Chanukah Sameach

It certainly feels like a lifetime passed since the High Holy Days, and Sukkot (where did Shemini Atzaret and Simchat Torah go?) We all feel like this is a changed and unsettled world since the wildfires started October 8th. All of us were affected, some more then others. What can we do, where can we help? We all want to do something, even those who were affected the most. One thing everyone can do is listen. We all have a story to share, and there are those who need to tell their story. What better time it is to be listening then by sharing meals. And let’s do this with food that brings on the good memories.

So, let’s talk Jewish comfort food. Whatever your idea of comfort food is, now is the time to share. It can be as simple or as complex as you want. Think bagels with lox and cream cheese, or how about mac & cheese, or sweet kugel, or chicken soup with matzah balls. Or how about dishes like eggs with onions & lox, potato knishes, shakshuka, cheese blintzes, matzoh brei, latkes, hamantaschen, rugelach and challah. Don’t worry if the food seems out of season. It’s the comfort of memories associated with this dish that you are making and sharing with others. And if your friends are helping with the making and the eating, what a wonderful time it is to be talking and listening and sharing…enjoy!
Hanukah is coming

Since my creativity button has disappeared for a while, here is a slightly modified article reprinted from the December 2016 Shofar.
Hanukah is coming. The first candle is lit on sundown of December 12th. Truly this minor holiday can be full of fun and comfort. We have eight days to celebrate with lighting menorahs, parties, and special foods.

To help celebrate the miracle of lights we like, no…be honest…we love, to fry foods in oil. Potato latkes abound at our tables along with their cousin latkes—pancakes; parsnip, sweet potato, green (with zucchini), french onion (with caramelized onions), colorful veggies (with carrots, red bell peppers and zucchini), and even coconut. We also have Torzelli (deep fried curly endive), Tostones (fried plantains) and beer battered pumpkin rings. And for desserts we have Sufganiyot (jelly donuts), Bimuelos (honey drizzled fritters) and more.
We also celebrate with food made from cheese and dairy products to remember the apocryphal Book of Judith, the widow who single handedly killed the Assyrian leader, Holofernes, whose army surrounded her village Bethula during the time of the Maccabean revolt. Her tools were cheeses to make him thirsty, wine to make him drunk and a powerful blow using his sword. Think cheese latkes or grilled cheese on latkes and Mozzarella in Carrozza to help celebrate.

All of this information and recipes are available from the Recipes for Hanukkah by MJL Staff ( https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hanukkah-foods ).

Mmm…enjoy—Hanukkah Sameach!

Predictions and Hopes

It is three weeks since the fires began. They have had a devastating effect on our Beth Ami community and our larger community of Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties.

Like most, I awaken every morning to the realization that I haven’t been dreaming and that the fires did really occur. Everywhere you go, people are talking about their experiences, or someone else’s, with the fires. It is on everyone’s mind. People are open, vulnerable , warm and full of compassion. There is a wonderful sense of community here at Beth Ami and in the community at large. People are looking for ways to help. I hope that, as time passes, we will continue to access this open-hearted empathy we now feel.
Santa Rosa will not be the same for many years: people will refer to before the fire and after the fire. Santa Rosa will rebuild and I hope there will emerge a more compassionate vision of how to make our community a better place for all those who live here. There needs to be safe housing for all economic strata in our community.

We had a huge housing shortage before the fires and a very serious homeless problem. Now things will be more dire. There no doubt will be families that will have difficulties finding housing. The homeless numbers will likely grow as working class people, who live paycheck to paycheck, may not have full employment because the economy may slow.

Many of us are looking for ways to give energy and funds to the fire victims. I suggest that we think first of the most needy when we give. Food banks and pantries will always need food. The homeless will still have huge needs. People will be looking for extra work. The gratondaylabor.org is an organization that is working to provide much needed support to workers and their families affected by the wildfires. Some lost everything and many other were temporarily displaced. There are so many people suffering emotionally and financially.

We are a very giving community. We believe in Tikun Olam. Let us continue to help those in need and keep an open heart.

Please note that we are collecting warm coats in the lobby.

What is a Mensch?

