In search of happiness: Honesty + Community + Green Time

Today I want to talk with you about a few things that bring HAPPINESS.

First, look honestly at things that are causing you issues.
The big old holidays
I want to acknowledge that the holiday season wasn’t the greatest for everyone. But I want it to be good for you next year. If you had a less that stellar Christmas and/or Hanukkah let me suggest that NOW is a great time to look at fixes. There are literally months to consider your options. Don’t rush. If you want to do this with me, we can do that. It is extremely likely that we can make things better if that’s what you want.

Being in community is one of the “big three” things that bring us happiness. Activities rather than material stuff deliver more happiness. Call a friend, call a family of friends, and make a date to go out together.  Here are a few options for you to consider.

Go to the movies. There are two Jewish film festivals coming up, the East Bay International Jewish Film Festival in Contra Costa and the winter program of the San Francisco Film Festival, in San Francisco. Take a look at the info I’ve provided below.

The East Bay International Jewish Film Festival will take place very shortly:
Feb. 26 through March 16

If you did not receive a brochure in the mail, then take a look at their website to explore the films they will be showing.
This is your chance to see The Other Son, Monsieur Batignole, Abe, From Cairo to the Cloud: The World of Cairo Geniza, A Matter of Size, Hunting Elephants and so many more!

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has a short winter run that will be in February. Take a look at the films they are showing here.

Forest Bathing, the Japanese call it.
Kids getting out into the GREEN world is a big contributor to happiness. So consider summer camp. The East Bay JCC has opened up registration.

JCC Camp Oakland is a Jewish day camp that emphasizes self-discovery and experiential learning. We provide kids with the opportunity to learn, grow, and have fun in a nurturing camp environment. Transportation from Berkeley to Oakland is available.

JCC Camp Berkeley provides kids with the opportunity to learn, grow, and have fun in a nurturing camp environment that offers them a chance to focus on their favorite activities all day. Children of all ages can try out a new interest or dig deeper into the activities they already love. Led by experts in their fields, each camp offers a small-group setting and individual attention.

Get a sneak peek here.

Do something fun, even silly, with people you enjoy
I’ve listed a lot of classes, lectures, and celebrations below. Go learn something new. I’ll be at the Dream a Little Dream of Me Sing Along in Oakland. I’ve signed up to bake for the event too. Join me. It’s quite silly and fun. You don’t have to have a great voice as we all sing together.

Or take this list to your loved one and pick something that’s right for the two of you. Date night! Tell me how it went.

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Bringing Back the Beatles! (Palo Alto)
Cracking the Code: Entering the World of Talmud (Danville)
Shabbat Shira – Chorus Shabbat (Berkeley)
Rockin’ Shabbat Service & Dinner (Redwood City)
Tu B’Shevat Shabbat Service and Seder (Alameda)
Tu b’Shvat Seder Following Services (Oakland)
Tot Shabbat Morning (Lafayette)
Shabbat Sit Meditation (Tiburon)
Dream a Little Dream of Me (Oakland)
Tu B’Shvat at the Botanical Garden (San Francisco)
Tu B’Shevat Family Celebration! (Foster City)
Elijah the Prophet: The Man Who Never Died (Berkeley)
The Ethical Life (Walnut Creek)
Women of the Bible: The Good, the Wise, and the Wicked (Berkeley)
UnScrolled: Wrestling with and Reveling in the Book of Esther (Lafayette)
Commuter Friendly Shabbat (Walnut Creek)



Bringing Back the Beatles!
Fifth Friday Singalong Service
Whenever there are five Fridays in a month we like to do something different. This Beatles Shabbat service will substitute a number of Beatles songs with spiritual content for traditional prayers in our liturgy. This may enable us to deepen our experience of some of these prayers as well as these beloved songs. Join us in praying with favorite tunes, such as In My Life, Here Comes the Sun, Hey Jude, and Give Peace a Chance.

