Sometimes it’s easier to learn about something by watching a video. That can be especially true when the thing you are learning about is a sensitive topic. G-dcast has created a number of videos addressing elements of Jewish life. This one, on Jewish mourning practices, covers the basic issues that you will encounter in regard to a death and mourning.

A Jewish Guide to What To Expect at Shiva, and How to Help Your Friend in Mourning

G-dcast Guide to Mourning (2)

Posted by admin under Death & Mourning, Jewish Culture, Life Cycle
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I always check the food column in the J-weekly and am frequently rewarded with something healthy, delicious and kosher.

I love Mediterranean food, love bell peppers, mint and chick peas so Josie Shapiro’s Braised Peppers with Turkey and Mint were a big SCORE.

Peppers Stuffed with Turkey & Mint

A couple friends have already asked for the recipe. Give them a try and keep your eye on the Food column.

Posted by admin under Food, Jewish Culture
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Carly and her mom

In their survey of readers this past month, the Jewish Daily Forward found that women are the force that makes Passover happen in our homes. Their article, Thanks for Passover Mom, opens with this sentence, “Let’s begin with gratitude to our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts.” They found that 80% of the heavy lifting for the holiday is done by womenfolk. Now before we get gender angst going I’m going to confess that I personally love being in charge of Passover. I’ve loved being primarily in charge of much of my home. Yes, I have a job but the home front still feels like my territory. Once when I was buying new flatware my husband got a bit huffy when I said that his opinion of kitchen items was, shall we say, marginal.
“You pick other things,” I told him.
“What!?” he asked.
“Cars,” I said, “I don’t care what car you buy.”

Every couple breaks down the territory so that someone is primarily responsible. Hopefully it is into segments that people prefer doing and are good at. This lessons the overall workload. But what is a woman’s workload, how is it influenced by societal norms and does she want all that is foisted upon her? In an interfaith relationship the norms can be diddled with by religious differences. It is reasonable that a Christian woman might say, “I’ve agreed to raising the kids Jewish but I know nothing about that so it’s on you to make it happen.” But it is equally reasonable for her to say, “These are my children too and I intend to learn all I need to know to do the religious homefront work. However, I want your full support, back-up and engagement.”

Studies show that women, rather than having a fight-or-flight response have a tend-and-befriend response to stress. Women are more likely to care for others — to form alliances, to create carpools, and set up playgroups. Given this positive impulse, how can mothers-in-law, grandmothers, sisters, women-at-large (whether Jewish or not) support each other when it comes to running a Jewish home for an interfaith family?

This is what we discuss in the program Women in Interfaith Relationships. Feel free to call or email me if you want to learn more.

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Wedding in film Interlove Story

Wedding in film Interlove Story

In 1994 Anne was a graduate student at Stanford University in the Film Department. For her Master’s Thesis she made a short film about her parents’ intermarriage and titled it Interlove Story. In it she uses old family movies and current interviews with her parents to tell the story of their Catholic – Jewish marriage, the choices they made regarding religion in their home and the advice they gave her regarding her own relationship with a non-Jewish man. In her film, Anne does not propose any answers. She opens questions and relates choices, the choices that have brought her to be who she is.

This is the 9 minute film that I will use to open my program on April 26 at Beth Am. I re-watched the film in preparation for the program. There are some statements that jump off the screen – whether you agree or disagree, you’ll have an opinion. It is likely to stimulate a reaction in your own life. Whether that reaction is, “honey, THAT will never happen in our home!” Or, “she makes a good point,” it is a great starting point for conversation. I hope that you’ll join me Sunday morning in Los Altos at Beth Am Congregation. Details are below.

