Rosh Chodesh

Dear Rosh Chodesh Women, We are sorry to say that the Rosh Chodesh brunch at Michelle Baime’s scheduled for Sunday November 19th will be canceled due to a number of conflicts. Please put our next Rosh Chodesh gathering (Tevet) at Judy Gunnar’s home on your calendar. It will be Monday December 18 at 7pm: White Elephants and Desserts. Bring desserts, 8 candles, and your Chanukiah.

More information to follow.

B’shalom, PattyB

Calling all honey cakes…

To add more sweetness to our celebration of the High Holy Days, once again we are requesting Honey cakes.
Honey cake is one of our special traditions for Rosh Hashanah and we want to have plenty at Beth Ami for the holiday season, from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot. You can make them at your convenience, bring them to the synagogue, and we will put them in the freezer.
We are requesting that that your recipe be pareve and that you follow the Food and Pot-luck guidelines. No serving plates are necessary and please, do not cut your cake, we will do it for you. Just wrap the cake and label it; “Honey cake for HHD” and whether it has any nut and/or nut by-products or is nut and/or nut-product free. If your recipe is gluten-free, mark that as well.
If you want to help supply, you just need to contact the CBA Office by phone or email; to give our organizers an idea of how many loaves you wish to bake. Then, please, bring the cakes to the synagogue by no later than Monday morning on September 18th. If there is no one in the kitchen, you may bring it to Elizabeth or Judy who has a key to the kitchen. Thank you, we have had some fabulous honey cakes over the years!

Daniel Sherman’s summer experiences

As I prepared to leave Santa Rosa to travel to Poland and Israel, many friends and family members wished me safe travels and an incredible summer across the world.
And an incredible summer I had indeed; I made new friends from all over North America, visited breathtaking historical sites, and experienced the Holy Land’s culture from North to South.
Yet something about leaving the U.S. stuck with me: I felt like most everyone who wished me goodbye focused on my safety. I’m not complaining that people seemed to care about my well-being, but it was peculiar to me that people worried so much about my security in the world’s only Jewish majority state. I’d been to Israel before, although I had yet to lose all my baby teeth at the time. But I’d always hear how people felt safer in Israel than in the States, despite whatever external force the IDF would be fighting off at the time. So I had to find out for myself. And throughout the majority of the trip, I felt just the same as I would at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. So despite the geographical difference, I felt as comfortable as I do every summer. It wasn’t until I went to Sderot, the southernmost Israeli city bordering the Gaza Strip, that this sentiment began to change.
The night before my Israel Advocacy track was scheduled to go there, I heard that a rocket was fired into a rural area just outside the city, which was shocking to hear during a recent period of relative peace. Of course I knew details about the political climate, but you can’t really understand the situation until you see it for yourself.
Touring the city, I began to fully realize how Israel isn’t just about eating schwarma or Chasidim walking to Shul, but that people do live in a constant state of threat and distress. Every apartment in Sderot has an attached bomb shelter. We saw videos of kindergartners walking to bomb shelters like they do it every day. It hit me the hardest when we visited a playground and saw giant caterpillar-shaped tunnels that doubled as a shelter; if kids stood beyond a certain point in the structure, they’d be safe. Yet, despite all that may have seemed life-threatening, what I heard about Israel stood up to the test. Shortly thereafter, my group hiked up a small hill and looked out over a road into Gaza. Just a mile or so away from me was a place where I wouldn’t be able to live as a Jew, to live free of hate and terrorist threat. I turned around, and really felt as safe as I ever had.
And I know I’ll cherish the day, whenever it is, when I get to return to Israel. You won’t need to worry about me then.

Social Action

As summer comes to a close, we all look forward to the High Holidays and the beautiful Sonoma County autumn.
The Social Action Committee is hoping to have another successful year building community within the Beth Ami community and helping those in need in our larger community. We are committed to Tikun Olam to make the world a better place.

This year Bobbie Rosenthal will be co-chair of the committee as she is now a member of the Beth Ami board and we want to make sure that we are represented. Thanks Bobbie. We have many new and continuing projects this upcoming year.

We will have our annual food drive during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for Jewish Family and Children Services. We have provided a huge amount of wonderful food every year as we fill up their pantry. Let’s do it again. Remember heathy, low sodium items are needed. For a full list please check the info on the bins. Thanks so much for your continued support.

