A Jewish woman wrote to me asking about how to include something Irish in her wedding to reflect her fiancé’s Irish heritage. Here’s what she asked.

My fiancé and I are starting to plan our wedding for next spring. Neither of us is particularly religious. I’m proudly Jewish and he is Irish and was raised Catholic but doesn’t consider himself Catholic anymore. He is fine with a Jewish wedding and understands that I want to be married by my childhood rabbi. I think we should include something from his side for his parents’ sake. We don’t know what we should be considering. What do you suggest? — Happily Engaged

My reply is here.

Posted by admin under In the News, Non-Jewish family, Weddings
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There’s a little something for everyone this fall. Peruse the classes below, call if you have any questions, and I hope to see you at a program in the next few months.



3 faith traditions banner

Do You Have One Jewish Parent?
Do you see yourself as Jewish, half-Jewish, part Jewish, Jew-ish? Were you raised as a Jew, a Christian, a Hindu, some of this and a little of that? We are looking for people who have one Jewish parent and would like to talk about their experience, share their stories, their questions, their wisdom. What was good? What was not so good? Will you try to duplicate your parents’ path? What would you like to ask of or tell to the “organized” Jewish community? We will come together to discuss our shared experiences as well as our differences. What we want from life now and how we are going about making that happen.

Date: Thursday, Oct. 22
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, but please RSVP here.


Mezuzot at Afikomen in Berkeley

Mezuzot at Afikomen in Berkeley

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 other curious couples for an enlightening discussion and go home with your own individualized plan.

Date: Sunday, Oct 25
Time: 9 to 10:30am
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame
Cost: $8/public; free to Peninsula Temple Sholom members
Register here.


Who is a Jew?

Who is a Jew?

Are Our Children Jewish?
Patralineal Descent, Reform Judaism and 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 Patrilineal Jews today.

Date: Sunday, Nov. 8
Time: 10:15am
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central St, Richmond
Contact me, Dawn, if you have questions at or call 510.845.6420 x11


Carly and her mom

Women in Interfaith Relationships:
A Discussion for Girlfriends, Wives, Partners, Mothers and Grandmothers
Join other women, Jewish or not, to examine interfaith relationships in relation to culture and gender. What are the unique expectations and responses that a woman encounters as she creates a home and builds a family life in which her religion is not that of her partner? Join a multi-generational discussion about the assumptions and possibilities surrounding our roles as sustainers of the family. Women in any stage of relationship, any sexuality, and any age are welcome.

Date: Thursday, Nov. 19
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
Cost: $8 for non-members, free to Beth Am members
Register here.


Ayad Akhtar

Ayad Akhtar

After the Play: Disgraced
You’ve heard that one should not bring up religion, race or politics in polite company but in Disgraced these are central issues. One reviewer said, “As much as “Disgraced” is a play about the potential tensions between old faiths and the modern world, it also dramatizes the complexity of identity, the interior tug of war between the culture into which people are born and the culture they claim as their own.” This friction speaks to every minority or immigrant population. How much can one assimilate? How much does one want to blend in?

Professor Senzai will respond to these themes, as well as putting the play into a broader context of life for American Muslims. He will reflect on some of the realities and statistics of the American Muslim community and issues of assimilation, discrimination and Islamophobia.

Date: Thursday, December 3
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: $8 public; free to Temple Sinai members
Register here


Flora Scott Linda Calvin Panel

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

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

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



Let’s Talk Interfaith
Some people are not comfortable discussing their personal choices and dilemmas in a group. They want to discuss the key questions in an interfaith/intercultural home but they want to have that conversation in private. For those of you in this category Let’s Talk “Interfaith” is a great option. The two of you meet with me, Dawn, to cover topics like: How will we interact with our families? Where will we go for which holidays? Which holidays will we have in our home? How do we feel about each other’s religious and/or cultural tradition and how will we share them? What about children? We will focus on the topics you feel are most important to you. You can come with your own questions or just ask me “what should we be discussing?”
The first session is always free so you can determine whether this is something you want to do and whether you feel comfortable. Your first step is to contact me, Dawn Kepler, at 510-845-6420 x11 or to set up your free session.