Date:   January 31
Time:   7:30 pm
Place:   Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto

Cracking the Code: Entering the World of Talmud
Taste the spiritually nourishing oral tradition that became one of our people’s most treasured texts. The Talmud is the most important Jewish sacred text that few Jews have meaningfully encountered. Entry to the Talmud requires a key to the code, a specialized language and worldview.  Together we will journey beyond impenetrable legal discourse (halacha), into deep philosophical and spiritual pathways. Join the mystical dance of Talmudic wonder (aggadah); meet the brigands and miracle workers, prostitutes and magicians, time traveling sages and holy women.
Taught by Rabbi Can Goldblatt

Dates:  5 Wednesdays, Feb 5, 12, 19, 26, March 4
Time:   7 to 8:30pm
Place:   Beth Chaim Congregation, 1800 Holbrook Drive, Danville
Cost:    $85 non-members
For more info you can call 925-736-7146


Shabbat Shira – Chorus Shabbat
The first written song in the Torah is Shirat Hayam, the “Song of the Sea.” This is sung in exuberance and celebration after the parting of the sea and the Israelites have been freed from slavery. In honor of this song in the Torah, we will have a joyous Shabbat Shira, a special Shabbat of Song, with uplifting and heartfelt choral music! Please join us on February 7 at Congregation Beth El to celebrate this Shabbat! There will also be a pre-service oneg at 5:30 pm.

Date:   Friday, February 7
Time:   6:15 pm
Place:   Beth El, 1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley


Rockin’ Shabbat Service & Dinner
Join Congregation Beth Jacob of Redwood City for their Musical Kabbalat Shabbat Service! This service, led by the Team Rockin’ Musicians under the leadership of Cantor Barbara Powell, is full of ruach (spirit). Congregants are encouraged to join in leading the prayers or to play instruments with the band. This is an evening for people of all ages.
We will be celebrating CBJ’s 90th birthday in February!

Dates:  Fridays, February 7, March 6, May 1, June 5
Time:   6:15pm
Place:   Congregation Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City
Sign up for dinner on our website.

Tu B’Shevat Shabbat Service and Seder
Come join us for our Tu B’Shevat Shabbat Service and Seder. Our Shabbat Service will include an opportunity to experience a variety of tastes that represent the many spiritual depths and meanings of Tu B’Shevat. Come learn about the New Year of the Trees as an entry way to a deeper way to experience the world around us. Not a Seder in the conventional sense of a meal. Oneg Shabbat will follow!

Date:   Friday, February 7
Time:   7:30 pm
Place:   Beth Israel of Alameda, 3183 Mecartney Rd, Alameda

Tu b’Shvat Seder Following Services
Please join us for this annual joyous and light Tu b’Shvat seder after the Friday night service. Sinai Green’s Seder includes song, dance, and of course, food! It’s a fun way for us to celebrate Judaism’s long attachment to the environment.

Date:   Friday, February 7
Time:   7:30pm
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

Tot Shabbat Morning
Geared toward families with children 0 to 5 years old, Tot Shabbat morning is an interactive and friendly Shabbat experience with free bagel brunch and activities. Please click here to R.S.V.P. so we have enough food.

Date:   Saturday, February 8
Time:   9:30am
Place:   Temple Isaiah, in the Adult Lounge, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette

Shabbat Sit Meditation
The Shabbat Sit is weekly. Led by synagogue members, this week’s Shabbat morning experience explores silence and spirituality through simply being present. Using a technique called mindfulness meditation, you will find yourself slowing down, calming your mind and cultivating awareness, compassion, and Jewish wisdom. Whether you are new to meditation or have many years of experience, you are warmly welcome. Drop-ins welcome. Free of charge.

Date:   Saturday, February 8
Time:   11:30am – 12:00pm
Place:   Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon
For more information you can email

Dream a Little Dream of Me
A Concert and Sing-along of those glorious Tin Pan Alley musicians!
This fun event will have you singing like the stars! It’s rather like karaoke but we sing all together. The lyrics are projected on a screen.
There will be tasty goodies available at intermission. I haven’t decided just yet what I will bake. I always contribute to these hilarious evenings. The proceeds go to provide music to elderly folks in community living situations.

Date:   Saturday, February 8
Time:   7pm
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost is $18* at the door (over 80 or under 30 are $12), a bit less at

Tu B’Shvat at the Botanical Garden
Join Congregation Sherith Israel for a Jewish celebration of nature with Rabbi Jessica Graf and a horticultural tour of the gardens with fellow congregants and friends. Learn the history of the Garden and stories of plants in the Garden’s collections by taking a docent-led tour. Snacks provided.

Date:   Sunday, February 9
Time:   2-3:30 pm
Place:   San Francisco Botanical Gardens, 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco
Tickets: $15, Register here to reserve your spot.

