Celebrate with Pride

Last Sukkot, the Congregation celebrated an evening devoted to making Beth Ami more welcoming to the LGBT Community, called “Sukkah of Shalom.” I was one of several individuals who spoke about various aspects of growing up being gay or lesbian and what makes a community welcoming. The most memorable comments came from Arnold Drake, our Past President, who spoke about his son coming out gay. Arnold said that at the time that his son came out gay: “. . . . His son was considered sick by the medical profession, a criminal according to the law, and sinner according to most religious institutions.” Much has changed in the our great country and the world since that time and most educated people know that those old pre-conceptions that Arnold mentioned are untrue, hurtful and isolate wonderful people.

Arnold stated that his son is a patient man and over the years Arnold and his late wife learned much from their son. The Conservative movement within Judaism likewise, over the years, has learned much and today and is fully accepting of Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals and Transgender individuals. Beth Ami, for the more than 20 years that I have been a member has always been accepting of the LGBT community and I have always felt comfortable as a proud gay man here at Beth Ami. Yet, there is more that we can do to make Beth Ami more welcoming to the LGBT individuals and for that fact, welcoming to everyone.

Since the “Sukkah of Shalom,” we have formed a Keshet (meaning Rainbow) Committee co-chaired by Arnold and me. We are planning various events and the first one is to participate in the Sonoma County Pride Parade in Guerneville on Sunday, June 5th. We welcome everyone to join us on this day of Pride and Celebration for the LGBT Community. The parade is an easy walk and commences at a relaxing pace. We plan to arrange carpools since parking is a challenge in Guerneville on a busy day. I hope that many members will join the Keshet Committee for the parade to physically demonstrate that Beth Ami is egalitarian and celebrates diversity.

If you are interested in celebrating with the LGBT Community, please contact me at henry.cohn@rocketmail.com or at 415.497.2723.

—Henry Cohn

Shabbat Salads

What can I bring to the Shabbat morning potluck even if I don’t keep Kosher?
Those who come to the Shabbat lunches after morning services know what a special time this is. We have a chance to relax and chat with visitors, old and new friends, or anyone else we want to get to know better. The most important thing you can bring is yourself; by just being there you contribute to the building of our community.

Because we want to honor those who keep Kosher, our kitchen is Kosher for dairy. All of the equipment and serving utensils are kosher. Some of you, like me, do not keep Kosher but want to bring food for the potlucks, so what can we bring? To answer this we have created some guidelines (http://bethamisr.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Food-and-Potluck-Guidelines.pdf).
Of course, the simplest it just to bring something labeled as Kosher, but I like to make salads. Here are some things I have found to make this easy.

Salads made of just fresh fruit and/or vegetables are always welcome. Even though I do not keep strict Kosher, because I want to honor the guidelines as best I can, I bought at the dollar store a cutting board and knife that I use only for preparing Shabbat salads. I also use my glass bowls and a special spoon that are never used for anything with meat.

In the booklet prepared by Mieneke Drake (http://bethamisr.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Shabbat-Pot-Luck-Recipe-book.doc) and on the Internet you can find a number of recipes for fruits and vegetables with dressings of olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and/or fresh herbs. You can also use your own imagination.

Because we need to keep the kitchen Kosher, we cannot wash in the kitchen serving bowls, trays, or other items brought from homes. We do our best to wipe these off and put them aside for you to take home and wash.
You can bring whole fruits and vegetables. Each week there are a few people who volunteer to be in the kitchen on Saturday morning to get the food ready for the lunch. They will add what you bring to the lunch and also welcome your help in getting it ready to serve.

If you wish to bring food from an outside source it needs to be in it’s unopened (sealed) original container. The best is to bring something marked Kosher. Rabbi also accepts baked dessert goods made by COSTCO and Safeway in their original sealed containers. Items that can be kept for a few or more weeks may not be served that day but will be kept for future lunches. Please note, because there is no way of knowing what is in “natural” ingredients or flavors, we cannot accept items with these unless they are certified as Kosher.

We have been blessed with the willingness of Ahuva Simon-Sa’ar and, more recently, Nancy Tisman to volunteer to come into the synagogue each week to cook and prepare soups and other special treats for the lunches. Donations you make to the synagogue, especially those you designate for the Shabbat lunches, provide the funds for the ingredients.

General Meeting

As the end of the fiscal year is coming to a close, the Board is busily preparing for the Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 9th. Join us at 6:30 p.m. for appetizers and desserts and the meeting will begin promptly at 7 p.m. in the Social Hall. You’ll have the opportunity to schmooze and meet our newest Board members as well get an update on the financial health of Beth Ami and vote on by-law changes. We’ll bring you updates from our Vice Presidents, Nursery School, Religious School as well as the many committees.
We hope you’ll join us for this very important meeting!

