lemons & blossoms

It’s JUNE! Summer brings big changes to Jewish institutions and synagogues. You’d think it were the year 100 and we were all farmers again. There are very few holidays in the summer, Hebrew school is closed, rabbis go on vacation, apparently Jews are tending their gardens and flocks. However, many synagogues take advantage of the good weather and have outdoor Shabbat services on Friday nights and Shabbat in the Park or the Woods for Saturday mornings. This is a lovely time to visit synagogues and get to meet some members and the clergy. Go “shul shopping” if you don’t have a synagogue or are seeking a change. Take a look at some of the alternative services I’ve listed below and if you don’t see one near you – email me. I’ll find some. Next week I’ll send you info about some of the alternative Jewish organizations you can explore. (If you are currently involved with one of them – like Urban Adamah or The Kitchen – let me know what you think of them.)

BIG NEWS: As you recall my program belongs to Lehrhaus Judaica and we are located in the same building as the UC Berkeley Hillel in Berkeley. Well, the decision has been made to redo the foundation of our building and do a remodel too. So we all moved OUT of the building on Bancroft Way and have temporary offices being set up in Albany. During our transition next week the best way to reach me is by email. Once we’ve settled in at the temporary building and our phones are turned on, I’ll let you know.

Happy Summer and Shabbat Shalom!

Pride Shabbat (San Rafael)
Torah with Soul (San Rafael)
The Home I Love: Cabaret from Berlin to Tel Aviv (San Francisco)
Welcome Shabbat Outdoors (Los Altos)
Story Shabbat (Pleasanton)
This is Bay Area Jewry: Photo Essays on the Changing Nature of Our Community (San Rafael)
Bagels & Babies (Tiburon)
Outdoor Potluck Shabbat Dinner (Redwood City)
Grief and Growing Weekend (Santa Rosa)

Pride Shabbat
Join us for our Pride Shabbat – a celebration of LGBTQ Jews, friends, allies and their families. Services will include liturgical additions, musical celebration, special readings for Pride and speakers from our Rodef Sholom community. Everyone is welcome at this important Shabbat where we celebrate our shared commitment to justice and community!

Date: Friday, June 2
Time: 5:45 pre-oneg, 6:15 pm Shabbat service
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael

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 third 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 molly@rodefsholom.org.

Dates: Most Saturdays
Time: 9:15 am
Place: Rodef Sholom, 170 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael

The Home I Love: Cabaret from Berlin to Tel Aviv
Join us as Emanu-El hosts a concert event in honor of the German Consul General Stefan Schlüter’s service to the Bay Area community! Cabret and Jazz singers, Karen Kohler and Noa Levy will be joined by pianist, Tracy Stark.

Date; Wednesday, June 7
Time: 6:30 pm Check-in
Place: Emanu-El (Martin Meyer Sanctuary), 2 Lake Street, San Francisco
RSVP for this free concert via email at paconsul@sanf.diplo.de
Attendance is free and open to the community. We look forward to seeing you there!

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

Dates: June 9, 16, 23, 30
Time: 6:15pm
Place: Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills

Story Shabbat
Bring your young children or grandchildren to celebrate and observe Shabbat in a service and program that is designed for families with children ages 3-7.
We begin the morning with a developmentally appropriate, music-filled service and a story relating to the weekly Torah portion. After the 20-minute service, we join for motzi and kiddush before enjoying a luncheon together. We conclude with a project for the children and some outside time (weather permitting). It’s a great opportunity to get our youngest friends excited about Shabbat!

Date: Saturday, June 10
Time: 10:30am
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
For more information about Story Shabbat, contact Anna Kalman at prekyouth@bethemek.org

This is Bay Area Jewry: Photo Essays on the Changing Nature of Our Community
Lehrhaus Judaica and Building Jewish Bridges present a photo essay exhibition showcasing the range of diversity in our community. The exhibition features 16 intimate portraits of individuals and families (including longtime Rodef Sholom congregants, the Giacomini family) from a variety of backgrounds and levels of religious observance. The project is a combination of photographs and written profiles, shedding light on the unparalleled Bay Area Jewish community.

