Passover begins April 3

Passover begins Friday, April 3 at sundown. Most people will be cozily ensconced in a house well before the 7:34pm sunset time. If you are a member of a synagogue and have no where to go for first night you should contact your synagogue’s office. Most shuls are doing seder matching.

Almost all the bay area synagogues are offering Second Night Community Seders. If you are too exhausted on Friday night to go anywhere then hop onto a Saturday night Second Seder.

The one place I know of that is offering First Night Community Seders is the East Bay JCC. There will be Seders at both their Oakland and Berkeley sites. The Jewish Community Relations Council is offering a Seder on Thursday, March 31. Browse through your options below. If I have not listed a Seder near you, don’t despair. There are just too many for me to get them all! Call the synagogues in your city and ask. SIGN UP VERY SOON!

2015 Community Seders

19th Annual San Francisco Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder
Join a joyous gathering of friends, neighbors and fellow San Franciscans at our 2015 Multicultural Freedom Seder! All are welcome!

Date: March 31
Time: 6:30pm
Place: JCCSF, 3200 California Street, San Francisco
Purchase your tickets before Friday, March 27, 2015! Call the JCCSF box office at 415.292.1233 and avoid the service charge or buy online.
Cost: Seating is limited. Tickets are $40 for adults or $35 for JCCSF members, and $15 for children under 12.
Presented by JCRC, JCCSF and Congregation Emanu-El. This event is successful because of the many San Francisco organizations who co-sponsor each year. If you would like to learn more about how your organization can easily become a co-sponsor, or have other questions, please contact Joe Goldman at or 415.977.7418.

Kehilla Annual Passover Seder
Join us to celebrate Passover! With Rabbis David J. Cooper, Burt Jacobson & Diane Elliot, and special guest Rev. Deborah Lee, director of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Delicious catered vegetarian dinner. Pre-registration required.
The theme this year will be: Social Justice & Spirituality
We will enjoy a delicious catered organic, mostly vegetarian, mostly gluten-free meal featuring your favorite holiday ritual foods.

Date: April 4
Time: 4:45pm
Place: Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave, Oakland
Details here.

Second Night Congregational Seder
Join Rabbis Yoel Kahn and Rebekah Stern and Beth El members, old and new, in their annual Second Night Congregational Seder. We will enjoy a festive Pesach celebration and a delicious Kosher-for-Passover meal. Dinner will be catered by Lucy Aghadjian.
We are never too old nor too young to learn and retell the story of Passover. Through song, ritual and discussion, we will retell the ancient story, making connections to our own lives and our world.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley
Cost: Adults: (members) $48, (guests) $60
Seniors: $36
Young Professionals (30 and under): $36
Students/Youth/Children: $25
Through the generosity of anonymous Beth El members, no one will be turned away because of inability to pay. Kids are warmly welcomed to join in the seder and/or the parallel kids’ Pesach activities.
RSVP by March 31 here.

Beth Am’s Annual 2nd Night Community Seder
Rabbi Heath Watenmaker will lead this year’s Beth Am Community Seder on the 2nd night of Passover. Enjoy a delicious multi-course meal without having to cook, clean up or remember where you hid the afikomen. Cost $46 per adult; $26 per child (12 and under). Seating is limited.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Social Hall of Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
Please sign up for Beth Am’s Community Seder by Friday, March 27 using the downloadable sign up for here.
For more information, please contact Emily Osterman or call (650) 493-4661.

THREE Second Night Seders at Emanuel in San Francisco
Look here.

Multigenerational seder guests

Second Night Multigenerational Seder
Join us for a warm, celebratory, and multigenerational Seder! We’ll share our stories of slavery and freedom, join together in singing songs old and new, and enjoy a delicious Passover feast. New this year: Sharing the Journey Visual Haggadah.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:00pm
Place: In the Social Hall of Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame
Cost: $49 (adults); $32 (children under 12). Scholarships are available; contact Rabbi Delson Please join us; click here for more information.

