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.

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Film
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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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Nick and Nicole

Having a chuppah is a beautiful Jewish custom. Chuppah, חוּפָּה in Hebrew means “covering”.

On, Rabbi Victor Appell describes the chuppah this way.

The canopy under which Jewish couples stand when they are married is called a chuppah. The chuppah represents the new home a couple establishes through their marriage. It also represents the sheltering presence of God and the wish for God’s blessing over the couple. A chuppah can be as simple as a tallit (prayer shawl) attached to four poles supported by members of the wedding party or a large piece of decorative fabric attached to four stationary poles. Some wedding venues have more permanent structures that serve as a chuppah and can be decorated by a florist. The openness and temporal nature of the chuppah remind us of that couples need to feel free to openly express their feelings to each other, and that new marriages require the support of friends and family.

G-d cast has a short, useful video about the chuppah that you can view here.

Wedding canopies are beautiful and sometimes couples who are not Jewish choose to use them to create sacred space.

For a Jew, having a chuppah is often seen as critical to their wedding. It is not required by Jewish law but has significant cultural importance for many.


Posted by admin under Weddings
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Israeli Bookshop

Israeli Bookshop

Cultural Jews
“I’m culturally Jewish.” How many times have I heard this? Too many to count. What does it mean? It means different things to different people. The common thread is, “I don’t believe in God.” Let’s not even go into what “God” means; let’s jump right to what does “cultural” mean? For the non-Jewish partner this can be like a visit to a nonexistent country – a series of no statements. No God, no ritual, no prayers, no spirituality, no belonging. The non-Jewish partner may begin to believe that this means we can have an American home – but then the Jew adds some more Nos – no Christmas, no church services, no carols that include Jesus. Now “cultural” sounds stingy and flavorless.

The Jewish partner may try to explain Jewish culture. If it’s a meeting between me and the couple this is often when the Jewish partner turns to me and says, “You know, Jewish culture.”

So what the devil is “Jewish culture?” First the bad news, it comes from Jewish religion. There is no food, music, art, dance or even language that is universal to all Jews everywhere. What is universal is the religion of Judaism. BUT! Now the good news, where ever Jews went on the planet they took their religion and adapted it to the host country, creating a Jewish version of that place – i.e. Jewish culture. So you have the Jewish culture of Mexico and the Jewish culture of Morocco and so on – each with their own food, music, language, etc.

So when the Jewish partner says, “I’m culturally Jewish” there’s a lot to explore.

What country or countries does the Jew in question come from? I met a man a couple weeks ago who was born in Iran, his family moved to Israel when he was a little boy and then to the US when he was a teen. So he has multiple languages, foods, music, etc. to share with his soon to be spouse.

My sister-in-law’s family came from Tunisia. The family was expelled when her parents were young adults and fled to France. Her wedding to my Ashkenazi brother-in-law included arab, French and American elements. The food, all kosher, was middle Eastern at one of the banquets and French at another. Her parents speak three languages – Arabic, Hebrew, and French plus few words of English. The bridal parties included belly dancing and henna. My sister-in-law thinks American Jews eat too much “white food!” Bagels, challah and gefilte fish all horrify her. Why have a fiddle when you can use a drum?

What is YOUR Jewish culture?
Begin by exploring your roots. Most American Jews are Ashkenazi – that is, originating from Eastern Europe and from a community that spoke Yiddish. Go to the Jewish museums, music festivals, art & food fairs and find the elements that represent “Jewish” to you. That’s your Jewish culture. It will probably include Klezmer music, bagels, Yiddishisms, and images of bearded men dressed in long black coats. None of this would be culturally appropriate for my sister-in-law but it will be for the majority of American Jews.

Eastern European Jewish Food

Eastern European Jewish Food

Buy recordings of old Jewish comedians – and new/young ones. Talk about why the jokes are funny. Don’t assume that everyone gets the jokes you get. (I was at a Jewish conference a few years back and there was a Jewish comedian entertaining us. We were roaring. The young Hispanic facilities man sat by handling the sound with a placid expression. Finally the comedian turned to him after a wonderful bris joke and said, “So, you getting any of this?” “No,” smiled the man.)

Visit the local Jewish museums.

Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley
Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St, San Francisco

100 Jewish films

One of the easiest ways to learn is by watching a film. The fantastic San Francisco Jewish Film Festival comes every year and screens films at locations all around the bay area.

Or just go rent an old film and watch it with an interpretive eye. Try to explain the details.
The Producers
The Frisco Kid
The History of the World: Part one
Fiddler on the Roof
Prince of Egypt
An American Tail
The Chosen

Old black and white Yiddish films like The Dybbuk or Yidl Mitn Fidl.

Modern films from around the world.
Being Jewish in France
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
The Infidel

And Check out the site, Rabbi at the Movies for more ideas.

