A New Year begins

The Nursery School has just wrapped up Summer Camp and will begin readying the rooms for the Fall School Year which begins Monday, August 19th.  This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the the Nursery School and we are excited to ring in this special year with some more good news, as our school has expanded! We have opened a second 2’s classroom and will welcome students into the new space Sunday, August 18th when the children and families come for a community picnic and a special mezuzah hanging for the new room.

There are a few spaces left for the coming school year, call the Nursery School office at 707-360-3030 for more information on current class availability and set up a tour!

A Time of Reflection

I’m looking forward to our time together during the upcoming Holy Days: A time of reflection, wonder, prayer, support, making things right where one can do so; I’m looking forward to greeting you and sharing our grief and joy, our hopes and yes, our fears, and our prayers for renewal.

When you come to the CBA campus now, notice the new fence that has been installed around the Nursery School play yard and along the west entrance. Thank the California Office of Emergency Services (Homeland Security money) and Henry Cohn for writing the grant which paid for the fence. You’ll be hearing about additional security endeavors in the coming months—stay tuned. Russ Gurevitch is Chair of Security at CBA.

The Nursery begins its classes for the year today, August 19, as I write this. The new classroom is beautiful! Poke your head into rooms 12/13 and see how they have transformed the environment to accommodate eight 2-year-olds every day. Very sweet. The cost of making the transformation came from an allocation of the Sustainers’ Circle (Beth Ami members.)

What’s next? Many of you have asked about results of the Strategic Planning Focus Groups, which have been on-going since March of this year. I expect to have analysis and options for your consideration this Fall. It’s been an interesting journey of discovery, and we’re not quite finished yet. Stay tuned.

Be well my friends. Hold those you love near in body, heart, mind and soul.

Jewish National Fund at Beth Ami March 6

The Israel Committee is co-sponsor for the November 1 dinner. We are so pleased that the Adult Education Committee has invited Don Schlesinger, Executive Director of the Jewish National Fund to share with us how JNF works for us.

One activity JNF does is plant trees and Don’s talk will be the kickoff for the planting of a Beth Ami grove of trees in Israel.

JNF also builds communities, especially in the north and south. They work with water management, and they support those with special needs.  They do all this for both Arabs and Jews. 

JNF also is strong in building Jewish identity.  In particular, they provide a life-changing experience for high school students to study in Israel for 6 or 8 weeks.

Social Action in the New Year

The social action committee wishes everyone a sweet and happy New Year.  As we prepare for the holy days we want to thank everyone in the kehilla who helps support our  mission of Tikun Olam.(fixing the world) Your continued support of the Redwood Empire Food Bank and supplying toiletries and winter clothes for the needy is much appreciated.  The bins in the foyer of the shul are always full. Thanks so much
As you all know the need for healthy food is a year round concern.  As the holy days approach,please consider  collecting food now. Then when the food drive is held at Rosh Ha Shana and Yom Kippur you can easily fill a bag and bring it to services.  Extra grocery bags are always available at the services.

The committee will continue to have a monthly event to serve the community alternating between volunteering  at the food bank and serving a hot meal at The Palms.  The volunteer opportunities for the next few months are:
Wednesday, September 18 , at The Palms.  4:15-6:15 Wednesday, October 16, 500-7:00 at The Redwood Empire Food Bank with dinner to follow. Wednesday,  November 20, at The Palms.  4:15-6:15 Wednesday,  December 18, at The Redwood Empire Food Bank 4:15-6:15 dinner to follow Consider joining us or helping in any way.  We always need food for the Palms,
We have also committed to bringing two speakers to the monthly Friday Night Shabbat Dinners. We are hoping to bring speakers who will speak on the social issues of today. The speakers will be informational. Details to follow.