Community Passover Seder
Rabbi Gutterman will be leading the Community Seder at B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek. The seder is being catered by Sunrise Bistro.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Details here.
We regretfully cannot accept reservations after Tuesday morning, March 31. or you can call the office at 925-933-5397

Two Second Seders at Etz Chayim
Join us for Second Night Seder. We’ll have two different Seders happening in different rooms at the same time. Both seders will offer the traditional songs and symbolic foods, a catered, gourmet dinner with a chicken or vegetarian option, and a wonderful community to share the celebration with.

For more information or to register go here.
But hurry – the deadline is Sunday, March 29th, at midnight. This will be enforced, as we have to give final numbers to the caterer.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 5:30 pm, Kiddush begins at 6:00 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma Street, Palo Alto

Posted by admin under Community, Community Activities, Jewish Culture, Passover
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The bat Mitzvah girl's family

The bat Mitzvah girl’s family

Compassion, generosity, respect and satisfaction are values shared by all religions.
When do they become uniquely “Jewish” and why bother to color values with a particular religion? Because there are ways in which this helps a child identify with and incorporate the values you are seeking to transmit.

Join other parents for a fascinating discussion that combines Jewish teaching and the current Science of Happiness to develop tools to raise a mensch. Warning: you may increase your own menschlichkeit (humanity) too!

Raising a Mensch is 4 sessions; come for one or more.

Dates & Topics:
March 29 Gimme, Gimme, Gimme: Contentment & Tzedakah
Jewish tradition teaches, “Who is rich? Those who are content with their lot.” The
marketing culture around us equates contentment with possessions; who ever dies with
the most toys wins. How can we establish a family value of tzedakah? How does
tzedakah (responsible giving) result in contentment?

April 19 What’s in it For Me: Compassion for Others
The world is sustained by loving-kindness (Pirkei Avot 1:2)
How does being kind to others make us happier and how can we encourage children’s natural tenderness in a tough world?

April 26 I Can’t Get No Respect: Kavod in an Open and Free Society
Who is worthy of honor? The one who honors others. (Pirkei Avot 4:1)
Our culture worships the famous and rich. How can we teach out children to respect those whom we believe are truly of value, like parents and teachers?

May 3 Why Should I Care: Caring Action
Do Not Stand Idly By As Your Neighbor Bleeds. (Pirkei Avot 2:4)

Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda
Cost: Free to Temple Israel members, $30 for the series, $18 per single session (please
bring cash or a check.)
To register go here
Co-sponsored by Temple Israel, Building Jewish Bridges and Lehrhaus Judaica.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Current Programs, Jewish Learning, Non-Jewish family, Parenting
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The Producers Zero & Gene

So many Jews identify as “secular” or “cultural” and want to take their non-Jewish sweetie to a non-religious Jewish event. That can be done! But keep in mind that many of Judaism’s religious activities have become a part of Jewish culture, like attending a Passover Seder. Is that religious or cultural? Only you can say what it is to you.

Below I am listing the 17 events that I sent out to my email list this week. Some are religious but most are not. I’m going to code them for you.

(A) Entertaining
(B) Intellectual
(C) Cultural (possibly religious, you decide)
(D) Religious
(Interfaith) One of my programs

Got questions, comments, additions? Just let me know. You can email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

(C) Scholars in Residence in Marin: Passover (San Rafael)
(B) Feeding Yourself and Your Children in the 21st Century (Oakland)
(A) They Tried To Kill Us, They Failed, Let’s Laugh (San Francisco)
(D) Tot Shabbat (Los Altos Hills)
(A & B) Movie Midrash (San Mateo)
(C) Passover Fair (San Mateo)
(A & B) An Evening with Michael Chabon and Ayalet Waldman (Palo Alto)
(D) Passover in Two Hours (San Francisco)
(Interfaith) Raising a Mensch (Alameda)
(C) 19th Annual SF Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder (San Francisco)
(C) Temple Sinai’s Annual Community Seder (Oakland)
(C) Community Second Night Seder (Richmond)
(C) Wilderness Torah’s Passover in the Desert: In the Wilderness (Death Valley)
(C) Late Night at The Jewseum (San Francisco)
(C, except that it precedes a Shabbat Service) Pi (π) Celebration (Piedmont)
(C) Fatherhood as a Spiritual Journey (San Rafael)
(Interfaith) Interlove Story: When Jews Love Non-Jews… and Judaism (Los Altos)