Dates & times to fit your schedule.
Location: You have three options – come into my office on Bancroft Way in Berkeley or via Skype or on a conference phone call.
Cost is $120 for three 1.5 hour sessions. Or we can schedule individual one hour sessions at $50 per meeting.
Read more here.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Conversion, Current Programs, Jewish Culture, Jewish home celebrations, Jewish Learning, Relationships
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Rabbi David Booth

Rabbi David Booth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Booth

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Spirituality
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jason-segel-USA Today

Jason Segel, star of How I Met Your Mother (and various films) is the son of a Christian mother and a Jewish father. Segel was recently interviewed on Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF. About 15 minutes into the podcast the subject of religion comes up. For the next 5 minutes Jason pokes gentle fun at his experience of being raised between religions. He states that letting a child choose their religion, “is like the dumbest thing you can do for a kid.”

He goes on to chat with Marc Maron about the typical challenge to a patralineal child’s identity and the status of perennial outsider – a Jew in Christian environments and a Christian in Jewish ones.

Despite the highest ideals and wishes of parents, the people around us will retain their own view of religion and identity. It is better to be prepared for reality – and to prepare your kids – that to just dream of an homogenous world when everyone shares our personal perspective.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, In their own words
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Oneg Shabbat

Oneg Shabbat

Rabbi Milder of Beth Emek in Pleasanton sent out an email to his congregation last Friday reminding them of the importance of food – as a gesture of hospitality, as a social mixer, as a gesture of caring.

Here’s what he had to say:

Shabbat services don’t feel complete without Oneg Shabbat. It’s like dinner without dessert.

For many of us, Oneg Shabbat is where we sense belonging to our Jewish community. It is a Brigadoon kind of community, magically appearing each week, sometimes with new guests.

Oneg means joy, like a cookbook, “Joy of Shabbat.” The service is the meaty stuff, the deep thinking; the Oneg is the icing on the cake.

We need Oneg, the simple pleasure of being together with others in celebration of Shabbat. The schmooze, catching up on the past week, on where our kids went, on which relatives are visiting.

Of course, what makes it feel right to schmooze is that someone, very thoughtfully, put out a nosh, a snack. Maybe some nice cheese and crackers, whatever fruit is in season, perhaps a pie. They set out plates and napkins, made a pot of decaf, brought some lemonade. Maybe they made it pretty in some personal way.

We’ve gotten used to thinking that Oneg Shabbat just happens. Instead, it should be something that we do for one another, something that we each take pride in creating for our community.

Rabbi Milder continues and urges his congregants to take a hand in producing the oneg at their shul. Cooking, baking, or just buying food, is something each of us is able to do. Getting involved in a synagogue for the first time can feel hard. But we can all manage food. Join the Hospitality or Oneg committee at your shul. You’ll meet friendly people who like good food. You’ll share a favorite recipe or get a new one from a new acquaintance. I like to bring edible flowers from my garden to decorate the trays (pansies, calendula, roses). Food (and flowers) can start up a conversation with someone new. Give it a try. If you are already an old hand at your synagogue, make it your goal to chat with someone who looks new this coming Shabbat.

Then please email me and tell me how it went.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, Finding a Synagogue, Food
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Holidays are closer than they appear

The High Holidays are coming:
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sept. 13
Tomorrow is the first day of August; that means the High Holy Days are getting very near. For those who joined this group in the last 11 months let me repeat my annual admonition: DO NOT make the High Holidays your non-Jewish loved one’s first experience of a Jewish service. The High Holidays have different liturgy, different
cantillation, and a very different feel from the regular weekly Shabbat services. There have been two Christians who told me they loved the Yom Kippur services – that’s 2 in 20 years. They are both devout Christians and love the concepts of seeking forgiveness and repentance. If this does not describe your sweetheart (or you) don’t make the long, introspective services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur their first time in shul.

Really, I’m begging you.

So what to do?
Go to the High Holidays with a friend.
Go to services alone.
Ask me to match you up with a member of a shul near you and go with them.
Take your honey to a regular Shabbat service, or two or three, so they know the difference.

If you are not a member of a synagogue, August is a good month to check out the synagogues around you. Not sure which one to try? Give me a call (510-845-6420 x11) or an email ( and I’ll help you decide. Try a short Friday night service or a Saturday morning that includes reading from the Torah. Many people like to try a musical service or an outdoor service. They feel less formal. If the rabbi asked newcomers to introduce themselves, do it. Even if you’re shy, in fact, especially if you’re shy, this is a good idea. People in the room will know that you’re new and come chat with you. You may meet your next best friend.