We continue to go to the Redwood Empire Food Bank on the first Wednesday of the month. Attendance is down and we are thinking of having a evening packaging so we could get a better turnout. More info to come.

We will make hygiene packages for the homeless again this year. So please start collecting toiletries, hygiene products and socks so that we can prepare the bags in the fall. Also small purses and backpacks will work. Containers will be in foyer.

In November we will have our annual Winter Clothing Drive with Shomrei Torah.

We are very interested in doing something for homeless Veterans. We are planning to go to The Palms where homeless veterans are living. We also plan, with Adult Education, an educational evening on homelessness.

We started Compassionate Conversations, Heart to Heart, in the spring. The conversations are meant to give us an opportunity to speak and to listen to each other in new and more thoughtful ways.The hope is to create stronger relationships and build community. The group has about 20 participants who have come at various times. Because of the intimacy of the group, we decided to continue as is through December. Hopefully, more groups can be formed later. If anyone is interested, please contact Rabbi Miller, Ellen Mundell, Lyla Nathan. We would love to have many people join in. We are a small group and always looking for new members. If any of our ideas speaks to you, please let us know. You can call the Elizabeth in the office at 360-3000 or contact Lyla at 526-7438.

Thanks to everyone at Beth Ami for making our community a giving and welcoming Kehilla.

Beth Ami Religious School Madriach, Nicholas Alexander, Speaks

Dear Religious School Friends and Families, For 3 years, I served as Madriach in the Beth Ami Religious School, and the whole time, I loved it. I enjoyed not only an amazing set of leaders and teachers but also bright students that were always eager to participate as well as an incredible network of fellow members and parents. Despite my position being most like a teacher’s, there was much learning of my own to be had, whether it was discovering how to make great educational art project ideas for the kids, or figuring out that I was not nearly as adept at the Aleph Bet as I thought I was…
Friends, working as a Madriach was absolutely wonderful, and thanks to all of you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this exceptional community. While this may be the end of my work in the Religious School, I look forward to seeing all of you around Beth Ami while I continue to manage the Social Action/Tikkun Olam position in the Sonoma County USY chapter.
Yours truly,
Nicholas Alexander

…and the floodgates of the sky broke open…” (Gen.7:11)

If you’ve ever visited Houston, TX, you couldn’t help but notice what a great city it is, in size and grandeur. Even its airport displays its importance as a hub for many thousands of travelers who exchange flights there every day. Observing the footage on television of so many magnificent homes with their first floors now sunk in a lake created by the waters of Hurricane Harvey, is a humbling experience. With all the modern resources at our beck and call, nothing could stop the sheer power of such mighty waters.

As a commentator noted: “So many personal possessions – from a child’s drawing on the refrigerator door to family records – have been washed into oblivion.” I think of all the businesses – their inventories and physical plants – destroyed. Above all, there are the lives that have been lost, the families and communities that will have to struggle to rebuild their lives – the universal nature of the destruction that a flood brings.

In the Tanach – the Hebrew Bible – the book of Job discusses the question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It describes a righteous man – Job -who suffers tremendously, first in losing his children and subsequently in being afflicted with painful blisters from head to toe. On hearing of his situation, three of his friends come to console him.

The expression “Job’s comforters” describes the attitude of those who would like to suggest that people in distress somehow deserve it.

In glancing at some of the related news items I noticed one that suggested that the Texas floods were a kind of Divine “punishment” for the way in which people voted in the last national election. (Incidentally, this same type of attitude was and is still being used to profess that HIV is G’d’s punishment against the Gay community.)

What this tragedy calls for – beyond all the tremendous efforts of relief workers and organizations – is a sense of compassion for all the loss encountered by the people who experienced this wave of destruction. For the rest of us, who are able to go about our daily tasks, for the most part unaffected, we can only look into ourselves and our own resources and seek ways to offer whatever help we can for those who are suffering.

Living in California, we are always conscious of our own unique ways in which we can suffer at the hands of nature. For us the question isn’t “if,” it’s “when?” Knowing this, we can only open our hearts to those who are currently facing the universal horror of natural disasters. If you’re so moved, please consider donating to the JFNA, Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, American Red Cross or Nechama. All of these organizations are supporting search and rescue and providing shelter, clothing, medications and food to those who need it.


