In the 1990′s, glory days of Interfaith Outreach, the American Jewish community was intently focused on successful approaches to teaching Judaism to children from interfaith homes. In their 1996 book, I Went to My Cousin’s Crispening, Margie Zeskind and Sheilia Silverberg were among the first Jewish educators to help Hebrew school teachers deal with the new elements that students from interfaith families were bringing into the classroom. Their approach was a compassionate and insightful one. Their book was funded by an Orthodox Jew through his foundation, The Jim Joseph Foundation.

Books published in the last 10 years have leaned towards personal narratives rabbinic viewpoints on intermarriage. Hopefully, more funders will have the insight and wisdom to support books that take a scientific approach to this emotionally charged issue.

Cousins Crispening

I Went to My Cousin’s Crispening
by Margie Zeskind & Sheila Silverberg
This publication uses the S.A.G.A. Approach (Sensitive Alternative for Guiding Affectively) to address educators as they deal with teaching children in the most formative years of their lives, recognizing that they are “connected by a heartstring” to everything they’ve known and experienced. Jewish values are never compromised, rather the opportunities are explored to extend Jewish learning.
This book is available from the authors. Contact Dawn Kepler to get further information.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Books
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Henry Robinson age 6 mo

March 2014 column of Mixed and Matched in the J-Weekly

The question:

I am Jewish and my husband is not. We adopted a girl, 8 months old, whose birth mother is not Jewish. We belong to a Reform synagogue and our rabbi said if we raise our daughter with Jewish lifecycle events and synagogue life, she is considered Jewish by the Reform movement. My problem is I don’t feel like that’s enough to make her Jewish. My daughter is Korean and I think people will question her Jewish identity. I would like to have her converted but I can’t do that without my rabbi, right? And what do I tell my husband? — Happy to Be a Mother

My response is here.

Posted by admin under Conversion, In the News, In their own words, Jews of Color, Parenting
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Gagie & sister

Today I asked young friends what they thought of the practice that the Jewish cultural website Jewcy has of titling many of their articles, Not Your Bubbe/Zayde’s something-or-other – brunch, seder, costume. I find it rather sad. I miss my grandparents and treasure the small things I have from them – old photos, recipes, a pocket watch. My friends & acquaintances overwhelmingly said they loved their grandparents and didn’t feel a need to belittle their “old timer” characteristics.

A friend who recently turned 30 said, “There is no one I ever called “bubbe.” I’m one generation too young for that in my family… and given waves of Jewish immigration to the US, that’s probably true for most Ashkenazi Jews around my age. So to even use the term bubbe is actually to introduce an idea that is not our own – to add Yiddishy content to an otherwise non Jewish. Interestingly enough, people in my generation and younger are WAY into reclaiming bygone eras, the hipster thing is totally about riffing on things we associate with our grandparents. You know that Macklemore song Thrift Shop? Incredibly popular song with the lyrics “Ima steal your Grandpa’s style, Ima steal your Grandpa’s style”? And since it’s hard to imagine a lot of people younger than I am in the US who had the type of “bubbe” they’re referring to (an immigrant grandmother from a particular era), my guess is that it’s fake teen angst written by someone older, someone who had a bubbe, and for some reason rejected that culture. I doubt that messaging really plays any better with real “young folk.”

I’ll add that for modern adults in interfaith families it is very unlikely that anyone is being called bubbe or zayde. If they are, I suspect it is with love.

What about grandparents? First, grandparents are surprisingly powerful and important. Grandparents can be laid back about rules that parents need to enforce. “Ice cream for dinner? Well, it is hot; we’ll have a healthy breakfast, honey.” I can’t tell you how many young people have told me warm, loving stories of grandparent support and acceptance. This is true of Jewish and non-Jewish grandparents. All grandparents carry the information of past generations, the secrets to where our parents came from and a mystical past that fascinates us more and more as we get older. Grandparents can sooth both the grandchild and their parent. They can intercede, be a voice of wisdom and calm. Who wouldn’t want that? As for their food, I know I was willing to try out food my grandmother made just because she was eating it. Sliced cucumbers in yogurt turned out to be a delicious snack that I would never have tried for my mother.

