Busy Social Action

These have been very busy months for the Social Action Committee. First off, we now have two new members: Bobbie Rosenthal and Carol Levine. Thanks and welcome to you both.

We started off in Oct. with The Sukkah of Shalom where members and friends of our community spoke about their personal experiences as members of the LGBTQ community. It was a very meaningful event and as a result we have formed a sub-committee of the SAC called Keshet (rainbow) to plan activites and discuss ways to make Beth Ami a truly welcoming community to our LGBTQ members and friends. The group is co-chaired by Cheryle Miller and Henry Cohn.

We are ending the Winter Clothing Drive of collecting warm clothes, accessories and blankets for those in need during the cold winter months. This is a joint activity of the Social Action Committees of Beth Ami and Shomrei Torah. Thanks for all of you who went through your closets. The distribution will be at Elisha’s Pantry on three dates: Thurs. Dec.3, Thurs. Dec.10, Thurs, Dec.17th from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Stay as long as you are able. If you would like to help please call Lyla Nathan at 707-526-7438.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank has a wonderful industrial kitchen and a terrific chef. On the first Wed. of the month, some of us have been working in the kitchen. It reminds me very much of working in the kitchen on kibbutz. It is mostly being a sous chef (lots of chopping and cleaning) but I really enjoy it. Others—mostly Susan Miller, Lenore Holloway and Linda Emblen—pack fruits or veggies. Either way, it is a mitzvah to help at the food bank. They provide such a service to those in need of supplemental food. Please consider volunteering. The next scheduled dates are: Wed. Dec. 2, Wed. Jan. 6, and Wed. Feb. 3. All from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

If you can’t make those times you can always show up any day and just register at the office and sign in for CBA. Remember that you need closed-toed shoes. Thanks.

At the Annual Fammy Gala Fundraiser for JFCS, our SAC along with other groups in the Bay Area , will be honored for their work providing food to the food pantry at JFCS. We will be part of a short film that will be shown at the Gala. The Gala is a huge fundraiser for JFCS, held at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco on Feb. 27th. Maybe a few members can support this worthwhile event.
Big thanks to the committee and the Beth Ami community for continuing to bring healthy food to the synagogue for the pantry. Remember, they need low sodium and gluten free products.

Mark your calendars: On the evening of Friday Feb. 5th, we will have a special speaker, Doris Nelson. She will be speaking about the creation of the Village Movement in Sonoma County which links older adults with community services they need to continue living at home. There is a very active village in Petaluma. More information to follow.

The Social Action Committee is committed to working together to make for a better world, one mitzvah at a time. Please join us!

Chanukah is coming

Chanukah is coming. The first candle is lit on sundown of December 6th. We have 8 days to celebrate with lighting menorahs, parties, and special foods. To help celebrate the miracle of lights we like, no…be honest…we love, to fry foods in oil. Potato latkes abound at our tables along with their cousin pancakes; parsnip, sweet potato, green (with zucchini), french onion (with caramelized onion), colorful veggie (with carrots, red bell peppers and zucchini), and even coconut. We also have Torzelli (deep fried curly endive), Tostones (fried plantains) and beer battered pumpkin rings. And for desserts we have Sufganiyot (jelly donuts), Bimuelos (honey drizzled fritters) and more.

We also celebrate with food made from cheese and dairy products to remember the apocryphal Book of Judith, the widow who single handedly killed the Assyrian leader Holofernes, whose army surrounded her village Bethula during the time of the Maccabean revolt. Her tools were cheeses to make him thirsty, wine to make him drunk and a powerful blow. Think cheese latkes or grilled cheese latkes and Mozzarella in Carrozza to help celebrate.
All of this information and recipes are available from the Recipes for Hanukkah by MJL Staff.

Happy Chanukah

Many of us have had job challenges over the years. Now, both Beth Ami and I, personally, have such challenges. Since these can affect you as a member of Beth Ami, I want to share some background with you.

