Critical Difference

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
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.
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

From Joanna at the Person/ Finley Center: First off, for those who have lost their homes, have been displaced or know those who are impacted by this terrible disaster, I sincerely hope that you are safe and taken care of, my thoughts are with you.  I have been reassigned to an emergency position and that is my top priority at this time.

Please see memo below about the Finley Center:
The Finley Community Center is a designated Evacuation Shelter so any programs taking place at this location will not take place while it remains a shelter. Check for shelter updates.
At this point I don’t know when we will resume normal programming and courses. My guess is that we will remain a shelter for at least another 5-7 days. As soon as I know the exact date I will email you. After things settle down, I will follow up with any refunds to participants or rescheduled dates.


We will dance on a wood floor starting August 30! We’ll be dancing in room 25 in the Person Senior wing of the Finley Community Center.  The Israeli folk dance class is in their catalog, so everyone will have to register and pay for 6 to seven classes at a time with .
The catalog is online and registration is open. 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.

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. If you’re not registered, you can come to class and register later.
Web page:
pdf of catalog:  we are on page 29

Hope to see you,

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!

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, 889-6905 or, 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 and Noa Levy

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…
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 (

Compassionate Conversations

In my previous article, I mentioned a concern that I share with many in our community. We are all concerned with our sense of security, both public and personal, but we may disagree fundamentally with how to react to the various factors that we feel contribute to this concern. What is even more disturbing is the fact that disagreement between individuals is often expressed in a way which is demeaning, insulting or sarcastic. At a time when it is vitally important to increase our understanding of the problems that beset us; to recognize the ways in which issues can be nuanced or seen from more than just one point of view, communication is breaking down. It is for this and other reasons that the Beth Ami Social Action Committee and I have developed a program which, we believe, addresses this concern. We are calling this program “Compassionate Conversations”.

Why should I come to the Compassionate Conversations?

Here at Beth Ami we hope to offer an opportunity to talk about our thoughts and feelings in safe and non-judgmental gatherings. We will share, heart to heart, about ourselves and our reactions to the dramatic changes in our country. We will listen in new ways that may help to relieve the burdens we carry and as a community we can support each other with caring, uninterrupted listening.

Our meetings will be based on principles of compassionate listening with an open heart. It will not be a time for finding solutions or problem solving, but rather a time to talk about thoughts and feelings and to experience growth and support through deep sharing. Each session will have a focus to consider, such as “Balance” or “Forgiveness”. We will share thought provoking readings and activities. In this safe environment we hope that by practicing and developing the skill of really speaking from our hearts that we will find strength and wisdom.

Our first gathering will be here at Beth Ami on Sunday, April 23 from 3:30 to 5:00. The focus of this meeting will be “Listening “. The sessions are based on a program developed by the Unitarian Fellowship of Albuquerque and the book Heart to Heart by Christine Robinson and Alicia Hawkins.

We encourage anyone to join us to learn and experience community in a safe environment.

If you have any questions please call or email (707) 526-7438 or Rabbi Miller at (707) 889-6905

Dancing in April and May

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 and Noa Levy

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