When a Jew Celebrates large

The following message was sent to me via my monthly column, Mixed and Matched

My dad is Jewish, but my parents raised me with no religion at all. I’ve always been spiritually minded and wanted a connection to God. I found a rabbi who was very kind and sympathetic. I told her that I didn’t want to convert just to convert, I want to believe in what I’m getting into. The rabbi guided me to a yearlong class on Judaism and also met with me privately. When I felt I was ready, she took me to the mikvah. I’m still learning, and I so very much wish I had learned about Judaism growing up. Is there no way for interfaith couples to give their children a Jewish education without committing themselves to being Jewish? I would have loved to have grown up around other Jewish kids. It was hard to do this all by myself. — Jewish Now and Forever

I answered:

Dear Jewish Now and Forever: I can’t tell you how delighted I am to hear of your kind and insightful rabbi! She is truly a blessing. I hope all rabbis will sit and listen to the adults from interfaith families, hear what they are seeking, teach them and help them find their own place.

To your question: Yes, there are ways for interfaith couples to give their children a Jewish education without deciding to practice Judaism. But I say this with caveats. Let’s begin with the “yes” part. Many synagogues allow members to enroll their children in Hebrew school while they are deciding what to do. Interfaith couples can meet with the rabbi and discuss their situation. Rabbis will not faint. They are used to the interfaith phenomenon. A local Orthodox rabbi told me that he believes that in order for a child to make a choice about which religion to choose, he or she must be knowledgeable about Judaism, which is a subordinate tradition in America.

Personally, I am one of many Jewish professionals who do not advocate a halfhearted attempt to send your child off to be educated without the parents doing anything themselves. This is disorienting for the child. So the “no” part would be that few rabbis are going to say, “Sure. Drop your child off and we’ll take care of everything. You just go shopping.” Couples are not surrendering their parental responsibilities.

Each synagogue has its own policies, so it is important to learn what they are. I have heard of some that give you a year to determine what you choose for your home. Others will educate a child right up until bar or bat mitzvah age and then ask the family to resolve the religious identity of the child.

Then there are the Jewish summer camps. Most of our local Jewish camps accept children of interfaith couples. At camp the child will have a fun, immersive Jewish experience and will learn Jewish songs, blessings, values and practices.

There are also Jewish community centers, which offer a wide array of Jewish activities and holiday celebrations, as well as preschool and summer programs for kids and families.

And let us not forget the many independent Jewish organizations that offer Jewish experiences. Locally there are organizations like Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, The Kitchen, Jewish Gateways, EcoJews of the Bay and Edah. A number of Jewish concierge programs have a professional who will help couples find the Jewish environment that works for them.

As you say, it would have been nice for you to have been around other Jewish kids. Children get a feeling of being “normal” when they have friends who celebrate the same holidays and are familiar with the same foods, music and cultural references. If an interfaith family is able to find another family, interfaith or Jewish, it is great for the children to have playmates who can share these ideas and experiences with them. Children like to be similar to their family and friends and they like having it pointed out. It gives them a sense of belonging. Children don’t have to be raised as Jews to understand elements of their Jewish heritage and enjoy being included.

Finally, I want to commend you on your personal tenacity. You found what you wanted and you worked hard to get it. You are a blessing to the Jewish people. Having lived on both sides of the Jewish identity, you have much to share.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, In their own words, Mixed & Matched
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Israel in the Garden

Israel in the Garden

Sometimes people who feel they are on the margin of Jewish community because they don’t belong to a synagogue believe that there is not much available for them to do. Wrong! Every week I send out a list of random activities that ANYONE can attend. Here’s a list for the coming weeks. Of course there are MANY more. If you need help, just call me. Dawn 510-845-6420 x11