Religious School Report

It is that time of year that we are simultaneously deeply immersed in learning and fun in religious school, enjoying our longer days, later Shabbat lighting times, and our springtime holiday programming… Even as we try to live in the moment like our wise children, we also begin looking toward next year, planning and planting seeds for the future.
This year in review: We began the school year with many new faces, new class days and times, a new Director, an entirely new faculty…It was a LAUNCH year! Some things worked really well, and we made adjustments for other elements.
A glimpse of what’s to come: In our second year of this new program, we will come together to evaluate and improve curricula, increase offerings for our upper grades and teens, plan additional excellent holiday events and turn our fabulous second Shabbat potluck night into a Shabbat dinner club for our families. It is already shaping up to be a rich and joyful year!
Upcoming Events
No school April 20–May 2—Passover and Spring Break—Hag Sameach!
April 8 & May 13; 6 p.m.—Our last two Second Shabbat Family Potlucks. Please RSVP by the Tuesday prior to each date and let us know what you would like to contribute. These are a great time to relax, schmooze and let the kids play together.
Friday April 8—surprise art event for our religious school kids, all grades. Call Anya for a hint of what’s planned, and make sure your child attends class that day, 4-6 PM!
Friday May 6—nature walk to Howarth Park with Shabbat potluck by the lake. Arrival time at CBA 4 p.m. Parents volunteers will join us on our walk, which will be a guided exploration of the exciting world around us. We’ll have Kabbalat Shabbat by the water at 5:30 p.m. and all families come together at 6 p.m. for a scrumptious dinner! RSVP and volunteer for this great event. Pick up will take place at Howarth Park at 6 p.m., with parent supervision during the dinner hour.
Saturday, May 7—Human Race! Our whole school will walk/jog the 3K fun run around Howarth park as our big fundraiser for Youth programs at CBA. Watch for the sign-up sheet and details about race day!
Friday, May 27; 4–6 p.m.—Last day of school and end of year extravaganza!
Early bird special enrollment period for next year ends May 15th. Students with completed registration packets and a filed tuition agreement including first payment or deposit, will enjoy a 20% discount on the years’ tuition! BACNS alum in our PKK class will enjoy a 50% tuition discount if enrolled by this date. We will have a limited number of BACNS first year PreK spots, so early enrollment is strongly encouraged. The 2016–17 registration packets are in the office and available online for download.
USY News
We are proud to say that we now have a minyan of USY’ers, between full members and our three kadima! This is big news for our growing chapter. Miriam Lane, our new Youth Advisor, has agreed to continue next year, leading our teens in great programming, stimulating learning and discussion and service to our community. Go USY!

From Humiliation to Praise

Look back on your life and you become aware of a collection of memories: some good…some not so good; each an opportunity to deepen your awareness, sometimes to learn a life lesson, sometimes to raise a small chuckle or a tear. As we look back, we can become aware of the thoughts and the feelings which give our lives the value they have. I believe that our greatest sense of happiness or sadness—thanksgiving or regret—are intimately entwined in those memories.

There are times when I like to think that our task at the synagogue is to utilize our understanding of our faith and tradition to create memories that will enrich our members’ lives and contribute to their sense of inner-joy and well-being.
At this moment we are at the onset of one of our traditions which carries with it so many associations of time spent with family and friends. Of course I’m referring to the great festival of Pesach and the Seder.

How many of us can look back on Pesachs come and gone and recollect times with people whose lives touched our own. Many can no longer share this time with us through being physically present, and although the number continues to grow, we still sense their presence with us. It may be on account of some ritual item that they loved and shared with us; it may be through a particular recipe passed down; a melody that they sang or even an interpretation of a part of the haggadah that they discussed. I can look back at my boyhood years in South Africa, growing up with my father as the rabbi of a Reform Congregation in Durban. We only observed one seder which was automatically the congregational seder. I remember the way the tables were laid out, and I can hear my father’s voice and how much he enjoyed the singing. I also remember longing to experience a family seder. One year my close friend, Clive Sinoff, invited me to attend the seder he and his family were celebrating with cousins. I don’t remember too many details, although I suspect it was abbreviated considerably.

In 1971, we all had arrived back in the States and there were seders with my parents at their home in Garden City, NY. I had the opportunity to share them with cousins that I hadn’t seen in years as well as with my older sister, Deborah, and her family.
Since my marriage to Susan, I can look back on the many seders we observed in our home in St. Paul, Canton, and St. Louis. Susan’s mom, Mildred Bayliss, lived with us in St. Paul and for a few years in Canton. She loved Pesach. Every year she would try to find a new item to add to our Passover collection. One year it was some special containers for the salt water and horseradish. Another year it was a whole set of beautiful dishes that Mildred and Susan had seen on a super sale. Every time Pesach rolls around I’m reminded of my wonderful mother-in-law and can feel her unique presence.