Tu B’Shevat Family Celebration!
Join Peninsula Temple Beth El Tots, Peninsula JCC, and Jewish Baby Network for a fun family celebration of Tu B’Shevat, the Birthday of the Trees! Featuring a spectacular juggling performance by Earth Capades, plus craft activities, planting projects, a tots play area and more! This event is FREE, but registration is requested.

Date:   Sunday, February 9
Time:   4:00-5:30 pm
Place:   Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd, Foster City

Elijah the Prophet: The Man Who Never Died
with Daniel Matt
In this course, we will explore the unique figure of Elijah. We will begin by tracing his Biblical career: how he confronts King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, defeats the prophets of Baal, falls into a deep depression, receives a revelation at Mount Horeb, and finally ascends to heaven in a chariot of fire. Based on his dramatic disappearance, a tradition developed that Elijah never died. Someday, he will return to announce the coming of the Messiah.

Meanwhile, he doesn’t just wait in heaven. According to rabbinic literature, he visits earth frequently – saving those in danger, healing the sick, helping the needy, exploring Torah with the Sages, conveying discussions in the Heavenly Academy, and revealing what God says or feels. His essential traits are graciousness and generosity. Somehow this Biblical zealot has mellowed, turning into a master of compassion, a Jewish bodhisattva.

Date:   Wednesdays, February 12, 19, 26
Time:  7 – 8:30pm
Place:   Chochmat Halev, 2215 Prince St., Berkeley
Price for the 3-class series: Chochmat Members $65 | General Public $85
Register here

The Ethical Life
Jewish values in an age of choice
In Fiddler on the Roof Tevye sings that the sweetest thing about being a rich man is the opportunity to study all day with the scholars. Get a taste of that sweetness with Rabbi Jennie Chabon and retired philosophy Professor Michael Anker

This engaging course will explore Jewish ethnics, learn from contemporary rabbis and ancient texts. Come read a little and listen a little and discuss a little and maybe get some help finding the way to reach the most meaningful life, in endowing one’s life with the good and the holy.

The topics include modern day questions arising from food production, fracking and imprisonment as well as ancient ideas from Torah and Talmud and other rabbinic sources together with recent Jewish rabbis and philosophers. Course topics include:

*Do Ethics need God?
*The Ethical Dimensions of Food Production
*Is Teshuvah Possible? Rethinking Mass Incarceration

Dates:  Thursdays, Feb. 13, 20, 27, March 5, 12, 19
Time:   7 to 8:30pm
Place:   B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Cost is $40 for the entire series. All are welcome. Email to register for the class and send your check to the synagogue address above.

Women of the Bible: The Good, the Wise, and the Wicked
Taught by Nitzhia Shaked
An in-depth textual study of a variety of Biblical heroines, including Eve, Rebecca, Tamar, Deborah, Ruth, Abigail, Jezebel, Esther, and more.

Dates:  Eight Sunday afternoons February 16 to April 12, No class on March 29.
Time:   2:00-3:30 pm
Place:   Netivot Shalom Library, 1316 University Avenue, Berkeley
Cost: $80. No one will be turned away due to cost. Call the office to arrange a reduced fee. How to register: Call the office at 510-549-9447 or email

UnScrolled: Wrestling with and Reveling in the Book of Esther
A Three-Part Series with Rabbi Perlman
On Purim, we read the tale of Esther and Mordechai whose lives along with the lives of the Jewish people are threatened. Join us for this three-part series unscrolling and uncovering the deeper meaning behind the Book of Esther. In the midst of holiday celebration, we often don’t take the time to explore the many layers of Esther’s tale. We will wrestle with the archetype of evil via Haman, the role of personal risk when taking a stand, how a community organizes itself to make change, and Purim’s defiant transformation of pain into joy. The messages of Purim are very present today – join in the discussion!

Dates:  Sundays, February 23, March 1, and 15
Time:   11:15am-12:45pm in the Sanctuary
Place:   Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette
R.S.V.P. to Mariah Claiborne at

Commuter Friendly Shabbat
First Friday of Every Month Beginning March 6, 2020
B’nai Shalom is mixing it up for the east bay commuting Jews! Join them for a “Reverse Oneg” (oneg before services) at 6:30pm and then the service at 7pm.
A little nosh, a little prayer, a lot of community!
Enjoy a glass of wine and a light snack before we welcome in Shabbat together.

Date:   March 6
Time:   6:30pm
Place:   B’nai Shalom, 74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek