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, 6:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. in room 3.
Person Senior Wing 2060 West College Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Rec and parks page

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.
8:15 to 9:15 will have mostly intermediate dances, but if beginners stay we will do occasional simpler dances.
Here is a list of links to helpful videos of dances.
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 for beginners 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
HaShoshana Porachat–Ladino Sephardic dance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWAK2AlRYUI
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
Kol Nederai, maybe the easiest of the wafting about dances https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvIG3Lu62z0
We’ve been working on these easier intermediate dances

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
Aneni  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYTYyKJZOe4

He taught these that we don’t know:
Ki LeOlam Chasdo (I really like this one) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYTYyKJZOe4
Tfilot  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYTYyKJZOe4

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

Nursery school in the Summer

The end of the school year is right around the corner and Summer Camp is on the horizon! How did that happen so fast?! We have begun registration for next school year and we are already full. However, there are still spots available for our Summer program. Summer is a fun-filled, water-filled and science-filled extravaganza, anyone interested can call the Nursery School office for more information on Summer sessions and enrollment.

A Thanksgiving Message from Rabbi Miller

Dear Members and Friends,At this particular time it feels as if I should be placing “Thanksgiving” in quotation marks – for more than one reason! As we go back over the events of the past year there are so many reasons to feel anxious: the divisiveness of our national political discourse; what appears to be the increased number of mass shootings (two, within this past week), the rise of anti-semitism and white-supremacy, not to speak of natural disasters involving wind, water and fire which result in the catastrophic loss of life and property and add to the present crisis of the lack of food and housing. I’m sure that the list is far from exhaustive!

In fact, more than one person has mentioned to me that “It feels like Armageddon!”

More than ever, I realize the place of privilege that I occupy, coupled with a sense of frustration at the overwhelming needs of our times. Yet I’m deeply grateful to live in what I consider to be a community that values compassion and the obligation to help those who are underprivileged. I will never forget the outpouring of community support at the gathering held at Shomrei Torah to honor the victims of the tragic attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Our Torah attempts to provide us with realistic expectations regarding the life that confronts us: to realize that this world is far from – and has never been – a Garden of Eden. If we happen to be living in blessed circumstances regarding livelihood, health, honor, family etc., our faith challenges us to share our blessings with those whose lives may be deprived of blessing.

Every human alive faces challenges of some sort, However, recognizing, or “counting” our own blessings can give us the encouragement we need to use these very blessings to serve our families and communities. At a time such as this, every little act of compassion and support counts. In communities coming together to the aid of those distressed, individual acts add up to something significant.

With warm Thanksgiving greetings to you and your family from the entire Miller clan,



Rosh Chodesh Gatherings for 5779

Please RSVP to Patty Bernstein if you’d like to join the Moon Mavens on Tuesday, February 5 @ 5:30pm at Hannah Caratti’s yoga studio. A $5 contribution is requested (but no one will be turned away) for this Rosh Chodesh I Adar event.

She’ll send Hannah’s address when she gets your RSVP.  (basberyl@sonic.net)
Mark your calendars for the following Rosh Chodesh gatherings:
Thurs, November 8 at 7pm … baking Mandel Brot … we’ll have all the supplies and request your RSVP and a $5 donation for Rosh Chodesh Kislev.
Sun, December 2 at 11am … Potluck diary/parve brunch at Judy Gunnar’s home … Spice exchange for Chanukah … jumping the gun for Rosh Chodesh Tevet.
Mon, January 7 at 7pm … Guest speaker regarding fire restoration and trees that benefit from fire … celebrating Rosh Chodesh Shevat.
Tues, February 5  Yoga at Hannah Caratti’s studio. We will meet at Hannah’s home studio 5:30-6:30 pm for yoga and Hebrew chanting followed by snacks till 7 pm… a $5 contribution is requested (but no one will be turned away) for this Rosh Chodesh I Adar event.
Thurs, March 7 at 7pm … Making masks for Purim … bring glitter, beads, decoration for this Rosh Chodesh II Adar event.
Sun, April 7 at 11am … Passover treats and recipes demonstrated in the Beth Ami kitchen … Rosh Chodesh Nissan.
Sun, May 5 … Lunch at Kosher Chinese Shangri-la and time at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco … carpooling from Beth Ami at 10:30am … Celebrate Rosh Chodesh Iyar.
Tues, June 4 at 7pm … Guest speaker (TBA) and guided meditation … Celebrate Rosh Chodesh Sivan.
Wed, July 3 at 5pm … Parve or dairy potluck picnic at Spring Lake … Celebrate Rosh Chodesh Tammuz.
Fri, August 2 … Celebrate Rosh Chodesh Av as Rosh Chodesh women participate in the Friday night Kabbalah Shabbat service (7:30pm). Family Dinner at 6:30pm … reservations required … call Elizabeth in the Beth Ami office (360-3000).
Sun, September 1 at 11am … Planning meeting for Rosh Chodesh Gatherings 5780 … Potluck dairy or parve brunch
Looking forward to seeing everyone!

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand

The High Holy Days will be upon us within a few weeks. The month preceding Rosh Hashanah – Elul, the sixth month of the Jewish year – has no special importance in the Bible or in early rabbinic writing. Various customs arose sometime during the first millennium that designated Elul as the time to prepare for the High Holy Days. Because these days are filled with so much meaning and potency, they require a special measure of readiness. We are called upon to enter them thoughtfully and to consider what they mean. As the Maharal of Prague said, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, look into your souls and search your deeds, that you may make confession.”

Over the next few weeks, I will share some vignettes that may help us all better prepare for these holiest of days. This week’s story is by Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Emerita of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills CA.


Henry S. Cohn

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand

The instructor filled an empty jar with rocks. “Is it full?” Then he poured a pitcher of pebbles into the jar. “Full now?” Next, he poured sand. “Full?” Finally, he poured water. “Now it’s full.” “What do you learn from this?” One student answered, “That no matter how busy you are, you can always fit it one more thing?” “No, the important thing is: you have to put the rocks in first. If you fill your jar first with the pebbles, sand or water, there will be no room for the rocks.”

Put the rocks in first, those important things that keep you grounded and centered.

I’m the one who thought that you could always fit in one more call, one more meeting. Yet when I fill my jar with what seems urgent but not important, there isn’t room for what I really need: time for my inner life – prayer, study, reflection; and time for my family.

A New Year approaches: it is an empty jar. How I fill it up is up to me. Elul is the deep breath I need to get clear about what my rocks are, and to promise myself to put them in first.