Mordecai Miller

Across the Interfaith Table dinner 

Dear Congregants and Beth Ami Nursery School Families, below is an announcement about Across the Interfaith Table 2017 that will occur on Sunday, August 27th from 3:30 PM – 7:30 PM. This event is a once a year opportunity for individuals from all faiths to learn more about other religions and to build new relationships.
Beth Ami is a co-sponsor and Beth Ami’s involvement expresses the Congregation’s commitment toTikkun Olam, Healing the World. By building bridges with other faiths we strengthen our community and united we make a statement that divisiveness and hatred have no place in this community. We all hope that peace and respect are the hallmarks of the Sonoma County Community. However, in the unlikely event, that any one faith is attacked, all faiths standing together make a strong statement that hatred has no home in Sonoma County.
In the 1960s the African-American Community Baptist Church was torched by racists. Congregation Beth Ami and specifically the late Benny Friedman and Everett Shapiro were present the next day to offer and provide support. Community Baptist Church was able to conduct worship services the following Sunday including a new piano with Beth Ami’s help. The incident was unfortunate but it forged a strong bond between the two communities.
Please join me and Rabbi Miller and in attending this bridge-building event. If you are able to attend or help volunteer at the event, please reach out to me at or with Rabbi Miller at
May our community be blessed with peace.
Henry S. Cohn
Across the Interfaith Table 2017
On Sunday, August 27th, from 3:30 PM – 7:30 PM, the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County (ICSC) will offer the opportunity for all faith communities to participate in Across the Interfaith Table 2017.  The program will take place at:
Center for Spiritual Living
2075 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa
Food for the Soul and Food for the Body!
Outline of Activities
  • 3:30 – 4:45 we will gather for a brief welcome and introduction.  Participants will be able to learn about and actually experience the worship practices of any one of several religious groups.
  • 5:00 – 6:15 we will gather together for a unique presentation representing most, if not all, the diverse religious groups participating.
  • 6:00 – 7:30 we will be able to enjoy a vegetarian potluck buffet feast, again representing a whole array of cuisines. (After all, “you gotta eat!”)
The Interfaith Council of Sonoma County (ICSC) is a voluntary, individual membership organization uniting people of many faiths – both laity and clergy living or worshiping in Sonoma County, California.  Anyone who supports ICSC’s mission is welcome.
ICSC Mission Statement
Affirming our vision that humanity is of One Soul, we, of many beliefs, join to celebrate our diversity and organize for peace and unity through humanitarian activism.
For more information about Across the Interfaith Table 2017, contact the Event Planning Committee at 707-494-2464 or

Rosh Chodesh Av

All Rosh Chodesh women… Hannah Caratti has agreed to host “Welcoming Rosh Chodesh Av with Hebrew Chanting and Yoga” on Monday, July 24! 
Wear comfortable clothes that you can stretch and move in. We’ll be in Hannah’s studio 7:00-7:45pm. Be sure to bring “layers” and some snacks to share as we talk about Rosh Chodesh and sing some of our songs on the back patio (7:45-8:15pm)
All Jewish women are welcome, regardless of affiliation (or not) … Our gatherings are always uplifting and often inspirational. Please join us!
Note: Parking is very limited so we’ll need to carpool. RSVP to, if you plan to participate and if you could be a driver. Bonnie Boren and I will tally up the numbers and send out a final notice next week. (We’ll need to leave Beth Ami’s parking lot by 6:45pm)
Suggested donation per participant: $5-10 (but no one will be excluded!)
Hannah says, “I look forward to sharing this special “Rosh Chodesh” song with you….I learned it from the Jewish Women’s Group “Vocalot”…..”
–Patty Bernstein

From Our New President

It is the day after the Annual Membership meeting and my election as President of Beth Ami for the 2nd time in my life. The first time was almost 20 years ago—the 3rd year after becoming a member of the shul. I appreciate the confidence and support of the many members who encouraged me to become President again. Being President of the shul brings challenges and responsibilities, but at the same time it is rewarding. My first experience as President was wonderful and deepened my connection to Beth Ami and its members.
Many of you know me and others may not. So, for my first article as President, I am sharing a bit about myself.

