Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

The entire point of Thanksgiving is to be thankful. It’s a great time to express appreciation in the form of a prayer or statement.

If you like prayer, consider learning – or simply reading – one or more of the Jewish blessings over food. My Jewish Learning has a terrific page that gives the blessings for the most common foods you’ll see on your table. The blessings said over food before eating are always short. The idea is that when you’re hungry you can’t be particularly focused on gratitude. You can read the blessings here.

The long prayer of thanksgiving for a meal is said after you have eaten and can be truly grateful to be satisfied. That blessing is called Birkat Hamazon, and means “blessing the food”. This practice is commanded in the Torah in Deuteronomy 8:10 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He gave you“. At this point, after satiation, we sit back and reflect on all we have including an excellent meal. Should you want to say the Birkat, or to read or play it, you can find it here.

Whether you pray it or say it, be a role model to your children and friends and express your appreciation for all you have. Both the things that are ‘given by God’ like rain & sun, strength, the ability to sing, and those given by chance (and other people) like love, a safe home, laborers who picked the cranberries, bus drivers, and grocery clerks who work late, children who hug us, and tap water. We have a pretty darned good life. Don’t you love it? Don’t you appreciate it?

I appreciate each of you for giving me your trust and affection. I hope that I have helped you and that I will be able to help you in the coming year. May we be blessed with peace and kindness.



Ways you can help
*Temple-Wide Holiday Drive
Please help PTBE support local families in need! You can participate by purchasing Target gift cards in any amount; then drop them off at the temple office throughout the months of November and December. Donated Target gift cards will buy supplies for low-income families with new babies in the San Mateo area. In January, our Mitzvah Corps teens will help purchase items needed and sort on-site at Samaritan House. Questions? Please contact Rabbi Laura.

Sponsored by Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

*Chanukah Decorations for Paradise
The Temple Isaiah Librarian Melissa Gianotti is collecting Chanukah decorations and general Judaica items for Jewish Families that lost homes in Paradise last year.  Any of the following new or second hand items in excellent condition are greatly appreciated: Menorahs, Chanukah Candles, Gelt, Dreidels, Banners, Linens, and other general Chanukah decorations, Baking or Serving dishes with Chanukah theme, Chanukah string lights, Wrapping paper or bags. Other general Judaica items in excellent condition are also welcome and much appreciated as well! Items can be dropped off in the Temple Isaiah Library by December 2.

Hannukah Events in the East Bay
(510)Families has put together an online list of East Bay Hanukkah activities. See it here.

If I Had a Hammer (Palo Alto)
Parenting Matters (Berkeley)
Little Garden Jewish Playgroup (Lafayette)
Pre-Chanukkah Celebration (San Mateo)
Holiday Fest 2019 (Alameda)
True Colors: A play by and about Jews of Color (Oakland) 
Lunch and Learn (Walnut Creek)
Sikhism & Judaism: Separated at Birth? (Palo Alto)
Daring Discussions; December Dilemma (San Rafael)
Chanukah Bazaar & Crafts Faire (San Francisco)
Hanukkah Celebration for Young Children (Albany)
#SoberShabbat in the Redwoods (Santa Cruz)
The Violins of Hope Concert (Walnut Creek)



If I Had a Hammer
Pete Seeger Fifth Friday Shabbat Service
Whenever there are five Fridays in a month, we like to do something a little different. Join us for a service in the round the night after Thanksgiving.

Come sing along at a mainly acoustic Fifth Friday Shabbat Service featuring folk songs that Pete Seeger sang or wrote. Half a dozen Etz Chayim song leaders will lead some old favorites (If I Had a Hammer) and some more recent additions (God’s Counting on Me, God’s Counting on You). Six stringed instruments and a flute will accompany the singing.

Date:   Friday, November 29
Time:   7:30 pm
Place:   Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto

Parenting Matters:
Raising Kids in Our Crazy World — Kickoff Gathering
Led by Jewish Educator Vicky Kelman. The topic will be “dismantling the Hanukkah gimme-machine.” We will also choose topics and dates for the rest of the year.

Date:   Thursday, December 5
Time:   7-9pm
Place:   The gathering will take place in a private home in north Berkeley. Address will be shared when you sign up.
For more information contact Judd Goodman at

Little Garden Jewish Playgroup
Welcome Shabbat and explore activities designed to promote learning and development for infants, toddlers, and young preschoolers and their parents or caregivers. Using the Jewish calendar as our guide, adults and children will enjoy play-based learning facilitated by an expert early childhood educator. Children will engage in art, science, sensory, and gross motor curriculum while adults learn more about how to incorporate Jewish rituals, traditions, and experiences at home. This program is an excellent way to become familiar with the best practice educational approach we deliver in our Gan Ilan preschool and includes time spent outside in our garden. Little Garden Jewish Playgroup has been generously supported by the CCJCC. Activities are designed for children from 3 months through 3 years. Little Garden Jewish Playgroup is facilitated by Alison Sorscher, Director of Early Childhood Education.

Date:   Fridays weekly, coming up – Dec. 6
Time:   9:15-10:45am
Place:   Temple Isaiah in the Adult Lounge, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette
Cost: $5 suggested donation for drop-in.
Details here
(925) 283-8575

Pre-Chanukkah Celebration
Join Peninsula Temple Beth El for a joyous Chanukkah celebration aimed at the younger crowd.  Open to the Community.

5:30-6:10 p.m. Tree of Life Shabbat, perfect for families with children in 3rd grade and younger.
6:15-7 p.m. Enjoy some latkes, dreidels and socializing! To help us plan for a great event, please click here to RSVP by Tuesday, December 3.
7:15 p.m. Shabbat Hallelu, a joyous Shabbat worship experience for all ages.

Date:   Friday, December 6
Time:   5:30pm
Place:   Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
RSVP here

Holiday Fest 2019
Our annual holiday expo is back supporting local artists and businesses. A great way for shoppers to complete their holiday shopping in one local location and skip the Black Friday madness. On-site cafe will be run by Gather & Grub.

Date:   Sunday, Dec. 8
Time:   10am to 4pm
Place:   Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd, Alameda
Free to attend; bring friends to shop with you.
Details here

True Colors: A play by and about Jews of Color
This play has been described as:
Humorous, revealing and inspiring stories from Jews of Color exploring identity, community, and what it means to be Jewish in modern times.

It is also moving and thought provoking – for everyone. How are each of us as Jews reacting to the Jews of color in our community? Are we allies or antagonists? Do we want to do better as white, yes, that’s how we look – white, Jews to engage, support and protect our fellow Jews?

Come see the play. Laugh and have a good time and then join in a meaningful dialogue.

(It’s a Jewish event so naturally we’ll have food!)

Get on the Guest List for a free ticket! I am inviting Jews of color to come and share their own experiences and knowledge. I have a block of tickets for those folks who find the price tag a bit steep. Just email me at so I can put you on the guest list.

Date:   Sunday, December 8
Time:   4 – 6pm
Place:   Temple Sinai 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Price:   $30 in advance, $35 at the door
Tickets here


Lunch and Learn
Join Rabbi Chabon for a fun, interactive and informative learning sessions on Jewish themes. Bring a brown bag lunch!

Date:   Tuesday, December 10
Time:   12-1pm
Place:   In the Social Hall at B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek

Sikhism & Judaism: Separated at Birth?
For a “Community Tuesdays”, the Marin JCC presents Ken Blady and Amrik Singh Pannu with a multi-media collaboration describing the similarities between the experiences and the histories of the Jewish and the Sikh peoples.

Date:   Tuesday, Dec. 10
Time:   1:00–2:30pm
Place:   Palo Alto JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Cost:    $15  No registration required, pay at the door
Details here.


Daring Discussions; December Dilemma
Perhaps you’ve noticed that Christmas is inescapable starting around Thanksgiving. For those who don’t observe the holiday, it can be challenging and isolating to be reminded of the holiday at every turn. Even for those who do celebrate Christmas, the pressure to spend lots of money on gifts and to look like the happy families in the commercials, can bring added pressure. For Jewish families, a

nd for families of mixed heritage, the “December Dilemma” can be stressful.

