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 judihyman@att.net 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 lylanathan5@gmail.com
Thanks for everyone’s contributions to the winter clothing drive.
B’shalom, lyla and the committee All Pages

Committee Meeting Jan 13

Israel Programming Committee Mtg on Sunday Jan. 13 at 10 am at Beth Ami + Jewish Self-Hatred

Mark Your Calendars

Plan to attend the next meeting of the Beth Ami Israel Committee at Congregation Beth Ami on Sunday, January 13 at 10 am in room 12/13) to plan for two events:

  • * Sonoma County Israel Independence Celebrations. (In the past, Beth Ami has hosted the celebration. Perhaps your synagogue would like to host it this year.) This year, Yom Ha’atzmaut begins the evening of Wednesday, May 8.
  • Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is always scheduled for the day preceding Independence Day. Starting the night of May 7* Friday night dinner on May 3. Currently scheduled as guest speaker from IsraAID is Sarith Honigstein

Jewish Self-Hatred

Here in Sonoma County, I have heard rabbis rail against Israel and rail against Orthodox rabbis. Jewish self-hatred is real.
Read the article by Adam Milstein

Are We Going to Allow the Jewish People to Be Divided and Conquered From Within?

The year 2018 has provided a series of reminders that antisemitism, the world’s oldest hatred, is alive and well in our country.

On October 27, eleven Jews were massacred in Pittsburgh as they prayed on the Sabbath. It is just the latest in a series of violent attacks that have targeted the Jewish community in recent times, which come not only from the radical right but also from the radical left, and from radical Muslims.

The enemies of the Jewish people don’t only physically attack us from the outside. They have also long worked to divide the Jewish people by turning our own against us. For example, a number of Jewish individuals and organizations have become leaders within the BDS movement, which seeks to destroy the Jewish state.

Jewish self-hatred did not begin with the BDS movement. Isaiah 49:17 says,
“Your destroyers and devastators will depart from you.”
History is replete with examples of Jews who hated the Jewish people so vehemently that they dedicated their entire lives to its destruction.


Love letters from God

A certain Jew studied Torah and practiced the commandments in the hopes that he would inherit Paradise. He patiently went over the brilliant arguments in the Talmud; the deep metaphors of the Midrash; the wonderful explanations of Rashi and the subtle questions and complex answers of the Tosephot and other authorities. At moments he would be overcome by the sheer beauty of this intellectual endeavor and could only marvel at their brilliance. Secretly, he wondered to himself, what it could be like to experience Paradise. What kind of pleasures might he encounter as his eternal reward?

One night he had a dream that he had passed on to the next world. To his surprise he found himself at the steps of an academy. He stepped into a study hall and in front of him were rabbis and scholars from generations before sitting around the tables, studying texts and debating the various points of Jewish Law and theology.
He turned to someone near him and remarked, “I don’t understand what’s going on. I thought the rabbis would be in Paradise and this is exactly what we were doing while I was living my former life!”

“You don’t understand,” the person said, smiling. “You thought the rabbis would be in Paradise. The truth is, Paradise is in the rabbis!”
How do I share with you the inner joy of waking in the early hours of the morning – anywhere between four-thirty and five-thirty – having experienced a night’s sleep, sufficient to get out of bed with a clear mind and head downstairs to sit for an hour or so at the breakfast table and think of nothing else than the words of a text that confronts me.

It may be reciting the chapters of Tehilim (Psalms) designated for that particular day of the Jewish month; it could be studying the week’s Torah portion with a particular commentator or Midrash; and it could be sitting down with my cassette player in front of a page of Talmud as I try to read through the Gemara for the first (!) or second time.
I think back to earlier days in South Africa when I was growing up in my parents’ home. My father, also a rabbi, would take me to his synagogue, sit me down in a classroom with the “Hertz Chumash” and then leave me to read the Hebrew of the text and the English on the other side of the page. At the time, I admit, I didn’t exactly love the experience, but it was OK and I did learn a lot of the Hebrew of the Chumash in that way.

Years later, I can only thank him with all my heart that he gave me a background that has influenced my life profoundly and continues to do so more and more, the older I get. The sense of inner-tranquility; of having accomplished something worthwhile gets the day off to the kind of start that means it’s going to be a good day no matter what lies ahead.

I dream to see individuals or families taking fifteen minutes to read one chapter of Bible a day in English – perhaps, even to study with their child or children – and discover a world they had just barely scratched during their own childhood education. Here we are engaged in conversations that are timeless; that have an infinite value and that also reflect life in all its aspects. For some, if not for all, I hope that this experience will have a profound influence on them: to give them strength when life is hard and help them discover a greater purpose to their everyday experiences.

Jewish tradition involves a love-affair with Sacred Texts – “love letters from God” – as a way to practice a love of our Transcendent Creator, which is informed and sincere: a way to discover Paradise! I know our Tradition can – and deserves – to survive, no matter the odds, if we and our children can discover and share this love.

Mordecai Miller

Social Action News

The Social Action Committee recently had two very successful activities. Last week we went to the Redwood Empire Food Bank where we husked and packed corn from 5:00-7:00 pm Lots of fun. Afterwards we went out for a Mexican dinner. Those participating were, Jared and Barb, Maggie and Bobbie, Lyla, Judi and Lenore. Thanks to everyone who participated. We are thinking about doing this monthly. More info to follow.

Today we joined the nursery school in preparing bags of toiletries for those in need. It was wonderful to see Priscilla, her staff and especially the children have such a good time performing a meaningful mitzvah. The kids packed over 50 bags and even put a special touch of heart stickers on each bag. Thanks so much to Priscilla for organizing the activity. Can’t start too young to teach our kids Tikun Olam.
The bags are in the foyer of the shul. Please take a few if you feel comfortable distributing them.

On Wednesday January 30 we’ll be making and serving dinner at the Palms. If you’re interested in helping, please contact the Beth Ami office.

For the winter clothing drive we will be collecting items for The Living Room this year. The Living Room is a day shelter for homeless women and their children. They do good work and they always have need for clothes, bedding etc. Please refer to the flyer.
If possible please drop off items at their facility. However if you can’t, we will deliver. Toda Raba to all

A Post Chanukah Story and Thanks

Catching up on my e-mail messages I came across an article by Rabbi Michael Gold of Temple Beth Torah Sha’aray Tzedek in Tamarac, Florida. Rabbi Gold was the scholar-in-residence at Beth Ami about nine years ago. In his message, Rabbi Gold states that on the previous Friday, he saw the miracle of Chanukah first hand when he and his family visited Havana, Cuba. His wife’s mother and aunt grew up in Cuba. Rabbi Gold recounts visiting the Conservative synagogue and meeting its President. He continues. . . . .

We met with Adela Dworin, president of Beth Shalom, also known as El Patronato. Her English was perfect as she shared wonderful stories about her synagogue. My favorite was how she approached Fidel Castro and asked why he had never visited their synagogue. He answered that he had never been invited. So, she invited him to come on Chanukah. He asked, “What is Chanukah?” Knowing that he was a revolutionary, she answered, “It was a Jewish revolution.” “Then I’ll come.” He came and spoke (for a long time as he usually did.) There is a picture of him on the wall.

We stayed for services and a Shabbat dinner. The entire service was led by teenagers, almost the same as ours except accompanied by a piano. There were over 200 worshipers there. . . . The synagogue was alive and filled with enthusiasm.

Adela shared with us that there were periods of time in the past, under strict Communist rule, that they struggled. Religion was discouraged by the government and she said that it was often difficult to get a minyan. On the other hand, the government allowed Jews to use their ration cards to buy kosher meat since they would not use it to buy pork like other Cubans. Today it is still not easy to be a practicing Jew in Cuba. But Jewish life is coming back.

That is the true miracle of Chanukah. When the day is at its darkest, we light candles, increasing the number each day. We move from darkness to light. In Cuba, our family watched a community moving towards the light. Listening to those teenagers sing those prayers with joy and enthusiasm, we knew that Judaism will continue to grow and thrive.

Here at Beth Ami, on the eighth night we held our annual Chanukah celebration. To an extent, it too was a miracle. It was attended by 250 adults and children. I have received many positive comments about the evening. The evening’s success was due to the efforts of many individuals–volunteers and staff. A huge thank-you to Bobbie Rosenthal who coordinated the celebration. The names of volunteers and staff listed below make it apparent that “It takes a village” to create a successful event. Thank-you to everyone.

Latke Makers
Richard Kahn, Amanda Oquist
Mel Decker, Bobbie Rosenthal
Laurie Felciano, Leanne Schy
Russ Gurvetich, Ahuva Simon Sa’ar
Natalie Hoytt, Beibei Sun
Myrna Morse

Bonnie Boren
Lyla Nathan

Nursery School Staff
Priscilla Lowell Lauren Kalmanson
Lara Brown Francis Valente
Amanda Burwasser Sarah Welton
Jessica Joerger

Catering and Clean-up
Marg Ballo, Barb McGee
Dave Ballo, Carolyn Metz
Patty Bernstein, Ken Plattner
Betty Boyd, Mark Rosen
Bernice Fox, Mark Stoelting
Judi Hyman, Myra Thomas
Judy Kupfer

Michael Markowitz
Aaron Markowitz
Arie Markowitz

DJ, Music
Benjamin Salgado, Lisa Iskin

Staff Support
Judy Gunnar
Andrea Nett

Jerry Newman

Jessica Joerger
Leanne Schy

I apologize if anyone’s name has been omitted.

Shabbat Shalom,

Henry S. Cohn

Nava Tehila

Yesterday, we celebrated the eighth night of Chanukah with our annual celebration attended by more than 200 adults and children. There were fun activities for the children, singing, and latkes, latkes and more latkes. Thank you to everyone who helped make the celebration a success. A special thanks to Bobbie Rosenthal for coordinating the party.

As we begin to slide into the secular New Year, I am thrilled to share with you another joyous event for the entire Jewish community on Saturday, January 26th at 8 :00 PM. A number of the Sonoma County synagogues, including Beth Ami, and several Jewish organizations welcome Jerusalem-based Nava Tehila to the Glaser Center. Nava Tehila is an innovative prayer community rooted in Middle Eastern, Hasidic, Israeli and other musical traditions.

Thanks to the underwriting of the event by the synagogues and Jewish organizations, ticket prices are only $15.00 ($25.00 for VIP tickets) and may be purchased at https://shalomevents.ticketleap.com/rejoice/.

The Jewish Community nationwide and especially the Sonoma County Jewish community have experienced a challenging year. Coupled with lack of civil discourse in the current political environment it is difficult, at times, to find optimism. I am reminded of Moses, in the waning days of his life, addressing the Jewish people. Moses who saw both the worst and best of the Jewish people final instruction is Uvkharta vakhayim (“Choose Life”). Regardless of life’s circumstances, we must “Choose Life” and find ways to express our gratitude.

So, let us express our Gratitude and Rejoice on January 26th. I look forward to sharing the evening with you.

Henry S. Cohn


More details about the event are in the Nava Tehila flyer, designed by Leanne Schy.

Helpful videos

Israeli dance is held in the Person Senior Center 2 Wednesdays a month, 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in room 3. In the fall this will change to 6:45 to 7:15.
Person Senior Wing 2060 West College Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Rec and parks page

The new catalog and registration for fall/ winter comes out July 17

September 4 and 11
October 2, 16, 23

We will expand the beginning lesson to 45 minutes, and we’ll keep repeating a set of basic dances that demonstrate various building block steps. We will try some styling exercises and talk about how to think about steps to make dances easier to follow.

After that we’ll go over a couple of solid repertory dances that have been popular for a long time.
After 7:40 I’ll be mixing intermediate dances with easy-to follow ones for recreational dancing.
Sometimes it looks like a little bit of walkthrough will get more people up and dancing a particular dance, so I’ll explain things briefly.
At 8:00 or so we can work on a new or review intermediate dance.
Dancers, here is a list of links to helpful videos of dances. We’ve been working on these easier intermediate dances
We’ll keep working on Mamriim https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7_z_gBcrqI

We are not going to be bringing in new dances at ferocious East and South Bay rates, but if there are new dances that appeal to people we can work on them, or maybe do them at the very end for die-hards….

Aaron Alpert taught Israeli at Folklore camp. In case you’re curious, he taught these dances  (I may be missing some):

Ones we do–
Arba Onot   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcSJmOFiBSg
Lechu Neranena https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oggyUTw0GDQ
Lecha Karati https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuU_DFSWJeU
Eretz Eretz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHOleBVOCew

Ones we don’t do:
Aneni  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYTYyKJZOe4
Ki LeOlam Chasdo (I really like this one) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYTYyKJZOe4
Tfilot  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYTYyKJZOe4