Scholars in Residence in Marin: Passover
Prepare for Passover with Rabbis Noam and Mishael Zion!
Join us for our Marin Jewish Community Scholar-in-Residence weekend with father
and son, Rabbi Noam Zion and Rabbi Mishael Zion, co-authors of the celebrated A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices. Both believe in revitalizing home holidays-Pesach, Hanukkah and Shabbat-to make Judaism inspiring, participatory and fun for all members of the family.

Dates: Friday through Sunday, March 13 – 15
For a schedule of times and events see the complete schedule here
Presented by Rodef Sholom, Kol Shofar and the Osher Marin JCC — here is the schedule of events taking place on this campus

Feeding Yourself and Your Children in the 21st Century
Where Jewish tradition meets Michael Pollan & Alice Waters with Adam Berman, Urban Adamah
What does Jewish tradition say about how and what we eat? Whose are the other voices we care about? How do we navigate food choices in a world as complex as ours? As the founder of the only urban Jewish Community Farm in the country, Adam will give us what to chew on and digest. Adam Berman is the founder and executive director of Urban Adamah, an educational farm and community center in West Berkeley.
Part of Exploring the World of Judaism Speaker Series

Date: Sunday, March 15
Time: 9:30-11:00am
Place: Temple Sinai, in the Albers Chapel, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

They Tried To Kill Us, They Failed, Let’s Laugh:
Jewish Humor From Torah to Transparent
Join humor mavens Rabbi Sydney Mintz and Judi Leff as they deconstruct the whats, wheres, whos and whys (why nots?) of Jewish humor. Topics include Text and Humor: Torah and Talmud; Jewish Humor Through The Ages; Jewish Humor in American Radio, Film and Television; Why Are Jews So Funny – Burlesque, Vaudeville and Yiddish Theater; and a panel discussion with local Jewish comedians. Of course there will be a chance to develop and share your own Jewish humor – stories from your own Jewish experience.

Dates: Thursdays, Mar. 19, 26, Apr. 16, 23, 30, May 7
Time: 7:00 – 8:30pm
Place: Temple Emanu-el, 2 Lake St., San Francisco
Cost: Emanu-El Members $36, Non-members $50
Register here or call 415- 751-2535

Tot Shabbat
Join me, Rabbi Heath, and other Beth Am friendly families for an informal Shabbat evening with singing and blessings in the Sanctuary, followed by festive Shabbat dinner in Rooms 5 and 6. This is a great opportunity to connect with other families with young children! RSVP online by Wednesday, March 18 so we know how much food to order.

Date: Friday, March 20
Time: 5:15 pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills

Movie Midrash
The Invention of Lying is a very funny film that should not be approached lightly. It is sure to spawn a myriad of opinionated and enlightening debates that was clearly Ricky Gervais’ intention from day one.
Won’t you join Rabbi Callie and Matt Schulman for an evening of innovative filmmaking and involved (and provoked) discussion?

Date: Saturday, March 21
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

Passover Fair
Beth El Women’s Gift Shop has all of your Passover seder needs. We have a wide selection of unique seder plates, matzoh covers, haggadahs and more. Don’t forget to shop for gifts for family and friends! All our gift shop proceeds directly support our synagogue programs.

Date: Sunday, March 22
Time: 9:00am – 1:00pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

An Evening with Michael Chabon and Ayalet Waldman
The Oshman JCC is pleased to present famed literary couple Ayelet Waldman (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits) and her Pulitzer Prize-winning husband Michael Chabon (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union). Chabon has been touted as one of the most celebrated writers of his generation, publishing the critically-acclaimed novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay in 2001. Waldman writes about the changing expectations of motherhood and is the author of seven mystery novels in the series The Mommy-Track Mysteries.

