The Value of a Human Life

If we take a few minutes to meditate on all the things it takes to describe a human being, we would realize, very quickly, how overwhelming such a task would be. First consider the complexity of all our physical attributes: veins, bones, sinews, skin, vital organs, and our circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Next think about the brain, our rational-emotional intelligence, and the very state of being conscious. Trying to come to grips with it all is practically super-human.

No wonder, in describing the Creation of the World, the Book of Genesis describes the Divine creation of the human being as “in the image of God He created them…” (b’tzelem Elokim)

Apart from finding a metaphor to describe the amazing potential within every human life, the Bible is also suggesting that we treat human life as sacred. Essentially, destroying a single life is, in fact, desecrating the Divine Image.

The Rabbis also point out that God created a Adam and Eve to originate the human race in order to teach us, “One who destroys a single life destroys an entire world; and one who saves a single life has saved an entire world!” We could also add that, ultimately, we are all a great human family – no matter our culture, the color of our skin, and social origins.

With all this in mind, we are stricken by the current spate of mass shootings which have become all too common. At this point in time, there are individuals who have had to survive more than one of these incidents. Who can begin to imagine the sheer horror of having oneself or ones family face such unspeakable danger?

As you may be aware, the Fast of Av occurs this coming Saturday night and extends through Sunday. While the immediate reason for this observance may link to the Destruction of the Two Temples (the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the second by the Romans in the year 70), they allow us to give expression to acknowledge the hatred and violence perpetrated against many vulnerable individuals today. In mourning the destruction of these “Houses of the Divine,” we can link in solidarity to all those who have suffered persecution in the past and today.

We are all familiar with the tremendous challenges faced by today’s immigrant community: the unspeakable methods used to incarcerate human beings under subhuman conditions and to separate young children from their families, many without hope of being reunited! As part of this Saturday evening’s commemoration, we are fortunate to have Beth Aldridge, who is connected to the North Bay Organizing Project, join us. Beth will share her experiences in helping host a refugee family from Nicaragua. She will be able to detail for us the kind of experiences this and other families have had to endure in seeking asylum in the United States. She will be able to answer questions and make suggestions as to how we might respond in various ways to help relieve such human suffering.

I hope you will join us this coming Saturday evening, August 10th in our sanctuary to learn first-hand about this current situation. Following Beth’s presentation we will have the opportunity to join in the traditional observance of Tish’a b’Av, our Jewish National Day of Mourning. We will chant and read from the Book of Lamentations and recite a few of the special laments (Kinot) that were composed by poets (paytanim) to commemorate the destruction of “God’s House” and other moments of persecution in Jewish History.

While there’s no doubt that this is a sad time, our observance underscores the belief we have, in the infinite worth of every individual and our commitment never to forget this basic principle.

Yours in consolation and blessing,


How You Can Help Bay Area Immigration Organizations

  1. Join NBOP Rapid Response Network

***Accompaniment Team
***Know Your Rights Team
***Legal Observer Team
***Host Family and Team (new team being formed now)
***Donate $ (memo line for specific team)
***Donate items to a garage sale 707-225-1302

  1. Legal Defense
    Donate time or $
  2. Bay Area Border Relief
    Trip to Texas Oct 19-25
    Knitting Project
    Pizza Delivery
  3. Catholic Charities
    Citizenship and ESL Classes

Have a good summer!

Wahoo — We have officially entered the new fiscal year of Congregation Beth Ami, FY 2020: you have a new Board of Directors (listed below), you’ve received your membership renewal notices (please rsvp), and the calendar of events and programs is being developed, including preparations for the High Holidays (September 29)., and many staff vacations are underway.

Here is your Board of Directors for July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020:

 Carolyn Metz President

 Henry Cohn Treasurer/Past President

 Barb McGee Secretary

 Dave Ballo VP of Facilities

 Mel Decker VP of Fund Development

 Bobbie Rosenthal VP of Membership

 Juli Scherer VP of Administration

 Irvin Klein Member-at-Large

 Carol Swanson Member-at-Large

 Myra Stern Thomas Member-at-Large

 Rabbi Miller Member Ex-Officio

 Judy Gunnar Member Ex-Officio

 Priscilla Lowell Member Ex-Officio

 Elizabeth Jarlsberg Office Manager

The Board meets the 4th Tuesday of every month at 7:00 pm, and you, our members, are always welcome to attend the general session of each meeting. We develop the Agenda for each meeting one week prior, on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, at the Executive Committee meeting, also 7:00 pm. The next Board meeting is July 23.