EVENTS
Kabbalat Shabbat on the Farm (Berkeley)
Torah with Soul (San Rafael)
Green Shabbat (Oakland)
Tot Shabbat in the Park (San Mateo)
Hummus! The Movie (Palo Alto)
Qirvah Sacred Ecstatic Participatory Music Event (Palo Alto)
Chardonnay Shabbat (Berkeley)
Fifth Friday Kumbaya Shabbat (Palo Alto)
Etz Handworkers (Palo Alto)
Tisha B’Av Today: Contemplating Our Tragedies (Burlingame)

Kabbalat Shabbat on the Farm
Join Urban Adamah for a musical Kabbalat Shabbat service on the farm. Kabbalat Shabbat was invented in the 16th century by the Jewish mystics. Today, it is practiced in most Jewish communities as a spiritual and emotional doorway into our day of rest. Our version includes chanting, meditation, poetry, movement and quiet alone time on the farm. Drums, guitar and clarinet will joyfully carry us into the night.

Date: Friday, July 22
Time: 6:30: Kabbalat Shabbat Service
8:00: Community Potluck Dinner – Please bring a vegetarian dish to share.
Place: Urban Adamah, 1050 Parker St., Berkeley
This event is free and open to the public, but please register in advance. As with every Urban Adamah event, please bring a canned good to donate to our weekly farm stand.
Details here.

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 second 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, this Saturyday, 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 molly@rodefsholom.org.

Date: Most Saturdays including July 23
Time: 9:15am
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 No. San Pedro Road, San Rafael
www.rodefsholom.org

Green Shabbat
Join us under the redwoods to celebrate all that is around us. To better enjoy the outdoors, we recommend dressing in layers and bringing lawn chairs or picnic blankets for the service. A Potluck kiddush lunch will follow the service. Please bring a dish to share, if you are able.

Date: Saturday, July 23
Time: 10:30am, Roberts Park, Diablo Vista picnic area
Sponsored by Temple Sinai’s Green Committee.
www.oaklandsinai.org

Tot Shabbat in the Park
Join Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin, Elana Jagoda Kaye, and Peninsula Temple Beth El families with young children for a Shabbat morning play date at the park. You will sing a few Shabbat songs and munch on challah, but mostly enjoy the beautiful California weather and a relaxing Shabbat morning together.
This is a great opportunity to meet some PTBE families!

Date: Saturday, July 23
Time: 10:00 am
Place: Laurelwood Park, 3471 Glendora Drive, San Mateo
Sponsored by Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
www.ptbe.org

Hummus! The Movie
Oren Rosenfeld | USA, Israel | Documentary
From the SF Jewish Film Festival –
Where can you find the best hummus in the world? From Suheila, a single Muslim woman who is known for her legendary hummus, to Jalil, a Christian Arab hipster in Ramle who runs his father’s hummus joint, to Eliyahu, a born-again Orthodox Jew who owns a hummus restaurant chain, this fun and fascinating film about the highly competitive hummus restaurant business in Israel shows how powerful this chickpea spread can be.
Learn more here.

Date: Sat, Jul 23
Time: 12:30pm
Place: Cinearts at Palo Alto Square, Palo Alto

Qirvah Sacred Ecstatic Participatory Music Event
King David says in the Psalms: “qirvat Elohim li tov!” “Closeness to G!d is so good for me!”
How to get there? As David did: with chant, drumming and movement.
Come join Reb Tsvi and the Hevrah-team in learning how to get into the G!dzone (dveikut) using a variety of chants, drumming – both on drums and on the body, and movement.

Date: Sunday, July 24
Time: 2:00pm
Place: Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela Avenue, Palo Alto
www.kolemeth.org
For more information, contact Reb Tsvi Bar-David at:tsvi.bardavid@gmail.com

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 at 5:30 pm; Shabbat evening services are at 6:15 pm. Join us for this fun, informal Shabbat gathering.