ShaBBQ (Fremont)
Poolside Sundays (Palo Alto)
Film Screening: The Farewell Party (San Francisco)
The Chuppah and Beyond (San Francisco)
Pizza Dinner for Shabbat (Walnut Creek)
1st Friday Shabbat and Family Dinner (San Leandro)
Tot Shabbat Morning (Lafayette)
Beth Emek Open House (Pleasanton)
Shabbat Unplugged (San Rafael)
Celebratory Kabbalat Shabbat (Berkeley)
Chai Shabbat Morning Service (Piedmont)
Women in Interfaith Relationships (Burlingame)
Chardonnay Shabbat (Berkeley)
Shabbat Dinners for Young Families (Palo Alto)
Jerusalem: A Home of Many Faiths (Jerusalem)

During the summer months we have a very family friendly Shabbat service on the last Friday of each month. We call it ShaBBQ! This is a unique opportunity to combine a relaxing and welcoming Shabbat service under the stars with a BBQ on real charcoal. Rabbi Schulman and Angela Gold provide the worship and music experience. You bring your own food items to grill (meat or vegetarian is fine, no dairy products please). The service begins at 6:30 followed by dinner outside with friends and family. Guests are most welcome to join in.

Date: Friday, July 31
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont

Poolside Sundays
Join us all summer long for the best poolside parties in Palo Alto! This week: Art Under the Sun
Meet your friends or make new ones while relaxing on our spacious outdoor deck. Entertain the kids with water games, arts activities, a bounce house and sports activities led by our enthusiastic J-Camp counselors.
Poolside Parties are FREE for OFJCC Center Members. Non-Member guest passes may be purchased

11:30 PM– 3:00 PM:
Kids Activities – bounce house, arts & crafts, games with counselors and the indoor pool will be open
12:00 PM – 3:00 PM:
The poolside grill will be open with sandwiches, salads and ice cream for sale (cash only). This service is provided by Haute Cuisine.
12:30 PM – 3:00 PM:
The outside pool is open for family swim with lifeguards on duty.

Date: Sunday, Aug. 2
Time: 11:30am to 4pm
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto

Film Screening: The Farewell Party
The Israel Action Committee of Congregation Emanu-El invites you to a viewing of The Farewell Party. Winner of a number of international Film Festival awards, The Farewell Party is a unique, compassionate and unlikely funny story of a group of friends at a Jerusalem retirement home who decide to help their terminally ill friend. When rumors of their assistance begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help, and the friends are faced with a life and death dilemma. The film has adult themes but is suitable for age 12 and older.

Date: Thursday, August 6
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Emanu-el, 2 Lake St., San Francisco

The Chuppah and Beyond:
The Relationship Education Series for Couples in a Jewish Context
Are you an engaged or newly married couple? Then this series is meant for you. The Chuppah and Beyond helps participants cultivate the foundational tools for a successful life together while simultaneously building a community of peers. Emanu-El clergy co-facilitate each class along with Yael Melamed, psychotherapist and relationship expert.
Topics covered:
Assessing the challenges of communication
Develop skills for conflict resolution
Financial Planning
Maintaining intimacy
Lessons from a successful marriage

Dates: Thursdays, August 6 – September 10
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., San Francisco
Cost: $150 per congregant couple; $200 per non-congregant couple.
Questions? Contact Jennifer at or (415) 751-2541 x171

Pizza Dinner for Shabbat
Join us at 6 p.m. for our monthly Pizza dinner. You can enjoy dinner with our CBT Community after the 5:30 p.m. Tot Shabbat or before the 6:30 p.m. Family Shabbat. Or, you can go to both services and have dinner in-between!
Email to sign up for dinner and then send your check to the Temple Office.
RSVPs needed by Wednesday, August 5. As always, invite your friends to come along also!

Date: Friday, Aug. 7
Time: 6pm
B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Cost: $10 adults / $5 children 5 – 12.

1st Friday Shabbat and Family Dinner
Join us for worship services at 6:30 pm in the Main Sanctuary, followed by a delicious taco dinner sponsored by the Sisterhood.