Date: Sunday, March 22
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost: $25 JCCmembers, $30 general public
$35 at the door (space permitting)
For more information contact Jen O’Leary, (650) 223-8664,
Buy tickets online here.

Passover in Two Hours
Learn the basics of Passover in this fast-paced and participatory workshop led by chef Rebecca Ets-Hokin and Rabbi Ryan Bauer. Whether you are conducting, cooking or attending, you will be ready!

Date: Tuesday, March 24
Time: 7:00 – 9:00pm
Place: Guild Hall in Temple Emanu-el, 2 Lake St., San Francisco
To register call Jennifer Goldstein at 415-750-7548 by March 22.

Raising a Mensch
Compassion, generosity, respect and satisfaction are values shared by most religions. When do they become uniquely “Jewish” and why do that? Join other parents for a fascinating discussion that combines Jewish teaching and the current Science of Happiness to develop tools to raise a mensch. Warning: you may increase your own menschlichkeit (humanity) too!

Topic for March 29:
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme: Contentment & Tzedakah

Jewish tradition teaches, “Who is rich? Those who are content with their lot.” The marketing culture around us equates contentment with possessions; who ever dies with the most toys wins. How can we establish a family value of tzedakah? How does tzedakah (responsible giving) result in contentment?

Raising a Mensch is 4 sessions; come for one or more.
Dates & Topics:
March 29 Gimme, Gimme, Gimme: Contentment & Tzedakah
April 19 What’s in it For Me: Compassion for Others
April 26 I Can’t Get No Respect: Kavod in an Open and Free Society
May 3 Why Should I Care: Caring for Others
Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda
Cost: Free to Temple Israel members, $30 for the series, $18 per single session (please bring cash or a check.)
To register go here.
Co-sponsored by Temple Israel, Building Jewish Bridges and Lehrhaus Judaica.

19th Annual SF Multicultural Passover Freedom Seder
Join JCRC, JCCSF and Congregation Emanu-El for the 19th Annual Multicultural Freedom Seder at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
During this multicultural and multifaith seder we celebrate freedom for all with songs, storytelling and a delicious kosher meal. All are welcome!

Date: Tuesday, March 31
Time: 6:30pm
Place: San Francisco JCC, 3200 California St., San Francisco
Cost: JCC Adult Member: $35; Adult Public: $40; All children under 12: $15
Purchase tickets here.

Temple Sinai’s Annual Community Seder
Join Rabbi Yoni Regev and Cantor Ilene Keys as we retell the story of Passover, enjoy delicious foods catered by Z Cafe, meet new friends and sing!

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 5:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Please purchase tickets early as we sell out every year
Register online here.
Have questions? Call Lisa at the Temple Sinai at 510-451-3263.

Community Second Night Seder
Retell the Passover Story at Temple Beth Hillel’s Passover Seder
You are invited to a family-friendly Congregational Seder on the Second Night of Passover.
Join Rabbi Dean Kertesz and Cantor Fran Burgess in retelling the Passover story, sing holiday songs, and share a complete ritual meal. Enjoy the evening with friends and family.
Seating is limited so make your dinner reservations soon.

Date: Saturday, April 4
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central (Hilltop Exit off I-80), Richmond
Cost: Non-Members: $32 for adults, $28 for children 7-12, $8 for children 3-6.
For reservation form and informational flyer look online here.

Wilderness Torah’s Passover in the Desert: In the Wilderness
Come Close to the One
Each year, we Jews retell our core story – our Passover journey from slavery to freedom. This spring, step into your Exodus experience and discover transformation and liberation with the expansive desert as your guide. Passover in the Desert is a 5-day journey in multi-generational village life, designed to help you connect more deeply with yourself, community, nature, and Spirit.
Register today for festival & avodah (work exchange).
Co-sponsored by Temple Sinai

Dates: Thursday, April 9 to Monday, April 13
Place: Panamint Valley, near Death Valley

Late Night at The Jewseum
Celebrate the last night of Passover with unlimited specialty cocktails, delicious bites, world-class DJs, photo booth fun, art-making, and more. 21+

Date: Saturday, April 11
Time: 9:00pm-1:00am
Place: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
Cost: $75 general, 21+.
More information 415-655-7800 or online.

