Conservative/Masorti Movement Expresses Anger at Immigrant Detention Centers

The Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism expressed intense anger today at the status of immigrant detention in the United States, particularly reports of children being held in inhumane conditions and that a former internment camp used during World War II for Japanese-Americans at Fort Still, Oklahoma is now slated to be used as a new detention center for immigrant children.

The movement issued the following joint statement:

“Today, most Americans recognize the 1940’s internment of American citizens of Japanese descent as immoral, illegal, and certainly lamentable. How tragic that America is again on the verge of incarcerating a new generation, this time of would-be immigrants. Hundreds and thousands of people are so desperate for a better life that they flee to the United States of America, knowing that the country’s leader says they are not wanted, and once here are placed in pens, cages, jails and prisons. Our government is paying for-profit companies with arguably no supervision and no oversight to hold these human beings, for unlimited time in subhuman conditions.

Judaism has a strong tradition of calling for loving the stranger (Deut 10:19) because we were strangers in a strange land. Two of the most powerful values Judaism teaches are the dignity of all creatures (k’vod habriyot) and b’tzelem Elohim, the firm belief that each and every human being is created in the image and likeness of God.

Our tradition values children. They are our future and our hope. Yet today in this country, we leave them in outdoor detention pens , with no diapers for babies, no toothpaste, no soap, often no clothes to speak of, and certainly no toys.

Children must be reunited with their families immediately and everyone seeking asylum at our borders deserves a fair hearing. We need more judges and more adjudication of asylum seekers at our borders, not more camps. We need more humanity and sympathy. Not more camps.

Further, we continue our support for a fair immigration policy that guarantees due process in immigration proceedings and protects the civil liberties of immigrants. We vehemently oppose capricious immigration raids like the one recently proposed.

To detain human beings in prison-like conditions, for undetermined amounts of time, despite the fact that they are not charged with any crime is unconscionable. Today’s transfer of children is only the first of many critical steps needed. The detention centers must be closed. Now. The United States of America and the Jewish community know this all too well from our histories. When we say never again, we mean it.”

Rabbinical Assembly
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Cantors Assembly
Jewish Educators Assembly
The Jewish Theological Seminary
Jewish Youth Directors Association
Masorti Olami
Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano
The North American Association of Synagogue Executives
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism 

Mordecai Miller, Rabbi Congregation Beth Ami

Social Action Report

The Social Action Committee (SAC) is a committee comprised of many dedicated people who volunteer to spread good will and Tikun Olam to our Beth Ami Kehilla and the greater Sonoma County community. Thanks to our members: Susan Miller, Ellen Mundell, Judi Hyman, Carol Swanson, Lenore Holloway, Rita Kagan, Tish Levee, Cheryle Miller, Michelle Zygielbaum, Karen Herskovic, Bernard Soltes, Judy Gunnar and Lyla Nathan and Bobbi Rosenthal. (Co-Chairs). This year we made a commitment to have one activity a month in which we come together to help in the community.
We alternately serve dinner at The Palms, subsidized housing that serves previous homeless Veterans and clients from Catholic Charities, or volunteer at the Redwood Empire Food Bank. After we volunteer at the food bank we often go out for a fun dinner at a close by Mexican restaurant. We always hope that you will join us for either event. Great way to do some good and build community.

For many years we supplied Jewish Family and Children’s Services Pantry food collected from members of Beth Ami. We also went to the food bank and picked up fresh food for the pantry. Unfortunately, JFCS has moved and doesn’t have space for the pantry. Hopefully, someday, this needed service will return. However, we are still collecting food for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. So, please continue to bring healthy, and low sodium items to the shul. There are thousands of hungry people in our area. The summer is a particularly difficult time for the food bank as people go on vacation and are less aware of the community needs. Remember, hunger has no calendar. Thank so much to everyone’s continued support.
This year we joined with the nursery school providing needed toiletries for folks who could use an extra pickup. Thanks to Pricilla, her staff and the wonderful children and their parents for assembling over 100 bags. Never too early to start practicing Tikun Olam. We are hoping to have this joint activity next year.

We also had a winter warm clothing and sleeping bag collection last year. We gave our items to The Living Room, a day shelter for homeless women and children. Thanks for everyones generosity.
We participated in the Gay Pride Parade this year and hope to get more involved next year. Thanks to Rabbi Miller for always supporting the parade.

New members are always welcome to join SAC. We have monthly meetings, generally the first Tuesday of the month at 12:30.
Our next activity is at The Palms on Wednesday, July 17th from 4:30–6 p.m.
For more information please call Elizabeth Jarlsberg in the office 707-360-3000 or Lyla Nathan 707-526-7438. Thanks for supporting us and our community!

Rabbinical Assembly Statement on Reproductive Freedom

The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, issued the following statement tonight on Alabama’s new abortion law: The Rabbinical Assembly is deeply troubled by the enacting of today’s abortion law in Alabama and believes it should and will be struck down by federal courts. 

Reproductive freedom is again under assault in our nation, beginning today in Alabama, where the state has effectively banned abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalized the procedure for doctors.

It is further under attack in other states’ so-called Personhood Acts and Life at Conception Acts, including in Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio.

This position is based on our members’ understanding of relevant biblical and rabbinic sources as well as teshuvot – modern rabbinic responsa. Jewish tradition cherishes the sanctity of life, including the potential of life which a pregnant woman carries within her, but does not believe that personhood and human rights begin with conception, but rather with birth as indicated by Exodus 21:22-23.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly has affirmed the right of a woman to choose an abortion in cases where “continuation of a pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm, or where the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective.”