The exhibition will be on display June 1 – August 31. Click here for more information.
Opening event: Tuesday, June 13, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael

Bagels & Babies
Kids under the age of 18 months should bring their parents for this fun chance to nosh, schmooze, exchange parenting tips & have some special baby play time.

Date: Friday, July 7
Time: 11:30am – 12:30pm
Place: Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon

Outdoor Potluck Shabbat Dinner
Join us for a potluck dairy Shabbat dinner, followed by a beautiful, outdoor musical service.

Date: July 14
Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Place: Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City
RSVP to Rebecca@bethjacobrwc.org

Grief and Growing Weekend
Now in its 21st year, the retreat is professionally guided by griefcare specialists, providing a supportive Jewish environment where people of all ages and backgrounds can meet and work with those who have experienced similar losses. For more information and to register, visit www.jewishhealingcenter.org

Dates: September 15 – 17
Place: Camp Newman, Santa Rosa

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image from Wikipedia

image from Wikipedia

Beginning tonight at sundown is Shavuot. This holiday is a bit quirky. It is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage holidays, so very important, and yet doesn’t have the foods, actions and traditions of the other two big festivals, Sukkot and Passover. My Jewish Learning has a lot of good information and you can delve into this holiday’s roots as much, or as little, as you like.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area a number of synagogues and Jewish Community Centers get together to offer a joint All-Night Study, Leil Tikkun Shavuot, or provide a study evening on their own.

I believe that the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot (note the different spelling) that the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay offers is the oldest continuously offered program in the country. You can go to their website to read all the details including their extensive schedule of teachers.


In San Francisco a number of the synagogues have come together for Shavuot Shul Stroll: The Kabbalah of Ice Cream. Participating are Congregation Chevra Thilim, Congregation Beth Sholom and Toy Boat Dessert Café – because, of course, you’ll need ice cream. See the schedule here.

Also in San Francisco, in the Sunset District, four congregations are collaborating on a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot from 7 to 11 pm at Beth Israel Judea & Or Shalom Community, 625 Brotherhood Way. See their flier here.

In the South Peninsula, Congregations Kol Emeth, Beth Am, Etz Chayim, and Keddem, together with the Oshman Family JCC, Jewish LearningWorks, and Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, invite you to an all-night experience of learning and prayer celebrating the gift of Torah. They will be meeting in Palo Alto. See their schedule here.

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Have you ever felt out of step with those around you? Sometimes, even among those we love most, we feel “different.” I witnessed several experiences of that this week. In the first, I read Cantor Jennie Chabon‘s beautiful drash, “Is God the one thing?

Jennie Chabon singing

When my brother was in college, he and his friends began what became a years-long search for one thing-one place, one food, one anything- that everyone in the world either loves or hates. No one can be neutral about it or it doesn’t count. He would ask this question whenever he was hanging out with new people, to see if someone could come up with an answer.

New York? That has to be a place that people either love or hate. But no, it turns out that some people have neutral feelings about NYC.

Anchovies? I am firmly planted in the hate category with anchovies, but apparently some people could take them or leave them.

Camping? That is such a love-hate activity! I love camping, but I certainly know people who can’t stand it. Alas, some people like it just fine.

My brother and his friends never did find their one thing, and over time the question stopped being very interesting. But I have found myself thinking about it again lately as we have been diving into interfaith work here at Congregation B’nai Tikvah.

We have had two interfaith dialogues over the past several weeks, the first with members of the United Church of Christ in Orinda, the second with members of the Sam Ramon Valley Islamic Center. These two communities are obviously very different from each other–one Protestant, one Muslim–but there was one striking similarity between them: a love of God is at the center of their communities and their faith.

As liberal Jews, we are taught that belief in God is an optional part of our spiritual and cultural identity. You don’t have to believe in God to be Jewish, or even to be an observant Jew. I have clergy friends who don’t believe in God and who were outspoken about their atheism in seminary. They are happily serving congregations and leading prayers that praise God week after week, even though they don’t actually believe what they are saying. For them, God is a magnificent character in the greatest story ever told.

This concept is absolutely unfathomable to a Muslim or a Christian. God IS their faith. Which makes me wonder, would Christians and Muslims say that God is the answer to my brother’s question? Is God the one thing, the one being about whom no one has ambivalent feelings?