Here’s an update regarding the “Future Focus” groups we’ve been conducting. We’ve been contacting and engaging with members since late March. Our goal is to complete the research by the end of July, then to spend time collating and analyzing what you’ve presented us. As soon as we have anything substantive, we’ll be reporting back to you, describing our findings. If you haven’t yet participated, know we’re trying to accommodate everyone. Email me if you think we’ve passed you by!

Southeast Greenway: For 10 years, a small group of devoted individuals have been working toward developing a plan for the strip of land from Hwy 12 & Farmers Lane to Spring Lake – the land that is full of walnut trees beyond the fence of our parking lot. On Tuesday, July 9, at 5:00pm, the Santa Rosa City Council will be voting to approve the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) that will move the project forward. Congregation Beth Ami’s Board unanimously approved a letter of support for the project and see it as offering significant improvement and benefit to our broader community as well as to CBA. CBA has the single-longest frontage on the Greenway
and we’re excited about the potential for community partnership. To learn more and to add your support, visit:

Have a safe and happy summer everyone!

Cheers, Carolyn

Conservative/Masorti Movement Expresses Anger at Immigrant Detention Centers

The Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism expressed intense anger today at the status of immigrant detention in the United States, particularly reports of children being held in inhumane conditions and that a former internment camp used during World War II for Japanese-Americans at Fort Still, Oklahoma is now slated to be used as a new detention center for immigrant children.

The movement issued the following joint statement:

“Today, most Americans recognize the 1940’s internment of American citizens of Japanese descent as immoral, illegal, and certainly lamentable. How tragic that America is again on the verge of incarcerating a new generation, this time of would-be immigrants. Hundreds and thousands of people are so desperate for a better life that they flee to the United States of America, knowing that the country’s leader says they are not wanted, and once here are placed in pens, cages, jails and prisons. Our government is paying for-profit companies with arguably no supervision and no oversight to hold these human beings, for unlimited time in subhuman conditions.

Judaism has a strong tradition of calling for loving the stranger (Deut 10:19) because we were strangers in a strange land. Two of the most powerful values Judaism teaches are the dignity of all creatures (k’vod habriyot) and b’tzelem Elohim, the firm belief that each and every human being is created in the image and likeness of God.

Our tradition values children. They are our future and our hope. Yet today in this country, we leave them in outdoor detention pens , with no diapers for babies, no toothpaste, no soap, often no clothes to speak of, and certainly no toys.

Children must be reunited with their families immediately and everyone seeking asylum at our borders deserves a fair hearing. We need more judges and more adjudication of asylum seekers at our borders, not more camps. We need more humanity and sympathy. Not more camps.

Further, we continue our support for a fair immigration policy that guarantees due process in immigration proceedings and protects the civil liberties of immigrants. We vehemently oppose capricious immigration raids like the one recently proposed.

To detain human beings in prison-like conditions, for undetermined amounts of time, despite the fact that they are not charged with any crime is unconscionable. Today’s transfer of children is only the first of many critical steps needed. The detention centers must be closed. Now. The United States of America and the Jewish community know this all too well from our histories. When we say never again, we mean it.”

Rabbinical Assembly
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Cantors Assembly
Jewish Educators Assembly
The Jewish Theological Seminary
Jewish Youth Directors Association
Masorti Olami
Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano
The North American Association of Synagogue Executives
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism 

Mordecai Miller, Rabbi Congregation Beth Ami

Social Action Report

The Social Action Committee (SAC) is a committee comprised of many dedicated people who volunteer to spread good will and Tikun Olam to our Beth Ami Kehilla and the greater Sonoma County community. Thanks to our members: Susan Miller, Ellen Mundell, Judi Hyman, Carol Swanson, Lenore Holloway, Rita Kagan, Tish Levee, Cheryle Miller, Michelle Zygielbaum, Karen Herskovic, Bernard Soltes, Judy Gunnar and Lyla Nathan and Bobbi Rosenthal. (Co-Chairs). This year we made a commitment to have one activity a month in which we come together to help in the community.
We alternately serve dinner at The Palms, subsidized housing that serves previous homeless Veterans and clients from Catholic Charities, or volunteer at the Redwood Empire Food Bank. After we volunteer at the food bank we often go out for a fun dinner at a close by Mexican restaurant. We always hope that you will join us for either event. Great way to do some good and build community.