All of these can start conversations about what it means to be Jewish, for the most part, without a religious component. Religion exists on the sides of some of these films, just the way it hovers on the side of the lives of cultural Jews.

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The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is in its 35 year.
Building Jewish Bridges is delighted to be a co-presenter of the following films at this year’s festival.


Food has always represented more than sustenance in Jewish culture, and its transformative power is on display in this delightful British dramedy which unites a widowed third generation kosher baker, Nat (a crusty yet compassionate Jonathan Pryce), and his new Muslim apprentice, Ayyash (Jerome Holder in a breakout performance). Dayan & Son Bakery is in a downward spiral. Nat’s customers are all moving or dying. To top it off, his adversarial competitor is moving in on his turf, and his son has no interest in carrying on the family business. Read more

Thursday, July 23, Castro Theater, San Francisco
Sunday, July 26, CineArts, Palo Alto
Wednesday, August 5, California Theater, Berkeley
Sunday, August 9, Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael

Red Leaves

Red Leaves
After the death of his wife, Ethiopian immigrant Meseganio Tadela makes a fateful decision. Settled in Israel for the past 30 years, the 74-year-old widower sells his apartment and informs his grown children that he has no intention of buying a new place. Instead, the obstinate Meseganio plans to shuttle between each of their homes for the remainder of his life. Read more

Sunday, July 26, CineArts, Palo Alto
Monday, July 27, Castro Theater, San Francisco


Jews in Shorts
Five short films with a range of topics. Read the details here

Wednesday, July 29, Castro Theater, San Francisco

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I’m reading a wonderful book, The Mathematician’s Shiva. Of course, it’s about Jews – but also other Russians, Poles, Americans, scientists and more. I love the underlining Jewishness of the characters and I really love that it is not about the Holocaust. There is so much more to Judaism than misery and murder.

The Mathematician's Shiva

The Mathematician’s Shiva

Which leads me to the topic of cultural Judaism. What does it mean to be culturally Jewish? It can mean the books you read (see book groups below in the events). It could be the movies you see (films below). It could be a hike with other Jews and non-Jews or going to the Jewish Heritage Night at the Giants or the A’s. It could be hanging out at the pool. Hearing a lecture on God and science. But it does mean learning and doing Jewishly infused things. I’ve collected a number of them below. If you have an idea to add, please send it to me. If you have a favorite Jewish themed book or film, tell me about it. I’ll share it with the rest of our gang.

Dough showing at the SFJFF

Dough showing at the SFJFF

Building Jewish Bridges will again be co-presenting some films at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. I know for sure one of them will be Dough. Take a look at it on their website.


Alfresco Shabbat (Burlingame)
Tot Shabbat Playgroup (Pleasanton)
Kumzits Shabbat! (Oakland)
Torah with Soul (San Rafael)
Poolside Sundays (Palo Alto)
Sneak Preview: 2015 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (San Rafael)
Men’s Book Group at Beth Am (Los Altos)
Saturdays Unplugged: Brazil-Flavored Family Fun (San Francisco)
A Scientist Looks at God (Los Altos)
Havdallah Hike in Redwood Park (Oakland)
Story Shabbat (Pleasanton)
Giants’ Jewish Heritage Night (San Francisco)
Oakland A’s Jewish Heritage Night (Oakland)
Congregation Beth Emek Open House (Pleasanton)

Alfresco Shabbat
Join us for special Shabbat evening services under the summer sky. We’ll begin in the Misle & Sosnick Families Foyer at 5:30 p.m. to enjoy some delicious wine and hors d’oeuvres. Then, we’ll move outside for an alfresco service in the Wornick Family Courtyard. We’ll finish with finger sandwiches and Oneg Shabbat treats. Come see how the prayer experience is enhanced when our voices are carried on a gentle summer breeze!

Dates: Fridays, Jul. 3 to Aug. 28
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Dr., Burlingame

Tot Shabbat Playgroup
Tot Shabbat, a playgroup geared toward young children (ages birth to toddler) and their parents or caregivers, meets Friday mornings. Activities include free play along with Shabbat or Jewish holiday-themed craft projects, play dough, and parachute play.

Date: July 3 and Every Friday
Time: from 9:30 to 11:30am
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton

Kumzits Shabbat!
Join us for this lively Erev Shabbat Kumzits (“come sit”) Family Service around the firepit. Yes, there will be s’mores!

Date: Friday, July 3
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, in the Upper Courtyard (you can see it from the parking lot), 2808 Summit St., Oakland

Torah with Soul
Whether you are a Torah veteran, or completely new to Torah, all are welcome. Shabbat by Shabbat, we will study the weekly parsha, based on the first year of the triennial cycle. Additionally, time permitting, we’ll continue our study of the Book of Psalms. On the third Saturday of each month, weather permitting, Torah with Soul becomes Torah on the Trails, where we take a short hike on a local trail before studying Torah surrounded by nature. To be added to the Torah with Soul and/or Torah on the Trails email lists, please contact Molly at

Date: July 4, and most Saturdays, contact Molly at 415.479.3441 to make sure before you go.
Time: 9:15 am
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 No. San Pedro Road, San Rafael

Poolside Sundays
Join us all summer long for the best poolside parties in Palo Alto! 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.