EVENTS
Not Forgotten: Art Exhibit by Erella Teitler (Palo Altos)
Shabbat YAFE (Berkeley)
Soulful Shabbat Ruach (San Rafael)
Israel Shabbat (Oakland)
Jewish/Muslim Interfaith Text Study (Piedmont)
Crazy Hat Shabbat (Los Altos)
Mending Hearts, Making Peace (San Rafael)
Interlove Story: When Jews Love Non-Jews… and Judaism (Los Altos Hills)
Raising a Mensch (Alameda)
Women in Interfaith Relationships (Burlingame)
Crazy Hat Shabbat (Los Altos)
On Culture, Comedy, and Richard Pryor (Berkeley)
Community Lag Ba’Omer Bonfire (Berkeley)
Camp Shabbat (San Mateo)
Tikkun Leyl Shavuot (Berkeley)
After the Play: Head of Passes (Berkeley)

Not Forgotten: Art Exhibit by Erella Teitler
This is an exhibit of collages/mixed media using old photographs from families of refugees depicting Jewish life in the Middle East and North Africa at the beginning and middle of the 20th century.

Erella Teitler was born into a Sephardic family in Israel and has a strong connection with her Jewish identity. As an artist, Erella has been influenced by the varied cultures, music styles and landscapes she’s encountered while living in Israel, Burma, Canada, Nigeria, Cameroon and currently, the United States. Her mother and aunts, who were fiber artists, also have had a strong impact on Erella’s creativity.

Exhibit Dates: April 1-May 20
Place: Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Young Adult Art Night is May 6
Time: 6:30pm
Free and open to the community
Email: info@paloaltojcc.org

Shabbat YAFE
Celebrate Shabbat together with an all-ages service & spirited song-leading! This Shabbat Yafe service features a Tot Service, Catered Dinner (RSVP in advance required for the dinner), Service followed by an Oneg & Community Activity.
This month’s theme: Shmiat Ha’Ozen – Being a good listener!
Mah yafe hayom ~ How beautiful is this day!

Date: Friday, April 24
Time: 5:00 pm Tot Shabbat
5:30 pm Catered Dinner
6:15 pm Community-Wide Service
7:00 pm Oneg Shabbat
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley
Details here

Soulful Shabbat Ruach
Soulful Shabbat Ruach is an original service written by Cantor Levine. It was created to appeal to young and old alike, people of different faith backgrounds and inclusiveness. The prayers are set in both Hebrew and English and meld a variety of styles including gospel, country, folk, Chassidic, Klezmer and Ladino.

Date: Friday, April 24
Time: 6:15 pm
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
www.rodefsholom.org

Israel Shabbat
Celebrate Israel’s 67th Birthday! Join us for a special Shabbat celebration of Israel’s independence with the Temple Sinai Adult Choir and Cantor Keys. Rabbi Regev will share some thoughts about the unique role that Israel plays in our lives, and what the future of our relationship with the Jewish homeland might be.

Date: Friday, April 24
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
www.oaklandsinai.org

Jewish/Muslim Interfaith Text Study
Join us for an evening of interfaith text study, and open dialogue co-facilitated by Dr. Leyla Ozgur Alhassen, scholar of Qur’anic narrative, and Arielle Tonkin, visual artist and specialist in Jewish text.
We will explore text as an intellectual and artistic pursuit in the Jewish and Islamic traditions. So come join us for learning and building community!
This event is in celebration of the exhibition “Women in Islam” currently on view in Kehilla’s Fireside Art Gallery in partnership with the Islamic Art Exhibit (IAE).

Date: April 26
Time: 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Place: Kehilla Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave, Piedmont, In the Fireside Room
Details here

Mending Hearts, Making Peace: Using Music for Healing of Mind, Body, Spirit
led by Cantor Lisa Levine
Music leads the way into the deepest parts of our souls and has the power to release stress, stir emotions and open the heart and body to healing and a connection with the Divine. Cantor Lisa has been writing healing music chants and adapting prayer melodies for her embodiment work in Yoga Shalom for years. Now Cantor Lisa has written some new deeply spiritual melodies which will help focus your intention on the path to wholeness, hope and inner peace.

Date: Sunday, April 26
Time: 9:15am
Place: JCC Gallery, Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
RSVP to Molly at molly@rodefsholom.org.