Pi (π) Celebration
Pre-Service “Pi” Celebration with Rabbi David Cooper. This is a once-a-century (but minor event) celebrating the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter (called “Pi” or π) which comes to 3.14159265359… So on 3/14/15 at 9:26am at 53.56 seconds will be the one time this century that our calendar and clock will reflect this magical irrational number with an infinite number of decimals. We will gather in the Patio at 9:15 for an introduction and then mark the magic moment between 9:26 and 9:27. After that, pie will be served and Rabbi David will share some Jewish lore on math and physics. Then stick around for a great Shabbat service.

Date: March 14
Time: 9:15am – 10:00am; services follow at 10:30am
Place: Kehilla, 1300 Grand Ave, Piedmont

Fatherhood as a Spiritual Journey
Attention, fathers of grade school children! Feeling inspired by your journey? Overwhelmed? Looking to connect with other dads who are parenting younger children? This lay-led group will gather monthly to take inventory of our journeys as fathers and to harness Jewish texts and traditions that might help us pay closer attention to this most sacred journey. It’s never to late to jump in!

Date: Sunday, April 19
Time: 9:15 – 10:15 am
Place: Rabbi Lezak’s office at Rodef Sholom, 170 No. San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
RSVP to Molly at

Interlove Story: When Jews Love Non-Jews… and Judaism
You are Jewish and you fell in love with a person who isn’t Jewish; now it’s up to you to make a Jewish home and raise Jewish children. How have other families managed Jewish commitment and interfaith love? We’ll begin with a tender film by the daughter of an interfaith couple (Interlove Story was her Stanford University Masters Film Thesis) and discuss the choices her parents made and what options we all have.
Join Rabbi Sarah Weissman, Dawn Kepler, and interfaith couples for a warm and open discussion.

Date: Sunday, April 26
Time: 9:15 – 11:00 am
Place: Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills
Cost: $5 for the public; Free for members of Beth Am
Register here

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Parenting, Passover
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Easter Eggs Sweden

I’ve received many questions this month about painting eggs. Spring brings Passover and Easter, sometimes right on top of each other. While Jews are focusing on slavery, emancipation and unleavened bread, Easter seems to be focusing on bunnies, candy baskets and egg hunts. The real meaning of the holiday gets lost on a lot of Jewish families, especially the children. So I did some research on Easter that may be helpful in deciding what is best for your own family.

Dear Jewish parents everywhere,
We hear just bits and pieces about the meaning of Easter. I did some research so that we could have a more thorough understanding. Then, we can make our own determinations about what is best for our family. My firm belief is that knowledge makes our decision making easier and more comfortable. It can help to cut down on arguments between spouses and between parents and children. I want you to know what Easter observances are about, where they came from and, armed with this knowledge, decide what works for you. And yes, I know many Jews with two Jewish parents who colored eggs as kids. It was basically a craft activity for them.

The Easter Story
Easter is not a jolly holiday about the birth of a baby; rather it is a grim story of a gruesome death. The story’s ending is positive for believers in that Christ’s resurrection symbolizes salvation. Religious Easter is impossible to separate from its Christian message. Many Jews can’t put aside the fact that the person who is horribly killed is a Jew and yet all Jews get blamed for it… for all eternity. So be prepared for many Jews to have a visceral reaction to the idea of celebrating Easter in anyway. You may feel that you’re just doing the chocolate part of the holiday, yet others may see that as unacceptable. Be prepared to deal with these emotions. Remember that that’s what they are, emotions, and as such are neither right nor wrong.