But if love and memories aren’t enough, there’s the scientific evidence that we are reliant on the knowledge that our elders carry. Check out this fascinating story of animal elders. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/12/16/251672253/why-we-need-grandpas-and-grandmas-part-1 )
Where ever you fall in the family tree – child, parent, grandparent, or all three – I hope you are valuing those around you and being valued by them in return. As for your grandmother’s recipe or your grandfather’s favorite jig, I hope you keep them close.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Grandparents, Jewish Culture
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Joo definition

What are the challenges that patralineal Jews face regarding their identity as Jews? Here are some of the things they have to say:

My dad is Jewish, my mom is not.
I was adopted and raised Jewish.
My mom had a Reform conversion.

Why do people tell us we aren’t Jewish?

Are you annoyed, hurt, confused by challenges to your Jewish identity? Let’s talk about patralineal Jews, halachic Jews, Judaism, and how to handle other people’s opinions.

Date: Thursday, Feb. 26
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Lehrhaus, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $5
Register here.

Curious? Just call or email for more info. Contact Dawn at 510-845-6420 x11 or email dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org.

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Then…

Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret feels solidly set in 1970, the year of its publication. The interfaith issues are, by now, stereotypical – the Christian family that disowns their daughter for marrying a Jew and the distracted Jewish father who has no interest in religion and is usually at work. If you give this book to your child be sure to reread it yourself and be ready to point out how times have changed.

Are you There God Its Me Margaret
Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Now…

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, published in 2013 is in every way more up to date. The interfaith issues are also intercultural and Tara’s family has made a choice to raise her Jewish. In fact her mother has converted. But, like all kids, Tara has a mind of her own and wants her religion to be HER choice.

Basmati Bat mitzvah
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

Email me and let me know which books you like at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Books, Intercultural
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A number of organizations have basic Judaism classes that run from fall to spring but are offered in modules so it is easy to start the class throughout the year. Even if you see that a class has already started, give the synagogue or institution a call and see if you can join the class. Many teachers will arrange to speak with you and bring you up to date with the other students.

Genesis

Introduction to Judaism
Winter: Space and Place
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, January 6, 13, 20, 27; February 3, 10, 17, 24
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)
Telephone: (415) 751-2535
Information here.

Jewishing: An Ongoing Conversation about Doing & Being Jewish
What is quintessentially Jewish? The Passover Seder? This most ancient Jewish celebration was actually modeled on an ancient Greek banquet. What about the intricate layout of a Talmud page? A joint creation of rabbis and Jewish scholars working with Italian Catholic printers under the direction of a Dutch Protestant publisher. And then there’s the questionable origins of the bagel.
“Jewishing” is an exploration of Judaism not as a monolith of static concepts and practices but as a dynamic system of choices and questions. Listen and talk, read and write and sing and eat your way into questions of Jewish identity, seeing through a Jewish lens and living among Jews in the Bay Area in the twenty-first century.
Complementing the group classroom experience, students are also guided through a process of individualized self-study, using books, media, other courses and tutorials that enhances group process and deepens learning.

Dates: Wednesdays, January 7 – February 25
Time: 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
Place: San Francisco JCC, 3200 California St., San Francisco
Cost: $175/public; $160/ JCC members
Includes books and refreshments
Register here.

Exploring Judaism
This course is a year-long exploration of the history, beliefs, traditions, and practices of the Jewish people. “Exploring Judaism” will be interesting and meaningful whether you are becoming an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you are just beginning to explore Jewish studies, you are considering choosing Judaism, you are in an interfaith relationship, or you are simply looking for a deeper and more mature understanding of Jewish history and tradition. Students are encouraged to expand their Jewish literacy by taking this course in conjunction with Beginning Hebrew. Instructor: Rabbi Ruth Adar

You can enter this class at several points, the entry points are:
Jewish Text & History: Jan. 11, 25, 2/1, 2/8, 2/22, 3/8
Jewish Thought, Prayer, and Music: 3/15, 3/22, 4/12, 4/19, 4/26, 5/3

Date: Sundays, through May 3, 2015
Time: 10:10-11:10 a.m.
Place: Contra Costa Jewish Day School, 945 Risa Rd., Lafayette, across the parking lot from Temple Isaiah. The class is in the library (Rm 211) upstairs to the right. Follow the voices.
Cost: Tuition is $30 per block for members; $70 per block for non-members.
For more information see on the Temple Isaiah website.
Sponsored by Temple Isaiah.

Introduction to the Jewish Experience: Israel and Texts
The land of Israel has been central to Jewish history, both ancient and modern. Even during the years of galut (exile) the Jewish heart was “in the east,” in the words of medieval poet Yehudah HaLevy. This class will examine the history of ancient Israel, the beginnings of rabbinic Judaism, and the modern return to the land. With that history as a backdrop, we will learn about the great texts of Judaism: Tanach (Bible), Midrash, Talmud, the Prayer Book, and the Codes of Jewish Law.