We are so fortunate to have our Beth Ami Community in these challenging times! There are so many admirable volunteers who share their time and talents with our children, families, and congregants. Thank you for being such amazing examples. You are showing us how to be and raise a Mensch.
What is is mensch? Someone who possesses the traits of decency, wisdom, kindness, honesty, trustworthiness, respect, benevolence, compassion, and altruism.
In actuality, however, these are not rare personality traits. They have to be taught and modeled. Here are some to to focus on and to teach our kids:
Kavod (Respect)
Kids should be taught to extend kavod to all people who touch their lives, not just mom and dad. Say “Kol hakavod” when a child, or an adult, does something well. Be open to situations where children of differing abilities are brought together. Model behavior that teaches children to be accepting and thus give kavod/respect to everyone.
Tzedakah
This Jewish value implies a basic responsibility to do justice (tzedek) by sharing our resources with the community. Although it may require gentle nudges to get kids into the philanthropic spirit, encouraging them to put a small portion of their allowance in the tzedakah box on Shabbat or donating a few gently-used toys to those in need.
Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World)
This mitzvah reflects the reciprocal relationship which God established with human beings: it is our obligation to take care of the earth, and in turn, it takes care of us. Picking up trash at the playground, planting and watering flowers, and helping to care for household pets, all build a sense of environmental importance in kids.
Gratitude
Gratefulness is a fundamental Jewish value. True gratitude, however, encompasses more than obligatory thanks; it entails Hakarat Hatov, Hakarat Hatov is bigger than gratitude, it’s recognition for the things we have and the people we sometimes take for granted. Pointing out these to children by making comments like “Sara is such a good friend to save you a seat at lunchtime” or “it was so kind of Grandpa to help build your model airplane,” we help our children recognize and appreciate the intangible gifts bestowed upon them by others.
Gemilut Hasadim (Acts of Lovingkindness)
For us doing good deeds is not just a nice thing to do, it is what we do. Children may exhibit lovingkindness by sharing toys, cheering on a friend at little league, or inviting a lonely classmate to join the four-square game at recess. We can encourage gemilut hasadim in our kids by setting a climate of helpfulness at home, praising unsolicited lovingkindness on our child’s part, and modeling this behavior ourselves.
Slicha (Saying I’m Sorry)
We are human and make mistakes. It’s powerful to be able to recognize and self reflect. Children’s genuine apologies are often spontaneous. They may be a smile, a hug or an offering to share a toy. Having a conversation may be easier than insisting on an apology. A simple “I’m sorry” doesn’t show a willingness to changing our behavior.

Back in the Person Center

The Finley/Person Community Center is returning to normal activity, and our next Israeli dance will be back in room 3 of the Person Center. I am not sure what the break in scheduling will do to registration, but do check the webpage and register for the next group of classes.

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

Dancing With Nature

Moving to California felt like moving to a new country. One impression that has struck me deeply is the sense that there is a certain “untamed” quality about living here. Between the majestic beauty of the mountains, the wild and dangerous coastline and the mysterious vastness of the Pacific Ocean, mother nature has a strong hold over our lives. Maybe that’s why our state has such a pro-active population when it comes to preserving this rugged beauty. Day by day we’re engaged in what might be termed a dance with nature: trying to appreciate this precious partner, to enjoy the beauty of her paces and not step on her toes.

At the same time we live with ever-present threat of the next big one and in recent weeks found ourselves facing the destructive forces of fire driven by strong winds. I’ve since learned that the bone dry conditions of late summer inevitably spark over a thousand fires over California. Under usual conditions we might be inconvenienced when some fire in some remote area gets too close to a highway. It’s a whole different story when the wildfire enters a densely populated area.

I recently traveled through one area affected, I found myself becoming emotional seeing the charred trees, the utter destruction of buildings left with nothing but rubble and twisted metal, and the random way in which the fire selected its victims.
There were two reasons I became emotional. One was the picture of a literal holocaust (the word itself refers to complete burning up by fire). The second was the recognition of the incredible valor of the fire fighters and everyone involved in securing lives in those early horrifying minutes and subsequently attacking one of the largest conflagrations in California history. Just thinking of the combined forces of eleven thousand firefighters attacking the overwhelming forces of wind and flame on dry vegetation and buildings was humbling.

I’m still amazed at the ability and speed in which such a huge number of people were organized sparing thousands of lives. I’m deeply moved by all those families and individuals who lost their homes and all their possessions—many of them family heirlooms and priceless memories—the stories of terror and bravery; the compassion showed to neighbors by people for whom every second counted in attempting their own escape and ultimately, the lives that were lost.

The 911 dispatchers were the unsung heroes fielding hundreds of calls from people screaming for help; telling them that help was on the way; hearing from the firefighters that the flames were making it impossible to break through and staying on the phone until the line became silent.
Is it possible not to be emotional? These are times when the partnership of the dance tragically becomes a need to overcome and take control. Clearly, there’s something to be learned from every experience. These are moments that bring out the extremes of human nature as well. It’s important to reflect on the overwhelming number of acts of compassion and bravery that overshadowed those who choose to profit from the misery of others.

