A New Year’s Resolution to be Happier + Bay Area activities

It is pretty common contemplate New Year’s resolutions right about now. I have a thought for you. It’s about being HAPPY.  A friend of mine likes to research all the articles that discuss how to be happy. He says that they all boil down to three core things – and then each one may add a little twist of their own. The three things are:

  1. a sense that one’s life has meaning
  2. good relationships with other humans – family and/or friends
  3. a practice of gratitude

So, which of these three do you believe you have got in hand? I bet that most of us do not have a practice of gratitude. Sure, we’re aware that our lives are better than most. We have a floor made of more than packed dirt. We can go get a piece of bread from the kitchen anytime. We don’t cover our children with our bodies to protect them from war or villains.  But do we routinely call to mind the blessings in our lives? Do we have a method of doing so? Probably not. There is a Jewish practice of saying 100 blessings a day. If you know ALL the things that can be blessed, you’re golden, because there are a lot and you can get to 100. But remembering to get in all those blessings can be hard. So here’s what I want you to try – say 10 blessings or expressions of gratitude each day for the first week of January.  Here are some of the things you might be grateful for:

Your partner
Your children
The warmth of the sun
Having transportation to work
Eating a full meal
Wearing shoes that keep out the wet
Music – any music
Functioning hands
A bus shelter

You can simply say to yourself, “I am grateful to have the sun warming me as I stand here on this cold day.”
Keep track. Did you make it to 10? Every day? Some days? Did you forget after about 10am? I’m going to ask you how it went, so try to notice.

There are some delightful opportunities coming up. My events are STARRED*. Try to join me; I’d love to see you.

May 2019 be more filled with love, kindness, patience and beauty that 2018 was,




Hand Bell Service (Palo Alto)
Fourth Friday – A Musical Shabbat  (Redwood City)
First Friday Shabbat in the Round (Oakland)
Diverse Families SundayPlayDay (Oakland)
Parenting Matters (Berkeley)
*Islam and the Classical Heritage (San Francisco)
*Mysteries of the Mikvah (Oakland)
Tu B’Shevat Seder (Berkeley)
Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods (Oakland)
Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service (Near San Mateo)
Shabbat with the Nava Tehila Ensemble (Lafayette)
Korban Shabbat: A Sabbath of Communal Offerings (San Francisco)
*This is Bay Area Jewry (Lafayette)
*What do Rabbis REALLY Believe About God? (Lafayette)
Passover in the Desert (Death Valley)





Hand Bell Service
Join Mark Goldstein and the Trinity Episcopal Ringers, as well as special guest harp and viola artists, for this special service to ring in 2019.

Date:   Friday, December 28
Time:   7:30 pm
Place:   Etz Chayim, 650-813-9094  4161 Alma, Palo Alto



Fourth Friday – A Musical Shabbat
Join us for our new musical Friday night services THIS Friday, December 28th.
Starting at 7:30pm, we will sing, dance and move with the Kabbalat Shabbat service as we decompress from our workweeks and create a relaxing and meaningful Shabbat experience. We look forward to being together and letting the music stir our souls.

Date:   Friday, Dec. 28, the next Musical Shabbat service will be on Friday January 25.
Time:   7:30pm
Place:   Congregation Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City



First Friday Shabbat in the Round
Join Rabbi Regev, Cantor Keys, song leader Isaac Zones, and the First Friday Players to welcome Shabbat with a new song-filled worship service celebrating the richness of Kabbalat Shabbat and the spirit of community.

Date:   Friday, January 4
Time:   6:30pm
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland



Diverse Families SundayPlayDay
We are Foster/Adopt, LBGTQ, differently-abled, solo carers, refugees and all others who wish to play together! All families with just your Under 3s are welcome.
Everyone is welcome so bring a friend.
Come join us in our 36th year in our large, fun-filled space for jumping, climbing, ball pit, slides, music, stories, snack, parachute, bubbles, community building and so much more.
Date:   Jan. 6
Time:   3:30 to 5pm
Place:   Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland
FREE/ $ Donations Gratefully Accepted for the Food Bank!
Free parking too!
More information here www.tbaoakland.org/kindergym


Parenting Matters
Netivot Shalom’s new parenting forum will be held monthly on a Friday 9:15 to 10:45 am. This program will be led by the expert, Vicky Kelman! Here’s the schedule of topics for the coming five months. Do join us!