I think the reason I love doing interfaith work is this: when I spend time with people of other faiths, people who are unashamed of their love of God, I feel like I fit in in a way that I don’t among liberal Jews. I was at an ice cream parlor yesterday with my son, when I noticed a young couple walk in together, hand in hand. Around the girl’s neck was a large key chain with “I love Jesus” written all the way around it. My heart sang for that girl and her shameless faith.

It’s true that we are not a people that publicizes our Judaism or proselytizes in any way. That caution has grown out of centuries of needing to protect ourselves. But sometimes, I wish I could shout out my faith like that girl with her ice cream cone. I wish I could exclaim my love of God without feeling like I need to defend it to my own people.

When Jews believe in God they are often assumed to be fundamentalists. Most likely, they are not. Why? Because highly educated Jews don’t believe there is ONE way to interpret or experience God. Don’t let someone who lacks knowledge to make you feel bad. Take a look at the book, Finding God: Selected Responses, by Rabbi Rifat Sonsino and Daniel B. Syme. The book was originally titled, Finding God: Ten Jewish Responses.

* * *

PJ Our Way logo

My second experience was during a discussion of a PJ Library book with 9 and 10 year olds. We were talking about Confessions of a Closet Catholic, a book for PJ My Way kids. The kids were puzzled and then pleased as they realized that each of their families does Judaism a bit differently. I think that being young and not yet stuck with a TRUTH, they were quite comfortable letting others be different from themselves. Some keep kosher, one doesn’t drive on Shabbat, another family does the opposite. I’d like to see us adults strive to be open to the different practices and choices of others.

* * *

Rabbi Steven Abraham

Rabbi Steven Abraham

Third, I received an article from a colleague; the article is written by a Conservative rabbi titled It’s Time to Say Yes and describes his personal decision making process to determine that he will officiate at interfaith marriages. My colleague assumed I would be thrilled with this article, after all, I refer interfaith couples to rabbis who will officiate at their wedding all time. But I was not thrilled, because the rabbi argued that the Right thing to do is to officiate at interfaith weddings. That means that rabbis who choose otherwise are “wrong.” Like my nine year old friends I strive to see the path that I have chosen while acknowledging that there are other paths that are valid for other travelers.

Jewish tradition teaches that there are 70 paths up the mountain to God. The number 70 is a metaphor for “many”. Seventy is also used when referring to all the humans on earth, i.e. the Seventy Nations. Thus, Judaism teaches that there are different AND VALID paths (religions). In fact there are as many paths as there are different kinds of people.

Shouldn’t Jews allow other Jews to be different? I am delighted to have a large list of rabbis who will perform an interfaith wedding. Do I need to condemn those who are not on my list? Nope. I believe that diversity is a good thing — even among Jews!

Speaking of all different kinds of Jews, try to get over to see the photo exhibit, This Is Bay Area Jewry. It will be showing at the Marin JCC from June 12 to Aug. 25, 2017.

Giacomini-Takasaki family

Giacomini-Takasaki family

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This is Bay Area Jewry: Photo Essays on the Changing Nature of our Community
Lehrhaus Judaica and Building Jewish Bridges present a photo essay exhibition showcasing the range of diversity in our community. The exhibition features 16 intimate portraits of individuals and families from a variety of backgrounds and levels of religious observance — from the North and South Peninsulas, San Francisco, Oakland/Berkeley, Contra Costa, and Marin. The project is a combination of photographs and written profiles, shedding light on the unparalleled Bay Area Jewish community. Each person, couple or family profiled has loved ones who are not Jewish. The reality of Bay Area Jewry is that we are all touched by our non-Jewish family members. We invite you to meet these unique individuals – born Jewish and converts, LGBT Jews, and multicultural Jews all take center stage. Their paths to Judaism and spiritual connections may differ, but they are all Jewish.

Opening Event — Tuesday, June 13, 7-9 pm
Osher Marin JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael

Join us for a reception with refreshments. There will be a tour of the exhibit at 7:15 pm. At 7:45, three of the participants will be in conversation with Dawn Kepler, discussing why they participated and what they hope to communicate to the Jewish community. There will be time to mingle and talk.