In the world of YouTube, you can find almost any dance, which is very helpful. I will post a few links here, but once you start looking you will see many more videos. Particularly helpful is Gadi Biton’s series with the purple curtain background. We will do these every time. One fun aspect is to notice how many countries these videos come from! There is also HebrewSongs.com which will tell you the meaning of every song.
Beginner dances:
Lo Ahavti dai (mayim or grapevine step, cherkassiya step) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BckjDHgf1_o
Hora Hadera (Hassidic style) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKZX8kuuiL8
Harishut (Yemenite steps and song) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfF3oCaKxH0    another Yemenite song sung by Ofra Haza with yemenite steps to show style https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9u3-QonfJU
Debka Kafrit (Arabic- style) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pQqO_Sz2o8
Hora Agadati (first Israeli folk dance) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSfurqTShz8
Ma Navu (may be the best-known dance)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw-dzdE_4ig
repertoire dances:
Erev Ba (very well known worldwide) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1QrJQ2nECA
Or Chadash (Has been very popular for a long time. Has posing step used in other dances) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8KAJXu7cM0
Rona (the first step is called the Rona step and appears in other dances) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYenlgvwbMo
Amarin (Egyptian song, quite a few Israeli dances are to songs from other middle eastern countries) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP_nekGJU4c
Newer dances: (Please let me know what new dances you like)
Lev Patuach (cute–  uses posing step) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtFHufl2jhQ
Be well,

Dear Members, Nursery and Religious School Families and Friends,

Chanukah is upon us–the first candle will be lit on Sunday,
December 2nd. Chanukah is one of the best known Jewish holiday, but it is often considered a less important holiday because it was instituted by our sages, rather than an ordained Biblical holiday.

Most of us are familiar with the Chanukah story. The Maccabees defeated the Greeks who destroyed the temple and defiled all the oils. Upon re-entering the Temple, the Maccabees found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the Kohen Gadol. There was enough oil to light the great Menorah for one day. A miracle happened and it sufficed for eight days–enough time to process the olives needed for the purest oil.

We kindle the Chanukah lights to celebrate the miracle and publicize it. Yet, even if one questions whether the miracle occurred, Chanukah is infused with Jewish and human values that are admired. Chanukah is about Tikkun Olam–perfecting the world, bravery, and commitment to these values.

There are endless opportunities to perform acts of Tikkun Olam–feeding the hungry, protecting the environment, and as fires rage at both ends of California sending assistance to the afflicted communities despite that Sonoma County is still recovering from last year’s fires. In today’s charged political environment it takes bravery to stand and speak up against anti-Semitism, racism, gender bias against the LGBTQ community and all forms of intolerance.

Perhaps, the miracle we hope for in our time is the end to all forms of hatred.

This year, Beth Ami’s Chanukah Party will occur on December 9th–the eighth night of Chanukah. Bring your Chanukiot and nine candles. The party is sponsored by the Board of Directors and will be a joint celebration with the Nursery and Religious Schools. Afterall, there is no greater miracle than our children.

Highlights of the Celebration

4:00 PM Children and Family Activities
Photo Booth
Chanukah Slime
Candle Rolling
Cookie Decorating
Dreidel Games

5:00 PM Lighting of Candles and Singing with Lisa Iskin
5:30 PM Time to Eat (all food provided)
Latkes, of course, with trimmings
Assorted Salads

The event is free to Members and Nursery and Religious School families.
Reservations are required. Because of the expected number of people and space capacity, we may not be able to accept walk-ins at the door.

Please contact the office at 707-360-3000 as early as possible to make your reservations.

May the flames of the Chanukiah candles bring light and happiness into your homes.

Henry S. Cohn

Social Action News

It is the holiday season and for many there is considerable need. We at SAC will have a few opportunities for us to make for a better world. Our Kehilla is know for its generosity. Thanks to everyone in advance for doing what you can ,whether it’s bringing food for the JFCS pantry or volunteering at the food bank.

The SAC will be volunteering at the Redwood Empire Food Bank on Wednesday, December 12 from 5:00-7:00 p.m.. This is a new date, we will not be going in November. Please call the office or contact Lyla Nathan at lylanathan5@gmail.com or 526-7438 for more info. Teens 13 or over are encouraged to attend.

We will be serving dinner at Palms on Wednesday, November 28th. The dinner will be catered by Bernard and Maria Soltes with the help of the SAC.

We are going to participate with the nursery school, in collecting and assembling toiletries for those in need: travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap, tampons and pads, new underwear for men and women, socks, bandaids, hand wipes and lotion. Please continue to bring your items to the foyer of the Synagogue. The exciting part about this joint venture is that the Nursery School parents and children will be preparing the bags along with the Social Action Committee.

For the winter clothing drive we will be collecting items for The Living Room this year. The Living Room is a day shelter for homeless women and their children. They do good work and they always have need for clothes, bedding etc. Please refer to the flyer.
If possible please drop off items at their facility. However if you can’t, we will deliver. Toda Raba to all