As many of you know, our hard working and talented Carolyn Metz is retiring as Executive Director of Congregation Beth Ami.
As you may also know, I’ve worked for the County of Sonoma almost 9 years in various offices of the Human Services Department. Most recently, I’ve been working for the Family, Youth and Children’s Services Department. Almost as soon as I transferred to Family, Youth and Children’s Services almost 3 years ago, I realized that I wanted to have a career in Social Work. I am in so much awe of the service that Social Workers provide to our community by providing supportive services for struggling families, for reuniting families and for foster and adoptive families. I started in Family, Youth and Children’s Services providing support to social workers in a clerical capacity but most recently I applied for and accepted a position as a Spanish bilingual Social Worker Assistant. Essentially, my new role is to supervise visits between parents and their children who are in foster care. My experience as a Social Worker Assistant will be instrumental in my path towards becoming a Social Worker. It’s going to take a number of years and I’m sure there will be many challenges along the way, but my goal is to go back to school for a Master’s in Social Work and become a social worker for my department.

Why am I telling you all of this? One of the changes that occurred due to my promotion has resulted in a work schedule change. Fortunately for our Family, Youth and Children’s services families, our schedule accommodates their need for weekend visits. But, it means I have to be available to work on Saturdays and later in the evenings — more than I used to in my old position. Of course, I will attend as many special events and services as my days off and vacation bank will afford. The good news is now I have every Sunday and Monday off work. Sundays are my family day and Mondays I dedicate to taking care of Beth Ami.

Needless to say this has been a big transition for our family and has made it much more challenging for me to attend services and Beth Ami events but my commitment and dedication is just as strong as ever. I hope to email President’s Messages more regularly to fill you in between Shofar issues.
One of the major updates that I’m pleased to announce is that the Board of Directors has approved the job description that the Search Committee presented to the Board at the end of October. The Committee has been hard at work developing the job description and has posted the position on various websites, including our Cybershul and Beth Ami website. As the acceptance of applications ends before this issue of the Shofar is mailed, be on the lookout for news about an executive director from Beth Ami.

Best wishes to Carolyn, who served us as a dynamic Executive Director! Carolyn will continue to serve the larger community in Sonoma County in her real estate practice.

And, best wishes to all of you for a Happy Chanukah!

All in the Family

We live in a world that is riddled with violence. Not a week goes by without some headline screaming out about innocent people, simply going about their business—at school or a café or a shopping mall—being gunned down by an emotionally disturbed individual or by a deliberate attack orchestrated by political/religious fanatics.

In addressing the second of these two killings, one suspects that the killers justify their behavior through their belief that anyone who doesn’t practice their particular brand of politics or religion is an enemy of God, and there is no justification in their remaining alive.
The truth is, the chances of any one of their victims being guilty of a capital offense is remote, to say the least. Even were that the case, killing people who pose no immediate threat is tantamount to murder. We are told in Deuteronomy 16:20 Tzedek, tzedek tirdoph! “You shall pursue only righteousness!” Someone who is accused of a capital offense must be brought to trial. There are no short-cuts to justice. As our patriarch Abraham (whom we share with Muslims) states: “Shall not the Judge of the earth do justice?” (Genesis 18:25)
We might well ask, “Just who are the enemies of God?!”

There is a great Midrash that speaks of the difference between a human sovereign and the Sovereign of all sovereigns. When a human ruler mints coinage, the coins all are identical, but when the Holy One, mints coins, (human beings) they all are differentiated. Point being; one important element of the glory of God is God’s ability to create a host of differentiated individuals each with his or her own tastes, looks, skills, characteristics and beyond. Nature’s boundless variety is a testimony to God’s greatness!

Even in my own family, I see a wide variety of individual tastes and other characteristics. I love to study Bible, Rabbinic literature and pray daily. I especially love classical music. It would be unfair for me to expect everyone else in my family to share all my tastes. On the other hand, we try to be supportive of one another’s tastes and preferences. In this sense my own family has been a microcosm of congregational life! Beyond that I have members of my family who have married outside of Judaism, who have or have had partners of the same sex and who attend a Unitarian Church.
These distinctions melt into oblivion in face of the fact that we share family love and a sense of mutual respect. I suspect that we are far from unique. In fact, I believe that we are typical of the American landscape.