Date: August 7
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Beth Sholom, 642 Dolores Ave, San Leandro
Please RSVP to the office for reservations.
Cost: $10 for everyone 16 years and older. No charge for the kids.

Tot Shabbat Morning
Geared toward families with children up to 5 years old, Tot Shabbat is an interactive and friendly Shabbat experience. Enjoy food, activities and prayer with other young families. All are welcome.
RSVP here for FREE bagel brunch.

Date: Saturday, August 8
Time: 9:30am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette (in the Adult Lounge)

Beth Emek Open House
Whether you are new to the area or just new to Beth Emek, we invite you to drop by our Open House on August 9 to learn about worship opportunities, our community, and educational programs for all ages.
Meet Rabbi Larry Milder, Education Director Judith Radousky, and Preschool Director Melinda McDonald. Take a tour of the building and visit our sanctuary and classrooms. Light refreshments will be served.
Congregation Beth Emek is an inclusive Reform synagogue with an open and participatory atmosphere. We welcome all people on their Jewish journey.
For more information, contact Lisa,

Date: Sunday, August 9
Time: 10:00am to noon
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton

Shabbat Unplugged
with Dan Nichols
Surprise! Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, Dan Nichols will be with us for a special mid-month Shabbat Unplugged, as well as Friday night and Saturday morning services. We’re really looking forward to taking over the JCC’s comfy atrium and filling it with our music and voices. If you play an instrument, bring it! And feel free to bring snacks/desserts/libations to share. RSVP to Molly at

Date: Friday, August 14
Time: 8:45 pm
Place: JCC Atrium, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
Sponsored by Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael

Celebratory Kabbalat Shabbat
Join us August 14 for the second Wilderness Torah/Urban Adamah collective Shabbat. Center your heart, clear your mind, and celebrate Shabbat with a special chanting musical service led by Wilderness Torah and Urban Adamah.
Facilitated by Maggid Zelig, Nathaniel Markman, Urban Adamah leaders, and a collaborative circle of musicians, we will sit in circle together to lift our spirits. A community vegetarian potluck will immediately follow the service.

6:30 pm: Kabbalat Shabbat service
8 pm: Community vegetarian potluck

Date: Friday, August 14
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Urban Adamah, 1050 Parker St, Berkeley
Hosted by Wilderness Torah and Urban Adamah
Register here.

Chai Shabbat Morning Service
Elul Rosh Chodesh-Ubuntu Sabbath
We kick off the last month before High Holy Days with a new-month Shabbat service, with some extra Hallel music to celebrate Rosh Chodesh. Join our musical prayer and spiritual leaders in an all-stops-pulled service as we enter the month of Elul.
Ubuntu: And we are participating in Oakland Community Organization’s “Ubuntu Sabbath” program during which congregations explicitly open the doors of their worship service to other faith communities. “Ubuntu” is a Bantu word that means the human essence as one of mutual-dependence and support. As Archbishop Tutu put it, “my humanity is bound to yours.”
Vegetarian potluck luncheon to follow. Please bring a vegetarian dish to share.

Date: August 15
Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Place: Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Avenue, Piedmont

Women in Interfaith Relationships:
A Discussion for Girlfriends, Wives, Partners, Mothers & Grandmothers
Whether you’re Jewish or not please join us as we continue the discussion surrounding what it means to be in an interfaith relationship and family. During our time together we will talk about the most pressing issues in our relationships and also create a list of topics to discuss in the future. Everyone is welcome. Invite your friends

Date: Monday, August 17
Time: 7:30-9:00pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame

Chardonnay Shabbat
Celebrate the joy of Shabbat and the early summer evening with a glass of wine or juice, light snacks and song. Chardonnay Shabbat begins under the oak trees (weather permitting) at 5:30 pm; Shabbat evening services are at 6:15 pm.

Date: Friday, August 21
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford St, Berkeley

Shabbat Dinners for Young Families
Join other young Jewish families from around the world at our laid back, kid-friendly kosher Shabbat dinners. You’ll meet new friends and become part of a welcoming community.
Dinner will be served buffet-style and all food will be prepared in a certified kosher kitchen.
Volunteers from a local Jewish high school will entertain the children to ensure the have a great time and to allow parents time to relax and enjoy their Shabbat meal.
We are working on creating a permanent toy/play area for the kids. If you are able to donate one item (lightly used is great) to add to the collection, we would appreciate it! Please bring it with you to the dinner.
There is a limited number of seats available for each dinner. The cut-off date for registration is five days prior to each event.

