Rabbinical Assembly Statement on Reproductive Freedom

The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, issued the following statement tonight on Alabama’s new abortion law: The Rabbinical Assembly is deeply troubled by the enacting of today’s abortion law in Alabama and believes it should and will be struck down by federal courts. 

Reproductive freedom is again under assault in our nation, beginning today in Alabama, where the state has effectively banned abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalized the procedure for doctors.

It is further under attack in other states’ so-called Personhood Acts and Life at Conception Acts, including in Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio.

This position is based on our members’ understanding of relevant biblical and rabbinic sources as well as teshuvot – modern rabbinic responsa. Jewish tradition cherishes the sanctity of life, including the potential of life which a pregnant woman carries within her, but does not believe that personhood and human rights begin with conception, but rather with birth as indicated by Exodus 21:22-23.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly has affirmed the right of a woman to choose an abortion in cases where “continuation of a pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm, or where the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective.”

Denying a woman and her family full access to the complete spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including contraception, abortion-inducing devices, and abortions, among others, on religious grounds, deprives women of their Constitutional right to religious freedom.

The Rabbinical Assembly supports full access for all women to the entire spectrum of reproductive healthcare and opposes all efforts by government, private entities, or individuals to limit such access or to require unnecessary procedures. We also oppose so-called “personhood” legislation on the federal and state levels that would confer legal rights under the law to a fetus or an embryo.

The RA has consistently supported these reproductive freedoms for nearly 50 years.

However, recent legislative efforts in the United States on both the federal and state levels pose new threats to reproductive freedom, beginning today in Alabama. Other threats include so-called “heartbeat” bills in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Ohio.

The Rabbinical Assembly emphatically opposes all such laws and legislative or executive moves.


It is at times like these that we are especially aware of how vulnerable human life is, even as we work to make our institutions increasingly safe and more secure. At the Beth Ami campus we are working to ensure greater protection for all who walk through our gate, and to keep any who might wish us harm from entering. This is our responsibility and we take it very seriously. May God protect all our going and our coming.               b’Shalom,                                                                

Mordecai Miller, Rabbi, Congregation Beth Ami.            

Carolyn Metz,  President, Congregation Beth Ami                

Pesach is on the way

Pesach is on the way … so it’s time for the Moon Mavens to touch base with Passover recipes and treats.

Join us on Sunday, April 7 at 11am for a potluck dairy/pareve brunch at Congregation Beth Ami’s Multipurpose Room (and maybe kitchen, if we devise a recipe for us to create). We’ll still have our ritual songs, poems, and learning.

We’ll also update the lights on the Yahrzeit board to reflect those we remember for Nisan.

Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein 953-4385 (phone and text) or basberyl@sonic.net

When Adar arrives…

When Adar arrives our joy increases! This year we have two Adars, so how much more joyful can we be? Join the Moon Mavens on Thursday, March 7 @ 7pm in the Beth Ami Social Hall/Multipurpose Room for ritual, changing the Memorial Plaque lights for the new month, noshing (bring a snack to share, please), and making masks for Purim! Susan Bercu will introduce the mask making by sharing some insights behind her mask art.

If you have sparkles, feathers, yarn, etc. to use to decorate your mask … by all means, bring them.
Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein (basberyl@sonic.net or 953-4385)

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