The exhibition will be on view June 1 to August 31 at the Osher Marin JCC.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Intercultural, Jews of Color
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Mask & Linda

11 Ideas for Making Non-Jewish Guests Comfortable at Your Seder

Chances are that you’ve had non-Jewish friends over for Passover before. But you may be having someone over that you feel particularly sensitive to – a new date, the parents of a fiancé, a step-child, an adopted child. Here are some tips for making things go smoothly for everyone.

1. Give your guest a basic overview of the Passover story. One easy, accessible way to learn it is to watch the Disney film, Prince of Egypt.

2. Tell your guest what to expect at your Seder. How long will it be, are guests expected to participate, how will kids be engaged? If your practice is for everyone to read parts of the service be sure that your guests are comfortable doing so.

3. Being responsible for a part of the evening makes people feel needed and more at home. Ask your guest to bring a part of the meal. If they cook you can suggest something as simple as hardboiled eggs or give them a recipe. If they don’t cook, they can bring wine or matzah.

4. Pick a haggadah that is accessible. Consider lending your friend a copy ahead of time so they can be familiar with it before the Seder.

5. Explain each step of the Seder and encourage questions from everyone at the table.

6. Make the story of freedom relevant to all by inviting guests to share a struggle that concerns them – whether political, physical or psychological.

7. Have fun and entertaining props at the table from coloring books for little guests to symbols of the ten plagues: plastic insects, cotton balls for hail, finger puppets, and masks. Encourage adults to enjoy them too.

8. Don’t let people get hungry. Provide snacks during the Seder. A tray of fresh vegetables and dip, fresh fruit chucks, hardboiled egg slices, cheese chunks or tree nuts can sustain guests.

9. Consider changing the statement when you open the door for Elijah from “Pour out your wrath” to a blessing written by a rescued child, “Pour out your love on the nations who have known you and on the kingdoms who call upon your name. For they show loving-kindness to the seed of Jacob and they defend your people Israel from those who would devour them alive. May they live to see the sukkah of peace spread over your chosen ones and to participate in the joy of your nations.”

10. Give rewards for participation. Hand out candies or nuts to children and adults who ask questions during the Seder. Let everyone know at the start that questions result in prizes.

11. Create a festive mood. Sing some humorous songs, incorporate Jewish traditions from other countries like, swatting each other with scallions to symbolize the whips of the Egyptians, or put a bowl of water on the floor and have each guest step over it to represent crossing the Red Sea.

Frequently Seders taper off after dessert and don’t make it all the way to the last steps. Consider having a definite close – singing a last song, saying a last blessing. That let’s guests know that they are free to go home. You can always sit and visit longer if no one is too tired.

ONE LAST TIP: Relax. If you’re nervous it will be communicated to those around you. Include friends that make you feel comfortable. Share the workload. Remember that this is a holiday. Don’t run yourself ragged with meal preparation. Invite guests to bring food for your sake as well as theirs.

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community seder 4


Community Passover Seder
Come join the OFJCC for our annual Community Passover Seder. This interactive, warm and welcoming event is perfect for the whole family!
Enjoy a delicious Kosher for Passover meal, singing and matzo decorating!
Special Note Regarding Registration:
This event is being subsidized by the OFJCC Annual Fund.
If you would like to make a donation to help keep this program affordable, please visit https://paloaltojcc.org/Donate and mention “OFJCC Community Seder” during the donation process.
Space is limited; please note that registration closes on Friday April 7 at 3:00pm.

Date: Monday, April 10
Time: 5:00–7:00 PM
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost: $18
For more info contact Marla Goodman, (650) 223-8631 or mgoodman@paloaltojcc.org
or register here.

First Night Passover Seder for Families with Young Children
Especially for children ages 2-7 and their families; younger and older children are also welcome. Bring the whole family and enjoy a kid-friendly, picnic-style ceremony and light meal. Rabbi Bridget and Eric will use music and “props” to help bring the Passover story alive for children. This is a great opportunity to meet new friends or invite families you know!

A vegetarian meal is available with RSVP.
No Jewish knowledge or experience is necessary.
Doors open at 4:30 and we recommend arriving early to get settled.

Date: Monday, April 10
Time: 5:00-6:15pm
Place: JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley
Cost: $15 child (ages 2-13) / $30 adult (ages 14+)
Sign up here
For further info contact Rachel at the Jewish Community Center in Berkeley, 510-848-0237 ext. 142.