Join our JCC’s Director of Jewish Engagement, Joanne Greene, to discuss how to appreciate the spirit of Christmas without compromising one’s own religious beliefs and how not to get caught up in the over-commercialization of the holiday season.

Date;   Wed, December 11
Time:   1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Place:   Osher Marin JCC, 200 North San Pedro Rd., San Rafael, in the Kurland Lounge
Cost:    $8 w/Adv Reg; $10 w/Day of
Please call 415.444.8000 to register.
More information here.

Chanukah Bazaar & Crafts Faire
Congregation B’nai Emunah’s Sisterhood is revving up for the festive Chanukah Bazaar and Crafts Faire. Coffee will be ready by 11:00am for adults who are “window” shopping while waiting for their children in Sunday School. Bring neighbors and friends and enjoy:

Homemade latkes with all the trimmings
Home-baked desserts
Hand-crafted jewelry, textiles, cards, and other items created by local artisans
Raffle prizes – buy tickets in advance or at the event
Chanukah and Judaica gifts
Live entertainment, including the SF Jewish Folk Chorus at 1:00pm
Children’s activity tables

Come out and enjoy this interfaith and family event at Congregation B’nai Emunah.

Date:   Sunday, Dec. 15
Time:   11:30am to 3:00pm
Place:   B’nai Emunah, 3595 Taraval St., San Francisco

Hanukkah Celebration for Young Children
Join other families with young children to celebrate the festival of lights with Rabbi Bridget and musician Joel Siegel.
Enjoy Hanukkah songs and dancing, the holiday story, lighting the menorah, a hands-on holiday project, Hanukkah treats, and more.
This event is especially for children 1-5 and their grownups. Older and younger siblings are also invited.
The location is accessible to the disabled and street parking is available.

All are welcome, including interfaith, LGBTQ, and adoptive families; single parents; and grandparents. No Jewish knowledge or experience is necessary. Feel free to invite friends who might be interested!

Date:   Sun, December 22
Time:   10:30am – 12:00
Place:   Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave., Albany
Cost:    $12/adult, $5/child, and children under one year are free. Preregistration is recommended but not required.
QUESTIONS: Contact us at or 510-545-9977.
Details here.

Chanukkah Concert and Party
with Isaac Zones
Join us for hands-on Chanukkah-themed activities, and a music performance with Isaac Zones especially for families with children ages 3-5. Snack will be served. Please register in advance at and invite your friends!

Date:   Sunday, December 22
Time:   10-11:30 am
Place:   Wornick Jewish Day School, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City

For some people drinking, even for ritual purposes, is unhealthy. Christin and her husband have created a special Shabbat just for those who must or prefer to eliminate alcohol from their Shabbat observance.
I know for a fact that some of you have told me that you do not drink ever. This is the Shabbat for you!

#SoberShabbat in the Redwoods
Inhale Shabbat, exhale your week. Come on over for a warm Shabbat hug in a sober environment. Dinner’s at my place – come as you are. We will have great food, homemade Challah, a variety of non-boozey libations (La Croix Pamplemousse vs Spindrift Grapefruit is a heated battle), and a theme of mindfulness and reflection.

Christin and David (married last month!) are hosting at their home in the Santa Cruz mountains, with support from OneTable, and folks can RSVP HERE.

Date:   Dec. 27
Time:   5 to 8pm
Place:   A private home in Santa Cruz. Address given with RSVP

MLK Jr. Multifaith Day of Service
The Peninsula Multifaith Coalition is hosting their 8th annual day of service. This is an opportunity to work side by side with those of other faiths and cultures to benefit our local community.

Please check the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition website fore more information.

Date:   Monday, January 20, 2020

The Violins of Hope Concert: Along the Trade Route
By using musical instruments once played by a prisoner in a Nazi camp, this extraordinary concert celebrates the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.

Featuring Cookie Segelstein on Klezmer Violin; Emmanuel During on Persian & Oriental Violin; Darcy Noonan on Irish Fiddle; Suzy Thompson on Cajun Fiddle.

Date:   Thursday, January 30
Time:   7pm
Place:   In the Social Hall at B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Pre-admission: $36; At-the-door; $45. VIP seating: $72. For tickets:
Co-sponsored by Congregation B’nai Shalom & CCJCC