Date: Friday, July 29
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley
www.bethelberkeley.org

Fifth Friday Kumbaya Shabbat
Whenever there are five Fridays in a month, we like to do something a little different. Join us for an informal backyard service featuring songs sung around the campfire. Bring a blanket and a picnic to enjoy on the grass (no pork or shellfish, please). We’ll have some tables and chairs for those who find that more comfortable. Wine for kiddush and challah for motzi will be provided. All ages are welcome! As the song says, “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be!”

Date: Friday, July 29
Time: Picnic at 5:45 pm, services at 7:00pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Etz Handworkers
Would you like to do some needlework with others? Etz Chayim has a circle of members that quilt, crochet, knit, do needlepoint, embroidery, etc. Everyone brings their own project and tools – or you can work on one of their quilts for the Jewish Vets at the VA. All are welcome and this is a great opportunity to sit and schmooze.

If you’d like to join in please contact the woman in charge, Jessica. Email me and I’ll give you her personal email address.

Date: Monday, August 1
Time: 7:00 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto
www.etzchayim.org

Tisha B’Av Today: Contemplating Our Tragedies
Tisha B’Av, or the 9th of Av, commemorates many tragedies in Jewish history, most notably the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and again in 70 CE. This year, we will dedicate our contemporary observance of Tisha B’av to remembering not only what happened to us, but what happens every day to those who are in physical, spiritual and emotional exile in the 21st century.

Our evening will begin with a study session from Reform CA that will help us transform the mourning of our Temple’s destruction into a call of action to repair the wrongs in today’s society. We will conclude with an evening prayer service and a modern chanting from Eichah, the Book of Lamentations.

Join Peninula Temple Sholom and Peninsula Temple Beth El with Support from Reform CA. Led by Rabbi Molly Plotnik and Rabbi Lisa Kingston

Date: Saturday, August 13
Time: 7:00 to 8:30pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame
www.sholom.org

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At the Oneg

At the Oneg

I had an ah-ha moment this week. I had attended a community meeting on the subject of responding to the violence against black people. We met at a black church. The event was organized by PICO, an organization that teaches faith-based community organizing. There were people of different faiths and races present. Afterwards there was some discussion among the dozen Jews around me about next steps. I felt oddly uncomfortable and out of place. It took me a couple days to realize why. Then it hit me. The conversation felt like we were helping “other people,” people of color. But I have family members who are people of color. Members of my synagogue are people of color. This isn’t about “them;” it’s about “us.” I know from speaking with you that many of you have multiracial families and friends. This struggle is our struggle. If you are feeling alone, reach out. There are many Jewish groups, synagogues, etc, that are confronting the violence; you can say you need support. If you want to help, reach out. Everyone is needed. Call your rabbi, call the Jewish Community Relations Council.

The most meaningful thing that I did (for me) was to start contacting my family and friends of color and say, “Are you OK? I’m thinking about you. I’m worried that even if you are physically unharmed you are being psychologically and spiritually hurt. I love you.” One on the young people I called was numb and depressed. I asked her, “What can I do to brighten your day?” Obviously I couldn’t alter the universe but I could do something to cheer her. She told. We did it. I’ll see her again tonight for Shabbat dinner and services. I will be sure to tell her that I love her.

Go tell someone that you love them, that you are thinking about them. Say you want them to be safe and to feel loved. See if you can do some small loving thing for them. Then please tell me what you did.

Some good articles:
6 Concrete Things You Can Do To Help End Police Brutality
Jews of Color Ask Us All to Dream of – and Fight for -Justice

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Jews of Color
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Shabbat Table3

In the June 2016 column of Mixed and Matched, I responded to a comment from a woman who had experienced what was described in the previous month’s column – having her Jewish authenticity questioned.

I can relate to your May 20 column “My father is Jewish and my mother is not.” My mother and I both had Conservative conversions when I was 9 years old. Still, all my life I’ve heard “You’re really not Jewish since your mother isn’t Jewish.”

I have always led a Jewish life. As an adult, I married and had children with a Muslim man, and both of my girls were raised Jewish. When I taught Hebrew school at my Reform synagogue, the director asked if I felt conflicted about the occupation of Gaza since my husband was Muslim. I told her that I felt conflicted because I am Jewish. She didn’t get it.