Dates: Wednesdays, January 14 – March 11 (no class 3/4)
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Euclid St., Berkeley
Cost: $105 for the public; $90 for members of Beth El
Register here.
Taught by Rabbi Ruth Adar, this class is part of a three-unit series. This course will be available to registered students via Adobe Connect distance learning software at no extra charge, both live and via full video recording. Students may attend live in the classroom, live online, or anytime via recording.

The Building Blocks of Judaism
This course is for those who wish to learn (or re-learn) Judaism. All are welcome: non-Jews, Jews, interfaith couples, those considering conversion, and anyone who is interested in learning more about Judaism. Students will learn the basics of Judaism in a friendly and informal atmosphere. We’ll explore fundamental aspects of Jewish practices such as holiday observance and life-cycle celebrations. We’ll also cover Jewish understandings of God and religious beliefs, essential Jewish texts, Jewish history, mu sic and literature, and the significance of Israel in Judaism today.
Taught by Rabbi Heath Watenmaker.
The spring term is from Jan. 21 to March 11, 2015.

Dates: Wednesdays, January 21 – March 11
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm, Plus a Friday evening Shabbat experience TBD
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Cost: $120 for the public
Register here.

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Conversion, Current Programs, Introduction to Judaism, Jewish Learning
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cousins on bema

Planning a b’nai mitzvah is stressful enough if you had one yourself, but if you weren’t raised Jewish it can be truly nerve wracking. There are the questions of how the study process works, timing, sessions, amount to be learned, how to help your child succeed. Then there’s the non-Jewish partner and extended family. How do you include them, make them comfortable, and explain what is going on.
How does a non-Jewish parent participate? What part of the planning do they want to share? What if it’s all on you alone? What role does each parent play during the bar or bat mitzvah? Is this a service or a celebration of one child? Join other wondering parents of all backgrounds as we decipher this life cycle event!

Sunday, February 22, 2015
9:30 – 11:00 am
Temple Sinai
Free

You can call Dawn for more details at 510-845-6420.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Current Programs, Non-Jewish family, Parenting, Synagogues
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Shabbat candles

A Jew may ask their spouse to agree to have a “Jewish” home. But what does that mean?
To a non-Jewish loved one it may mean simply that some of the people in the house say they are Jews. But our partners deserve a more in-depth answer. One Jew may say, a Jewish home has Jewish ritual objects – a menorah, Shabbos candlesticks, a ketubah on the wall. Another may add, but you need to do Jewish things in a Jewish home like observe Shabbat weekly or build a sukkah on Sukkot or recite the Shema before bedtime. Yet another will say we must act like Jews, give tzadakah, attend synagogue, refrain from eating pork.

Each Jewish partner will have their own ideas about what they need in order to feel that their home is “Jewish.” Or, they may have no clear idea at all! Every non-Jewish spouse deserves a clear statement as to what they are signing up for.

Join Rabbi Glazer, Dawn Kepler and other curious couples for an enlightening discussion and go home with your own individualized plan.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth Sholom, 301 14th Avenue (near the corner of Clement Street), San Francisco
Cost: Free to members of Beth Sholom, $8 for a non-member individual, $12 for a non-member couple.

Register here.

Posted by admin under Couples, Current Programs, Jewish home celebrations
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One of the best things about belonging to a community is that there are other people to create fun activities FOR you and to support the ones you create. A friend of mine is entranced with the music of Tin Pan Alley. He has become quite the expert on the musicians, politics and social upheaval of the 1920′s. I have benefited from his passion in that I’ve learned a LOT from him and had many a delightful evening at one of his Sing Alongs. Chances are quite good that you are familiar with some of the songs — Button Up Your Overcoat, I’m Just Wild About Harry, Singin’ in the Rain, Ain’t Misbehavin’. While laughing and singing you might just learn something about the history of Jewish & Black music.

1920 flappers in Paris

You can join in some of this childish fun, raucous singing and absurdly delicious food (of course there’s food!) on February 7th.

What makes this Jewish? Just the community!