The Easter Egg
The early Christians actively proselytized and one of the effective methods of doing so was to absorb the traditions of the community into which they spread their faith. Reinterpreting a ritual and reframing it in Christian symbolism was a less obvious way to monopolize the religion practices of indigenous peoples and to ease them into Christianity. It may feel creepy to our modern ears, but it’s better than being killed. So, Easter, like many Christian holidays, borrows heavily from pagan practices; in this case, springtime rituals.

The tradition of coloring eggs goes back thousands of years in pagan traditions. The egg was widely used as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. Painted eggs are still used at the ancient Iranian spring holiday, Nooruz, which is from the Zoroastrian religion. Just a note, Zoroastrianism is as old as Judaism; both of us have our beginnings in the earth based rituals of early civilization. Pysanka eggs, those gorgeous wax-resist eggs from the Ukraine, also date back to a pagan religion from a time when Ukrainians worshipped a sun god, Dazhboh. Part of that worship included decorated eggs.

Easter Pysanky eggs

Easter Pysanky eggs

The Easter egg is the latest addition to these springtime egg festivities. It is also called the Paschal egg, Paschal meaning “pertaining to Easter or Passover” How’s that for mixing things up! The egg was re-interpreted to symbolizes the sealed tomb in which Jesus’ body was placed. Think: just as a bird hatches alive from an egg, so too did Jesus emerge alive from the tomb. The message being that believing Christians will also experience eternal life. Traditionally the eggs were dyed red to symbolize Christ’s blood.

The Easter Bunny
The rabbit has always been known to be quite fertile so their association with springtime, fertility and rebirth is natural. Ancient Greeks believe that the rabbit was a hermaphrodite and could reproduce without a partner. Christianity interpreted this to mean that the rabbit remained a virgin even though it gave birth and it became associated with the Virgin Mary.

Now, what do we do with this knowledge?
Clearly there is nothing Jewish about Easter. Celebrating or observing any of the rituals of Easter, whether you see them as Christian or pagan, is going to be seen as “not Jewish” in the Jewish community. Now you must ask yourself, what do I want to teach my children? And what do I feel about other people’s opinions?

So, what about the kids?
If you want to color eggs because “it’s fun” I suggest you teach your children the historical meaning of painted eggs. By teaching them the truth you are equipping them to respond with confidence, and probably greater knowledge, to anyone who challenges them. You can say, “Decorating eggs has been a tradition for thousands of years in other religions, here are some of the ways that it was done and understood by people from other places in the world. We are painting them because it’s fun and pretty and we are learning about their history.”

To the Jewish mom who said her daughter wants to paint eggs to represent the 10 plagues I say, wow, your daughter is wonderfully creative! You could tell your daughter that people from different backgrounds borrow from each other and you are borrowing the idea of painted eggs and turning it into a Jewish expression for your family. You could use the eggs as part of your Seder table decorations and get the kids to guess which egg is which plague. This practice isn’t a Jewish tradition now, but who knows, maybe she’s starting something!

What about the opinions of others?
I’m not going to tell you to ignore or denigrate them. Judaism is a communal practice; we do it together for better or worse. I suggest you use your now superior knowledge to explain to them what you’ve learned, what you’ve decided based upon that and your family’s best interests. If they still can’t accept what you are doing AND they are important to you, I suggest you ask them if there is a Jewish practice that seeing you do would comfort them. Explore whether they feel that these eggs are going to curtail your Jewish practice or damage your child’s Jewish identity? If you currently send your child to Hebrew school, observe Shabbat, and have a Passover Seder gently point out to them that your Jewish practice far outweighs some colored eggs. If they still can’t accept your practice, or these are people you don’t really care about anyway, tell them that you will have to agree to disagree, and walk away.

Posted by admin under Children, Community, Holidays, Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning, Parenting
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One of the hardest things about getting assistance with your interfaith relationship is making the move to ask for that assistance. What the devil will it be LIKE to talk to someone? I thought it would be helpful for you to hear what other folks have said about the experience of working with me. One note, if you are not in the San Francisco Bay Area that’s OK, we can “meet” by Skype or phone. If you do live in the area, we can meet in person OR Skype or phone.