I have been divorced for over a decade. My daughters get comments all the time, saying “How strange to have a Jewish mother and a Muslim father.” Since my mother wasn’t born Jewish, I guess it makes my children not Jewish. We just keep living as Jews.
Oh well

***

Dear Oh well: Where to begin? I’m sorry that my column speaks to your life. I hope the day comes when this attitude goes the way of the woolly mammoth. You are a Jew, as is your mother, as are your daughters. Are there some who do not accept Conservative conversion? Yes. There are also people who are vegetarians and others who are carnivores. We are all free to believe what makes sense to us.

However, I find it disturbing that members of your synagogue, including the Hebrew school director, are so ill-informed about the Reform movement’s policies regarding both conversion and patrilineal descent. I am confident that your rabbis would not approve of these remarks. Sadly, many self-identified liberal Jews are not as open as they believe themselves to be.

In regard to the comment made to your daughters, many people are surprised that a Jew and Muslim would marry. But it does happen, even in Israel, and I wish others would stop feeling the need to say something about it. From what you tell me, your girls are happy as Jews and have been able to brush aside the questions and remarks. Good for them!

You raise the issue of “What is a Jewish name?” Two quick points on this challenging matter: Jews have all sorts of names in modern America; we are no longer just Goldsteins and Levines. And when you encounter a Jew whose last name shouts not Jewish, like Christensen or Church, that individual is likely the child of a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother. This makes the individual halachically Jewish.

Many have said to me, “But I’m just curious, not malicious.” If you learned of a person whose child had died, would curiosity be a sufficient reason to ask the parent about the circumstances? No. Do not raise topics that are going to cause pain. If you are uncertain of whether a topic is appropriate, err on the side of kindness and don’t.

I brought your concerns to my friend and colleague at Lehrhaus Judaica, Reform Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, who reflected that Jewish tradition teaches the concept of tzniut, usually translated as modesty. He pointed out that it also means privacy and said all Jews could benefit from observing this mitzvah by respecting the privacy of others.

I would encourage you and your daughters to answer invasive questions this way: “I observe the mitzvah of tzniut, so I can’t respond to that.” If your inquisitor is baffled, suggest they query a rabbi who can explain more fully what this means.

I have no quarrel with traditionally observant Jews who believe that only a person born of a Jewish mother or converted by an Orthodox court is halachically Jewish. Within their community they should live and be well. They should also observe tzniut and refrain from talking about the identity of others.

For the rest of us, it’s important to examine our beliefs and be honest about what we think. Do we accept non-Orthodox conversions? Do we accept patrilineal descent? Hillel taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah.” It is hard to do, but we need to anyway.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Conversion, Mixed & Matched
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couple's shoes

In my May Mixed and Matched column in the Jweekly I chose to address a question I hear regularly: “My father is Jewish and my mother is not. Where will I be accepted? Where can I go that they won’t quiz me?”

***

Ever since the Reform movement refined its views on so-called patrilineal Jews three decades ago, this has been a pervasive issue, in the liberal movements in particular — how do Jews with one Jewish parent fit into the community? Because Judaism traditionally is passed through the mother, the issue is particularly sharp for those with a Jewish father.

Not so, say many Reform Jews, who rush to tell me what patrilineal Jews should think or do. They say that people with a Jewish father shouldn’t care what others think; they should join a Reform or other non-halachic congregation. These individuals state adamantly and angrily that Jews who don’t accept patrilineal descent must change, must see the future and accept it or die out. They loudly support a person’s right to self-define and to choose how to be Jewish, except, of course, those Jews who choose to self-define and practice differently than they do. In other words: traditionally observant Jews. This derails the entire conversation, while ignoring the feelings of the patrilineals.