January 11:  Thank You:  Growing Grateful Kids in our Entitled World
February 22: Should we hide the newspaper and turn off the news?  Helping our kids deal with the broken parts of the world
March 22:  The G-Word:  Talking with our kids 9and ourselves) about God
April 12:  Ritual and Routine the glue of family life (and Jewish community life)
May 17:  Technology:  Friend or Foe of Family Life

Next date: Friday, Jan. 11
Time:   9:15 to 10:45am
Place:   Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave, Berkeley
Cost:    $36/family
To sign up or for more information contact Judd at juddgoodman@gmail.com



Join me for a fascinating museum exhibit at the Legion of Honor. Email me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org if you are coming so I’ll know to keep an eye out for your.

Islam and the Classical Heritage
From the legendary life and exploits of Alexander the Great (known as Iskandar in the Islamic tradition) to the insights of Islamic mathematicians who first introduced the concept of algebra (al-jabr), this exhibition brings a larger awareness of how authors, philosophers, and scientists of the Islamic world spread and transformed classical knowledge through the medium of illustrated manuscripts. Representing heroes such as Alexander and other historic notables, including Aristotle and Ptolemy, the exhibition features works created in Iran, India, Turkey, Spain, and Italy from the fourteenth through the nineteenth centuries. The manuscripts in this exhibition are drawn from the National Library of Israel’s special collection. (Runs through January 27, 2019)

Date:   Sunday, January 13
Time:   9:30am
Place:   Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave, San Francisco
Cost:    $15 admission to the Legion of Honor
Details here
An article about the exhibit from the J weekly



Mysteries of the Mikvah
With Rabbi Gershon Albert
When people convert to Judaism they ‘go to the mikvah.’ What does that mean? The mikvah is a ritual pool where one immerses oneself in a spiritual ceremony that makes one a Jew. But what happens exactly? Will you be naked in front of people of the opposite sex? Join our own delightful Rabbi Albert and other curious individuals to see a real mikvah and find out what happens there. Rabbi Albert will cover other uses of the mikvah like koshering dishes, preparing for significant events and the traditional Jewish ritual of family purity. You can ask anything, so come on over!

Date:   January 17, 2019
Time:   7:30 to 8:30pm
Place:   Beth Jacob, 3778 Park Blvd., Oakland
Please register here.


Tu B’Shevat Seder
Sip farm crafted liquors and libations; enjoy an incredible dinner and a seven-course menu made with local, seasonal, ingredients; and give ode to the natural wonders and spirits of the season.
Tickets include dinner, drinks, and a full evening of entertainment and wonder.
This night of revelry is not to be missed.

Date:    Saturday, Jan. 19
Time:   7 to 10pm
Place:   Urban Adamah, 1151 Sixth Street, Berkeley
Cost:    $45 to $100
Register here



Tu B’Shvat in the Redwoods
In the tradition of the Kabbalists (16th century mystics of Tsfat, Israel), we gather in the morning in the forest to create an experiential Tu B’Shvat seder (ceremony) that connects us to the trees and the elements and takes us on a journey from the physical world to the spiritual world. We will delight in p’ri ha-etz (the fruit of the trees) and celebrate the season together through the five senses, song, meditation, and Tu B’Shvat teachings. In the afternoon, join us for a variety of fun, informative, and inspired Tu B’Shvat offerings.
Hosted by Wilderness Torah.

