Teaching Our Children about “Giving” and “Righteousness”

My friend’s 4 year old son made a request for a toy in a store to which my friend said, “We don’t have money for this.” Her little boy cheerfully replied, “You can get money from the wall.”  Ah, yes, the trusty ATM.

Money is a difficult concept for children on many levels. When my own children were small I knew that “giving” was a confusing topic. Rather than talk about money I showed them the Heifer Inc. catalog.  Heifer gives goats, chicks, goats, seeds, bees and other concrete items. These were things my little ones could understand. We looked through the catalog and considered what we thought would be useful – and frankly, fun – to give. My kids leaned towards chicks and bees one year. Another year it was trees and shovels.

Every faith tradition teaches us to care for others. The Heifer project has no religious affiliation. So it is up to you as a parent to imbue the giving with your religious teachings. For a Jewish family it is tzedakah, for a Christian family it is called charity.

A definition of Tzedakah from Wikipedia:
Tzedakah is a Hebrew word meaning “righteousness”, but commonly used to signify charity. This concept of “charity” differs from the modern Western understanding of “charity”. The latter is typically understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity; tzedakah is an ethical obligation.

Reading this differentiation can help you clarify how the same universal value becomes Jewish or another faith.

For a human being the “why” of an action they take makes it uniquely theirs. Yes, it’s nice to be kind, period. But knowing that you are part of a community taking a particular action gives you a sense of the strength and intensifies the meaning and reward of your action. I urge you to give that to your children. Simply connecting a value to their community and their identity will give them joy and a sense of belonging.

Belonging to a community of belief and practice provides comfort and eases anxiety. It supports people in times of trouble. I’ve been watching a young man who is going through the death of his father as he posts his thoughts on Facebook.  His parents were members of a synagogue all his life. He didn’t feel he was “friends” with all these old folk, but they cherish him as the child of their friend. He has received constant messages that continue after the funeral.

It can feel hard to define the value of belonging to a spiritual/cultural community. But here are the things I hope you will recognize from these stories.

Charity/Giving can be imbued with a perspective that reflects one’s identity. It can help you to understand the different ways that OTHERS perceive that same value. Connecting charitable actions to a religious/cultural source can build a sense of self and of belonging to something greater. Belonging to a community of practice/faith offers ongoing and often invisible strength and support.


Community Shabbat Celebration (Berkeley)
Family Shabbat & Baby Naming (Palo Alto
Welcome Back Picnic (San Francisco)
Teddy Bear Picnic (Palo Alto)
I Brake for Shabbat: How Jews Create a Sacred Oasis in Time (Berkeley)
Cook with Jewish Veg for Rosh Hashanah (Online)
Jews Shabbat (San Rafael)
A Mizrahi Rosh Hashanah (Online)
S’lichot Service – Preparing Ourselves for the Holiday (San Mateo)
Dessert, Havdalah & S’lichot Service (Walnut Creek)
Oakland Pride Parade with the East Bay JCC (Oakland)
Baby and Me (Oakland)
Men’s Weekend (Yosemite)

Community Shabbat Celebration
Join Jewish Gateways for an outdoor Community Shabbat!

Enjoy good company, good food, and Shabbat blessings. Together, we’ll explore the Days of Awe: Preparing our Hearts for the High Holidays!

This event offers a wonderful opportunity to come together, whether you’re a long-time participant in Jewish Gateways or new to our community. Join us for song, socializing, a potluck dinner, and learning.

Rabbi Bridget Wynne and Rabbi Educator Steph Kennedy will lead us in exploring how we can prepare our hearts and minds for the Days of Awe, the 10-day period that begins on Rosh Hashanah and lasts through Yom Kippur.

Children of all ages are welcome! While adults are engaging in learning, children will have the chance to create High Holidays-themed crafts and enjoy games and stories related to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Everyone is welcome, no experience is necessary.

Date:   Friday, August 25
Time:   6 – 8pm
Place:   Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road Kensington
FREE, sign up here to reserve a spot
Host is Jewish Gateways https://www.jewishgateways.org/


Family Shabbat & Baby Naming
Join this special Saturday morning service for children and their families. We’ll begin with group singing followed by activity time for kids, while adults enjoy a relaxed and interactive service. Everyone comes together for an experiential Torah service including a baby naming for Aria Emeline Kaganovsky. Celebratory oneg to follow. All are welcome!