What have patrilineal Jews experienced? What do they want? Do they have a sense of what would reassure them? No one has asked about their feelings at all. How sad. We liberal Jews, and I include myself as a Reform affiliated Jew, need to stop lecturing and start listening, really listening — without judgment.

A number of patrilineal Jews have told me they chose to convert. Others told me, “I wish someone had offered to teach me, to guide me, to just tell me about conversion, just say it was an option.” Others have said that they went through a period of worry and reflection before deciding not to convert.

Yet, others have said that they have been hurt even in synagogues that purport to accept patrilineal Jews. “When I say I have one Jewish parent, people immediately ask me which one, and that makes it clear that it matters or they wouldn’t ask.” Several others said that Jews, affiliated and not, upon learning that the Jewish parent is their father, have said, “So you’re not really Jewish.” One individual who had chosen a Reform conversion because she’d been raised Christian had a fellow congregant say, “Wow, you’re so active, even though you’re not really Jewish.”

This Sunday I am moderating a conference in Oakland called “Growing Up Interfaith.” When I asked individuals who had shared their life stories with me to participate, one replied, “I don’t want to speak publicly, because members of my synagogue won’t think I’m really Jewish.”

On the other hand, one might think that at least the matrilineal Jews are fine; having a Jewish mother has given them clear passage into their Jewish identity. Sadly, that is not always the case. For some it’s been relatively easy. But for others, having a last name like Christianson or O’Malley has meant constant questioning.

And then there are ethnic and racial intermarriage issues. Between 15 and 20 percent of Bay Area Jewish families are multiracial. Many of them don’t “look Ashkenazi.” They too face constant questioning.

I’ve interviewed more than 50 adult children of intermarriage over the past four years. Many don’t know where to start the conversation. They talk about the barriers they face and try to sort out just where they want to engage. What would make them feel authentic? There is not one size fits all. Each person has to find his or her community. I encourage them to speak up and tell their rabbi the kinds of messages they are getting.

We can help. We can listen. We can show compassion and sympathy. We can ask how they want to handle their identity and how they want to engage. Then we need to speak up when fellow Jews are insulting — intentionally or unintentionally. Not with words of bitterness, but with calm, firm words that hold a mirror to the speaker. Let’s all become allies, no matter what Jewish movement we claim.

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Star of David

I feel very strongly that we need to teach compassion for our fellow Jews and to avoid sinat chinam (senseless hatred). Many Jews condemn other Jews, citing internalized anti-Semitism, in-group elitism and the unpleasant practice of figuring out whether a person is Jewish or Jewish-enough. I think it is important to stimulate compassion for the people who do this. They are the ones suffering. We need not take on their bad behavior, nor their dark feelings and fears. We can and should feel sorry for them and we can and should strive to act differently. There is an old poem that my father used to recite that is my guide in this area in particular:

They drew a circle to keep me out,
Rebel, heretic, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that took them in.

We are the fortunate ones when we don’t feel the need to reject others.

In my teens my good friend, Irene, became a born again Christian. At one point she burst into tears and said she was so unhappy because I was going to hell. I said to her, “Irene, I’m 17! What can I have possibly done at this age that would cause me to go to hell?” But for her, not accepting Jesus as my savior was enough to bring this terrible fate and, for her, such grief. How lucky was I to be free of this dark fear! I knew she accepted Jesus as her savior and although I didn’t believe poor Jesus could do a thing for her, I believed she would be fine. She was, and is, a good person. I had and have no fear for her soul.

This is not to say that anyone has the right to pry into the background of another person. My June column of Mixed and Matched is about deflecting that rude behavior. But I want to congratulate those of us who are fortunate enough to not feel a need to invalidate or degrade a fellow human being, Jewish or not.

