Palo Alto)
Shabbat Hallelu Service (San Mateo)
Making Shabbat Your Own: Shabbat Candlesticks (Berkeley)
Chanukah Shabbat w/Mizmor Band (Lafayette)
Hanukkah Celebration (Oakland)
Mizmor Shir! Service Friday Night Live! (Oakland)
Jews of Color: Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity (Oakland)

Ganeinu Jewish Playgroup
Temple Isaiah is proud to offer a free, weekly, Jewish, drop-in playgroup for parents and caregivers, and their infants and toddlers (0-30 months). All are welcome.

Date: Every Friday, next one is Nov 10
Time: 9:15am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette; in the Adult Lounge.
www.temple-isaiah.org

Thanksgiving Shabbat
Come join us for this special Thanksgiving themed Shabbat! We’ll give thanks by renewing the ancient Jewish ritual of Bikkurim, where we’ll share our achievements and news for the year and celebrate our successes together as a community.

Please bring a dish to share with the group.
We are also collecting canned food which will be donated to the needy.

Date: Friday, November 10
Time: 5:30–8:00 pm
Place: Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, in Room E-104
Cost: $10 per Family
Register here.
Contact: Tova Birnbaum | (650) 223-8694 | tbirnbaum@paloaltojcc.org

Tot Shabbat Morning
Geared toward families with children 0 to 5 years old, Tot Shabbat is an interactive and friendly Shabbat experience. Enjoy a free bagel brunch, activities and prayer with other young families.

Date: Saturday, November 11
Time: 9:30am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette, in the Adult Lounge
RSVP here.
www.temple-isaiah.org

Kol Neshama Minyan
with Rabbi Chai Levy
This musical, meditative, and participatory prayer experience is a chance to open your heart through song, to sink into the peace and joy of Shabbat, and to find a meaningful personal connection to the Torah portion and to others in our community. “Kol Neshama” means “voice of the soul/breath.” No Hebrew knowledge required.

Dates: Saturdays on Nov. 11, Dec 9, Jan 13, Feb 10, Mar 10
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Place: Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Dr, Tiburon
http://kolshofar.org

Shabbat in a Bag
Celebrate Shabbat together with other families with young children!
We’ll enjoy song, dance, and instruments, led by Rabbi Bridget and beloved Jewish songleader Isaac Zones, plus challah, juice, and other Shabbat treats.
Each family will also decorate your own “Shabbat in a Bag” to bring home, including candleholders, challah cover, and Shabbat kiddush cup, along with blessings, songs, and family-friendly Shabbat ideas to create your own traditions.
This event is part of Jewish Gateways’ HandsOn Holidays series for children 1-5 and their grownups. Older siblings and babies are welcome, too.

Date: Saturday, November 11
Time: 10:30am-12:00pm
Place: Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley
Cost: $30 per family
Register here.

Patralineal Jews: Navigating the Jewish World & Keeping Your Identity Strong
Are you the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother? At some point in life patrilineal Jews usually are told, “You know you’re not really Jewish, right?” Let’s talk about how to be a confident Jew even if others don’t affirm your identity. Share your stories and ideas with others. Join us for coffee at We’ll offer you an array of approaches for dealing to unwanted comments.

Date: Sunday, Nov. 12
Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Café Dejena 3939 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland
Free, but preregistration is requested.
Sign up here.

Folktales from Around the World
Join us for a magical storytelling experience with Muriel Johnson, telling folktales related to themes from the current exhibition Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid.

Date: Sunday, November 12
Time: 11:30am-12:00pm
Place: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
Cost: FREE with regular admission as follows: Members and youth 18 and under, Free; General Admission, $14; Students with a valid ID and Seniors, $12.
http://www.thecjm.org

Community Kristallnacht Commemoration
If you are a bystander and witness a crime, should intervention to prevent that crime be a legal obligation? Or is moral responsibility enough? Law professor Amos Guiora, the former Commander of Israel’s School of Military Law, examines these profound questions from a deeply personal and legal perspective, focusing on the Holocaust and then exploring cases in contemporary society.

Date: Sunday, November 12
Time: 3pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Admission is free. Open to the public.
www.bshalom.org
Co-sponsored by the Israel and World Jewry Committee.

Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit
Join us this fall for Berkeley Rep’s new play by Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket, that “celebrates ordinary people trying to make sense out of life in the midst of endless, comedic chaos.” The play is described this way,

The genius behind Lemony Snicket brings his relentlessly mischievous style to a new play for adults. Sarah’s father is dead, her mother is in hysterics, and the new rabbi totally bungled the funeral. To further the absurdity, the ghost of a rabbit hops into her life, pushing her to confront her deepest issues. Fantastical and wise, hilarious and sobering.

Jews have often felt that life is chaotic, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic. Join Rabbi Chester to reflect on how Judaism makes sense of life that often feels nonsensical.

Date: Thursday, Nov. 16
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: Free to Temple Sinai members; $10 to the public
Register here.

Peninsula Sinai & Ramah Community Shabbat Dinner
Celebrating Jewish camps!
Join us for a delicious community Shabbat dinner at 6:15 pm co-hosted by Peninula Sinai Congregation and Camp Ramah. This is a great opportunity to learn about and connect with the Ramah community! After dinner, stay for a spirited and music-filled Shabbat Sovev led by our clergy.

Date: Friday, November 17
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay Ave., Foster City
Cost: $5 for non-members, free for members
Please RSVP here
https://www.peninsulasinai.org

November Community Shabbat Dinner
Come celebrate Shabbat!
Prior to Shabbat services, we invite you to come for a potluck dinner. This is a wonderful opportunity to eat great food and connect with the Beth Emek community.
As with many of Beth Emek’s best events, the Community Shabbat Dinner relies on community volunteers for its success. We appreciate all participants helping at the end of the meal by putting away tables and chairs and assisting in kitchen clean-up.
Please RSVP by 3:00 pm on Friday, November 17.
Feel free to bring your own bottle of wine to go with dinner.
Please contact the CBE office if you have any questions at 931-1055.

Date: Friday, November 17
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
Here is the sign-up sheet for what folks are invited to bring.

Glitter Kabbalat Shabbat and Trans Day of Remembrance & Resistance
Glitter Kehilla invites the community to join us for our annual Shabbat observance that centers and honors the resilience of the trans community and remembers lives lost to anti-trans violence. We will be collecting tzedakah for the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGI Justice Project).

Date: Friday, November 17
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont
Details here.

A Benefit Performance for North Bay Fire Storm Victims
An Evening of Wine and Music with Award-winning Singer and Songwriter Steve Seskin
Steve Seskin, singer-songwriter and acoustical guitar player, will perform and all proceeds from the evening will go to the Jewish Federation of East Bay North Bay Wildfire Emergency Relief Fund.
“Steve Seskin is an electrifying performer. His voice has a natural lilt that can’t be learned,” writes Joel Selvin in the San Francisco Chronicle; he is “a really exceptional talent,” says Alan Lewis in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. His “presentation is simple, affective, and effective,” writes Jim Carnes in the Sacramento Bee.

Our neighbors in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and other counties in the North Bay, suffered from devastating wildfires with loss of residences and lives. Temple Beth Hillel provides its support to fire victims by donating all the proceeds from the Steve Seskin Benefit concert to the North Bay Wildfire EmergencyRelief Fund. Please join us for an evening of wine and music. Details here.

Date: Saturday, November 18
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central (Hilltop exit off I-80), Richmond
Cost: Admission is $18 and any extra amount you would like to donate at the door.
To make your reservations: call 510-223-2560 or email alisby@tbhrichmond.org.

Is Judaism a Religion?
Is Judaism a religion, and if so, how is it similar to, and different from, other religions? Join UCSC Professor Nathaniel Deutsch as he explores when and why Jews, themselves, began to adopt the category of “Judaism” to describe the basis of their collective identity.

Date: Sunday, November 19
Time: 10:00 am
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Shabbat Hallelu Service
Welcome in Shabbat with joyous singing and music with Elana Jagoda Kaye and the Hallelu Band. Elana Jagoda Kaye is a local star; people love her music. This is a great way to experience Peninsula Temple Beth El.

Date: Fri, December 1
Time: 7:15pm – 8:15pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
http://www.ptbe.org

Making Shabbat Your Own: Shabbat Candlesticks
Come make Shabbat candlesticks from metal foil, discuss how to make the celebration of Shabbat work for yourself or your family, and learn the “Secret of Shabbat!” While discussing Shabbat we will explore lots of options for decorating our candlesticks: emboss lines, attach beads, add color, and cut decorative holes for the light to shine through. No artistic talent or prior knowledge required to create incredible candlesticks. Appropriate for age 8 and up. Join Claire Sherman, artist and mensch for this fun filled workshop.

