Rosh Chodesh Av

All Rosh Chodesh women… Hannah Caratti has agreed to host “Welcoming Rosh Chodesh Av with Hebrew Chanting and Yoga” on Monday, July 24! 
Wear comfortable clothes that you can stretch and move in. We’ll be in Hannah’s studio 7:00-7:45pm. Be sure to bring “layers” and some snacks to share as we talk about Rosh Chodesh and sing some of our songs on the back patio (7:45-8:15pm)
All Jewish women are welcome, regardless of affiliation (or not) … Our gatherings are always uplifting and often inspirational. Please join us!
Note: Parking is very limited so we’ll need to carpool. RSVP to basberyl@sonic.net, if you plan to participate and if you could be a driver. Bonnie Boren and I will tally up the numbers and send out a final notice next week. (We’ll need to leave Beth Ami’s parking lot by 6:45pm)
Suggested donation per participant: $5-10 (but no one will be excluded!)
Hannah says, “I look forward to sharing this special “Rosh Chodesh” song with you….I learned it from the Jewish Women’s Group “Vocalot”…..”
–Patty Bernstein

From Our New President

It is the day after the Annual Membership meeting and my election as President of Beth Ami for the 2nd time in my life. The first time was almost 20 years ago—the 3rd year after becoming a member of the shul. I appreciate the confidence and support of the many members who encouraged me to become President again. Being President of the shul brings challenges and responsibilities, but at the same time it is rewarding. My first experience as President was wonderful and deepened my connection to Beth Ami and its members.
Many of you know me and others may not. So, for my first article as President, I am sharing a bit about myself.

I was born in San Francisco and was the third of 4 children. I have lived in San Francisco and the North Bay for my entire life, except for the years I served in USAF. My parents, Willy and Carol z’l, fled Germany separately to Shanghai, married there, and lived in the poorest of conditions for almost 10 years. I never got to know any of my grandparents—my paternal grandfather died in World War I and my paternal grandmother was murdered at Trawniki—one of the lesser known concentration camps near Auschwitz. My mother’s parents were divorced—my maternal grandmother fled to Shanghai with my mother and came to the United States with my parents. She died when I was about 2 years old so I have no memories of her.

Many years ago a book was published entitled Twice Blessed—On Being Lesbian or Gay and Jewish. I am a proud American Gay and Jewish man. If you were fortunate enough to attend our Sukkah of Shalom about 1–1/2 years ago, you would have heard about my journey as a Gay man. I may be thrice-blessed because I am also a vegetarian.

I attended the University of San Francisco and graduated summa cum barely with an Accounting degree. I was one of the about 6% of CPA candidates who pass the entire exam at the first sitting. I attribute my academic success to my mother who became involved in setting me on the correct path in my early grammar school years when, suffice it say, I was not the most diligent student.

I have worked in public and private accounting for a Fortune 500 company and smaller companies. I was also fortunate to work for almost 4 years in the non-profit sector at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Now, I am approaching the twilight of my career and if all goes as planned, I will retire in February 2018.

I am a classic social introvert. For those of you familiar with the Meyers Briggs Personality test, the scale does not extend far enough to measure my level of introvertedness. It is a challenge to be an introvert in an extroverted world. In social settings, I may at times appear aloof when in reality my introverted personality has taken a dominant role.

Reading is one of my greatest pleasures. I own more books than I will probably ever read in this lifetime. I enjoy outdoor activities. On my recent vacation to Kauai I hiked, kayaked, snorkeled and went zip lining. Among the outdoor activities I enjoy is gardening and the rose is my favorite flower. No genre of music moves me more than opera.

I was a raised in a religiously-observant home, but not to an excess. Candles were lit on Friday nights and periodically we would attend Shabbat services. Keeping us home from school on both days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to attend shul was the norm regardless of what may be happening at school. Our family belonged to a congregation founded by German Jews who immigrated to Shanghai. The congregation had a large elderly population. My parents were part of the younger generation. We were one of the few families with young children. The Rabbi was advanced in years and had been tortured by the Nazis. He preached in German. I understand and speak German, but not the type of German that is used in sermons. Whenever the Rabbi preached, it felt like an eternity. I remember on multiple occasions my father standing up in the middle of the Rabbi’s sermons and waving his finger communicating to him that he had talked long enough.