Dates: Every Sunday, for the July 5 schedule look here
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto

Sneak Preview: 2015 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
See clips of this year’s upcoming festival highlights, peek “behind the scenes”, learn how the films are selected, and discover the history of the largest Jewish film festival in the world!

Date: Wed, July 8
Time: 7:00 pm
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
Cost: Free!

Men’s Book Group at Beth Am
In July, the Beth Am Men’s book group reads All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. The blind girl, Marie-Laure, and her father flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo to save a valuable museum piece. Werner, an orphan in a mining town in Germany, develops a skill for repairing radios. The Nazis recognize this talent and send him to track the French Resistance. He winds up in…. Saint-Malo! Join us to discuss this fascinating historical novel set at a critical time for European Jewry.

Date: Thursday, July 9
Time: 4:00pm
Place: Beth Am Library, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills

Saturdays Unplugged: Brazil-Flavored Family Fun
Live music, fun for the kids and caipirinha cocktails for the big people. It’s Saturdays Unplugged and July’s version features the amazing Fogo Na Roupa Brazilian Carnaval Ensemble. Enjoy the rest of Shabbat.

Date: Saturday, July 11
Time: 3:00 pm
Place: San Francisco JCC, 3200 California St., San Francisco
Free & Open to Everyone

A Scientist Looks at God
Taught by Rabbinic Intern Adam Lutz
Knowing the evils that occur in the world, how can God be all powerful, all knowing and all good? Come find out how a scientist (and soon to be rabbi) tries to create a Jewish belief system that reflects our experience in the world and honors God at the same time. Learn about Adam Lutz, our summer rabbinic intern from Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).

Date: Sunday, July 12
Time: 10:00am
Place: Beth Am, Conference Room, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills

Havdallah Hike in Redwood Park
What a lovely way to wind down your Shabbat with a gentle stroll in the redwood forest , a spirited Havdalah service in a meadow, followed by a light snack and a chance to shmooze with others. Join the Green Committee of Temple Sinai for a peaceful close to Shabbat.. Please bring a snack to share if you are able..

Date: Saturday, July 18
Time: 5:30pm
Place: In the last parking lot of Redwood Park: 7867 Redwood Road, Oakland
Questions? Please contact Richard Hart at richard.p.hart at gmail dot com

Story Shabbat
Story Shabbat is geared toward families with children ages 3-6. During this special Shabbat celebration, children are introduced to Shabbat in an age-appropriate service which includes music and a story, followed by a snack and craft project. Siblings are welcome. For more information about Story Shabbat, contact Lisa Kama (925.461.3591).

Dates: July 25 and August 29
Time: 10:30am
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton

Giants’ Jewish Heritage Night
Giants vs. Brewers
Join the Bay Area Jewish community and Congregation Sherith Israel at the Giants’ annual Jewish Heritage Night. As you may know, CSI always has a huge section on Jewish Heritage Night. Your ticket includes a seat in the Jewish Heritage section, a limited-edition Giants Kiddush cup, and admission to the Jewish Heritage Night pregame party in Seals Plaza from 5 – 7 pm.

Date: Monday, July 27
Time: Pregame Party: 5 – 7 pm; First Pitch: 7:15 pm
Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco
Cost: Bleacher seats $35/ticket
Details on the Giants’ website

Oakland A’s Jewish Heritage Night
This season’s fifth annual Jewish Heritage Night on Tuesday, August 4 is all new. The pregame event will take place in the spacious Eastside Club. All participants that purchase a special ticket through the link below will be able to attend the pregame event, as well as enjoy a traditional food item and receive an exclusive A’s Jewish Heritage giveaway item. As an added bonus, August 4 is one of the A’s Chevy FREE PARKING Tuesdays.
For more information, please contact Jeff Perlmutter at 510-563-2250 or
Please note, you must purchase a special ticket for this event to attend the pregame event in the Eastside Club and receive the giveaway item and food item.
Pregame event in the Eastside Club
Exclusive A’s Jewish Heritage giveaway item
Traditional Jewish food item
Chevy FREE PARKING Tuesdays

Date: Tuesday, August 4
Time: Game starts at 7:05, Jewish festivities at 5:30pm
Place: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland

Congregation Beth Emek Open House
Whether you are new to the area or just new to Beth Emek, we invite you to 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.

Sunday, August 9
Time: 10:00a to noon
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
For more information, call the synagogue at 925.931.1055

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