Date:   Saturday, August 26
Time:   10:15 am
Place:   Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto


Welcome Back Picnic
Everyone is welcome!
Join Sherith Israel for an intergenerational community gathering as we return from summer vacation and celebrate the start of the year together.
Music by Isaac Zones. Bring a nosh and your whole family.

Gathering begins at 10 am
Program begins at 11 am

Come join us at the Presidio Tunnel Tops park in SF for food, fun and fantastic friends.

Date:   Sunday, August 27
Time:   10:00am – 1:00pm
Place:   Presidio Tunnel Tops, Meet at east meadow near top of ramp and playground.
Register here
Hosted by Sherith Israel Preschool & Studio@Sherith.


Teddy Bear Picnic
Join your Peninsula community to celebrate the end of summer with a teddy bear picnic.

Bring a blanket, your favorite stuffy, and a picnic lunch to celebrate the end of summer teddy bear style! Join Jewish Baby Network’s Carol Booth and the Kol Emeth dream team for a teddy bear picnic with special crafts, songs, and sharing.  We will provide drinks and snacks, and our program will conclude with a warm family havdalah. This event is aimed at little ones 5 and under and their parents.

Meet us in Briones Park at the picnic tables near the train in the tot play area.

Date:   Sunday, August 27
Time:   11am – 1pm
Place:   Juana Briones Park, 600 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto
Register here
Host is Jewish Baby Network



I Brake for Shabbat: How Jews Create a Sacred Oasis in Time
Join Rabbi Chaim’s Torah of Gathering series where we will delve into the various rituals, customs & concepts of Shabbat. We will explore various expressions of observance, esoteric teachings pertaining to Shabbat, as well as personal reflection, with time to engage within small groups and chevruta study partners. There will also be a more experiential, practical ‘learning by doing’ component.

“We can all experience Shabbat as a destination holiday at the end of every week,” ~Rabbi Chaim

Dates:  Wednesdays, August 30 & Wed Sept 13 (2 sessions)
Time:   7:30pm – 9:00pm
Place:   Afikomen, 3042 Claremont Avenue Berkeley
Cost:    FREE
Complimentary hot drinks. Masks optional.
This series is part of the Pardes of North America Torah of Gathering Fellowship. Please join us.
Details and sign up here 


Cook with Jewish Veg for Rosh Hashanah
You’re invited to join us for our free two-part (come to either or both) Rosh Hashanah event! The Jewish New Year is a time for celebration, reflection, and transformation. In a two-part event, we’re going to show you how to make two delicious plant-based dishes — an entree and a dessert — perfect for your Rosh Hashanah table.

What we’ll be cooking:

8/30 Entree: Cabbage Steaks with Pomegranate Roasted Carrots and Sephardic Jeweled Rice (gluten-free)
9/6 Dessert: Baked Apples Stuffed with Candied Pecans and Sweet Tahini or Almond Butter Drizzle (gluten-free)

Dates:  Wednesdays, August 30 and September 6
Time:   5pm PT
Place:   on Zoom
Register here


JR Jews Shabbat
This Shabbat program is tailored to children aged 0 – 6 and their caregivers and is held at the Osher Marin JCC.

Date:   Fri, Sept. 1
Time:   5:00pm
Place:   Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
Host:   Rodef Sholom, https://www.rodefsholom.org/

A Mizrahi Rosh Hashanah
Food and Conversation with Chef Ayelet

My sister-in-law is Mizrahi and her parents fled Tunisia for France when the Jews were expelled. She herself came to the United States for school. Here she met Ashkenazi Jews. I remember her surprise that Ashkenazim ate so much “white food”.  Gefilte fish, challah, bagels, cream cheese! She was accustomed to a very different cuisine.

I’ve signed up for this class so that I can offer a wider range of Jewish holiday foods. Join me to start the New Year with some NEW holiday foods!