I see Beth Ami as no different! I think it’s significant that our name is House of my People. People who come from all kinds of backgrounds and who represent all kinds of tastes. True we are a Conservative congregation, but I understand that to mean that we look at Jewish Tradition and Halachah to inform and guide our decisions. Some of these Laws and Traditions—especially those not explicitly in the Torah—came about in a context of mistrust, hatred and a sense of competition. To a great extent, I don’t believe this is typical of our current situation where religious leaders talk about the Judeo-Chrisitan tradition and values.

As a congregation, I see us an extended family. I want to see anyone—and I mean anyone—regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual preference, who comes under the shelter of our roof to sense that feeling of family love and support.
I believe this is the underlying model of a world that can truly experience Shalom—Peace!

Scholars in Residence Weekend with 3 Dynamic Speakers from StandWithUs

Three Dynamic Speakers from STANDWITHUS

Johanna Wilder Michael Harris Max Samarov
JANUARY 16 AND 17 • Congregation Beth Ami
4676 Mayette Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Mark your calendars so you won’t miss the 2016 Scholars-in-Residence weekend at Beth Ami.  Three dynamic speakers from StandWithUs will keep us informed on issues confronting our Jewish community. One of our three speakers will be flying in from LA to share with us his research findings into contemporary anti-Semitism.  StandWithUs (http://StandWithUs.com) is dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues.

Johanna Wilder. Attend services Saturday, January 16, to hear Ms. Johanna Wilder, the Northern California Associate Director of StandWithUs, give the drash and talk after lunch on the growing anti-Semitic environment on California college campuses and its impact on Jewish students.  The anti-Semitic environment permitted by university administrations is chilling and frightening.  After her talk, Johanna needs to scoot over to Sacramento to accept Sacramento Jewish Federation’s award for her work on California’s campuses.

Michael Harris. Join us that evening following Havdalah at 6 pm when Dr. Michael Harris will speak on “1948: The War Still Being Fought Today”.  Dr. Mike, a dynamic speaker, shows how 70 years later, Israel is still confronted by the same ideologies of hate.  Our own Israel Committee is hosting a light dinner for the attendees.

Max Samarov. On Sunday, Mr. Max Samarov, Senior Researcher with StandWithUs, shares his investigation into the activities of Israel boycotters.  He has uncovered startling facts.  Currently Max is scheduled to dialog with us beginning at 1:30 pm Sunday, but since this schedule may change, check the website http://IsraelUpdate.INFO or http://bethamisr.org/2015/12/2151/ closer to the date for details.

Stand (or sit) with us and your fellow Jews the weekend of January 16 to hear three dynamite speakers talk about topics that affect you and the entire Jewish community.  Join Us for a Weekend of Learning with three Scholars-in-Residence.
January 16 and 17

Scholars-in-Residence Weekend

Scholars-in-Residence Weekend

Rosh Chodesh Tevet: Happy Hour Havdalah!

Rosh Chodesh Tevet: Happy Hour Havdalah! Short days, long nights. December 12 marks the end of Kislev, Rosh Chodesh Tevet, and the last days of Chanukah. How will Jewish women usher in this new month? With a new tradition we’re calling Happy Hour Havdalah!

We’ll mark the end of Shabbat with the havdalah ritual, celebrate Chanukah by lighting 7 candles on our Chanukiah … then we’ll toast the new month with Happy Hour L’Chaims, hors d’oeuvres, and plenty of conventional and non-conventional games as we celebrate this winter festival.

Tevet is the 10th month of the Jewish calendar (counting from Nissan). Its name—which is mentioned in the Book of Esther—was acquired in Babylonia, and shares a root with the Hebrew word tov, good.

As we increase the lights of the menorah, we are reminded of the power of good over evil and seek to reveal the good, which is hidden in our lives and in the world around us.

Join the Moon Mavens on Saturday, December 12 at 5:30pm for this unique celebration. Consider bringing a beverage and a nosh to share … Don’t forget to bring 8 candles and your menorah. Thanks to co-hosts Judy Gunnar and Tish Levee for the time and space.

Please RSVP to get Judy’s address and let us know how many people to expect. Celebrate the essence of love and light that dwells deep within each of us.