First Night Community Seder
Led by Rabbi Bridget Wynne and Musician Eric Schoen
Join us for a warm, lively, interactive celebration. All are welcome for a full seder including a meal with wine, chicken, and matzo ball soup.
Vegetarian option available with RSVP.
No Jewish knowledge or experience is necessary.

Date: Monday, April 10
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley
Cost: $15 child (ages 2-13) / $30 adult (ages 14+)
Sign up here.
For further info contact Rachel at the Jewish Community Center in Berkeley, 510-848-0237 ext. 142.

First Night Family Seder in Oakland
Join us for one of our favorite JCC traditions! We will come together for the first night of Passover with singing, storytelling, and a delicious seder meal. For people with children ages 2-7, our Family Seder is a kid-friendly event!
Cantor Shira Stanford-Asiyo will lead us through the night.

Date: Monday, April 10
Time: 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm
Place: JCC East Bay, Oakland Branch, 5811 Racine Street, Oakland
Cost: $15 to $30, sign up here.
For further info contact Rachel (510) 848-0237 ext.142 or rachel.whittom@jcceastbay.org

First Night Community Seder in Oakland
Join us for a warm, lively, and social celebration for people of all ages. We will come together for the first night of Passover with singing, storytelling, and a delicious seder meal. Cantor Shira Stanford-Asiyo will lead us through the night.

Date: Monday, April 10
Time: 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Place: JCC East Bay, Oakland Branch5811 Racine Street, Oakland
For more info contact Rachel (510) 848-0237 ext.142 or rachel.whittom@jcceastbay.org


Second Night Community Seder
Our Seder is open to all — we welcome nonmembers, friends and family, and the larger community.
Sherith Israel’s lively and festive community seder is the congregation’s annual fundraiser for our Chicken Soupers and HaMotzi programs which benefit home-bound seniors, people with chronic illnesses, and adults and children at the Women’s Shelter of San Francisco and the Compass Family Center.
Our wonderful volunteers, who sustain these critical programs year after year will cater dinner, and our clergy, Rabbis Jessica Graf and Julie Saxe-Taller and Cantor David Frommer, will keep us all on the same page.
Join us as we celebrate Passover as a community: matzah ball soup, kosher chicken. Vegan options for the meal will be available. Your donation is tax-deductible.
Seder reservations: Adults, $36; post-b’nai mitzvah students, $18; children, $12; children under 5, free.

Date: Tuesday, April 11
Time: 5 to 7pm
Place: Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
More info: agreen@sherithisrael.org or register online here.
Deadline to RSVP is Friday, April 7.

Temple Beth Hillel Passover Congregational Seder
The community is invited to a family friendly Congregational Seder on the Second Night of Passover. Join Rabbi Dean Kertesz and Cantor Fran Burgess in retelling the Passover story, singing holiday songs and sharing a complete ritual meal together (vegan option available). Celebrate the sweetness of freedom with family and friends.

Date: Tuesday, April 11
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Place: Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central (Hilltop exit off I-80), Richmond
Cost: Non-Members: $35 for adults, $20 for children 7-12, $8 for children 3-6. Seating is limited.
Event information, flyer and reservation form here.

Traditional Second Night Passover Seder
Join our community for a family friendly service led by Rabbi Daniel Stein and Hazzan Risa Wallach. Menu includes Gefilte Fish, Roasted Chicken, Salmon or Vegetarian Entree, Kugel, Honey Carrots and Dessert

Date: Tuesday, April 11
Time: 6:15pm
Place: B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek
Cost: $54/Adult; $36/children (9-12); $15/children (5-8); children under 4 are free
RSVP: cbsmensclub@aol.com

Beth Am’s Annual 2nd Night Community Seder
Enjoy a delicious multi-course meal without having to cook, clean up or remember where you hid the afikomen. Cantor Jaime Shpall will lead this year’s Beth Am Community Seder.
Passover, the Festival of Freedom, celebrates the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt’s bondage more than 3,200 years ago. Each year at this time, Jews all over the world gather with family, friends and even strangers, to honor and remember our enslaved ancestors and rejoice in the freedom we enjoy today.