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forgiveness

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.”
This statement, from Rabbi Ken Cohen, is truly worth considering

Apologize? I know people who can’t get the words, “I’m sorry” out of their mouths. They sometimes will say, “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” IFyou hurt me? Obviously you did or you wouldn’t have gotten this far. But “if” I hurt you is not an apology. Why can’t these folks just say it? Because they are afraid; afraid that admitting wrong doing will make them subject to derision. It does indeed take courage to make yourself vulnerable by admitting an error or wrong doing. I know families whose members remain fractured because one or more people are not brave enough to acknowledge that they are human, fallible and have done something wrong to another person.
Do be brave. Is there someone that you are uncomfortable seeing because you know you have wounded them? Don’t waste time trying to justify your self. Pray, talk to your clergy person, read about how to apologize even when it scares you.

Forgive? Being able to forgive someone is tremendously liberating. It means you are not waiting for someone else to act. If you can forgive and move on, you own your life. No, don’t keep deceivers or hurtful people in your life. But forgive those people you love for being imperfect – you probably are imperfect too.

Forget? This one is a bit trickier. Utterly forgetting what transpired is not a good idea. But we do get to chose what and how we remember. A year and a half ago my sister died after a brief struggle with cancer. While we had been very close when we were younger she had become a very angry adult. She requested, through our other sister, that I not attempt to see her. It was hard but I promised. In the last weeks of her life her son told me to come see her. I was so conflicted as I felt I had made a promise to her and wanted to honor it. But in the end I went. She was a shriveled scrap of her self; it was shocking. As soon as she saw me she started to cry. I went to her and hugged her gently, “I love you,” was all I could say. She wept and said, “I love you too.”

Now I could try to forget the down right dangerous things my beloved sister had done but that would have meant not seeing the real pain she had left behind in my other family members. It would have meant not learning anything from all the misery, including her illness. But I could choose to focus on the memories of good times. I could pull out photos of us swimming or playing or hugging. That is what I chose. I will remember what went wrong and hope to avoid and heal that. AND I can remember my beloved sister as she was when we were best friends.

If you are able, and I know that family members don’t always allow you to contact them, consider healing a relationship this coming week. You will be able to celebrate a true personal liberation.

May we all be blessed with many imperfect, but loving family members and friends.

EVENTS
Welcome Shabbat Outdoors (Los Altos)
Taqueria Sinai Shabbat! (Oakland)
Summer Shabbat Potlucks (Palo Alto)
Community Picnic with B’nai Shalom (Walnut Creek)
Grand Opening! At the Palo Alto JCC! (Palo Alto)
PTBE Book Club (San Mateo)
Prospective Members Open House (San Rafael)

Welcome Shabbat Outdoors
Summer worship outdoors is a tradition at Beth Am, giving congregants an opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of our campus. Everyone is welcome, feel free to bring friends and enjoy a picnic dinner before or after the service.

Date: July 8
Time: 6:15
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
www.betham.org

Taqueria Sinai Shabbat!
Join us for this Sinai summertime favorite: a casual Shabbat dinner catered by Taqueria El Paisa followed by Erev Shabbat services in the Albers Chapel. BYO Bottles of beer or wine.

You must register and pay for dinner by July 11. You can do that here.

Date: Friday, July 15
Time: Dinner 6:00pm followed by Shabbat Services at 7:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, in the Sacred Garden
www.oaklandsinai.org

Summer Shabbat Potlucks
Join Kol Emeth for a potluck this summer. Want to meet new people? These potluck dinners are a perfect place. They begin with an outdoor evening service and are followed by the meal. They are held in members’ backyards. So call Elaine Sigal, executive director of Kol Emeth at 650.269.3058 so she can tell you where you’ll be going and talk to you about what to bring.

Elaine says: This is exciting. The dinners are so haimish and warm, and friendly. Kids are for sure welcome.

They begin with an outdoor evening service and are followed by the meal.
On three Fridays in July, join us for outdoor Shabbat Evening Services at 6:00pm, followed by a festive potluck dinner.