My Jewish education was virtually non-existent. Our Sunday school had 6–8 students—we were all taught in one class. There were 2 students, and I was not one of them, who excelled in Hebrew and received more attention and praise than those of us who really needed more help in learning.

My Bar Mitzvah was literally a traumatic experience on multiple levels and left a lasting scar that still causes me pain to this day. My only desire was to get through that day and then run away as far as possible from the synagogue. My only participation for many years was attending the Yamim Noraim. It would be 30 years, until I arrived here at Beth Ami that I would stand in front of the shul and lead a portion of services. I owe a debt of gratitude to Rabbi Slater for creating a safe environment and encouraging me to slowly peel off the scar tissue.

I never ceased being Jewish, although no one could have faulted me if I has chosen to never again have association with a synagogue. What pulled me back to eventually become President of Beth Ami and now to do so for a 2nd time? There are 2 teachings that stand out in my mind. I was exposed to the lessons of Rebbe Levi Yitzak of Berditchev—one of the most pious men who ever lived and most likely one of the 36 tzadikkim believed to roam the world at any time. The other comes from more recent literature and the hands of Elie Wiesel, z’l. On the dedication page of his book, A Jew Today, is a quote from his grandfather Dodye Feig, z’l, who perished in the Holocaust. The words are simple and profound: “You are Jewish, your task is to remain Jewish. The rest is up to G’d.” I hear those words over and over again, almost like a lament. It is a cry from my grandmother and the 6 million who perished in the Shoah to: never forget us. And, I hear the voices of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel challenging me to carry and pass the torch of Judaism to future generations.

I hope that in one way or the other you too hear the same lament and that working together over the next two years we establish a path for Beth Ami so that it continues to be a light unto our feet and for generations who come after us.

Henry Cohn, President

Critical Difference

בס״ד
In creating the universe one of the first acts of the Divine Creator is to make distinctions: light and darkness, day and night, heaven and earth, dry land and seas, plants, birds, fishes and animals after their kinds, Shabbat and the rest of the days of the week. On further reflection, it appears that making distinctions is the very essence of claiming to know something. The more you know about a subject, the more capable you are of seeing differences between what’s good and what’s not so good—where others may be oblivious. An expert wine-taster, for example, is so aware of subtle distinctions in the wine that he or she may be able to distinguish thousands of wines one from the other, not only by variety, but by region and vintage. This vast knowledge puts such individuals in a position to rate the quality of these wines. There may well be disagreement between experts when it comes to the finer points, but I would suspect that there is an overall consistency in their judgements.

Obviously, in various degrees, this kind of expertise applies to every discipline: the ability to draw distinctions and set up a scale of values. This is the very nature of judging.

Drawing distinctions isn’t limited to professions and disciplines; whenever we face any kind of decision we are called to make judgements. As we have seen, the validity of any judgment is proportional to amount of information and the familiarity with that information—call it experience—that one has.

At the same time there’s always the subjective side of judging, too.

A woman is speaking to her friend, “I heard both your children got married last year. How are they doing?”
Her friend,“I’m afraid only one of them really did well. Stephen’s wife is so needy. He’s constantly having to cater to her. She expects to eat out three times a week, she sleeps until 10 o’clock in the morning and then spends the rest of the day shopping. She’s always buying clothes and jewelry.”
“So how’s your daughter?”
“Oh! She married such a wonderful man. He takes her out for dinner three times a week and she gets to stay in bed until late morning. She spends her afternoons at the mall, meeting her friends and keeping her wardrobe in style. Can you imagine a more thoughtful husband?”
Truth is, it’s so easy to overlook our own subjectivity—regardless of the knowledge we (think) we have.
Some questions:
Am I looking at all or both sides of the situation?
How would I like it if that judgement were made about me?
Do I have different relationships with each of the two (or more) sides?
How do I react if someone disagrees with me?
As I’ve said so often,“I’m an expert when it comes to everyone else!”