I was born in San Francisco and was the third of 4 children. I have lived in San Francisco and the North Bay for my entire life, except for the years I served in USAF. My parents, Willy and Carol z’l, fled Germany separately to Shanghai, married there, and lived in the poorest of conditions for almost 10 years. I never got to know any of my grandparents—my paternal grandfather died in World War I and my paternal grandmother was murdered at Trawniki—one of the lesser known concentration camps near Auschwitz. My mother’s parents were divorced—my maternal grandmother fled to Shanghai with my mother and came to the United States with my parents. She died when I was about 2 years old so I have no memories of her.

Many years ago a book was published entitled Twice Blessed—On Being Lesbian or Gay and Jewish. I am a proud American Gay and Jewish man. If you were fortunate enough to attend our Sukkah of Shalom about 1–1/2 years ago, you would have heard about my journey as a Gay man. I may be thrice-blessed because I am also a vegetarian.

I attended the University of San Francisco and graduated summa cum barely with an Accounting degree. I was one of the about 6% of CPA candidates who pass the entire exam at the first sitting. I attribute my academic success to my mother who became involved in setting me on the correct path in my early grammar school years when, suffice it say, I was not the most diligent student.

I have worked in public and private accounting for a Fortune 500 company and smaller companies. I was also fortunate to work for almost 4 years in the non-profit sector at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Now, I am approaching the twilight of my career and if all goes as planned, I will retire in February 2018.

I am a classic social introvert. For those of you familiar with the Meyers Briggs Personality test, the scale does not extend far enough to measure my level of introvertedness. It is a challenge to be an introvert in an extroverted world. In social settings, I may at times appear aloof when in reality my introverted personality has taken a dominant role.

Reading is one of my greatest pleasures. I own more books than I will probably ever read in this lifetime. I enjoy outdoor activities. On my recent vacation to Kauai I hiked, kayaked, snorkeled and went zip lining. Among the outdoor activities I enjoy is gardening and the rose is my favorite flower. No genre of music moves me more than opera.

I was a raised in a religiously-observant home, but not to an excess. Candles were lit on Friday nights and periodically we would attend Shabbat services. Keeping us home from school on both days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to attend shul was the norm regardless of what may be happening at school. Our family belonged to a congregation founded by German Jews who immigrated to Shanghai. The congregation had a large elderly population. My parents were part of the younger generation. We were one of the few families with young children. The Rabbi was advanced in years and had been tortured by the Nazis. He preached in German. I understand and speak German, but not the type of German that is used in sermons. Whenever the Rabbi preached, it felt like an eternity. I remember on multiple occasions my father standing up in the middle of the Rabbi’s sermons and waving his finger communicating to him that he had talked long enough.

My Jewish education was virtually non-existent. Our Sunday school had 6–8 students—we were all taught in one class. There were 2 students, and I was not one of them, who excelled in Hebrew and received more attention and praise than those of us who really needed more help in learning.

My Bar Mitzvah was literally a traumatic experience on multiple levels and left a lasting scar that still causes me pain to this day. My only desire was to get through that day and then run away as far as possible from the synagogue. My only participation for many years was attending the Yamim Noraim. It would be 30 years, until I arrived here at Beth Ami that I would stand in front of the shul and lead a portion of services. I owe a debt of gratitude to Rabbi Slater for creating a safe environment and encouraging me to slowly peel off the scar tissue.

I never ceased being Jewish, although no one could have faulted me if I has chosen to never again have association with a synagogue. What pulled me back to eventually become President of Beth Ami and now to do so for a 2nd time? There are 2 teachings that stand out in my mind. I was exposed to the lessons of Rebbe Levi Yitzak of Berditchev—one of the most pious men who ever lived and most likely one of the 36 tzadikkim believed to roam the world at any time. The other comes from more recent literature and the hands of Elie Wiesel, z’l. On the dedication page of his book, A Jew Today, is a quote from his grandfather Dodye Feig, z’l, who perished in the Holocaust. The words are simple and profound: “You are Jewish, your task is to remain Jewish. The rest is up to G’d.” I hear those words over and over again, almost like a lament. It is a cry from my grandmother and the 6 million who perished in the Shoah to: never forget us. And, I hear the voices of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel challenging me to carry and pass the torch of Judaism to future generations.

I hope that in one way or the other you too hear the same lament and that working together over the next two years we establish a path for Beth Ami so that it continues to be a light unto our feet and for generations who come after us.

Henry Cohn, President