Date: Tuesday, April 11
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Beth Am Social Hall, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Cost and Registration:
Cost $47 per adult; $27 per child (12 and under). Seating is limited. Please sign up for Beth Am’s Community Seder using the downloadable sign up form. Please mail in your completed reservation form by Friday, April 7, with a check made payable to “Congregation Beth Am” to: 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022, Attn: Emily Osterman. If cost hinders your participation, please contact Executive Director Rachel Tasch in confidence or call (650) 493-4661.


Tri-Valley Cultural Jews Passover Seder
Our kid-friendly (but not kid-centered) haggadah is secular and progressive with lots of singing. After the hour-long ceremony, we will share a potluck dinner. Please call Leah at 650-223-9073 to let us know you are coming and what you’d like to bring for the potluck. Vegetarian dishes are encouraged but not required. Invite a friend, too! We need to hear from you by April 11 so we can be sure to have enough eggs, charoset, celery, and wine.

Date: Saturday April 15
Time: 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Place: Bothwell Arts Center, 2466 8th St., Livermore
The suggested donation for non-member adults is $20 (and you can apply this towards membership). Kids and members are free. We are participating in a book drive to benefit the Jewish Coalition for Literacy. Please bring new or gently used books for ages 4-9 to donate if you are able. Thank you!

A Kehilla Community Passover Seder
The Exodus Continues: on Immigrants and Refugees – Led by Rabbis Burt Jacobson and David J. Cooper with Singer Julie Nesnansky – Guest speaker, Issa Hakizimana, refugee from Burundi
The Seder this year will continue our High Holy Day theme focused on immigrants and refugees. We will feature a delicious catered organic meal with vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

Date: Saturday, April 15
Time: 4:45pm
Place: Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont
Buy your tickets online here.

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Boiling water

Boiling water

Rabbi Milder is a Reform rabbi who challenges his congregants to think about whether and how they might keep kosher for Passover. He sent them this delightful guide.

Three Stages of Kashering for Pesach

Deciding how kosher to be for Pesach is a distinctly Reform concern. If one is traditionally observant, the rules, extensive as they may be, are relatively clear. But for those of us who choose our own level of observance, we are challenged to find a meaningful and manageable way to keep kosher for Pesach.

Why keep kosher on Pesach? Ridding ourselves of chametz is all about re-enacting the Exodus and making it a part of our lives. It is a symbolic, physical and emotional act of recapitulating our history. To remove the chametz is to get ready for the journey.

Here are three-plus levels of kashrut that you can use as a personal yardstick. Choose your point of entry.

Level 0: Eat some matzah. I don’t consider this kashering for Pesach, because you haven’t removed anything from the house. But you have fulfilled one of the mitzvot of Pesach.

Level 1: Undertake a personal practice of not consuming chametz
during Pesach. This means not eating any product made from the five grains of wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt, unless it has first been transformed into matzah.

Level 2: Regard your home as a place where chametz will not be eaten during Pesach. Remove all the chametz from your refrigerator, and seal off the cabinets containing chametz for the duration of Pesach.

Level 3: Do a thorough cleaning of your home. Kasher surfaces with boiling water, kasher stoves and ovens by cleaning and super-heating them. Use a different set of dishes and utensils.

Of course, one could go into much greater specificity regarding all these details. The principle is to set a standard for yourself and your home, and to enter into the holiness of the holiday through spiritual discipline.

You can fulfill another mitzvah, feeding the hungry, by bringing your unopened packages of chametz and other non-perishable food to a food pantry.

Happy kashering!
Rabbi Larry Milder
Beth Emek, Pleasanton

Posted by admin under Jewish Culture, Jewish holidays at home, Passover
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Rebecca Gutterman's family

The number of Jewish and interfaith families who are adopting children is significant. Often these children are not Caucasian. As one very sweet Catholic social worker put it, “Jews don’t seem to mind what color their children are.” We take that as a big compliment!

How do parents give their adopted child a feeling of wholeness, helping them integrate their story of origin with the religion and culture they are being raised in? Adoptive parents raising Jewish children have this and unique questions to answer depending on their family situation, such as:

Will we formally convert our child to Judaism?
Will we have some kind of Jewish welcoming ceremony?
How will we honor their culture of origin and give them a rich, secure Jewish identity?
If our child is a different race from us, how will we handle it? How will we respond to his/her questions at different stages, as well as questions or reactions from people outside of our family?
Join adoptive parents and adoption professional, Susan Romer, for a warm and supportive discussion.