May your summer be safe and enjoyable!
–Rabbi Mordecai Miller

Everybody Sing!

Rabbi Nachman said,“Even if you can’t sing well, sing. Sing to yourself. Sing in the privacy of your home. But sing.”
Some Benefits Of Singing
Physically
Singing exercises our lungs. It tones up our intercostal muscles and our diaphragm.
It can improve our sleep.
We benefit our hearts and circulation by improving our aerobic capacity and we decrease muscle tension.
Our facial muscles get toned.
Our posture improves.
We can become more mentally alert.
Sinuses and respiratory tubes are opened up.
There is a release of pain relieving endorphins.
Our immune system is given a boost enabling us to fight disease.
It can help reduce anger and depression and anxiety.
Emotionally
Increase in self esteem and confidence.
It increases feelings of wellbeing.
It enhances mood.
Useful as a stress reducer.
It is uplifting spiritually.
It can increase positive feelings.
Encourages creativity.
It can be energizing.
It evokes emotions.
Promotes bonding.
It is healing.
My wish is for everyone to sing and bring out joy in your family and with your friends!
Religious School has a plan to bring special guests each month to teach us songs on Friday afternoons.

Judy Kupfer, Director

Big Israeli Dance News

We will dance on a wood floor starting the end of August! We’ll be dancing in room 25 in the Person Senior wing of the Finley Community Center.  The Israeli folk dance class will be in their catalog, so everyone will have to register and pay for 6 to seven classes at a time with santarosarec.com .
The catalog is not out yet, but I’m expecting to be listed for 7 sessions every other week from August 30 to November 29, and a winter listing from December 13 to February 21. Classes will range from $17 (for Santa Rosa Residents) to $27 dollars for 6 sessions. Though we are in the Senior Center, all ages are welcome.

Hours are every other Wednesday 7 to 9:30 p.m., with beginner lessons 7 to 7:30.

Wednesday, July 26, will be our last Israeli dance session before starting  on August 30 as an official class at the Person Senior Center at Finley rec center.
You will have to register for the class through Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks, and in return we will get a nice wood floor.

Registration begins August 3.
Web page:  https://srcity.org/1194/Browse-the-Activity-Guide
pdf of catalog:  https://srcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/16484  we are on page 29

This Wednesday we will have some cake to celebrate the coincidence that several dancers have birthdays about now!

Hope to see you,
Leanne

Thanks for dancing

May 31 is Shavuot, so the next dates are June 14th and 28th.

Thanks so much to all the dancers who came and danced for and with people at Beth Ami before the Israeli songs concert. I want you to know that singer Achi Ben Shalom, who is a folk dancer, told me, “You must be a good teacher because your group dances well.” Of course I took all the credit and didn’t let on that you were all just good dancers.