Of course there were times when Murphy’s Law was über alles; such as the time we were having over twenty people at our seder and the disposal backed up that morning. (You never realize how important a functioning sink is until you experience this). It seemed to take forever for the plumber to come, but I’m happy to report that complete disaster was avoided.

There was the time we had two families join us who worked for the same company. At the time we had no idea that they didn’t get along! (I think the Seder that night seemed interminable). I think that it was at that same Seder that we discovered an interesting conflict in traditions. My family’s custom—as is the case for many—was for an adult to hide the Afikoman and for children to search for it after the dinner. The one who found it would receive a prize. If there were more than one child, there might be a grab bag and the winner would get first pick.

Apparently, this family had a custom of the child stealing the Afikoman (and demanding ransom to return it). I remember looking on the Matzah plate to take the Afikoman to hide it. It was nowhere to be found! I couldn’t believe that it might have been consumed. When I mentioned my dilemma, the family had to suffer the embarrassment of telling their child to fork it over!
Even more recently, during my first Pesach in Santa Rosa, our oven was in full swing with our Pesach turkey when the electricity went out. By the time the problem was diagnosed and corrected we had lost the turkey and most of the dinner. To make an even longer story short; our Seder was amazingly simple that night—scrambled eggs.

Despite these mishaps, I can think of the many incredible meals Susan’s prepared over the years and the great conversations we’ve had over the Haggadah. There was even the time in St. Louis when we’d invited a Rabbinic Colleague to join us. In this case the discussions were so intense, we didn’t finish the seder until well past midnight!

My family and I join in wishing you a happy, healthy Pesach, and the opportunity to create more unique and treasured memories together with your friends and family.

Rosh Chodesh Women— plus Men!

On Thursday, May 5 please join the Rosh Chodesh women’s group for a Field Trip to the Santa Rosa Junior College’s Planetarium. The hour-long show which covers the basics of the solar system, with a focus on the moon, begins at 12 noon. The cost of the show is $5 … plus parking. (You may want to consider car-pooling.)

After the show, we’ll have lunch at SRJC’s Culinary Café (at 1:30pm).

We don’t want to keep this special event to ourselves, so we’re inviting both women and men!

RSVP to Zelda Bettman <zbettman@hotmail.com> or 529-3521 by Tuesday May 3, as space is limited.

Join us Friday, May 13th for a Rockin’ Israel Independence Celebration

Rockin’ Yom HaAtzmaut at Beth Ami – Friday, May 13

A Sonoma County-wide event – Everyone welcome

Celebrate Israel’s Independence with a joyous musical Shabbat evening at Congregation Beth Ami. The celebration will start at 4:00 and includes special programs for children, an Israeli wine and cheese reception for adults, henna and face painting, dinner of Israeli-style food, special musical guest artists Melita Silberstein (of Octopretzel http://www.octopretzel.com ) and Isaac Zones (of Shamati), and Shabbat evening service.

flyer for Israel Independence Day

Everyone is Welcome

Come for all or just parts of the event. No charge for anything except dinner.

Dinner reservations made by May 10: $8 per adult, $4 children 6-12, 5 and under free

Dinner reservations made after May 10: $14 per person

 

Co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation with support from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.

 

News from Social Action

Last week we had a nice turn out for the food bank.  We were joined by  Susan Miller,  Lenore Holloway,  Linda Emblem, Lyla Nathan and Nancy and Andy Fleming. Toda Raba and great job everyone. The next opportunity to go to the food bank is  Wednesday,  May 4th from 10:00-12:00.
The Redwood Empire is having its annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls, on Saturday April 30th.  They need volunteers for all shifts from morning til evening.   Should be a wonderful event.  Want to join Susan Miller and me?  If you are interested please call Helen Myers at the food bank.  523-7900×143.
SAY’s Dream Center is up and running.  They are having tours with a light lunch.  The next one  is Wed. April 27th at 12:00-1:00.  The Dream Center is our neighbor and it would be wonderful if members took a tour to see this amazing new facilty.   To make a reservation please go to their website at  https://www.saysc.org/events/calendar/  Think about going with a friend.
JFCS continues to need food for the growing number of individuals and families that need a little extra food.  We have been doing a wonderful job filling up the bin in the foyer.   Thanks and keep up the good work.  Remenber, hunger does not take a vacation!
The Social Action committee of Shomrei Torah is showing a movie on Sat. April 16th at 7:30 . Poster Girl is an Oscar-nominated documentary about an Iraq war veteran dealing with PTSD.  There will be a panel discussion following the film. Film is free, donation is welcome.  Should be quite informative.
B’ shalom,  Lyla Nathan

