Scholars-in-Residence Weekend with StandWithUs huge success

A well attended Scholar-in-Residence weekend started Saturday, January 16. Ms. Johanna Wilder, the Northern California Associate Director of StandWithUs, gave 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.

Following Havdalah that evening, Dr. Michael Harris spoke on “1948: The War Still Being Fought Today”.  Dr. Mike showed how 70 years later, Israel is still confronted by the same ideologies of hate.  Esther Baruch of our Israel Committee organized the scrumptious light dinner for the attendees.

On Sunday, Max Samarov, Senior Researcher with StandWithUs, shared his investigation into the activities of campus agitators aiming for the destruction of Israel.  His talk revealed startling facts.  StandWithUs is fighting back to return campuses to places where Jewish student can once again feel welcome.

1Mike Harris SiR weekendst Photo (left to right): Israel Committee Chair Eli Cohen, Betty Boyd, SpeakeMax Samarov SiR weekendr and author of the recently published book, “How to Win a Debate with an Israel-Hater,” Dr. Michael Harris, and volunteer Ben Winkler.

2nd photo: StandWithUs Volunteers Stan Roodman and Arlene Rosenbaum, Speaker Johanna Wilder, Northern California Associate Director of StandWithUs, Speaker Max Samarov, Senior Researcher with StandWithUs, Israel Committee Chair Eli Cohen and Betty Boyd.


Beginning dances #2

We’re back in the Friedman Center! We’ll be dancing there at 7 p.m. May 11 and 25. It will be interesting to see what it’s like!

Beginning dances #2: Gadi Bitton, a noted Israeli choreographer, has posted, on You Tube, a collection of Israeli dances for beginners. Actually some of them are not beginning-level easy, but they are basic dances that have been around for a while. You can see my previous post with its videos when you click on Israeli dance

In Erev Ba, the turn that opens into a double Cherkasiyah, or double crossing, shows up in lots of other dances…

Here is Sham Harei Golan, it has a camel step…

Rona gave the name to the step that starts off this dance.. it’s about a father singing about his little girl… unless we do our Spanish/ Arabic version, in which case Rona becomes a lot older and definitely not a relative.

Rosh Chodesh Shevat

Rosh Chodesh Shevat ~ Brunch on January 10 at Congregation Beth Ami. Join other Jewish women to celebrate the new month of Shevat ~ the 11th month of the Jewish year and the 1st Jewish month celebrated in 2016 ~ with ritual, activities, and food!

Our Dairy/Pareve Potluck will take place on Sunday, January 10 at 11am in the Social Hall at Congregation Beth Ami. We’ll ready ourselves for the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of Shevat, which marks the “New Year of the Trees.” Fruits are a big part of Tu B’Shevat … but so are important biblical women including Esther and Tamar (whose names mean myrtle and date palm respectively) and Miriam, Deborah, and Yael whose stories are told on Shabbat Shirah.

Come share with us as the days begin to grow longer and the sun shines a bit brighter, though we still look forward to rain, precious rain.

Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein ( or Bonnie Boren (

At the end of the year

At the end of the secular calender year, we like to take a moment to remember all of the feasts, celebrations and events that involved the Beth Ami Kitchen. If you have been looking at the kitchen calendar by the kitchen door you have seen these events that have happened and how busy we have been in 2015.

Our kitchen use is growing and changing. New to our experiences was our first volunteer catered Second Night Passover Seder and our volunteer caterers for the Friday Night Family Shabbat Dinners and Religious School Shabbat Dinners. A group of volunteers has also been coming in and making bagels for the Potluck Shabbats.

These changes with all of our other events have made us appreciate all of the many special volunteers who are involved in creating and presenting each event, whether big or small. Whether you were involved with the planning, facilitating, shopping, donating, preparing, presenting the food; or you were setting up or cleaning up for an event. Whether you donated money, food, supplies & equipment for kitchen use; or whether you donated your time and labor to be a Mashgiach for one of our events; or to organize, clean, maintain and repair the kitchen and its appliances; we appreciate you one and all.

Thank all of you who have participated in making the CBA Kitchen a happening place!

Beginners’ dances

Starting in January the first half-hour, 7 – 7:30, will be for learning beginning steps and dances. Then from 7:30 to 9:30 we’ll mix various levels of dances, including more beginning dances. December 23, January 6 and 20, we’ll be dancing in the Beth Ami social hall because the Friedman Center is being remodeled. One upside to being in the social hall is that you can bring vegetarian snacks if you wish, but do keep it simple.

We will start beginning dances with Lo Ahavti Dai, which teaches grapevine and Cherkasiya; Harishut, which teaches the Yemenite step and open cross, and Ma Navu which has a sway and pivot. I refuse to teach Zemer Attik, you can pick it up!


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 ( 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 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