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

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

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

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

Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda
Cost: Free to Temple Israel members, $30 for the series, $18 per single session (please
bring cash or a check.)
To register go here http://catalog.lehrhaus.org/course/2015/winter/P200-TIA/
Co-sponsored by Temple Israel, Building Jewish Bridges and Lehrhaus Judaica.

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, facilitated by Rabbi Lisa Delson and Dawn Kepler of Building Jewish Bridges, about the assumptions and possibilities surrounding our roles as sustainers of the family. Women in any stage of relationship, any sexuality, and any age welcome.

Date: April 30, 2015
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame
Cost: Free to members of Peninsula Temple Sholom, $8 to non-members
Register here.

Crazy Hat Shabbat
Put on your craziest hat and join me and other Beth Am friends for a fun, musical Shabbat morning service. Following the service, enjoy grape juice and challah as well as arts and crafts. Come have fun with your child and meet other parents of young children (~ages 0-5).

Date: Saturday, May 2
Time: 9:30am
Place: Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills
www.betham.org

On Culture, Comedy, and Richard Pryor
Scott Saul and W. Kamau Bell In Conversation:
Join Scott Saul, author of the recent biography Becoming Richard Pryor, as he and W. Kamau Bell discuss comedy, race, and culture. A rare chance to spend an evening with some of the East Bay’s greatest talent and to reflect on the evolution of comedy in response to struggle.
From an interview with Scott Saul: “Pryor invented, more than anyone else, the art form of stand-up comedy. Before Pryor, comedians told jokes; after Pryor, they told their story—and, if they followed Pryor’s lead more fully (as have comedians from Roseanne Barr and Dave Chappelle to Sarah Silverman and Louis CK), they felt free to lean on those parts of their story that made their audience squirm as well as roar. He was the master artist who rewrote the rules.”

Date: Tuesday, May 5
Time: 8:00 pm
Place: East Bay JCC, 1414 Walnut St, Berkeley
Cost: $10 general admission / $8 JCC members, seniors, students
More information here.

Community Lag Ba’Omer Bonfire
Dancing, Potluck, S’mores and More
The story goes that almost 2,000 years ago the 24,000 students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva died in a massive plague sent from the heavens because the students were really being mean to each other. Lag Ba’Omer, the 33rd day of the journey from Passover to Shavuot, marks the day when the great plague ended.
We’ll celebrate on the farm by being REALLY nice to each other, sipping warm chai, lighting a huge bonfire, roasting s’mores, and dancing to the amazing music of Bolo. Please bring a dish for our dessert potluck and your dancing shoes!
7:30: Schmooze, enjoy treats from the dessert potluck and roast s’mores around the fire circle
8:00: Community singing and counting of the Omer
8:30: Dance and groove to the soulful tunes of Bolo in the big tent

Date: May 6
Time: 7:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Place: Urban Adamah, 1050 Parker St. Berkeley
Cost: $5, buy tickets here
This community-wide celebration is hosted by Urban Adamah and co-sponsored by Afikomen Judaica, Chochmat Halev, Congregation Beth El, East Bay Minyan, Fair Trade Judaica, JCC East Bay, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham, and Wilderness Torah.

Camp Shabbat
Come for a Shabbat full of camp-style worship andruach (spirit), with a special opportunity to bless all of our PTBE campers, as well as our graduating seniors who are moving off on to their next adventures.

Date: Friday, May 8
Time: 6:30pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
www.ptbe.org

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot
Get ready for a unique community-wide celebration and night of learning; a spiritual journey bringing together people of all varied perspectives and affiliations. Stay for an hour-or stay until dawn!

Date & Time Saturday-Sunday, May 23-24, 6pm-Dawn
Place: East Bay JCC, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley
Details here.

After the Play: Head of Passes
Join us again to explore Jewish values in the arts. Playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney, author of Berkeley Rep’s Head of Passes, states that his play was inspired by both the biblical story of Job and Shakespeare’s Lear. “This play is about a literal discourse in faith.”