For many years we supplied Jewish Family and Children’s Services Pantry food collected from members of Beth Ami. We also went to the food bank and picked up fresh food for the pantry. Unfortunately, JFCS has moved and doesn’t have space for the pantry. Hopefully, someday, this needed service will return. However, we are still collecting food for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. So, please continue to bring healthy, and low sodium items to the shul. There are thousands of hungry people in our area. The summer is a particularly difficult time for the food bank as people go on vacation and are less aware of the community needs. Remember, hunger has no calendar. Thank so much to everyone’s continued support.
This year we joined with the nursery school providing needed toiletries for folks who could use an extra pickup. Thanks to Pricilla, her staff and the wonderful children and their parents for assembling over 100 bags. Never too early to start practicing Tikun Olam. We are hoping to have this joint activity next year.

We also had a winter warm clothing and sleeping bag collection last year. We gave our items to The Living Room, a day shelter for homeless women and children. Thanks for everyones generosity.
We participated in the Gay Pride Parade this year and hope to get more involved next year. Thanks to Rabbi Miller for always supporting the parade.

New members are always welcome to join SAC. We have monthly meetings, generally the first Tuesday of the month at 12:30.
Our next activity is at The Palms on Wednesday, July 17th from 4:30–6 p.m.
For more information please call Elizabeth Jarlsberg in the office 707-360-3000 or Lyla Nathan 707-526-7438. Thanks for supporting us and our community!

Rabbinical Assembly Statement on Reproductive Freedom

The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, issued the following statement tonight on Alabama’s new abortion law: The Rabbinical Assembly is deeply troubled by the enacting of today’s abortion law in Alabama and believes it should and will be struck down by federal courts. 

Reproductive freedom is again under assault in our nation, beginning today in Alabama, where the state has effectively banned abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalized the procedure for doctors.

It is further under attack in other states’ so-called Personhood Acts and Life at Conception Acts, including in Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio.

This position is based on our members’ understanding of relevant biblical and rabbinic sources as well as teshuvot – modern rabbinic responsa. Jewish tradition cherishes the sanctity of life, including the potential of life which a pregnant woman carries within her, but does not believe that personhood and human rights begin with conception, but rather with birth as indicated by Exodus 21:22-23.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly has affirmed the right of a woman to choose an abortion in cases where “continuation of a pregnancy might cause the mother severe physical or psychological harm, or where the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective.”

Denying a woman and her family full access to the complete spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including contraception, abortion-inducing devices, and abortions, among others, on religious grounds, deprives women of their Constitutional right to religious freedom.

The Rabbinical Assembly supports full access for all women to the entire spectrum of reproductive healthcare and opposes all efforts by government, private entities, or individuals to limit such access or to require unnecessary procedures. We also oppose so-called “personhood” legislation on the federal and state levels that would confer legal rights under the law to a fetus or an embryo.

The RA has consistently supported these reproductive freedoms for nearly 50 years.

However, recent legislative efforts in the United States on both the federal and state levels pose new threats to reproductive freedom, beginning today in Alabama. Other threats include so-called “heartbeat” bills in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Ohio.

The Rabbinical Assembly emphatically opposes all such laws and legislative or executive moves.


It is at times like these that we are especially aware of how vulnerable human life is, even as we work to make our institutions increasingly safe and more secure. At the Beth Ami campus we are working to ensure greater protection for all who walk through our gate, and to keep any who might wish us harm from entering. This is our responsibility and we take it very seriously. May God protect all our going and our coming.               b’Shalom,                                                                

Mordecai Miller, Rabbi, Congregation Beth Ami.            

Carolyn Metz,  President, Congregation Beth Ami                

Pesach is on the way

Pesach is on the way … so it’s time for the Moon Mavens to touch base with Passover recipes and treats.

Join us on Sunday, April 7 at 11am for a potluck dairy/pareve brunch at Congregation Beth Ami’s Multipurpose Room (and maybe kitchen, if we devise a recipe for us to create). We’ll still have our ritual songs, poems, and learning.

We’ll also update the lights on the Yahrzeit board to reflect those we remember for Nisan.

Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein 953-4385 (phone and text) or

When Adar arrives…

When Adar arrives our joy increases! This year we have two Adars, so how much more joyful can we be? Join the Moon Mavens on Thursday, March 7 @ 7pm in the Beth Ami Social Hall/Multipurpose Room for ritual, changing the Memorial Plaque lights for the new month, noshing (bring a snack to share, please), and making masks for Purim! Susan Bercu will introduce the mask making by sharing some insights behind her mask art.

If you have sparkles, feathers, yarn, etc. to use to decorate your mask … by all means, bring them.
Questions? Contact Patty Bernstein ( or 953-4385)