Social Action at the Fammies

The Annual Fammy Gala Fundraiser for Jewish Family and Children Services was held a the Ritz Carlton in SF on Saturday February 27th. JFCS is a wonderful organization that provides many useful services in our community. This year our Social Action Committee was honored, along with other organizations, for providing food to their pantries.f2eb4cab-5ad5-4331-b20b-493ad9334c76[1]

I want to thank all of you for sending a donation to JFCS on behalf of me and the the Social Action Committee. I am very grateful and honored by this recognition. You know we do things, really never expecting to be given awards and I truly never expected to be given so much recognition at an event. But last night was truly my 15 minutes of fame. I was at the Gala with Susan Miller and Lenore Holloway from our committee. It was a wonderful event and it made me realize even more what a wonderful organization JFCS truly is. I am thrilled that we support such a remakable organization that provides services for all people during every phase of their life.
Todah Raba again, Lyla and SAC

This is the video of JFCS Food Pantry leaders agency wide, including our Beth Ami people. If you missed the Gala, you’ll want to see this.

Social Action Committee at the Food Bank

We will be going to the Redwood Empire Food Bank on Wed. March 2 and April 6 from 10:00-12:00. Please consider helping out. The food bank is always in need of volunteers so if you can’t make it on the 2nd you can always show up and say you are from Beth Ami. Thanks Any questions, please contact lylanathan5@gmail.com or 526-7438

Change and Providence

“The sun rises and the sun sets…” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)
“R. Berechyah said in the name of R. Abba bar Kahana, ‘Really! Don’t we know that the sun rises and the sun sets?!
“But the sense of this verse is: Before the sun of a certain righteous person sets, the sun of another righteous person rises…Before the sun of Sarah set, the sun of Rebecca dawned. And so it is in every generation: The sun rises and the sun sets.’” (Ecclesiastes Rabba 1:10)

The classic midrashic commentary, Etz Yoseph, explains that this is all an expression of Divine Providence; that despite the constant changes that go on in the world, this is one way in which God sees to our well-being.

Our synagogue has recently experienced a major transition. Last Fall, Carolyn Metz announced her retirement from the position of Executive Director as of the end of December, 2015. I still remember my personal sense of dismay when I received her letter informing me of her intentions. In many ways Carolyn has served as a mentor to me as I assumed the position of rabbi to Congregation Beth Ami a little over three years ago. We had many conversations about the need for our congregation to take an active role in in our community and in the lives of our members, and just how that might be accomplished.
Carolyn was the point person in the monumental challenge of re-envisioning the role of our Beth Ami Community Nursery School and, with her close friend Barbara Tomin, helped bring this complicated project to a successful conclusion.
It was Carolyn who read about the program Guess who’s coming to Shabbat Dinner! and decided that we could reinvigorate our synagogue membership’s Shabbat experience through this.

Again it was Carolyn and BT who worked together to come up with the idea of our Beth Ami Sustainers and find a way for our synagogue to finance the newly created position Director of Youth Activities as well as other important projects.
We all know that it’s one thing to have a great idea; it’s a whole other matter implementing that idea and making it a successful reality. The secret of Carolyn’s success is that, over the course of decades, and in the various roles she has played in serving our Santa Rosa and Sonoma County Jewish community, she has developed deep and lasting friendships. She has been able to share her enthusiasm and her ideas with those friends. In this way they have all worked as a wonderful team in making dreams a reality. This has gone well beyond the responsibilities of a synagogue executive director and we have all been the beneficiaries.

I look forward to working with Carolyn in her role as a regular member of Beth Ami, and pray that she will gain much naches from the additional time she will have to enjoy her family and friends. I know that we will continue to be blessed by her presence and the active role she plays in our Sonoma County Jewish Community.

Our Search Committee, under the able chairmanship of Myrna Morse, had an awesome task in finding Carolyn’s successor. To say that Myrna put together a hard-working and multi-talented committee would be an understatement.
Over the course of just a few months they achieved what many might have thought was an impossible task!
As a result of their combined efforts, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Leah Frost as our new E.D. Leah’s background includes a relationship with our Beth Ami during the course of her childhood. She has had extensive experience in the various tasks of administration, from scheduling to writing handbooks. She has had first-hand opportunity to work with customers, clients and service providers and, as of late, she serves the congregation in Davis as the assistant to their executive director.
We have all been charmed by Leah’s talent, warmth and sincerity and her clear abilities as a people person. She expresses a deep love of Judaism and K’lal Yisrael, as well as a compassionate concern for her fellow human beings. As leaders of the congregation, our president, Laura Alexander (who played an active role on our search committee), along with our Board and our Committee Chairs are all delighted to welcome Leah and her mother to our community and our synagogue family.
I look forward with confidence and great anticipation to working with Leah in continuing the important work that Carolyn and others have accomplished, in leading Congregation Beth Ami into the future.

“The sun rises and the sun sets…”
May this transition indeed be an expression of God’s Divine Providence!