How does Judaism perceive Job, or tragedy? How do we in modern times, view the concept of faith? What is our internal guide? Is McCraney correct in saying that, “everybody needs to invent or hold onto some inalienable truth. Or at least that they feel is the truth.” Is there a core Jewish truth?

Join Rabbi Chester to explore Job, faith, and meaning.

Date: Thursday, May 21
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Lehrhaus, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $12
Register for the class here.

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Current Programs
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2 challah loaves sweet cropped

Now I ask you, is there anything better than hot homemade bread? I’ll answer, No!

Come make challah, the most delicious bread ever! We’ll mix, knead and braid our own challah dough. Learn how to braid with 3 or 5 strands as well as making round loaves. You’ll take home your own loaf of warm bread.

Date: Sunday, July 12
Time: 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Place: A Private home in Oakland, near Lake Merritt. Registrants will receive the address.
Cost: $25/person

Every Friday I make challah. It is a ritual in my home and everyone loves it. I’ve experimented with both dairy and parve* recipes and found the BEST RECIPE in the world. Got one you think is fantastic too? Bring it! We’ll share.

Email dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org to sign up for the class.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Current Programs, Food, Holidays, Shabbat
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2 rings small size

I received this inquiry recently:
Some gay friends wanted a “fully multifaith ceremony.” They felt rejected when no rabbi would agree to co-officiate, but Christian clergy would. I’m not sure how to help them address their feelings in the aftermath. — Sympathetic Friend

I answered the question in my monthly Mixed and Matched column for the J-weekly.

Here’s my reply:
Your friends’ desire was to find a rabbi to co-officiate. Any rabbi they spoke with should have first explained that they don’t need a rabbi to have a Jewish wedding.

A Jewish wedding requires four things, according to halachah (Jewish law), and none of them are a rabbi. Many modern couples focus not on the four legal requirements but on the minhag (custom). Most want the chuppah, breaking the glass, dancing the hora — all of which can be incorporated into any wedding. My guess is that your friends wanted a rabbi to represent the Jewish spouse’s heritage simply by his or her presence, and to make the couple feel that Judaism validated their marriage.

Since your friends are gay, the emotional stakes became much higher. From the start it was the rabbi’s responsibility to have a kind conversation that drew out the couple’s longings and needs, before addressing the rabbi’s boundaries. Beginning like this would have allowed the couple to identify aspects of the wedding — special food, music, symbols — that they controlled and could integrate into their ceremony. That would have met their first need for the wedding: representing the Jewish spouse’s heritage.

Second was the need for Judaism to validate their wedding. American rabbis from liberal branches of Judaism are rapidly moving toward embracing same-sex marriage, and your friends told you that they were not rejected as a gay couple. Perhaps the rabbis they spoke with did not clearly affirm the authenticity of their relationship as a beshert (destined) match, something they could have done even if they did not plan to co-officiate at the wedding.

The rabbi could have opened the conversation about boundaries with an I-statement: “Since you have come to me, I must tell you my personal stand on co-officiation and multifaith ceremonies.”

All Jews, rabbis included, have the right and responsibility to study Jewish tradition and their personal values to develop a meaningful relationship with their faith. Just as your friends chose to create a relationship they hope will never be dissolved, the rabbi is in a permanent relationship with tradition/God/ethics that he or she does not desire to dissolve.

If one rabbi could not perform the wedding, so be it. But your friends apparently were turned away by many rabbis. Now they must go beyond the hurt and try to understand: What happened here, and why does Judaism generally seem so unresponsive to a “fully multifaith ceremony”?

First, our understanding of the world is often from an American, not Jewish, viewpoint. As America’s dominant faith and culture, Christianity doesn’t fear the loss of its existence. Not so for Judaism, Zoroastrianism or Native American traditions. Many Jews readily understand the Zoroastrian’s rejection of the dominant religion because we support the underdog. We forget that Judaism is right there with these minority faiths.

Most rabbis are not willing to participate in a ceremony that does not feel Jewish and in fact feels threatening. One rabbi said to me, “I don’t want to be the only Jewish thing at the wedding.”