April 20
7:30 to 9pm
Congregation B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Free, but an RSVP would be most appreciated. You can sign up here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Children, Parenting, Programs archive
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Purim Mask

Purim Mask

We are a few days from Erev Purim! I hope you have a costume planned and a place to go for the Purim Schpiel. Purim is one of those “different” holidays. There’s the kids’ level – a story of Queen Esther saving the Jews, and the adult level – where there’s a lot of killing, beginning with Vashti. I don’t suggest that you start with the dark story with kids. But it is worth the time to learn the full story and to investigate the rabbinic teachings on this story in which God is never mentioned.

Here’s a somewhat sanitized version of the story from My Jewish Learning.

Here is a more complete and darker version from Chabad.

On the light side, go here to download a printable template for a Purim crown from Chai and Home.

Of course, you’ll need to eat! So here are some Hamenashen recipes.

Trouble Times
Many of you are aware that I have a multiracial, interfaith, multiethnic family. I’ve been more frightened of my own government that ever before. What has helped me is to become part of the activism that is growing rapidly. A friend told me about an app that will send you a “Daily Action” https://dailyaction.org I have attended services at synagogues and churches. I have marched and will again. Don’t just sit there and get depressed! Look into your conscience and act on behalf of those who are vulnerable. Every major faith believes in protecting those who are unable to protect themselves.

Bomb Threats
Yes, there have been a lot of bomb threats to Jewish buildings, especially JCCs and Jewish schools. But guess what? A number of Muslim veterans have tweeted that they want to guard Jewish organizations! Many Muslim organizations have reached out to offer compassion and support to the Jewish community. Our own Palo Alto JCC was threatened and a local group of Muslim-Jewish women sent them this letter of support.

Purim Carnival (Walnut Creek)
Tri-Valley Cultural Jews Purim Celebration (Livermore)
Shushan County Fair (Saratoga)
This Shabbat Rocks! (San Mateo)
Wendy Mogel “Blessing of a Skinned Knee” (Los Gatos)
Beyond Bubbie: Taste of the Old East (Berkeley)
An Evening of Learning About Jewish Mindfulness (San Mateo)
Jewish Women’s Theater presents Exile: Kisses on Both Cheeks (San Rafael)
Passover Second Night Seder (Walnut Creek)

Purim Carnival
Join us for a fun filled afternoon with Pony Rides, Laser Tag, Giant Inflatables, Face Painting, Midway Games, and Fun Prizes. Hot dog lunch and carnival treats for purchase.

Date: Sunday, March 12
Time: 11:00am – 1:30pm
Place: Congregation B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek
Cost: $18 per child includes all games; $20 at door per child
RSVP office@bshalom.org

Tri-Valley Cultural Jews Purim Celebration
Tri-Valley Cultural Jews will be holding a secular Purim celebration! We will make hamantaschen, have crafts, games, and fun for all ages, and present our annual Purim skit. Attendees are welcome to come dressed as their favorite Purim character.

Date: Sunday, March 12
Time: 10:30am – 12:30pm
Place: The Bothwell Arts Center, 2466 8th St., Livermore
Cost: Free for TVCJ members, and costs $10 for non-members (which can be applied to a membership if someone wishes to join).
For more information email maluba2@yahoo.com

Shushan County Fair
Come One, Come All, to the Shushan County Fair!
Fun for all ages.
Featuring the Klezmer band “Hot Kugel”
Pony Up Petting Zoo
Rides and Inflatables Including a 20’ Slide
Haman Haunted House
Games, Food, Entertainment
White Elephant Sale and Auction
Exhibit Hall, Contests and Prizes
Demonstrations: Robot pancake maker, Shaving soap & candle making, Yarn spinning, 3D printer and more.

Date: Sunday, March 12
Time: 11:00am – 3:00pm
Place: Beth David, 19700 Prospect Road, Saratoga
Cost: Pre-purchase a wristband for access to all inflatables and games plus a $5 voucher for food! Online or call the office 408-257-3333. $30 before March 3rd and $36 at the door. Individual tickets for games and rides will also be available for sale at the event. Buy tickets online.