Be well!
Leanne

Food and Celebrations

We travel from Passover to Shavuot in 6 short weeks and we celebrate our leaving Egypt as slaves and evolving to a people as Jews receiving the Torah. Our festivals often include clever bits of role-playing and foods to make these holidays more meaningful. For Passover we share the memories of leaving on a moments notice with feasts of unleavened bread, marror, chazeret, charoset, and more. We don’t eat any leavened foods for the 8 days of Passover. For the cooks in our lives, this is a big challenge because we get to recreate our favorite dishes with matzah products, and not using our usual (and comfortable) kitchen items.
We just finished Passover, and as one of the kitchen committee members, I can tell you that is a lot of hard work. What is traditionally done for Passover preparations in homes across the world is done at our synagogue as well. All of the Hametz and Hametz cooking items are removed, stored away, and sold on contract. The kitchen is cleaned inside and out with everything koshered to make certain all Hametz is gone. Then, and only then, the Passover items are able to be put in the kitchen, and after that, the cooking for Passover begins. Well, you know the results of that. What a wonderful community Seder we had. We also shared a simple Kosher for Passover Shabbat. After we tore up the contract (well actually the next day) everything was packed up and shifted back so that our wonderful volunteers who cook can use the kitchen for preparing for this Shabbat. What a team of volunteers we had to help us do all of this work. They are too numerous to name, but they are all very much appreciated.
From the second day of Passover we begin to count the Omer until we reach the festival of Shavuot. During this time, we will be celebrating Yom HaAtzma’ut, May 2nd,which is usually celebrated the evening before with outdoor festivities, parties, and BBQs, and continuing with picnics and other outdoor celebrations during the day (when you plan your picnic, include an Israeli dish in your basket) On Lag’BaOmer, May 14th, you have another occasion for BBQs with bonfires.
On Erev Shavuot, May 30th, we start the celebration of the receiving of the Torah and the laws of Kashrut by serving dairy foods. Shavuot is also the time to celebrate the harvest of the First Fruits of the Seven Species of Eretz Yisroel with colorful baskets of fruit and decorating with greenery; and, the beginning of the harvest of the wheat. Think of the breads we didn’t eat at Passover.
We’re in the beginning stages for Shavuot. Will there be cheesecake or blintzes to share? That night study session can get mighty intense and bring on the need for food for the body as well as for the soul.
May all the festivals and the days between be a time of joy and shalom.

Jeffrey & Janet Stein-Larson

Compassionate Conversations

The first meeting of Compassionate Conversations was held on Sunday, April 23. We were pleased by the large turn out. Seventeen people willingly dedicated their time to learn and practice how to really listen. We listened to each other without interrupting or asking questions. We were there just to hear what someone had to say without the need to give advice or feedback. People were very respectful and brave to share with the group.
As we finished, each person gave a phrase or a few words to explain how they felt. Many people expressed a calm, quiet, hopefulness from the meeting. It felt like a very safe and caring environment. It was a very good beginning. Thanks to everyone who participated.
The next meeting of Compassionate Conversations will be held on Sunday, May 28 from 3:30–5. The subject will be gratitude.
The following meeting will be Sunday, June 11 at the same time. If you didn’t make this meeting, you are welcome to come next time. We will review guidelines and have a brief discussion of the kind of listening we will offer and receive in the group.
If you are interested or for more
information, please contact Rabbi Miller at
Chaver37@gmail.com, 889-6905 or
Lylanathan5@gmail.com, 526-7438.
Last week I asked for specific items to fill the bin for the JFCS Pantry. I noticed today that the bin was full. Thanks so much to the congregation for such a quick response. Terrific!

Mini-performance May 7

Dancers, we have been asked to demonstrate some dances for ten minutes or less at a free concert May 7 at Beth Ami by Israeli / San Francisco singers Achi Ben Shalom http://www.achibenshalom.com/ and Noa Levy http://www.noalevylive.com/

PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHO WANTS TO PERFORM/ DEMO May 7. I’m not worried about getting a large group, I just don’t want to dance around all by myself…
The schedule is
2 pm kids’ show
2:30 free refreshments in social hall
2:50 we dance in social hall
3:00 concert in sanctuary.
Our regular dance meetings are April 19 and May 3, before the concert.
After the concert we have
May 17– I’ll be gone and we’ll have to talk about someone else leading, or cancelling
May 31-I’ll be back
June 14 and 28
I’m trying to think of three dances to do from different categories depending on who can come and what dances they know. A few people will do an advanced dance. Here are some possibilities. You can tell me what you would rather dance if you are coming…
Everyone:
somewhat harder but pretty well known:
Advanced (my daughter Ilana will dance this)

Rosh Chodesh Iyyar

Celebrate Iyyar (and the Counting of Omer) with the Rosh Chodesh Women! All Jewish women are invited to welcome the new month of Iyyar on Thursday, April 27 at 7 p.m. in the Congregation Beth Ami multipurpose room.

We’re in the process of Counting the Omer so we have time to discuss the relevance of the ritual and the various meditations and methods of marking the 7 weeks between Passover and Shavuot.
Please join us for our ritual candle-lighting and songs … and discussion. A nosh or a beverage would be a nice addition.
See you there!
Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein (basberyl@sonic.net)