I find it helps to know what someone looks like, so I’m including a photo of myself.

Me with the President  (I thought you should know that I have a sense of humor.)

Me with the President (I thought you should know that I have a sense of humor.)

It is also nice to know what their voice sounds like. If you’d like to hear my voice you can listen to my podcast on finding a rabbi for your wedding. It’s short. Here’s the link.

And now people’s comments on working with me.


I sought out Dawn’s services after I got engaged because my fiancé, who was Catholic, and I were having trouble navigating what it meant to have a Jewish household and a Jewish wedding. While he had agreed to have a Jewish family, while planning the wedding it became clear that there was not a clear understanding of what that meant and we were having trouble communicating about it. Dawn created a safe space for us to be able to talk about our expectations for raising a family and what it meant to incorporate beliefs and customs that were important to each of us. She provided us with great resources, including books, events, and people to talk to. The experience was invaluable, and I can’t thank her enough for the clarity she brought to the relationship. I would recommend her services (which I have) in a heartbeat!
H, San Francisco

Thanks Dawn. You were such a big part of us growing in our relationship. I can’t say that the time before being engaged was easy. Ah, waiting and not knowing where we were headed and trying to figure out some major stuff. Phew, it was intense at times. But I know I speak for both me and Mike, you really helped us navigate some hard questions and know how to talk about them with each other. There were so many times we just didn’t even know what questions to be asking but wanted to be proactive in exploring deeper in our relationship. You really challenged us and allowed for more open honest discussion.
H & B, San Francisco

We wish we were closer to your classes and could have meet in person, but the phone calls did work great. We are so glad we found you via the web.
K & M, Colorado

Dawn, I love how you challenge people to be their best selves. I am attending services more regularly – thanks for all you did to help me reach this point.
L, El Cerrito

We miss you so much, Dawn! We wish there were two of you so Denver could be blessed with your presence as well. If you do know of a counterpart to Building Jewish Bridges in Colorado, please send us the info. I have found a few things online but nothing as good as what we had with you.
Love, S & P – from Berkeley, now in CO.

I want to personally thank you for all that you do to make people like me feel welcome at the “Jewish table.” Words cannot describe what a difference it has made. In fact, part of why we wanted to have a child was to bring another Jew into the world. We’re excited to learn about Judaism ourselves, so that we may teach our kiddo.
I & S in San Francisco

Thank you for the meeting yesterday. You really provided us with incredibly helpful context and perspective. We have much to sort through but feel that we now have many more guideposts. We also appreciate your open style, from welcoming us into your home, to being direct and sharing personal stories.
B & N Oakland

Posted by admin under Current Programs, Finding a Synagogue, In their own words, Weddings
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Belle in Montclair

In December my sister died. There was Jewish ritual and community to gather around me and comfort me. Just two months later my beloved old dog died. A dear rabbi friend told me, “all deaths will bring up previous losses and these two deaths come very close together. Don’t be surprised if you feel a resurgence of your grief for your sister.” He was right.

A number of people sent me sympathy cards after my sister passed. Then I was surprised to receive cards and notes about my dog too. A woman at my synagogue mailed me a page from the book, The Book of Sacred Jewish Practices, which addresses loss of a pet. I had no idea there was any Jewish guidance for loss of a pet so I thought I’d share it with you. My children have taken the death of their beloved pet very hard. If your child needs a funeral or other Jewish practice for a pet, try some of these out.

Saying Good Bye to a Pet

Saying Good Bye to a Pet

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Death & Mourning, Jewish Learning
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Though Purim is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, it is widely observed and a favorite of children. According to the scroll of Esther 9:22, we are to observe Purim as a time of “feasting and gladness.” The holiday is marked not only the by reading of the scroll, but by Purim plays (spiels) and the wearing of costumes. A festive meal is eaten (se’udah) on Purim afternoon. These led to the rise of carnivals, incorporating these traditions and often adding games for children. In Israel, Purim is joyfully observed by parades and people of all ages dressed in costumes.