Ain’t We Got Fun: Songs of the Twenties
A Sing Along Concert
“Ain’t We Got Fun: songs of the twenties” is the fourteenth in a series of sing-along concerts produced by Temple Sinai’s Tin Pan Alley Singers. All the songs—“Button Up Your Overcoat,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and many more—were written between 1920 and 1929. The words are projected on a screen so the audience can both sing along and appreciate the clever lyrics that earned their creators the moniker “Poets of Tin Pan Alley.”
The program includes dozens of songs, song leaders, and a skilled piano player to keep everyone on key. “It’s more fun than karaoke because everybody gets to sing,” says impresario Phil Rubin, “and it’s better than singing in the shower because we provide musical accompaniment and all the words!” Twenties attire encouraged!

Date: Saturday, February 7, 2015
Time: 7:30 PM
Place: Temple Sinai Sanctuary, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: $15.00 at the door (under 30 or over 80 $10.00)
For more information contact the Temple Sinai office at 510-451-3263.
Proceeds from this concert support bringing sing-along events to retirement homes in the Bay Area including Rhoda Goldman Plaza, The Reutlinger, the Jewish Home in SF, Lake Park, Baywood Court, Piedmont Gardens, etc.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Jewish Culture, Synagogues
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big oneg

What’s up for 2015!
Now looking into the coming year – I am offering a number of occasions for adults raised in interfaith homes to reflect on and share their experiences of growing up. Those memories are as different as the people who hold them and yet there are also patterns and experiences that are shared. It is important for their voices to be heard and for us, their family and community to hear. Please contact me (dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org) if you grew up with one Jewish parent and one not Jewish parent and are willing to share your story.

Now, here are some upcoming events in the Bay Area.

EVENTS
What’s in a Jewish Name? (Walnut Creek)
Introduction to Judaism (San Francisco)
Movie Midrash: Jewish Lessons from the Silver Screen (San Mateo)
Israeli Dancing (Walnut Creek)
Junior Jews (San Rafael)
Exploring Jewish Beliefs and Practices: an Introduction to Judaism (San Francisco)
Introduction to the Jewish Experience: Israel and Texts (Berkeley)
Cantor Rita Glassman: A World of Peace Concert (San Francisco)
Are Our Children Jewish? (Alameda)
Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods (Oakland)
What Makes a Home “Jewish”? (San Francisco)

What’s in a Jewish Name?
Join B’nai Tikvah congregants for services on Friday January 9 at 6:30pm, when Dawn Kepler will be our guest speaker. As part of her work, she enjoys creating new Jewish rituals, and will be speaking with us about the special place name and naming rituals holds in our tradition. This dovetails with the start of a new book of the Torah called Shemot, in which the Twelve Tribes of Israel are named. Dawn’s presentation will be one that speaks to each of us, whether we have a Jewish name or not. Please join us!

Date: Jan. 9, 2015
Time: 6:30pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
www.tikvah.org

Introduction to Judaism
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.
Winter Term: Space and Place

Dates: January 6, 13, 20, 27; February 3, 10, 17, 24
Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Place: Emanu-El, 2 Lake Street, San Francisco
Cost: Emanu-El Member $36, Non-member: $50
One-time book fee: $65 (for members and non-members)
Register here.
Phone: (415) 751-2535
www.emanuelsf.org

Movie Midrash: Jewish Lessons from the Silver Screen
Join Rabbi Callie & Matt Schulman as we explore Judaism through the medium of film.
Explore how the film, Defending Your Life (1991), starring Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks relates to the rabbis’ ancient Talmudic argument about how we are to understand Divine Judgment.

Date: January 10
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
Free
www.ptbe.org

Israeli Dancing
Whether you are a beginner or experienced, join instructor, Yardena Brooks, for an evening of Israeli dancing. Open to the community; all are welcome. Fee: $6.00 per session (6:00pm in the Social Hall)

Date: Sunday, January 11
Time: 6pm
Place: B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, meets in the social hall
Cost: $6 per session
For more info call the synagogue office at 925-934-9446

Junior Jews
Want to give your kid or grandkid some deeper Jewish roots? Want to empower them to become the biggest mensch s/he can be? Then join us once a month for some great singing, some great playing and some great learning. Join our clergy and educators for this family-friendly hour in the JCC Lounge.

Date: Select Sundays, next date is January 11, 2015
Time: 10:00 – 11:00 am
Place: JCC Lounge, 200 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael
Run by the Rodef Sholom clergy.
RSVP to Molly at molly@rodefsholom.org. Bring your friends and/or come and make some new ones!

