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

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

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

We will expand the beginning lesson to 40 – 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.
At around 8 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 8:15 or so we can work on a new intermediate dance.
Dancers, here is a list of links to helpful videos of dances. We’ve been working on these easier intermediate 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 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 which will tell you the meaning of every song.
Beginner dances:
Lo Ahavti dai (mayim or grapevine step, cherkassiya step)
Hora Hadera (Hassidic style)
Harishut (Yemenite steps and song)    another Yemenite song sung by Ofra Haza with yemenite steps to show style
Debka Kafrit (Arabic- style)
Hora Agadati (first Israeli folk dance)
Ma Navu (may be the best-known dance)
repertoire dances:
Erev Ba (very well known worldwide)
Or Chadash (Has been very popular for a long time. Has posing step used in other dances)
Rona (the first step is called the Rona step and appears in other dances)
Amarin (Egyptian song, quite a few Israeli dances are to songs from other middle eastern countries)
Newer dances: (Please let me know what new dances you like)
Lev Patuach (cute–  uses posing step)
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 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

Meet Renee Kramer

Meet Renee Kramer! She is our new teacher for Lev Simcha Religious School at Beth Ami.
Renee grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, attended Hebrew and Sabbath School and was confirmed at Temple on the Heights (currently B’nai Jeshurun), a Conservative Congregation.
Renee graduated from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and taught sixth grade middle school in Ohio. After moving to California, she started the Little Rascals Nursery School, then The Mountain School for Creative Learning. She later moved to Ukiah where she taught K–1 at Mariposa School. At the same time, she taught an after-school Jewish class in Ukiah.
Renee moved to Sonoma County to teach at the Tree of Life Jewish Day School with Daniel Lev who is now a rabbi in the East Bay. More recently, Renee has been a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children in the Foster Care System.
In her spare time, Renee participates in, Qigong, meditation, gardening, hiking, and does volunteer work. She loves animals and has two cats. She looks forward to teaching Jewish Studies at Beth Ami!

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,