Date: Friday, August 28
Time: 5:30pm-8:00pm
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost: $35/adult, $10/kid, $5/toddler
Register here

Jerusalem: A Home of Many Faiths
This unique study tour will deal primarily with one city, but one to which three major and related faith communities are bound by veneration and love. We will try to understand what Jerusalem has meant to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and what it means to them today. We will compare and contrast the diversity of the sacred bonds held by these communities. Engage with “living history” as actors meet us in the walled city of Jerusalem in character, speaking to us of the past. Finally, we will converse with the current issues as Jerusalem sits at the center of war and peace. The tour is presented in partnership with the JCCSF.

Tour leaders: Dr. Jehon Grist, Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, and Ariel Goldstein
For more information, contact Ariel Goldstein or 415-276-1506.
Date of tour: January 11-19, 2016

Posted by admin under Community Activities, High Holidays
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Jewish coffin

Recently a woman wrote to me about her first experience with death and shiva as a Jew. Here’s what she said:
I am a recent convert and a single mother. My sister died recently. When I got the news, I was paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. I had been told that once the word of my sister’s passing got out, people would flock to my door with food, comforting visits and offers to watch my child so I could have time to grieve, but nothing happened. I went to work and kept up with my housework. My rabbi offered to help, but I really didn’t know what to ask for. And actually, I’m not good at asking for help. It felt like people were pretty hands off. People did attend the service, but there was no food since we held the shiva at the temple. My shiva experience could have benefited from more support. What should I know for next time? — Still grieving

She is not alone. Anyone who is not securely embedded in their synagogue community could feel at sea when grief hits. Here is what I answered her in my column, Mixed and Matched.

Posted by admin under Conversion, Death & Mourning, In the News
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sfjff 2015

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival began its 2015 season last Thursday and they have their usual fabulous line up of films. I’ve told you in the past that it was suggested to me that I cosponsor films about Jewish & Muslim couples, typically living in Israel or Europe. But that topic doesn’t apply to any of my couples. Only a few of you are Jewish & Muslim and all of you live in the USA. So this year I just chose films I wanted to see. Go see whatever speaks to you. Look at the entire list here.

Here are the ones I chose to cosponsor:

Dough – a British dramedy about a Jewish baker and his Muslim assistant.
Here’s the trailer.

Jews in Shorts – this is a collection of short films. The one that drew me in is Dear God, about a man in love trying to fulfill the wishes of a woman who doesn’t know he exists.
Here’s the trailer for Dear God.

Finally, Red Leaves, a film about an Ethiopian Jew and his family as they adjust to modernity living in Israel.
See the trailer here.

Looking into August, here are some activities you can join.

Tot Shabbat (San Mateo)
Tot Shabbat in the Park! (Palo Alto)
Kumzits Family Shabbat (Oakland)
Contra Costa Interfaith Housing’s School Supplies Drive (Danville)
Movie Midrash: Pleasantville (San Mateo)
Chardonnay Shabbat (Palo Alto)
What is Israeli Food: A Food Fair (San Francisco)
Rabbis Roundtable: The Meaning of Repentance (Foster City)
New Judaism for the Beginner’s Mind Class (Berkeley)

Tot Shabbat
Join us in the sanctuary for a short, fun, song-filled service followed by playtime and snacks!

Date: Saturday, August 1
Time: 9:00 am
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

Tot Shabbat in the Park!
Come celebrate Shabbat with the entire family at Juana Briones Park! The Jewish Baby Network and Kol Emeth are collaborating for this special event. Join us in the park for a Tot-friendly, upbeat, musical Shabbat Evening service, followed by a BYOP (Bring Your Own Picnic) dinner!
What to bring:
-You and your family!
-Picnic dinner for your family!
-A Blanket for you and your family to sit on!
Kol Emeth will be providing beverages, dessert (parve), challah and grape juice for Kiddush. If you and your family would like to attend, please register here.

Date: Friday August 7
Time: 5:00pm
Place: Juana Briones Park, 609 Maybell Ave, Palo Alto
This is a FREE event and if you have any questions or concerns, please email

Kumzits Family Shabbat
Bring a blanket to sit on. Invite friends to join you- or come to meet new friends as we welcome Shabbat around the campfire for song and s’mores! (Kumzits is Yiddish for “come sit”.)