Second, it is important to understand that religious adherents of a particular faith are making heartfelt decisions based on their own spirituality, not on our personal desires. Mixing in another religious tradition may feel expansive to us, but it may feel disrespectful to those for whom the religion is a way of life. Just as we want rabbis to respect our choices, we need to respect theirs.

This moment of rejection hurt. But now it is time for your friends to move on and grow from the experience.

Spouses will not agree with each other at every turn; they can still love each other. They can love and respect a rabbi while not agreeing. For their own sake, the couple might determine that this experience will open their eyes to how others differ from them, what their boundaries are, where those boundaries can stretch and where they cannot.

You can listen to my podcast on how to find a rabbi here.

Posted by admin under In the News, Intercultural, Jewish Culture, Weddings
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mourning candle

Some of you know that I receive just about all of the synagogue e-newsletters. Sometimes the rabbis use that vehicle to contact their members. Not long ago I received an email from a Conservative congregation who had a recent loss. It is a useful way of illustrating some aspects of Shiva practice.

The rabbi said:

Yesterday we had the sad and moving funeral, burial, and first day of shiva for our beloved Lottie. Lottie’s daughters Janet and Myra are sitting shiva in Lottie’s home.

While most of our members receive shiva visitors around the time of the minyan service, the more traditional practice that Janet and Myra observe is to receive visitors throughout the day.

Please visit any time in the upcoming days after 9 in the morning: today, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (until Shabbat). Minyan in the evening is at 6:45. Please note the time is different from our usual, to allow for both the afternoon and evening services to be observed. It is very important to have a minyan each evening, and I encourage attendance there as well.

There is no public mourning on Shabbat, but we will have a service following the conclusion of Shabbat at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Finally, our Cares Committee is coordinating people to help set up the home around 6:30 in the evening, and clean up at the end of the evening (around 8:45).

What do we learn from this?
First, that the traditional shiva practice is to hold a daily minyan for a week, minus Shabbat (Friday night at sundown to Saturday at sundown). Second, that a minyan is present three times a day for the traditional three daily prayer services. Third, that the community takes care of the mourners, sets up in preparation of the gathering and clears up afterwards. The mourners are mourning; that’s all that is expected of them. Period.

Posted by admin under Community, Death & Mourning
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Women in Interfaith Relationships: A Discussion for Girlfriends, Wives, Partners, Mothers and Grandmothers

Carly and her mom

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, facilitated by Rabbi Lisa Delson and Dawn Kepler of Building Jewish Bridges, about the assumptions and possibilities surrounding our roles as sustainers of the family. Women in any stage of relationship, any sexuality, and any age welcome.

Date: Thursday, April 30, 2015
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Sholom, 1655 Sebastian Drive, Burlingame
Cost: Free to members of Peninsula Temple Sholom, $8 to non-members

Register here.

Rabbi Lisa Delson

Rabbi Lisa Delson

Posted by admin under Current Programs, Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Jewish home celebrations, women
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Afikomen Treasure Hunt half size

I’m struck dumb with admiration! The Bible Belt Balabusta has come up with an Afikomen Treasure Hunt that will mollify the most ardent Easter Egg longings.

Here’s what she says about her 2015 hunt:

Here’s the first clue in this year’s Afikomen Treasure Hunt. Each guest had an origami frog place card (my index card hopping frogs) and after dinner, we were told to unfold it. Inside seven of our frogs was a single letter. The kid had to line up the letters and spell the right word, which happened to be ARMOIRE, and which happened to hold the next clue. Oh, how I love a good treasure hunt.

You can go to her website and read MORE about her staggering creativity here.

Posted by admin under Children, Passover
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Trang & Ron from behind (2)

Falling in love and finding “the one” is a wonderful experience. If you are Jewish and that “one and only” isn’t, you have some sorting out to do. How will your home reflect your dual identities, how will you raise the kids, what holidays will you celebrate. There are lots of choices — and honestly, aren’t you glad there are?

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

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

Posted by admin under Current Programs, Relationships, Weddings
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