Happy New Year to all

As we begin the new year, I want to wish everyone a healthy and sweet one. Rosh HaShana is always a time of reflection and hope. The social action committee continues to have a vision to make a better world where we are kind to each other and help our friends and neighbors in their times of need.
We will continue to prepare soups and kugels for our kehilla
We will continue our monthly volunteering at the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
We will continue to support the food pantry at JFCS.
We will participate in the warm clothing drive this winter with sister synagogue Shomrei Torah.
We will once again make and distribute bags for the homeless and needy people in our community.
We will, along with the keshet committee, do all we can to make Beth Ami a welcoming community for the LBGTQA community.
We will support the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County as well as Of One Soul in their activities to bring greater understanding and friendship to the many people of different faiths in our community.
We also have begun a sub committee called Racial Justice. We are looking for ways to support the minority communities in Sonoma County. We are trying to build bridges and reach out in a constructive and helpful way with activities that build community.
As always, during the holidays, we will have a food drive to fill up the pantry at Jewish Family and Children Services. Thanks to all in advance for everyone’s continued support and generosity.
We will also have community conversations during the High Holidays.
Shana Tova to all, Lyla Nathan

Dancing in February and March

We’re dancing February 22 in the social hall. I’ve had to schedule irregular dance dates in March because of rehearsing and performing the Purim spiel 

We are dancing this Wednesday, Feb. 22,
THEN THE FOLLOWING WEEK March 1
THEN SKIP TWO WEEKS, next dance March 22

April continues regularly: April 5 and 19.

All these are in the social hall at Beth Ami. I’ll look into transferring classes to the Finley Senior Center since they have actual dance studios…

Holiday Programming for Kids

Beth Ami and You presents My First Jewish Class! Starts Friday September 23 at 1:00 p.m. with Anya.

Holiday Programming for Kids: High Holiday songs, themed stories, games, food, discussion and guided play. Check-in and drop off your children with Miriam and go enjoy services for 2 uninterrupted hours! Children ages 2–3 are welcome with an adult. Kosher snacks will be provided.
Free with RSVP by September 27th  rs@bethamisr.org.

Rosh Hashanah, Monday, October 3rd

Yom Kippur, Wednesday October 12th
Youth Schedule—10 a.m. check-in– 10 a.m.–noon—Programs:
Toddlers—pre-readers (parents join with children ages 2-3)
Elementary kids
Middle school kids through high school
Noon–1 p.m.—Playground open with parents’ supervision

Sukkot Family Celebration/Fundraiser
for Youth Programs
Sunday, October 16th
Come to the service and join us for Pizza in the Hut, a fundraiser for Youth Programs. Serving kosher pizza, green salad and drinks.
6–6:30 p.m. Sukkot Services
6:30–7:30 p.m. Pizza in the Hut fund raiser Youth Programs
7:30–8:30 p.m. Spooky Stories
Tickets for Pizza:
$10 for adults
$8 for youth
Kids 4 and under are free.
All are welcome. Please RSVP by September 27th to office@bethamisr.org

Shanah Tovah

With the school year in full swing and the High Holidays on the horizon, I am feeling reflective on CBA’s accomplishments of the past year. The work of the Board, committees and numerous volunteers, along with Rabbi Miller and ED Leah Frost, have all contributed and continue to contribute to the success, the sense of community and well being of Beth Ami. Here are some of the highlights:
Hiring of Leah Frost as Executive Director.
Updating of the Employee Handbook.
Repair and restoration of the Library – still in progress, but nearing completion.
Installation of the Security Gate and update to make it rain proof — paid for by anonymous donors.
Purim Spiel written by our very own talented Leanne Schy.
Increased enrollment in the Nursery School, the Religious School, and USY.
Nursery and Religious Schools collaboration on many events.
Our USY chapter grew from 1 to 10 and was awarded Chapter of the Year for growth.
Josh Simkovitz is on the Regional USY Board and Daniel Sherman was recognized as USY Board member of the year.
Yom HaAtzmaut celebration that brought in 100 people from the Sonoma County Jewish community and was supported by a $2000 grant from the Jewish Community Federation.
New Member dinner honoring members who have joined within the past year.
Remodeling of the Friedman Center and collaboration between Beth Ami and FC to alleviate parking challenges during major events.
Creation and expansion of the Sustainers’ Circle, thanks to the work of Barbara Tomin and Carolyn Metz.
Revision of the By-Laws by Alan Krubiner, Myrna Morse, and Anne Brown.
I hope that you’ll take a moment to thank a volunteer and think about stepping up to become an active part of our community.
G’mar Hatimah Tovah—May You Be Sealed for a Good Year in the Book of Life.

“Outrageous Deception”

Over the last four years I’ve come to love the fact that I live in the Golden State – especially Sonoma County. Between the Pacific Ocean, the amazing weather, the beautiful landscape and the overall socially progressive attitudes of its citizens it’s no wonder that California is the most populated state in the Union.

Of course there’s a major “down side”. The larger population puts an upward pressure on the housing market. Recent surveys have shown that even Californians of annual incomes of $100,000.00 and above despair of ever owning their own home. Rents have skyrocketed in Santa Rosa and the Bay Area which have added to the difficulties faced by families and individuals whose paychecks haven’t kept up with the cost of living. In a move to bring some help to people so affected, the City Council of Santa Rosa voted in favor of establishing controls on rent and evictions within existing legal constraints as one way to approach what amounts to a systemic problem.

Understandably this decision doesn’t play well in all circles and it’s quite reasonable to ask if this is the best solution to a very complicated problem. For example, in its present form, is it fair to all parties concerned, especially landlords? Certainly, many questions can be asked such as “In the various communities where rent control has been enacted, what were the results? Has it created a series of new problems and if so, what are they? What kind of index is appropriate in establishing a fair rental policy?”

What I find most distressing is that recently we’ve seen individuals with clip boards, standing outside local supermarkets or other popular businesses, attempting to collect enough signatures to place a proposition on an upcoming ballot.
* I have no problem with individuals or groups using the political system to protect their personal interests.
* I have no problem with paying “professional” signature collectors to do the job of collecting signatures for a petition.
* I don’t even have a problem with these individuals coming from outside the county to do their job.

What I do have a problem with is the fraudulent way in which these signatures are being collected.

Consider the following:
* The sheet that the person is being asked to sign is titled “Petition to oppose vote taken by the Santa Rosa City Council”. (Please excuse my poor memory if this isn’t the exact wording). One thing I am certain of: it doesn’t mention what the vote was that the City Council took!
* The individuals soliciting the signatures only talk about “putting rent control on the general ballot”. Sometimes they gain the person’s interest by asking them if they are “interested” in rent control. Since this is clearly a major issue for so many people, and given that the people being solicited are in the middle of an errand and distracted, they are led to believe that, by signing the petition, they are supporting rent control.
* There’s no doubt in my mind that if people were given sufficient information, they might well refuse to sign the petition. (In fact I encountered someone signing the petition and once I told them that the City Council had already voted in favor of a move to control rents, they crossed off their signature.)
* To this point I have met at least a half dozen people who shared with me that they have signed the petition thinking that they were signing it in support of rent control.
* I’ve been led to understand that the process, if successful, can delay the implementation of the City Council’s resolution, pending outcome of the ballot.

If you are one of those so affected, there is a way to have your signature removed. Information is provided in the following link, http://northbayop.org/2016/09/12/signature-withdrawal-for-anti-rent-control-petition/ and at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6070553-181/signers-of-anti-rent-control-petition, that also provides background information.

You might consider informing as many people as you can about this misleading attempt to undermine the City Council’s decision.

If you have the kishkes (“intestinal fortitude”), you might consider engaging the petitioners and confronting them with the issues. (Of course you should be firm but polite, recognizing that in all likelihood it’s just their way to earn a living).

To sum up matters:
* Anyone who opposes legislation such as rent control has the constitutional right as a citizen of a free country to use any legitimate means at their disposal to have the law overturned.
* Using fraudulent means to achieve this purpose undermines whatever valid reasons there are to oppose the legislation!

As it states in Exodus 23:7, “Keep far away from any false matter.”

– Rabbi Mordecai Miller

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan

Special Rosh Chodesh Event: November 2, Cheshvan  On Wednesday, November 2, the Rosh Chodesh women are going to the Cinema! The Jewish Film Festival is showing “East Jerusalem / West Jerusalem” at the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol. We’ll meet at Slice of Life, vegetarian restaurant at 11:30am then attend the 1pm viewing of the film. Go online and order your tickets now! Then RSVP to Patty Bernstein, basberyl@sonic.net or 546-6043. We can carpool from Beth Ami.