Dates: July 15 and 29
Time: 6pm
Place: Call Elaine for the address.
Hosted by Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela Ave., Palo Alto
More info: Elaine Sigal, 650.269.3058, execdir@kolemeth.org

Community Picnic with B’nai Shalom
Want to check out a synagogue this summer before the High Holidays? Why not go to B’nai Shalom’s fabulous annual Community Picnic with games, swimming, hot dogs and more! All are welcome!

Sunday, July 17
Time: 12:00pm
Place: Cowell Park in Concord
Call Lisa at the synagogue office at 925-934-9446 x102 if you have any questions. She is incredibly kind and helpful.

Grand Opening! At the Palo Alto JCC!
The Palo Alto JCC is proud to announce the Grand Opening of four new destinations on our campus!

* The Oasis Play Space–a unique play experience for kids ages 1-10–with gentle hills, tunnels, slides, a climbing structure and benches on which to hang out
* Nourish, a Newish Jewish Cafe offering a savory and healthy menu
* Family Center–a cozy hangout for parents with little ones
* Outdoor Training Area–an al fresco workout space for our members (open to the community at the Grand Opening)

The free celebration, which is open to the community, will include:

* Music and entertainment
* Samples from our tasty cafe menu
* Goodies and giveaways
* Fitness Center tours and demos
* Demos at our Outdoor Training Area
* Coupons for future cafe treats and drink
* Face painting, bounce house and carnival games

Date: Sunday, July 17
Time: 1:00pm-4:00pm
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
650-223-8700
http://www.paloaltojcc.org

PTBE Book Club
Milton Steinberg’s As A Driven Leaf will be this summer’s reading. Also known as one of Rabbi Dennis’ favorite books, this masterpiece of modern fiction tells the gripping tale of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah’s struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Steinberg’s classic novel also transcends its historical setting with its depiction of a timeless, perennial feature of the Jewish experience: the inevitable conflict between the call of tradition and the glamour of the Modern world.
Please join Rabbi Lisa Kingston and Lisa Meltzer Penn for an exciting conversation based on the book.

Date: Thursday, August 18
Time: 7:00 – 8:30pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
www.ptbe.org
Details here.

Community Shabbat Service and Dinner
You’re invited to Beth Am’s Shabbat service under the trees, followed by a special community Shabbat potluck dinner. We’ll have a chance to enjoy the delights of Shabbat together while savoring a beautiful summer evening. Please sign up here to bring a dish to share (enough for 10 people) according to your last name:
A-M main dish
N-Z salad or side dish
Beth Am will provide a delicious ice cream dessert!

Date: Friday, July 15
Time: Service at 6:15pm Potluck Dinner to Follow
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Service in the Outdoor Chapel; Dinner on the Patio
www.betham.org

Prospective Members Open House
Considering joining a synagogue in Marin? Want to learn more about Rodef Sholom?
Here’s the perfect opportunity! You will get to meet the clergy and other members of the Rodef Sholom community. RSVP to Molly at molly@rodefsholom.org.

Date: Friday, August 26
Time: 5:45 pm reception in Rabbi Stacy Friedman’s study; 6:15 pm Shabbat services
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
www.rodefsholom.org

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Rabbi Ken Cohen

Rabbi Ken Cohen

I read this sentence on Rabbi Ken Cohen’s Twitter profile. It is so beautiful I had to share it here. I also discovered his website.

The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.

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child-baptism medium

A message from a young woman soon to be a mother sent to my Mixed and Matched column in the J-weekly.

I was raised Catholic but no longer practice. I’m pregnant and happy to raise my children Jewish, and my husband and I belong to a Conservative synagogue. We plan to take our baby to the mikvah. My mom wants the baby to be baptized even though she knows we plan to raise our baby Jewish. Mom says it’s not that big a deal, and why can’t I just do it? Also, I don’t see myself as Jewish now, but what if at some point I do? — Anxious mom-to-be

Dear mom-to-be: If it really weren’t that big a deal, your mother could let go of it. Ask her to tell you why it matters to her.