Date:   Sunday, January 20, 2019
Time:   10:00 am – 3:45 pm
Place:   East Bay Regional Park, Oakland, CA (exact site shared upon registration)
Cost:    Adult tickets are available on a sliding scale from $48–$72
Advanced Sales Only. No tickets on site.
Information and registration here



Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service
Rabbi Delson at Peninsula Temple Sholom invites you to work side by side with other faiths and cultures at this ever popular annual event. She has registered for the outdoor restoration project at Huddart Park and welcomes you to join her or pick another project of your choosing. Event co-sponsored by partner organization, the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition.

Date:   Monday, January 21
Begins at 8:00 am
Place:   In and around San Mateo
For more information or to sign up go here. YOU MUST SIGN UP BY JAN 13.



Shabbat with the Nava Tehila Ensemble
Join the prayer leaders of Nava Tehila, Jerusalem, for a musical Kabbalat Shabbat journey as they invite us to travel into the landscape of holiness and joy. Through chanting Psalms and Shabbat prayers with original melodies and guided intentions, we will connect to the spirit and allow it to fill our hearts, uplift our souls and welcome the Shabbat.

Date:   Friday, January 25
Time:   6:30pm
Place:   Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette



Korban Shabbat: A Sabbath of Communal Offerings
Join us on the fourth Friday of each month for a prayerful experience that is both inspired by – and led by – members of our community. Past offerings have included song, mediation, poetry, teachings – but are not limited to these – feel free to offer your own connection to prayer.

Used colloquially to mean sacrifice, Korban is a Hebrew word: An offering that is brought for the purpose of drawing nearer to others and to G-d.

Meeting in Makom Sholom (the meditative sanctuary at Congregation Beth Sholom, built by Rabbi Alan Lew), each Korban Shabbat is determined by the offerings brought by those present, including but not limited to music, readings, movement and meditations. Through our offerings and willing engagement, we create a holy community, one in which G-d’s presence is brought close.

Join us for a Communal Dinner & Festive Cocktails immediately following our service.

Date:   Friday, January 25
Time:   6:30 pm
Place:   Congregation Beth Sholom, 301 14th Ave, San Francisco
More information here 



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 21 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. We invite you to meet these 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 Jews of the Bay Area.

Opening Event
Date:   Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7pm
Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette
Join us for a reception with refreshments. There will be a tour of the exhibit at 7:15 pm. At 7:45, four of the exhibit 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.


What do Rabbis REALLY Believe About God?
God Talk with Rabbis from Across the Jewish Denominations
Rabbis talk about God quite a bit. But what role does God plays in the lives of our rabbis? Are they adhering, or deviating, from a specific “God Belief” that their movement holds as correct?
Join rabbis from the major Jewish movements to learn their personal God beliefs.

Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, Congregation Beth Israel, Berkeley (Orthodox)
Rabbi Daniel Stein, Congregation B’nai Shalom, Walnut Creek (Conservative)
Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman, Congregation B’nai Tikvah, Walnut Creek (Reform)
Rabbi Steven Chester, Temple Isaiah, Lafayette (Reform)
Rabbi Chaya Gusfield, Kaiser Palliative Care Chaplain (Renewal)
Moderated by Dawn Kepler, there will be time to ask your own questions of our panel.

Date:   Sunday, Feb. 10
Time:   7 to 9pm
Place:   Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa St., Lafayette
Email me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org if you have any questions or to just let me know that you are planning to attend.


Passover in the Desert
With Wilderness Torah
Join us for Passover in the Desert! A four day journey to the desert to be in multi-generational village, learn ancestral skills, eat delicious organic meals, explore a variety of fun programming, and enjoy the expansive wonders of nature with Jewish family.

Dates:  Thursday, April 25 – Monday, April 29, 2019 (after the first and second night seders)
Place:   Panamint Valley, near Death Valley, CA
Cost:    We want to offer the opportunity for everyone to attend Passover in the Desert, so our adult tickets are tiered.
Early Bird (until January 20): $275 – $725
January 20- March: $350 – $725
Details here
See registration page for family, teen and child pricing.