Denying a woman and her family full access to the complete spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including contraception, abortion-inducing devices, and abortions, among others, on religious grounds, deprives women of their Constitutional right to religious freedom.

The Rabbinical Assembly supports full access for all women to the entire spectrum of reproductive healthcare and opposes all efforts by government, private entities, or individuals to limit such access or to require unnecessary procedures. We also oppose so-called “personhood” legislation on the federal and state levels that would confer legal rights under the law to a fetus or an embryo.

The RA has consistently supported these reproductive freedoms for nearly 50 years.

However, recent legislative efforts in the United States on both the federal and state levels pose new threats to reproductive freedom, beginning today in Alabama. Other threats include so-called “heartbeat” bills in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Ohio.

The Rabbinical Assembly emphatically opposes all such laws and legislative or executive moves.


It is at times like these that we are especially aware of how vulnerable human life is, even as we work to make our institutions increasingly safe and more secure. At the Beth Ami campus we are working to ensure greater protection for all who walk through our gate, and to keep any who might wish us harm from entering. This is our responsibility and we take it very seriously. May God protect all our going and our coming.               b’Shalom,                                                                

Mordecai Miller, Rabbi, Congregation Beth Ami.            

Carolyn Metz,  President, Congregation Beth Ami                

Pesach is on the way

Pesach is on the way … so it’s time for the Moon Mavens to touch base with Passover recipes and treats.

Join us on Sunday, April 7 at 11am for a potluck dairy/pareve brunch at Congregation Beth Ami’s Multipurpose Room (and maybe kitchen, if we devise a recipe for us to create). We’ll still have our ritual songs, poems, and learning.

We’ll also update the lights on the Yahrzeit board to reflect those we remember for Nisan.

Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein 953-4385 (phone and text) or

When Adar arrives…

When Adar arrives our joy increases! This year we have two Adars, so how much more joyful can we be? Join the Moon Mavens on Thursday, March 7 @ 7pm in the Beth Ami Social Hall/Multipurpose Room for ritual, changing the Memorial Plaque lights for the new month, noshing (bring a snack to share, please), and making masks for Purim! Susan Bercu will introduce the mask making by sharing some insights behind her mask art.

If you have sparkles, feathers, yarn, etc. to use to decorate your mask … by all means, bring them.
Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein ( or 953-4385)

Purim, the Feast of Lots

Purim is based on the Persian word, Pur (sounds like poor). In English it means lots. Okay! What exactly are we talking about? What do we mean by lots?

Using lots is a way in which to decide something randomly. For example, we use choosing straws, rolling dice, or a lottery. Leaving the decision to chance alone may be an attempt on our part to be as impartial as possible.

The Persian culture, at the time of the Purim story, was highly influenced by astrology and similar beliefs. The Babylonians, who preceded the Persians, had made some important observations about the movement of the heavenly bodies because they believed that all life was influenced by them. For them, astrology had the same validity as science in our own times; it provided the reason things happened the way they did. Since everything was influenced by the stars, even an act such as drawing lots would be influenced.

When Haman decided to get rid of the Jews living throughout the Persian empire, he wanted to pick a date which would “line up with the stars.” We could surmise that he had a container of lots with the months of the year and a container containing each day of the month. He could dip his hand into one to choose the correct month and then into the other to pick the right day. According to the Megillah, he did this procedure over the span of a year and came to the conclusion that the 13th day of the month of Adar was the day “blessed by the stars!”

From Haman’s point of view, the date he picked for his plan had a level of success that approached certainty. What he wasn’t counting on was Esther’s courage and the power of the Jewish people to fast and pray to God.

Purim celebrates how God overrode the power of Haman’s scientific astrology by preventing this plan from maturing.
There’s a saying in our tradition: “Ha-Ahavah mekalkelet et haShurah” roughly translated, “Love conquers all.” In this case, we’re speaking of Divine love.
In other words, Divine Love conquered Lots. May your Purim days be filled with joy!

Social Action feeds people

The Social Action Committee was at the Redwood Empire Food Bank mid-April.  We worked with other volunteers and assembled 350 boxes of non perishable food which will serve over 8,000 meals.  On Wednesday May 15th we will be at The Palms hotel and serve dinner.  Both of these projects fill our souls – we welcome you to join us. Please call Judi Hyman at 707-484-8970 or for any further information. 

The SAC from Shomrei Torah is showing an important documentary movie on the white supremacy movement the United States on Sat. May, 4th at 7:00 Our SAC is a co sponsor. Please check out the flyer.

SAC served over 70 meals to the residents of The Palms. We want everyone to know what a wonderful experience it is for the Beth Ami community to help those in our broader community. The residents so appreciated our simple meal of chili, salad, homemade corn bread, and brownies. It is truly a way to make for a better world and build relationships at the same time.
We have planned to serve meals 6 times a year. Bernard and Maria Soltes will also make their fabulous pasta for 2 of those meals.

We have also have planned to volunteer at The Redwood Empire Food Bank 6 times this year. We will meet at the food bank and pack fruit or veggies from 5:00-7:00 and then go out for a simple meal.

So every month we will be either serving at the Palms or volunteering at the REFB
Please consider joining us or helping prepare food.
The dates for Redwood Empire Food Bank :
April 17, June 19, August 21, October 16, Dec. 18. 5:00-7:00 pm Wednesdays

The dates for The Palms:
March 13th, May 15th, July 17th, September 18th, November 20th, 4:15-6:00 Wednesdays.
Any questions, please call the Elizabeth at the office 360-3000 or contact Lyla Nathan at 526-7438 or
Thanks for everyone’s contributions to the winter clothing drive.
B’shalom, lyla and the committee All Pages