This Shabbat Rocks!
This joyous Shabbat service will awaken our bodies and souls with a prayerful shake, rattle, and roll. Come and experience this vibrant service with The Band and you’ll find yourself exclaiming, “this Shabbat rocks!”

Date: March 18
Time: 9:00am – 9:40am
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

Wendy Mogel “Blessing of a Skinned Knee”
Dr. Wendy Mogel, clinical psychologist, parenting expert, and New York Times best-selling author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B-, will be giving a parenting talk.
Dr. Mogel’s books address the question of how to raise resilient children in the face of trends toward anxious parenting and over-parenting

Date: March 23
Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Place: Addison-Penzak JCC, 14855 Oka Road, Los Gatos
Cost: General admission is $18, JCC members $10. JCC members get a special early bird price of $7 when you buy tickets online by 3/15.

Beyond Bubbie: Taste of the Old East
with Reboot and JIMENA
Join us for an immersive Sephardic culinary experience where participants will get a taste of traditional North African and Middle Eastern Passover recipes and stories from JIMENA speakers. Guest chefs will each prepare and demonstrate a traditional Sephardic dish from their country of origin. These chefs and other members of the community will share their stories and the family histories that go along with them. Come for the food, stay for the conversation.

Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: JCC East Bay Berkeley Branch, 1414 Walnut St, Berkeley
Cost: $12 (presale, student, senior, member); $15 (at the door)
Tickets here.

An Evening of Learning About Jewish Mindfulness
with Rabbi Jeff Roth
Rabbi Roth offers a contemporary approach to Jewish meditation. He focuses on the practice of mindfulness/heartfulness, combined with the teachings of Torah, to offer a path to liberate us from alienation, awaken us to the truth of the present moment, and open us to a sense of the Divine Presence.

Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
Sponsored by Or HaLev, the Center for Jewish Spirituality at Peninsula Temple Beth El.
This program is free, but please help us plan: RSVP to cserbin@ptbe.org by March 21.

Jewish Women’s Theater presents Exile: Kisses on Both Cheeks
Come for an evening of salon-style theatrical entertainment with professional actors performing contemporary stories in intimate settings. Exile: Kisses on Both Cheeks explores the Sephardic legacy of family, community and country, looking for home more than 500 years after the expulsion from Spain. It is a Jewish immigrant story that is rarely told on stage. Until now.

Date: Sunday, April 2
Time: 5:00pm-7:00pm
Place: Osher Marin JCC, 200 North San Pedro Rd., San Rafael
Cost: $18 Members; $25 Public and same-day tickets. Purchase tickets here.

Passover Second Night Seder
Join us second night for a family friendly service led by Rabbi Daniel Stein and Hazzan Wallach. Please call Alyssa at 925-934-9446 x102 to get all the details and to tell her what entrée you want.

Date: Tuesday, April 11
Time: 6:30pm Service
Place: Congregation B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek
Cost: $54 per adult 13 and up; $36 per child ages 9-12; $15 per child ages 5-8; Free for children 4 and under
RSVP office@bshalom.org by Tuesday March 28th

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Jewish Culture, Purim, symbolic foods
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Oshman JCC Logo

Several bay area JCC’s have received bomb threats and had to evacuate their facilities. When the Palo Alto/Oshman Family JCC was the victim of a threat they got a wonderful response from the Muslim-Jewish Women’s Group. Here’s what the JCC posted on their Facebook page.

Today we had a personal visit from a remarkable group of women—the Muslim-Jewish Women’s Group. Thank you for your support, and thank you to the Evergreen Islamic Center, the Mayor’s office and the many other organizations and individuals who have offered an outpouring of encouragement. #IStandWithTheJCC

PA JCC letter

Did you note the sentence, “Your suffering is our suffering; your children are our children.” No matter what faith tradition you follow there is always talk of God’s children. We are the single family of humankind. How beautiful this letter is!

Be ready to stand as a protective presence for Muslims, immigrants, LGBT. As Rabbi Menachem Creditor said at gathering at the Good Shepherd Church, “We are ready to make a circle around this church.”

Go out there and say something kind to someone. Maybe even to 4 or 5 someones.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community
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