Date:   Sep 7
Time:   11:00am – 12:00noon
Place:   On Zoom
Hosted by Under One Tent, a program of the Contra Costa JCC.
Register here 

S’lichot Service – Preparing Ourselves for the Holiday
Join your North Peninsula rabbis for learning about how to prepare ourselves to approach the High Holy Days with Chesed, Kindness. Rabbi Lisa, Rabbi Rebecca, and Rabbi Genevieve and other North Peninsula clergy members will each lead a small group based on the same learning material. This is a great way to connect with people in our own community and beyond! The learning session is followed by Havdalah and a reflective service in the sanctuary led by Cantor Elana, Saul Kaye and the North Peninsula Clergy. Be a part of this ritual of transition as our Torah mantles are changed to their holiday whites.

Date: Saturday, September 9
Time: 7:15 p.m. Learning (In-person only)
8:15 p.m. Service (In person and Zoom)
Place:   Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
Click here to register for the Service. No registration required for in-person attendance.


Dessert, Havdalah & S’lichot Service
Join us in a beautiful, introspective service to prepare our hearts and souls for the upcoming High Holidays. We will sing familiar, evocative melodies, hear the call of the shofar, and awaken to this powerful season of transformation.

Date:   Saturday, September 9
Time:   8:30 pm
Place:   B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek


Oakland Pride Parade with the East Bay JCC
Join the JCC East Bay in the Oakland Pride Parade on Sunday, September 10. The parade starts at 11am and we will begin congregating at 10am on the corner of 14th St and Clay St. Sign up today and save your spot!

Date:   Sunday, September 10
Time:   Meet at 10am
Place:   Corner of 14th & Clay St, Oakland
Sign up here.
Hosted by the East Bay JCC.


Baby and Me – Tinok v’Ani
Are you a new parent with a baby born between February 1, 2023 and September 1, 2023?
You and your baby are invited to come meet other Jewish and Interfaith families who want to
Celebrate the discovery of parenting
Explore what it means to be a new parent and hear other’s experiences
Ask questions in a safe environment
Seek support and develop new friends

This informal group will be led by Karen Tanner, M.A., Infant Development Specialist, California Transdisciplinary Reflective Facilitator, and Credentialled Early Childhood Special Education teacher.

Dates:  Saturdays, September 30 to November 18
Time:   9:00 – 10:00am
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free:    There is no fee for this class and you do not have to be a Temple Sinai member to attend. “Baby and Me” is an in-person group which requires all participants to be vaccinated against COVID.
Registration is required: Please register by September 24 or contact Karen at Karen@oaklandsinai.org for further information. Space is limited.
Register Here


Men’s Weekend
Unplug, chill and immerse yourself in Camp Tawonga’s beautiful wilderness for our first-ever Men’s Weekend!

The community has asked, and we are heeding the call! Men’s Weekend will provide a space for multitudes of experiences, from playing sports to your heart’s content and relaxing on the back porch, to bonding with new friends and finding spiritual moments during Shabbat. For men spanning the generations, Tawonga is your oyster!

Program Overview
These four days and three nights will be an opportunity for you to refocus, relax, have fun, and build community. You will have the chance to…
* Unplug in nature through morning hikes in the Sierra wilderness, dips in the Tuolumne * River, adventures on our high ropes course, yoga and more
* Sweat it with baseball, basketball, ultimate frisbee and more…we may even get a tournament going!
* Spend the afternoons sampling Tawonga’s many program spaces like the pool, river, arts & crafts, lake and of course, ping pong
*Tap into Judaism and spirituality through song sessions and a lively Shabbat celebration
*Chill on the back porch of the Dining Hall during daily Happy Hours with delicious snacks and drinks and enjoy tasty meals prepared by our wonderful kitchen staff
* Deepen your skills and knowledge through dynamic guided workshops led by expert facilitators on career, parenthood, spirituality, relationships and more

Anyone who is 21 or older and male-identifying is welcome – bring your dad, brother, uncle, old Tawonga bunkmates or partner! Bring a crew of your friends and live together in a cabin – or come solo and meet new friends! Please note this is a kid-free weekend.

Date:   Thursday, October 19 – Sunday, October 22, 2023
Who:   Anyone who is male-identifying and 21 or older
Where: Camp Tawonga, located on the doorstep of Yosemite National Park
Cost:    $750 | Financial Assistance is available for Men’s Weekend.
More information here