We really are privileged to live in a great state and as we look ahead to the future, may our dances be celebrations filled with tears of joy.

Meeting in Beth Ami Social Hall October 25

Dancers, I don’t see any sign of the Finley/Person Center being available by October 25, so I arranged to dance at Congregation Beth Ami in the social hall, 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.. The floor is not the nice wood floor of the Person Center, but it’s okay. I’m sending this notice to my older lists as well as the rec center roster; anyone can come. We used to charge a $3 donation to Beth Ami, I’ll put the money box out for people who have not registered with the rec center, but it’s optional.
We can meet there again Nov 8 but I hope we’ll be back in the Person Center by then.
Congregation Beth Ami
4676 Mayette Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
I hope we can supply some of those endorphins dancing provides!
Be well,
Leanne

Coming Together

Dear Members, Nursery School Families, and Friends, Yesterday evening we had a healing service attended by about 100 people. The number of people in attendance was double the number I expected. I express my thanks to Rabbi Miller, Lisa Iskin, and Diana Klein from the JFCS who contributed in making the evening meaningful for everyone in attendance. We concluded with Havdalah, everyone holding hands and surrounding Rabbi Miller and with the lights dimmed. I spoke briefly and multiple people requested copies of my prepared remarks. I decided to share my remarks (below) with everyone since I know that many people were unable to attend because they are staying with family or friends around the Bay Area.

Dan Pine, the J.’s news editor was in attendance. His article including interviews with various members may be found at: Gathering of prayer and healing at Santa Rosa shul.

Shavua tov,

Henry S. Cohn
President
presidentbethami@gmail.com

It has been a trying week for all of us in Sonoma County. Of course, not only Sonoma County has been affected by the horrific fires, but Napa, Mendocino, Solano counties, among others have been impacted. But, no community has suffered the number of deaths and the physical destruction of homes and commercial buildings as much as Santa Rosa. At this Healing Service tonight our focus is the Santa Rosa Jewish Community, although the entire Sonoma County Jewish Community has been affected. The calamity has not been limited to one synagogue. Here at Beth Ami, seven families lost their homes and at least one Nursery School family. At least 25 families from Shomrei Torah lost their homes and at Ner Shalom the mother of one of their members perished in her home.

Never in my life have I been so close to a catastrophe where I personally know so many of the families who lost their homes and where I know virtually everyone who needed to evacuate. In the past week I have communicated with so many congregants either by phone, through text messages, or e-mail. Unbeknownst to the people I with whom I have been contact is that I often had tears in my eyes.

I live in Petaluma and so far we have been spared of any fires, although I am now prepared to evacuate should the situation change. I am neither thankful nor grateful that my home has been spared. I am fortunate, but I can’t feel thankful or grateful when so many others that I know personally have experienced misery. I am thankful that more lives have not been lost and for the courageous firefighters, first responders, EMTs and volunteers staffing the evacuation centers.

I have been contemplating whether tonight was too soon to have a Healing Service while the fires are only minimally contained. I know that many families are scattered around the Bay Area staying with friends and family and would be unable to attend. I decided that if only one person showed up, then holding this service would be worth the effort. The healing process needs to start with someone.

On erev Rosh Hashanah I shared the Midrash that tells us that when the Jewish people came to the shore of the Red Sea, they panicked. Moses began to pray, and as G’d instructed him, he held up his rod over the sea. But the Midrash tells us that the sea did not yet part. In the face of the charging Egyptian army, the Midrash tells us that Nachshon Ben Aminadav, one of the tribal leaders, proceeded into the sea. At that moment, the sea parted and the Children of Israel were able to cross on to dry land. Ad-nai’s intervention only came when G’d saw that at least one person was willing to act.

No one will walk away from here tonight completely “healed.” Healing is a journey that starts with a first step. We live in a world where we are frequently told to keep our suffering hidden-both physical and mental, but especially mental suffering. When we create space in our holiest times and places for our own grief and the suffering of our loved ones, we make individual healing possible.

The Torah itself refuses to shy away from stories of loss and human fragility. In the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) the first chapter begins with the verse: “v’eileh ha’devarim asher diber Moshe el kol Yisrael: these are the words that Moses spoke to the entire people of Israel.” Moses begins telling the Children of Israel the narrative of their wanderings, the stories of heart-break in leaving Egypt, the deaths of his siblings, the illnesses that struck his people and his own moments of vulnerability. Moses offers these words on the lip of the Promised Land that he will never enter.

