Summer dancing

I’ll be back leading dancing July 13 and 27. August 10 and 24 will be in the social hall.

Zy Gesundt,

The school year has come to an end

It is hard to believe this school year has come to an end. We had an incredibly full calendar with Rockin’ Shabbats, a fieldtrip to Howarth Park with services and dinner by the lake, Judaic pottery painting (twice!), Tzedakah day, Tikkun Olam day and lots of wonderful holiday celebrations. We enjoyed coming together every Friday for learning through doing, and celebrating Shabbat. Our monthly family potluck dinners gave us an opportunity to continue our Shabbat time together and allowed us to build a beautiful community within a community.

I wish you all a lovely summer full of a good balance of rest and adventure, and longs days filled with joy and well-being!
Fall will bring us new opportunities to make friends, learn about and love Judaism, as well as deepen our engagement with Shabbat. We will enjoy together Junior Congregation (called the Musaf-kateers!) and Tot Shabbat! Our Family Potlucks will grow into a monthly young family dinner club. Our teen class will continue to learn about and discuss Israel and Jewish communities today, both in Israel and the diaspora.

Our first day of school for the 2016–2017 school year is Tuesday September 13th (for 5-7th graders) and Friday September 16th (for PK-7th graders). I look forward to greeting the children again with freckles on their noses and roses in their cheeks after a lot of good outdoor play and free time, ready to learn and support each other in the classroom.

Miriam will enter her second year as Youth Advisor for our USY teens, and she has a lot of great retreats, events and fundraising projects planned. Judy will continue to bring us amazing programs and the rest of our great faculty will be back as well!

On a personal note, I am very grateful to call Beth Ami my home and for the privilege of teaching the children of our community. Thank you all for a great year!

Another busy year

This has been another busy year for the Social Action Committee. We had many successful events and ongoing projects.
We started off the New Year with conversations at both Rosh Ha Shana services and on the break at Yom Kippur services. These always see to be meaningful and a way for members to get to know each other better and reconnect ..
During Succot we had ” The Succah of Shalom” where we celebrated our LGBTQI community and heard the moving stories from various members and people in our community . As a result of the event, we have formed the Keshet Committee, co-chaired by Henry Cohn and Arnold Drake. On Sunday June 5th many members and friends marched in the Gay Pride parade in Guernville.

During the winter we took on the project of preparing bags of food and hygiene items to hand out to the homeless. The congregation really helped by bringing their sample size products like shampoo, toothpaste,socks etc. We also filled womens’ purses with needed items. We received some very positive feedback from members about the response they received from people. This was a very successful mitzvah project and I am sure that we will do it again next year.
We also had our winter clothing drive which is a joint event with Congregation Shomrei Torah. Thanks to everyone who brought lightly used blanket, jackets sweaters. Start saving for next year .

In February, our SAC was recognized and honored for our work at the Jewish Family and Childrens Services Gala, the”Fammy Awards”. We were recognized along with the other food pantries in the Bay Area that provide healthy food to their clients. Susan Miller, Lyla Nathan and Lenore Holloway represented our committee at the grand event. We go monthly and get food at the food bank and stock it at the JFCS pantry.
We continue to collect food for the JFCS pantry. The bins in the foyer are filled throughout the year , not just during the High Holiday Drive. Thanks once more for everyone at Beth Ami who contribute to this worthy endeavor frequently. As we say, hunger is not seasonal.
We also continue to volunteer at the Redwood Empire Food Bank monthly. The first Wed. of every month we go and either work in the kitchen or help bag fruit and veggies. We would love for anyone to join us. It is a great way to help and also become better friends. The next volunteer day Wed. is July 6th. We often have our young members join us in the summer. Looking forward to seeing you again this year.

The Soup Sisters didn’t make too much soup this year but this month we are transforming into “the Kugel Sisters” and will be making kugel for those in Beth Ami Community who need a little TLC.

We are always welcoming to those who want to join our committee. We have a lot of fun and we do a lot of good. Any questions, please contact Lyla Nathan: 526-7438. Hope to hear from you.

The committee members include: Susan Miller, Ellen Mundell, Judi Hyman, Tish Levy, Lenore Holloway, Bobbie Rosenthal, Lyla Nathan, Cheryle Miller, Karen Herskovic, Roz Edelson, Leah Frost and Rabbi Miller.

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz July 5 at 7 pm

Tuesday, July 5 Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 7pm American Jewish Women of Note meeting at Beth Beth Ami
Rosh Chodesh Sivan was a very beautiful walk around the Lake at
Riverfront Regional Park 7821 Eastside Road, Windsor (website has maps and directions)
home slideshow Riverfront regional park
It is a very nice park that not everybody knows about. The distance is the same as walking around Spring Lake, but you should wear walking shoes or sneakers, not sandals, and if you use hiking poles you can bring them for one short stretch crossing a rocky area. Though you’ve missed our Rosh Chodesh meeting there, you might want to check it out this summer. 

“Rockin’ Yom Haatzamut” report

The May 13 “Rockin’ Yom Haatzamut” was a stunning achievement for Congregation Beth Ami with well over 100 congregants and friends gathering to celebrate the anniversary of Israel’s independence.  The celebration was made possible through support from the Jewish Federation, the volunteer efforts of perhaps two dozen congregants, and cooperative planning by the Israel Committee, the Religious School, the Religious Practices Committee, and the office of the Executive Director.  The event was co-sponsored by Stand With Us.

The event started at 4:00 on the lawn with free Israeli wine (plus cheese) for the adults and arts and games for kids.  At 5:00 professional musicians Melita Silberstein and Isaac Zones put on a special concert for kids.  From 5:30-6:30 we all enjoyed special Israel-inspired cuisine at a subsidized price that all families could afford. Our musicians then played a special Yom Haatzmaut performance from 6:30-7:30 that morphed seamlessly into their leading a truly special Rockin’ Shabbat.

Special thanks are due to Eric Singer, who served as master chef.

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 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 (
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 ( 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.