Rosh Chodesh Kislev ~ Thursday, November 12

Rosh Chodesh Kislev ~ Thursday, November 12 Join the Moon Mavens on Thursday, November 12 at 7pm at Congregation Beth Ami to welcome the new month of Kislev. The daylight hours are short and we’ll mirror that in this month’s activity: Six-Word Memoirs. The Six-Word Memoirs project was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s legendary shortest of short stories, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
This succinct form has become a powerful tool to catalyze conversation, spark imagination, or simply break the ice. Talk about a challenge to creativity! How do you tell a story in just six words? All Jewish women are invited share ritual, light candles, enjoy a nosh, and try our hands at the Six-Word Memoirs.
As always, snacks and beverages to share are encouraged. Come and enjoy a Jewish women’s evening! Questions? Contact Bonnie Boren (bonniegboren@gmail.com) or Patty Bernstein (basberyl@sonic.net).


December News

In November, we had a pottery studio bringing clay dreidels and glaze to us so each student can paint their own. They have been glazed and returned for Chanukah.

The monthly teen class began last Tuesday and they spent two hours engaged in a Talmud fueled ethics debate, playing two truths and a lie with middot, and competing in a Jewish Heritage trivia bowl.

After kicking off our Rockin’ Shabbat calendar with Lior Ben-Hur on October 23rd we will be scheduling more– stay tuned.

We are proud to announce that we have hired a new USY youth advisor, Miriam Lane, who grew up in our congregation and is now in college and teaching in our religious school.



A new year in the CBA kitchen

Donations to the CBA Kitchen
We have alot of Thank Yous to make to our CBA Community.
Our potlucks have been fantastic thanks to you. Members make food in the CBA kitchen to share and members bring foods to be used for our Shabbat potlucks and onegs. We have had potlucks ranging from 40-–100 people, and we couldn’t have done it without your generosity.
We also have been a recipient of a new wall clock and a new scale thanks to Ahuva.
We thank you all, you help to make our CBA community (and tummies) happier!
Simple Ideas of Foods to Bring for our Synagogue Potlucks
We have been requested to provide ideas of what to bring to the potlucks or onegs that are simple to do.
The easiest is to find kosher packaged foods (looking for the kosher symbol). Just bring the unopened packages for the potluck. Our mashgiach will double check (those symbols get smaller & sneakier every year), and we’ll plate and use them (unless we have already open or older packages, then we use the older first and save the newer for next time). Pick what best fits your budget. There are kosher packages of cheeses, yoghurt, milk, bread, crackers, chips, cookies, cakes, cans of tuna fish, sprats, sardines, kippers, jars of herring, salad dressings, applesauce, juices, juice drinks and lots more.
A note on cheeses; domestic cheeses that are not processed are okay without a Kosher Symbol (this is okay per Rabbi Miller and by the USJC movement see: http://www.uscj.org/JewishLivingandLearning/Kashrut/default.aspx ). Again, they should be in the original sealed packaging. Imported cheeses need to have the Kosher Symbol.
How’s that for simple & easy?
The next easiest is simple salads. If you want to bring salads, keep them simple with raw vegetables and raw fruits (sorry, no cooking at home allowed). Avoid croutons, dried noodles, and processed nuts (whole raw unprocessed nuts are okay), unless you find kosher products, then, just bring them in the original sealed package so we can verify, and then add them to your salad before serving.
If you want more ideas of what to bring, just check out the latest Food and Potluck Guidelines. Of course, feel free to ask and share ideas. And if it can’t be done in your home, think about making and sharing your delights in the CBA Kitchen.
Safety in the CBA Kitchen
We are a social group, especially when it comes to cooking; however, anyone who has worked in a kitchen knows what hazards may occur while working there; and they know that the possibility of accidents increases with more distractions.
Because we want to make certain that everyone in the CBA kitchen are kept safe from accidents, please use the main doors to the entrance hall as your entry and exit to Social Hall & Sanctuary, and please do not use the kitchen door to the parking lot as an easy exit or entryway.
As of now, our Beth Ami potluck guidelines allow baking cakes and cookies in an oven which hasn’t been used exclusively for kosher items, does this include broiling?
Several factors are involved which can affect questions of Kashrut:
Generally the heat source for a baking oven comes from the bottom of the oven, whereas in broiling, the heat source comes from the top of the oven.
Even more importantly, the temperatures involved in baking are usually cooler than those used for broiling.
Broiling is used most frequently for meat and poultry, which means that the utensils involved are affected if the meat is not kosher to begin with. According the principles of kashrut utensils which may be kashered (for example metal pans) can only be kashered at the same or higher temperature with which they are used. For example, a broiling pan would have to be brought to red heat in order to purge it of any non-kosher food it would have absorbed in the process of broiling.
Regular baked good such as (un-iced) cakes and cookies have been acceptable under the pot-luck guidelines since it is generally assumed that the utensils used in baking are used solely for that purpose. In addition, the assumption is made that the ingredients in the vast majority of cakes and cookies don’t pose a problem with regards to kashrut.
Recently, it was decided to permit icing to be used for icing cakes and cookies made in a dedicated saucepan – or similar utensil – that was never used for anything other than kosher items.
Since broiling involves pans that are used in the preparation of meat items, such pans and utensils would not be usable for items to be brought in the synagogue.
In addition, the high heat required in the course of broiling adds another dimension to the question of the kashrut of the item.
However, in a case where the broiling method is being used at relatively low temperature and all ingredients are kosher—such as for melting cheese on fruit; and where the pan and other utensils are used for regular baking; such items will be judged on a case to case basis until the Kitchen Committee has the opportunity to adopt a general policy regarding broiling.