 For many of us, these are very difficult times that we face in our country.  We hope that kindness and forgiveness will be in  our thoughts as we enter the holy days.   Let us remember that  once our people were strangers in a strange land and that we are all made in God’s image.  A peaceful year to all,   Lyla Nathan

Rosh Chodesh Moon Mavens

We’ll celebrate Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5780 with a lunch and a movie! Slice of Life (6970 McKinley Street, Sebastopol) is a vegetarian restaurant near the Rialto Theater where “Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas” is playing at 1pm on Tuesday, October 29. Go to the JCC website to buy tickets, then join us at Slice of Life at 11:30am to start the festivities. Need a ride or want to carpool? Contact Patty Bernstein at basberyl@sonic.net.
Female-centered Rosh Chodesh observances vary from group to group, but many, like ours at Beth Ami, are centered on gatherings of women like our own Moon Mavens Rosh Chodesh group. All Jewish women are welcome regardless of affiliation (or lack thereof). We meet as close to the actual day of Rosh Chodesh as possible each new Jewish month, sometimes having a Sunday brunch, a potluck, a picnic and walk around a park, enjoying a speaker, cooking, or engaging in activities that relate to the facts, characters, and holidays associated with the new month. Some background: The Holy One gave Jewish women their reward for not contributing to the Golden Calf. In this world, they are rewarded with a more stringent observation of the new moons than men. They are forbidden to engage in work (spinning, weaving, and sewing: the skills that women contributed to the building of the Mishkan) on Rosh Chodesh. Instead, they celebrate a minor holiday like the intermediate days of Pesach and Sukkot. In the world to come, they are destined to be renewed like the new moons. The first of each Jewish month, the celebration of tthe new moon, its slender crescent barely visible in the night sky, is a day historically associated with women’s renewal and celebration. In recent decades, Rosh Chodesh has become an occasion for Jewish women to gather for learning, ritual, and spiritual exploration, and to mark life passages. Rosh Chodesh groups, meeting monthly, offer a women’s space in time. The Passover Seder addition of Miriam’sCup (for the prophet Miriam) originated in the 1980s in a Boston Rosh Chodesh group. Our own Rosh Chodesh group pulled off a spectacular Chai Tea in 2008, honoring 28 women over 88­ — our Matriarchs at Congregation Beth Ami! Patty Bernstein, basberyl@sonic.net

The Value of a Human Life

If we take a few minutes to meditate on all the things it takes to describe a human being, we would realize, very quickly, how overwhelming such a task would be. First consider the complexity of all our physical attributes: veins, bones, sinews, skin, vital organs, and our circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Next think about the brain, our rational-emotional intelligence, and the very state of being conscious. Trying to come to grips with it all is practically super-human.

No wonder, in describing the Creation of the World, the Book of Genesis describes the Divine creation of the human being as “in the image of God He created them…” (b’tzelem Elokim)

Apart from finding a metaphor to describe the amazing potential within every human life, the Bible is also suggesting that we treat human life as sacred. Essentially, destroying a single life is, in fact, desecrating the Divine Image.

The Rabbis also point out that God created a Adam and Eve to originate the human race in order to teach us, “One who destroys a single life destroys an entire world; and one who saves a single life has saved an entire world!” We could also add that, ultimately, we are all a great human family – no matter our culture, the color of our skin, and social origins.

With all this in mind, we are stricken by the current spate of mass shootings which have become all too common. At this point in time, there are individuals who have had to survive more than one of these incidents. Who can begin to imagine the sheer horror of having oneself or ones family face such unspeakable danger?

As you may be aware, the Fast of Av occurs this coming Saturday night and extends through Sunday. While the immediate reason for this observance may link to the Destruction of the Two Temples (the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the second by the Romans in the year 70), they allow us to give expression to acknowledge the hatred and violence perpetrated against many vulnerable individuals today. In mourning the destruction of these “Houses of the Divine,” we can link in solidarity to all those who have suffered persecution in the past and today.