No Rosh Chodesh event for Tishrei– we’ll be celebrating Rosh HaShana. If you’re not a member of Beth Ami, come join us anyway… contact the office for a free ticket.

“Love that Food – Feed that Love!”

We all know that eating isn’t just a matter of survival. Sitting down to a delicious meal in the company of family or friends is a fundamental social act. It helps create community. It advances our sense of well-being. It’s a tangible act of hospitality. If you’re the one who’s prepared the meal, you know that watching your company enjoy eating the food that you’ve made gives you a uniquely intimate sense of satisfaction… and if they ask for more, well, you can’t “fake” seconds!

This Shabbat our Torah reading encompasses a restatement of what animals, birds, fish we can and cannot eat. Many of the laws – or mitzvot – form the rational basis of a just society. The laws of Kashrut, however, that discuss what is and what isn’t appropriate to eat, seem arbitrary, to say the least. Attempts have been made to suggest that they were given at a time when refrigeration was unavailable. In other words, these laws were given for reasons of promoting personal health. Of course, if this is, in fact, the “reason”; given the fact that we now have refrigeration becomes a justification for abandoning these very laws!

The only rationale actually stated in the Torah is that “we are a holy nation to the Lord” (Deut. 14:21; also Lev. 11:45).

So is there, in fact, any rationale for following such laws even today?

I’d like to suggest that those commandments which appear to have no rational or practical basis to them actually do have a fundamental role in helping us understand what a loving relationship demands. Specifically if every time my lover asks something of me, I need a practical reason for doing it, you might wonder whether or not I really love them. It’s precisely those times when I demonstrate the enjoyment I experience in pleasing them simply because they asked me, that I have the opportunity to show them that I adore them.

Given how important the act of eating is, the laws of Kashrut provide an opportunity to put into reality that, Oh so familiar commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.”(Deut. 6:5)

It also gives us a living example of how to create loving relationships with our fellow human beings.

Rosh Chodesh Elul

It’s Labor Day Weekend … but that won’t stop the Moon Mavens from welcoming the new month of Elul! Join us on Sunday, September 4 at 11 am for a Potluck Brunch at Congregation Beth Ami. (Our kitchen is kosher dairy, but there are many things that you could bring. Here’s a guide for you … http://bethamisr.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Food-and-Potluck-Guidelines.pdf)
We’ll be doing our 5777 planning this Sunday, deciding on dates, themes, trips, walks, and focuses for each event. Please come and participate!
This will be our last gathering of 5776! Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein at basberyl@sonic.net.

“Fearing God”

Unless you’re hooked on horror movies, you wouldn’t intentionally choose to experience fear. Yet this week’s Torah portion states explicitly, “Now Israel, what does Ad-nai your God request of you? Simply to ‘fear’ Ad-nai your God…” (Deut.10:12)
Ironic that the one emotion people might arguably shun the most is the one thing God requests of us! How come?
To understand this we need to dig a little deeper into the notion of fear, and, especially, “fear” when it comes to God.
It’s worth considering – outside the scope of this essay – that emotions in general are necessary for the survival of the species. In essence, fear protects us in avoiding any given danger; which just sharpens the question, “Why would God want us to ‘avoid’ Him?” especially when it appears to be the “one thing” that God is requesting of us!
Of course, we are all aware that we were also commanded to “love God…” back in Deuteronomy 6:4. How does a person combine “love” and “fear” at the same time?
If we were to closely examine our own relationship with a person we love, we might well realize that an important element of our love for them is the degree to which we “fear” hurting them, by engaging in behavior they would find objectionable. One reason that “fear” is an appropriate term is the fact that the actual feeling is identical to our other experiences of fear. In addition, just as our other fears help us avoid danger, this experience of fear helps us avoid the “danger” of destroying the loving relationship we have!
In past generations it was a great compliment to call someone “God fearing”. It was a way of saying that such a person had such high moral standards that he or she would avoid acting immorally even in a situation where there was zero chance of discovery.
As humans we have the distinctive characteristic of being able to control our emotions to a greater or lesser extent. The Talmud notes (b.Berachot 33b), “Said R. Chanina. ‘Everything is under Divine control, except for the “fear” of God, since it states “What does Ad-nai your God request of you? Simply (i.e. “only”) to ‘fear’ Ad-nai your God…”’”