Date: Friday, August 7
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, in the Upper Courtyard (you can see it from the parking lot)

Contra Costa Interfaith Housing’s School Supplies Drive
You can help equip students for success!
CCIH is collecting backpacks and school items for 96 elementary school children, 53 middle school children and 18 high school children. Please click here for the list of needed supplies. You may drop off donations at the BCC Office and a member will deliver to the supplies to CCIH. All donations are due by August 10.

Date: Donate until Aug. 10
Time: During normal business hours
Place: Beth Chaim, 1800 Holbrook, Danville

Movie Midrash: Pleasantville
This 1998 film is a movie you’re sure to enjoy. Pleasantville is the fantastical story of two contemporary teenagers transported into a Leave It To Beaver-esque 50’s sitcom. In a world as naive, wholesome and ignorant as there ever was, these two real people inevitably start to affect this perfect little town. Pleasantville will take you through the emotional gamut and leave you ready to talk about it!
Join Rabbi Callie and Matt Schulman as we explore Judaism through the medium of film that illustrates a particular Jewish text, idea or value. Matt will provide the lens of the film critic, while Rabbi Callie connects the film to a Jewish teaching.

Date: Saturday, August 15
Time: 7:00 – 10:00pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth el, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
Please RSVP here.

Etz Chayim in Palo Alto has a new rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky. Here’s a great way to meet him, at Chardonnay Shabbat.
Chardonnay Shabbat
Come meet our new rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky, celebrate the end of summer with us, and discover what makes our community so special. Enjoy refreshing wines/other drinks, tasty appetizers, and relaxed, interesting chats. We will have snacks and activities for the kids with teens to give the adults time to schmooze.

Date: Friday, August 21
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto

What is Israeli Food: A Food Fair
Achshav Yisrael (Right now Israel) is a new group at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco offering exciting Israel focused programming! Come see our tasting booths, demonstrations on how to make Israeli dishes and special activities for children, including age-appropriate cooking projects.

Date: Sunday, August 30
Time: 3-5 pm
Place: Beth Sholom, 301 14 Avenue, San Francisco
Cost: $10 per person and $18 per family
Buy tickets here.

Rabbis Roundtable: The Meaning of Repentance
Join Rabbi Ezray and other local rabbis who will discuss texts on repentance and share their beliefs abut sin, forgiveness, and the human condition.

Date: Wednesday, September 2
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: Wornick Jewish Day School, 800 Foster City Blvd, Foster City
Free. Pre-registration is required—reserve your seat today! 650.212.7522
Full details here.
Co-sponsored by Peninsula Temple Sholom, Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Peninsula Temple Beth El and Congregation Beth Jacob

New Judaism for the Beginner’s Mind Class
with Arik Labowitz
Are you looking to claim your place as a part of the Jewish community; spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually? Chochmat HaLev will offer a series for those who want to look at the tradition with their own eyes and with a fresh perspective, and to uncover their own connection to the tradition, to the community, and to the divine. This is a wonderful stand alone class, or the first part of an adult B’nei Mitzvah preparation.

Dates: Tuesdays, October 6 –December 29, 2015
Time: 7:30pm-9pm
Place: Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St, Berkeley
Cost: $435 for non-members
Details here.

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Jennie Chabon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Spirituality
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shiva candle

This is an excellent article from Kveller on how to make a difficult shiva call. Frankly, all shiva calls are difficult. You are going to the home of a mourner and sitting with their terrible grief.

How to Make a Tragic Shiva Call offers eleven rules that can apply to any shiva call. As the author says, “Shiva calls are scary. We are scared to go to visit those mourning the sudden, too-early, tragic loss of a loved one. We are scared that we’ll make it worse. We’re scared that we’ll catch their pain and won’t be able to cope with it. We’re scared that we won’t know what to say. Sometimes these fears overwhelm us, and we decide not to go.”

I thought her statement, “We’re scared we’ll catch their pain and won’t be able to cope with it,” is simply brilliant. It does indeed require of us that we not overly identify with the mourner. To be of help we must focus on what their needs are, not create needs in ourselves.

Read the article; I think you’ll find it most helpful.

Posted by admin under Death & Mourning
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