Exploring Jewish Beliefs and Practices: an Introduction to Judaism
Begin learning the basics of Jewish thought and practice. Engage in a mix of study, discussion and hands-on experiences. Topics include:
* Jewish beliefs and values
* Holidays and the Jewish calendar
* Prayer and liturgy
* Lifecycle events
With teachers: Rabbi Larry Raphael, Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf, Lisa Erdberg

Date/times: 14 sessions, Sunday, January 11, 2015 – Sunday, May 3, 2015 10am – noon; Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 9:30 and Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 9:30
Place: Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
Information & registration: Eric Drucker, 415.346.1720, x24, or email Eric at edrucker@sherithisrael.org.
Cost: $5 materials fee and you must buy the book, Living Judaism by Rabbi Wayne Dosick. The book is $10 if you buy it from Sherith Israel at the first class meeting.

Introduction to the Jewish Experience: Israel and Texts
The land of Israel has been central to Jewish history, both ancient and modern. Even during the years of galut (exile) the Jewish heart was “in the east,” in the words of medieval poet Yehudah HaLevy. This class will examine the history of ancient Israel, the beginnings of rabbinic Judaism, and the modern return to the land. With that history as a backdrop, we will learn about the great texts of Judaism: Tanach (Bible), Midrash, Talmud, the Prayer Book, and the Codes of Jewish Law.

Date: Wednesdays, January 14 – March 11 (no class 3/4)
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: Congregation Beth El, 1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley
Cost: $105 for the public; $90 for members of Beth El, Berkeley and Temple Sinai, Oakland
Register for class here.

Cantor Rita Glassman: A World of Peace
CD Release Concert
Cantor Rita Glassman (formerly of Rodef Sholom in San Rafael) will be accompanied by Fred Ross-Perry with Aliza Hava, Michael Gill, Be’eri Moalem, Joshua Zucker and Mike Spinrad. Cantor Glassman sings from the depths of her soul. Her music is uplifting and possesses a lyrical sensitivity, inspiring both inner peace and world peace.

Date: Sunday, January 18, 2015
Time: 4:00 pm
Place: Jewish Community Center, Kanbar Hall, 3200 California Street, San Francisco
Cost: $18 advance; $20 at door.
Tickets available by calling 415-292-1233 or online here.
Learn more about Cantor Rita Glassman on her website www.RitaGlassman.com.

Are Our Children Jewish?
Patralineal Descent, Reform Judaism & Those Other Jews
In 1983 the Reform movement officially recognized children of Jewish fathers as Jewish. But if you read the statement it says that every child of a mixed marriage, whether the mother or father is Jewish, must establish their identity as a Jew “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people.” What are those acts? Do we really expect all kids from interfaith marriages to do so? What role do non-Reform Jews play in our lives and those of our children? Join Dawn Kepler for an exploration of Patralineal Jews today.

Date: Friday, Jan. 23
Time: 7:30pm (the discussion will be a part of the Shabbat service)
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd, Alameda
Free
RSVP here.

Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods
Come to the redwoods with your whole family to celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the unseen awakening of spring. In the tradition of the mystics of Tsfat, we gather in the forest to create an experiential Tu B’Shvat seder that connects us to the trees and the elements.

Date: Sunday, February 1, 2015
Time: 10 am to 3:15 pm
Place: Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Oakland
Cost: $50–$30 sliding scale for adults; $25 for teens age 11–17; $20 for children ages 4–10; Free for children ages 3 and under
Details here.

What Makes a Home “Jewish”?
A Jew may ask their spouse to agree to have a “Jewish” home. But what does that mean?
To a non-Jewish loved one it may mean simply that some of the people in the house say they are Jews. But our partners deserve a more in-depth answer. One Jew may say, a
Jewish home has Jewish ritual objects – a menorah, Shabbos candlesticks, a ketubah on
the wall. Another may add, but you need to do Jewish things in a Jewish home like
observe Shabbat weekly or build a sukkah on Sukkot or recite the Shema before bedtime.
Yet another will say we must act like Jews — give tzadakah, attend synagogue, refrain from eating pork.

Each Jewish partner will have their own ideas about what they need in order to feel that their home is “Jewish.” Or, they may have no clear idea at all! Every non-Jewish spouse deserves a clear statement as to what they are signing up for.

Join Rabbi Glazer, Dawn Kepler and other curious couples for an enlightening discussion and go home with your own individualized plan.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth Sholom, 301 14th Avenue (near the corner of Clement Street), San Francisco
Cost: Free to members of Beth Sholom, $8 for a non-member individual, $12 for a non-member couple.
Sign up here.

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