In Hebrew the word devarim, means both words and things. Our words, our stories, are tangible in Judaism. Moses offers his words as a legacy–a concrete way to accompany the people in his absence and to comfort each of us as we continue on our own journeys. Our journeys never follow a straight path, but are come with twists and turns and sometimes heading backwards.

As we start a new week, may we turn our eyes towards our loved ones, members of our community and the parts of ourselves that are struggling with the brokenness of grief and loss. And may we offer each other devarim, words that tell the stories of our pain and sanctify our losses, so that our love might bring one another r’fuah sh’layma–a complete healing and the true wholeness of broken hearts.

After the fires

Dear Friends, At this point, last week seems like a blur. Monday, Tuesday etc. all just merged into “days”. Coming home last Friday and making “kiddush” around the table had a surreal quality to it. “Normalcy” seemed out of place! I continue to be amazed by the efforts of those who combatted these terrible fires and performed all the associated tasks to rescue life and property. As someone said, “They all deserve medals!”

Now comes the time to slowly make necessary adjustments and regroup. It’s been heartwarming to see how the various segments of the community are coming together to support one another. I’m sharing the following items in the hopes that this information will be helpful.

1. I’ve accepted Rabbi George Gittleman’s gracious invitation for us to join Shomrei Torah for their Services this Friday evening at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Road starting at 6:15 p.m.

2. Also, this Friday evening Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky and Chabad is hosting a free community dinner at the Flamingo Hotel starting at 5:30 p.m. While this conflicts with Shomrei Torah services, we want to give people the information so they can attend this dinner if they wish.

3. Beth Ami Religious School and our Congregation will be hosting a Family Service of Comfort followed by a free dinner a week from this Friday on October 27th. The evening will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the service, which features the vocal talents of Lisa Iskin. At about 6:15 we will sit down for dinner in the social hall.
Please call the Beth Ami office (707) 360-3000 no later than Wednesday the 25th – earlier, if possible – so that we can plan adequately!

4. Congregation Shomrei Torah is hosting a day camp while schools are out. They are in need of adults who have experience and love working with children (and don’t mind a degree of pandemonium!) to assist them. The camp runs from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. If you in a position to serve as a volunteer, simply stop by Shomrei Torah a little before 9:00 a.m. to sign up.

5. The Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Sonoma County is doing an amazing job in tending to all the needs that have arisen as a result of the fires.

However, please feel free to contact me directly 360-3004, rabbi@bethamisr.org, if you wish. We have received many gracious offers for help – especially with regards to housing and I would be happy to assist you in any way I can.
Important: For those who wish to offer assistance with housing, please indicate how long you feel you can accommodate; how many individuals, and if you are able to accommodate children and/or pets. Having more detailed information will assist us in trying to match a family that requires housing.

6. Finally, I invite you to join me for minyan any regular Monday through Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. for about 45 minutes of prayer and thoughtful meditation. Evenings are at 6:00 p.m., Sunday through Thursday last about 15 minutes. All these sessions take place in our chapel located in the Friedman Center apartment.

Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.
I’m honored to serve this wonderful synagogue and community.
May we be worthy of many days of safety, prosperity and joy in the months and years ahead.

b’Shalom,

Mordecai Miller
Rabbi Congregation Beth Ami

Rosh Chodesh for 5778

It’s 5778, and time for us to renew our Rosh Chodesh gatherings once again. Here’s what on tap for the rest of the secular year …

Our first event will be in Leanne’s sukkah on Monday, October 9. Please RSVP to either me or Leanne (lschy@sonic.net) so we know how many people to expect.

See you soon!

PattyB

Monday, October 9…Sukkot…6:30pm…Gathering in the Sukkah@Leanne Schy’s home. Bring “heavy hors d’oeuvres”, beverages, and/or desserts

Thursday, October 19 … Cheshvan…6:30pm…Jewish Music Series, Cantor Roslyn Barak@Schroeder Hall, SSU. Free admission and parking (plan to carpool and get there early)

Sunday, November 19Kislev …11am…Potluck Brunch@Michele Baime’s home. Please RSVP to either me or Michele (michelebaime@live.com) for directions and so we know how many people to expect.

Monday, December 18Tevet…7pm …White Elephants and Desserts@Judy Gunnar’s home. Please RSVP to either me or Judy (judygunnar@gmail.com) for directions and so we know how many people to expect. Bring desserts, 8 candles and your Chanukiah