If your mother fears that your child will not be saved, you should encourage her to speak to her priest, as the Catholic Church has been moving toward accepting the Jews as a covenantal people.

If she fears that Jews go to hell, let me offer a lovely paper written by the Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations. In “A Sacred Obligation: Rethinking Christian Faith in Relation to Judaism and the Jewish People,” the scholars ask whether God would revoke a promise and conclude that the answer is no. Therefore, they determine, the covenant between God and the Jews remains intact, valid and eternal. Because the Jews are in a “saving covenant with God,” it means they are not going to hell. You can find the paper online.

If your mother’s desire is more of a gut reaction because this is how she was raised and how she sees the world, you will need to address her claim that this isn’t a big deal. It is obviously one to her, and she needs to understand that it is also a big deal to you and your husband.

Baptism is the ritual that officially says a person has entered the body of the Catholic Church. It is the wrong ritual for a child who will grow up as a member of the Jewish people.

Try to help your mom see that baptism, circumcision, receiving a Hebrew name and other religious acts performed to welcome a baby are in fact very important. The rituals that parents choose are a declaration of who their child is and the foundation of the child’s religious identity. Birth rituals affirm a baby’s entrance into a spiritual community. In return, that community accepts the responsibility of caring for the child.

Here’s another way to think about it: Is this ritual important enough to take pictures? Typically people have photos of their babies and family at christenings, brises, baptisms and namings. These photos are shown to children as they get older and explained as important moments in their lives. The pictures we use to fill our photo albums or display in our homes reveal what we value. Doing both ceremonies reduces the status of each. Hopefully your mother can see that for your child’s sake, one message is easier.

If she is worried that her grandchild will not understand her and her religion and therefore will not be close to her, please reassure her that this is not the case. Children naturally attach to grandparents based on love. Also, her grandchild will be raised in America, where Christianity is the dominant religion; there is no way the child will not come to know about it.

Additionally, this is a good time to discuss with your husband which holidays your family will share with your parents. I encourage you to include them in all of your Jewish celebrations and to identify elements from their tradition that will be shared with your child.

Finally, you mention that you might someday want to be Jewish. Indeed, that may happen. Have you given your mom subtle messages about this? Could her fear be more about losing you? If so, lavish some extra time on your mother.

If you are simply acknowledging that anything can happen — I say, time will tell. If someday you want to be Jewish, discuss this with your rabbi and other Jews by choice. Those who have chosen this path can help you figure out how and what to say to your mother.

Posted by admin under Mixed & Matched, Non-Jewish family, Parenting
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Religious Action Center

Many synagogue congregants are receiving emails from their clergy about the tragedy in Orlando. I am confident that many church members are getting similar messages. I share with you the one that Peninsula Temple Sholom‘s clergy, Rabbi Dan Feder, Rabbi Lisa Delson, Rabbi Molly Plotnik and Cantor Barry Reich.

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Over the weekend, the Jewish people celebrated Shavuot, the festival of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. However, instead of waking to the wholeness and peace that comes with accepting our sacred stories, we awoke to news of devastating human destruction. We mourn the 50 lives that were cut short at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a place where LGBT folks came to enjoy themselves in a comfortable and life-affirming place. Our thoughts are also with the more than 50 who were injured as well. Just like last week when we mourned the deaths of four people who were killed in Tel Aviv, once again we are reminded that we live in a broken world.

It is becoming clear that it is not only enough to pray. We must speak out against extremism and join together with the vast majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters who reject violence in the name of their religion. We must speak out against homophobia and spread the message that love is love. And finally, we must join together and advocate against gun violence and promote gun control laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to cause harm.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20). Judaism offers us a framework for how we should act in the world. Prayer and study are important, but so is action. Let us cry and mourn over the lives lost and then transform our tears and fear into creating a more just and peaceful world.

To take action, visit rac.org/gvp and share your thoughts with our elected officials.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, In the News
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