Date: Dec. 3
Time: 10am to noon
Place: Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley
Cost: $20
Register here

Interfaith Shabbat
with the Islamic Center of North Marin and Mill Valley with keynote speaker Imam Fasih
Last year Rodef Sholom hosted the Islamic Centers of North Marin and Mill Valley for a wonderful service of sharing stories and getting to know our neighbors’ faith. Since then we have joined in each other’s homes for conversations and learning. Imam Fasih serves as Imam for the Islamic Center of North Marin community. He is an active member of the Marin Interfaith Council and travels extensively as a visiting scholar to Muslim communities throughout the United States.

Potluck dinner to follow. Please bring a vegetarian dish for approximately eight to share.

Date: Friday, December 8
Time: 6:15 pm
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 North San Pedro Rd., San Rafael
https://rodefsholom.org

Chanukah Shabbat w/Mizmor Band
Join us for a special Shabbat service with Chanukah celebration and sing along with our Mizmor Band. Remember to bring your chanukiyah to light!

Date: Friday, December 15
Time: 6pm Oneg and 6:30pm Service
Place: Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette
www.temple-isaiah.org

Hanukkah Celebration
Join our community Hanukkah celebration including music, latkes, arts and crafts, and menorah lighting. This is a child-friendly celebration for people of all ages.

Date: Dec. 15
Time: 6 to 7:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free
www.oaklandsinai.org

Mizmor Shir! Service Friday Night Live!
A musical Shabbat service featuring Cantor Keys and the Mizmor Shir! musicians which include: piano, guitar, mandolin, flute, saxophone, clarinet, drums and other percussive instruments. This service features congregational melodies and eclectic, contemporary music which compliment the creative service booklet compiled by Rabbi Mates-Muchin specifically for this service.

Date: Dec. 15
Time: 7:30 to 8:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free
www.oaklandsinai.org

Jews of Color: Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity
It is not unusual for a Jew of color to be asked, “How did you get to be Jewish?” Quite simply the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial Jewish 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, Dec. 17
Time: 10am to 11:30am
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
Free, but preregistration is required.
Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Christmas, Community Activities, Current Programs, Holidays, Jewish holidays at home
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First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church

Reflections on Texas Attack

During our services this past Shabbat, I offered a prayer: that the sense of normalization we feel around acts of senseless violence soon end. It feels as though each month is punctuated with unimaginable pain. After last week’s attacks in New York and Texas, words fail us. There are no words that explain the murder of the innocent, and our hearts break at the stories of children whose lives were cut short.

Last month, after the senseless attacks in Nevada, I wrote,

“As we learned over our High Holy Day season, the Jewish tradition teaches that prayer is effective only when it leads to action and that while our prayers allow us to atone before God, only our deeds can restore ruptures among people. The epidemic of mass shootings across America is a public health crisis of massive proportions; this year alone has witnessed 270 incidents with multiple victims. If our prayers today are to ring true, we must call on our leaders to create policy solutions that curb violence and create a safer nation.”

I continue to believe in the need for our nation to address gun violence in meaningful ways. And while prayer is called for–especially after tragedies in a house of prayer–I believe that prayer is not enough.
This past Shabbat, when we reflected on Abraham’s activism in Sedom, I shared the words of a prayer written by Rabbi Jack Reimer. He writes, in part,

We cannot merely pray to You O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.

I join with our community in praying for the day when we become a safer nation and a safer world.
Rabbi Stein
B’nai Shalom, Walnut Creek

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Prayer
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(from Pixabay)

(from Pixabay)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by admin under Mixed & Matched, Parenting, Spirituality
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RH Card

Holidays – especially Christmas – bring out the craft ideas. This young woman wrote looking for a craft connection to Jewish holidays.

Dear Dawn: I have always loved Christmas, especially the crafts that I make for the holiday. I create home decorations from candles to toys to table centerpieces, and I also love to make my own Christmas cards. My Jewish fiance is OK with me decorating for Thanksgiving but is uncomfortable with my ideas for Christmas. I’m willing to try to invest some time in Hanukkah crafts, but I just don’t see many that appeal to me. Can you help me figure out how to be able to practice my hobbies without upsetting my relationship? — Crafty Gal

Dear Crafty: Let me assure you that you are not alone. Crafting is one of the most popular hobbies in America, and in fact crafting is actually good for you! Christmas is the No. 1 money-making holiday in America, so don’t expect its omnipresence to diminish. Christmas season arrives in late September and lasts through January. During this time dogs become Christmas dogs, trains become Christmas trains, etc.