We are all familiar with the tremendous challenges faced by today’s immigrant community: the unspeakable methods used to incarcerate human beings under subhuman conditions and to separate young children from their families, many without hope of being reunited! As part of this Saturday evening’s commemoration, we are fortunate to have Beth Aldridge, who is connected to the North Bay Organizing Project, join us. Beth will share her experiences in helping host a refugee family from Nicaragua. She will be able to detail for us the kind of experiences this and other families have had to endure in seeking asylum in the United States. She will be able to answer questions and make suggestions as to how we might respond in various ways to help relieve such human suffering.

I hope you will join us this coming Saturday evening, August 10th in our sanctuary to learn first-hand about this current situation. Following Beth’s presentation we will have the opportunity to join in the traditional observance of Tish’a b’Av, our Jewish National Day of Mourning. We will chant and read from the Book of Lamentations and recite a few of the special laments (Kinot) that were composed by poets (paytanim) to commemorate the destruction of “God’s House” and other moments of persecution in Jewish History.

While there’s no doubt that this is a sad time, our observance underscores the belief we have, in the infinite worth of every individual and our commitment never to forget this basic principle.

Yours in consolation and blessing,


How You Can Help Bay Area Immigration Organizations

  1. Join NBOP Rapid Response Network

***Accompaniment Team
***Know Your Rights Team
***Legal Observer Team
***Host Family and Team (new team being formed now)
***Donate $ (memo line for specific team)
***Donate items to a garage sale 707-225-1302

  1. Legal Defense
    Donate time or $
  2. Bay Area Border Relief
    Trip to Texas Oct 19-25
    Knitting Project
    Pizza Delivery
  3. Catholic Charities
    Citizenship and ESL Classes

Have a good summer!

Wahoo — We have officially entered the new fiscal year of Congregation Beth Ami, FY 2020: you have a new Board of Directors (listed below), you’ve received your membership renewal notices (please rsvp), and the calendar of events and programs is being developed, including preparations for the High Holidays (September 29)., and many staff vacations are underway.

Here is your Board of Directors for July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020:

 Carolyn Metz President

 Henry Cohn Treasurer/Past President

 Barb McGee Secretary

 Dave Ballo VP of Facilities

 Mel Decker VP of Fund Development

 Bobbie Rosenthal VP of Membership

 Juli Scherer VP of Administration

 Irvin Klein Member-at-Large

 Carol Swanson Member-at-Large

 Myra Stern Thomas Member-at-Large

 Rabbi Miller Member Ex-Officio rabbi@bethamisr.org

 Judy Gunnar Member Ex-Officio administrator@bethamisr.org

 Priscilla Lowell Member Ex-Officio nsdirector@bethamisr.org

 Elizabeth Jarlsberg Office Manager office@bethamisr.org

The Board meets the 4th Tuesday of every month at 7:00 pm, and you, our members, are always welcome to attend the general session of each meeting. We develop the Agenda for each meeting one week prior, on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, at the Executive Committee meeting, also 7:00 pm. The next Board meeting is July 23.

Here’s an update regarding the “Future Focus” groups we’ve been conducting. We’ve been contacting and engaging with members since late March. Our goal is to complete the research by the end of July, then to spend time collating and analyzing what you’ve presented us. As soon as we have anything substantive, we’ll be reporting back to you, describing our findings. If you haven’t yet participated, know we’re trying to accommodate everyone. Email me if you think we’ve passed you by!

Southeast Greenway: For 10 years, a small group of devoted individuals have been working toward developing a plan for the strip of land from Hwy 12 & Farmers Lane to Spring Lake – the land that is full of walnut trees beyond the fence of our parking lot. On Tuesday, July 9, at 5:00pm, the Santa Rosa City Council will be voting to approve the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) that will move the project forward. Congregation Beth Ami’s Board unanimously approved a letter of support for the project and see it as offering significant improvement and benefit to our broader community as well as to CBA. CBA has the single-longest frontage on the Greenway
and we’re excited about the potential for community partnership. To learn more and to add your support, visit: southeastgreenway.org

Have a safe and happy summer everyone!

Cheers, Carolyn

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!