Reflecting on my first year

As I reflect on my first year as President of the Board, I will admit that I am not the same President now as I was in the beginning. I have tried to be a facilitator of change and growth to build a stronger and sustainable future for Beth Ami.

As part of the Board goals we established last year, we created a committee to evaluate the Friday night Shabbat activities to increase participation. The Guess Who’s Coming to Shabbat program was launched and we just had another successful gathering on September 11th. Everyone who has either hosted or attended a dinner has enthusiastically raved about their experiences in sharing Shabbat in a meaningful way with new and old friends.

Part of building community also involves building leadership. I was blessed to attend training in L.A. called Sulam for Emerging Leaders. Just as the name suggests, Sulam, or ladder, for Emerging Leaders helps develop up and coming leaders so that they can move up the next rung of the ladder towards leadership roles in our community. We are blessed that one of the participants of Sulam, Anya Concoff Por, jumped right in and is now using her leadership skills as our new Director of Youth Education. In addition to restructuring the Religious School schedule to include a Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service and creating a fresh curriculum, she is working with Jenny Levine, Director of the Nursery School, to connect nursery school families to Beth Ami through Beth Ami and You. Anya is also overseeing Rock’n Shabbat, USY and the post B’Nai mitzvah program. Needless to say she has a full plate but her vision for youth programing and enthusiasm for Judaism are propelling her forward and I am excited to see our youth education programs continuing to grow and change.

As I mentioned earlier, we have made significant steps towards a stronger and more sustainable future for Beth Ami both by building leadership and community, as well as financially.

Leading Beth Ami as President for the past year and continuing for the next two years would not be possible without all the love and support of my husband, Abe and two sons, Nick and Ben. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to them for sharing our family time with Beth Ami, so that I can take on leadership responsibilities. I truly feel blessed that I can serve our community in this capacity. I would also like to thank our dedicated and hardworking Board members for their commitment to our congregation.

Without a strong Board, who volunteer on so many levels, we would not be the thriving and engaging congregation we are so blessed to be. I would also like recognize the numerous volunteers who contribute their time and energy as committee chairs, committee members and helpers at the many events and activities hosted by Beth Ami. I am thankful for Rabbi Mordecai’s spiritual guidance and patience with me while I develop my role as President. I would also like to thank Carolyn Metz for her service as Executive Director and wish her the best in her retirement starting in January 2016.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a question, how will you be a positive force in leading a campaign of change in our kehilla? How can you help create a guiding coalition that will make this year one of newness and renewal for our community?