Many people love the holiday simply because it is imbued with stimuli to our senses. Christmas smells good, tastes good, sounds good, looks good and feels good. Then layer those senses over years of memories and you have the Superman of holidays. For the vast majority of Americans, Christmas is a time of familiar memories. Everyone has rituals that are meaningful, whether it’s going to church or leaving cookies for Santa. In your case, it’s crafting. The holiday gives you reasons to sew, embroider, bake, make cards and so on.

In trying to be sensitive to your partner, you are facing the problem of unfortunate timing. The excitement of multiple fall Jewish holidays ends in October, and there’s a dry spell until Hanukkah. The rabbis sometimes refer to this period of time, the month of Cheshvan, the bitter month. Just as Judaism is getting quiet, Christianity and American culture are charging up. Starting with Halloween and continuing through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, America is in full holiday mode. There is a visible effort made to build up Hanukkah so that this little David can match Goliath, but it’s no contest.

You and your fiancé will need to seek a compromise. But first you must articulate what you desire. I want you to find concrete ways of expressing your crafting joy so that your fiancé can better understand what motivates and excites you. Otherwise he will probably keep saying no to Christmas because he doesn’t feel comfortable with it.

Crafty, we’re going to take a two-pronged approach. First, let’s look at crafty options that could appeal to him.

Hanukkah crafts are out there. Take a look at Pinterest. I’m not as organized as I should be, so I have both a Crafty Ideas board and a Hanukkah board. There are home decorations galore; see if any appeal to you. These are ideas that should absolutely work for your Jewish sweetheart.

Second, look at what you already have and see if it could be modified to be “wintery” instead of specifically Christmasy. If you love to twist a garland on your banister because it smells good and evokes the holiday, how about decorating it with some shiny dreidel crafts? A woman I know has a beautiful winter scene with trees and deer all made of wood that she puts on her mantle. She’s Jewish and does this for her Catholic husband who grew up with a crèche. I know another woman who repurposes all of her animal-shaped cookie cutters from tree decorations to either Sukkah decorations or uses the animal cookies for a special treat on the Shabbat of Parashat Noah.

Finally, Hanukkah doesn’t have the cachet of Christmas, so it may not be enough for your crafting needs. So branch out. Look into craft options for Purim, Passover, Sukkot and Shabbat all year-round.

Published in the J-weekly.

Posted by admin under Holidays, Mixed & Matched
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Anti Semitism

Being an interfaith couple doesn’t protect you from anti-Semitism, not in Nazi Germany, not in America. Having one partner who is NOT a Jew doesn’t prevent people from hating the Jewish members of your family, and even hating the person who loves Jews. Sadly there has been a spike in anti-Semitism in the bay area. Several families have contacted me asking for help. A couple of them said the problem was in their public school. There will be a program next week in San Rafael about Jewish kids in public schools. The Marin Jewish Community Center is hosting a program with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The RSVP link goes to a Facebook event. If you are not on Facebook contact the JCRC to get more information or to ask for help in your own community.

Jewish Students, Public Schools
Resources & Tools for Addressing Anti-Semitism, Intolerance & Bias
In the wake of Charlottesville, and in response to the J Weekly article about rising anti-Semitism in Bay Area schools, the Osher Marin JCC and the Jewish Community Relations Council is hosting a program designed to provide parents with the tools and resources to be advocates, resources and proactive partners in addressing challenges facing school age children and schools in Marin. Free event. For more information and to RSVP go to https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/JCRCSanFrancisco/schools.html

Date: Wednesday, October 25
Time: 7-8:30pm
Place: Center for Jewish Peoplehood, 200 N. San Pedro Rd., San Rafael

EVENTS
Practicing Power (Lafayette)
Pumpkin Carving (Foster City)
Jewish Meditation (Oakland)
Parenting and Grandparenting in an Interfaith Family (Pleasanton)
Introduction to Judaism (San Mateo)
Family & Friends Shabbat (San Francisco)
Patralineal Jews & Identity (Oakland)

Practicing Power: How to Think Jewishly About Accomplishing Anything Together
What comes to mind when you hear the word “power”?
Is it good, bad, or ugly?
Join Rabbi LeVine for a special three-part course examining the concept of power, what Judaism has to say about it, and how to practice power more effectively.