(From, read more on their website.)

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture, Jewish Learning, Purim
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My Mixed and Matched column for February 2015 is a response to a young woman whose family includes Modern Orthodox cousins and her secular and intermarried relatives. My answer is on the J-Weekly website.

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She is hurt by the conflict between the adults in her family. For many children, the most important thing is family harmony. If you are having trouble with family relationships, give me a call.

Posted by admin under In their own words, Relationships
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Star necklace horizontal

Another question from my Mixed and Matched column in the J-Weekly.

I’m a 26-year-old Conservative Jew and celebrate the major Jewish holidays, although I’m not terribly religious. I’ve been dating a Korean girl who is Catholic but also not very religious. We are getting serious and I’m scared. I do love her, she’s my best friend, and I think about what would happen if we got married. She is open to raising our kids Jewish but still would want to celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter. I think this would cause identity issues for our kids, and obviously they won’t look Jewish. Do you have any thoughts on whether it’s possible to successfully raise mixed children with a Jewish father and Asian mother without the children feeling confused or left out? — Uncertain

Dear Uncertain: You are asking the right questions, and answering them will clarify your options. There are two primary concerns: your kids being multiracial (can Jews be Asian?) and your home being interfaith (can we do two sets of holidays and have the kids feel Jewish?).

You are correct that a biracial child is more likely to be “questioned” about his or her Jewish identity. Don’t let starry-eyed liberals tell you that race doesn’t matter. Young biracial Jews report that it is harder when their parents don’t address racial assumptions about “what does a Jew look like” and racism in general. You can build your children’s confidence by making sure they have a Jewish community — typically a synagogue — that doesn’t just accepts them, but affirms their Jewish identity. There are many such children; I suggest you pick a synagogue that has a noticeable multiracial membership.

A biracial or multiracial child in an interfaith family faces additional concerns. First is the American assumption that Asians can’t be Jewish. Many only consider someone to be Jewish if he or she has a Jewish mother. A young biracial woman whose mother is Jewish and father is Vietnamese told me, “I can’t get the words ‘My mom is Jewish’ out of my mouth fast enough.”

In the eyes of the Conservative movement, your children would not be considered Jewish unless you convert them. Typically, a Conservative Jewish man in your situation takes his infants to the mikvah for conversion. This is something you should think about and discuss with your sweetheart. For some young people, knowing that they were taken to the mikvah is tremendously important. They tell me, “My parents made sure I went to the mikvah. I’m Jewish and have been since before I have any memory.”

Otherwise, I suggest you go to a Reform congregation where they accept patrilineal children as Jewish. But be aware that even if your children are raised Jewish, they will still come into contact with people who do not accept patrilineal descent, and you must be prepared to deal with that in a calm and supportive manner.

Before you go any further, you need to have a discussion about what is involved in raising children as Jews. You are right that a number of Jewish kids who grow up with Christian holidays often feel a sense of dual loyalty. The truth is that this is a compromise, and it does affect the children. This isn’t to say they don’t end up Jewish. But it means you have to be sensitive to how they are taking it in. If you do decide to celebrate Christian holidays, decide in advance which ones and how your partner wants to observe them. Then be sure that you are truly “doing Jewish” the rest of the year.

Ask yourself how important it is that your children self-identify as Jewish. If it is extremely important, then ask your sweetheart if she is willing to have a dialogue about what that would involve. Chances are she has no idea and you have only a sketchy one. She must be given the opportunity to find out what she is getting into before marriage.

No one can promise that your children will be Jewish if you marry a non-Jew. But no one can promise that you will ever feel this strongly about another woman. I would highly recommend that the two of you go to a couples discussion group to sort things out. You’ll get a chance to hear from other interfaith couples and make your decision together. If you can’t get to a group then consider doing individual sessions with me to assess where you and your girlfriend agree and disagree. (I often do these via Skype so you will be in the comfort of your own home.)

You can read the original letter with readers’ responses here.

Posted by admin under Children, In the News, Jews of Color, Parenting
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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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