While attending all three sessions will allow you to make the most of the learning, please feel free to join for just one or two sessions as well.

Dates: Sundays, October 22, 29 and November 5
Time: 11:15am
Meets at the Contra Costa Jewish Day School, across from Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette
Offered by Temple Isaiah
Please RSVP to daniella@temple-isaiah.org or call (925) 284-9191.

Pumpkin Carving
(BYOP – Bring your own Pumpkin)
Please join us at the park for a little bit of fun in the sun before winter creeps in. This kid-friendly event will be fun for all ages. Don’t forget to bring your own pumpkin and cutting tools. Card games and light snacks will be provided.
RSVP to karenbberman@gmail.com if you are interested.

Date: Thursday, October 26
Time: 4:30-6:00pm
Place: Catamaran Park, 479 – 499 Catamaran St, Foster City
Sponsored by Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay Ave., Foster City
www.peninsulasinai.org

Jewish Meditation
Please join us to chant, meditate, learn and share together in community. Open to everyone, absolutely no previous experience required.

Meditation supports the practice of presence. It boosts your immune system, calms your nerves, and helps us stay connected with what is most important.

The evening will be facilitated by Temple Beth Abraham member Jueli Garfinkle who is certified and been teaching Jewish meditation since 2004. Jueli’s classes are based on the Jewish mystical tradition and calendar, and always include meaningful everyday practices to cultivate presence, joy, and connection. She leads ongoing meditation groups, workshops, and retreats throughout the Bay Area, as well as meets one-on-one with individuals to provide support and guidance.

Dates: Thursday, Oct 26, Nov 16, Jan 18, 2018, Feb 22, March 22, April 19, May 26
Time: 7 pm to 8:30 pm
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland
Cost: $18 cash or check for each session
Please RSVP by email jueligarfinkle@gmail.com, if you know you are planning to attend. Walk-ins always welcome!
www.tbaoakland.org

Parenting and Grandparenting in an Interfaith Family
Techniques for listening and talking to adult children
Your child has married a non-Jewish person, maybe a Christian. Possibly they have not yet determined whether to have a Jewish home. The question of children may also be up in the air. You know that any children they have are THEIR children but you hope to impart some of your Jewish identity to your grandchildren. How can you talk to your own child and child-in-law about your desire while respecting them as parents? What is reasonable to say or request? How do you open the conversation?

Join other grandparents and Dawn Kepler to discuss this delicate conversation and come away with ideas for being the fabulous grandparent you know you can be!

Date: Monday, Oct. 30
Time: 7 – 9pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Free, preregistration required.
Please register here

Introduction to Judaism
Join this 12-week course taught by Rabbis Dennis Eisner, Sara Mason-Barkin, and Lisa Kingston. This course is for anyone who wants to learn more about Judaism. Course will cover life cycles, holidays, culture, and belief. Text: Living Judaism by Wayne Dosick.

Dates: Thursdays, November 2, 9, 16, 30; December 7, 14; January 11, 18, 25; February 1, 8, 15
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
Cost: Public/$180 and members are free
www.ptbe.org

Family & Friends Shabbat
The whole family is invited to a short, joyful monthly Shabbat service led by Isaac Zones and Rabbi Copeland. Bring babies, toddlers, and young school aged kids for music, stories, and dinner.

Isaac Zones is a Bay Area musician specializing in Jewish, spiritual, folk and family music, and has led for years here at Sha’ar Zahav and at Camp Tawonga.

Dates: Friday, Nov 10 & Dec 15
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St., San Francisco
RSVP to education@shaarzahav.org to accommodate for dinner. Thank you!
www.shaarzahav.org

Patralineal Jews: Navigating the Jewish World & Keeping Your Identity Strong
Are you the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother? At some point in life patrilineal Jews usually are told, “You know you’re not really Jewish, right?” Let’s talk about how to be a confident Jew even if others don’t affirm your identity. Share your stories and ideas with others. Join us for coffee at We’ll offer you an array of approaches for dealing to unwanted comments.

Date: Sunday, Nov. 12
Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Café Dejena 3939 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland
Free, but preregistration is required.
Sign up here

Posted by admin under Community, Current Programs
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