Americana Jam Band

AmericanaJamBandAmericana is a cholent – a rich stew – of diverse musical dialects and perspectives, including folk, bluegrass, country, soul, gospel, rock, and more.

Like the Jewish experience, though, Americana’s disparate elements work in unison to create an original sound and story that we recognize as specifically American.

Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Derailers, The Lone Bellow, and Son Volt – all of these artists and performers are on the same familiar road, searching for a way back home. We are their fellow travelers.

Congregation Beth Sholom invites you to experience the Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat!

It’s a folk-rock jam session with a Jewish soul, a casual prayer service with country swagger. If you like to sing and/or play an instrument (think piano, guitar, double bass, melodica, harmonica, or vibraphone), pull up a chair and join the jam on select Friday nights in 2017-18. Maybe you won't always play "in the pocket", but that’s not the point – it’s about our journey. Together, we’ll make music in a sacred space and create something new and meaningful as we mark the week’s end and the arrival of Shabbat.

Let's jam on Friday, April 27, 2018! The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat service is free.

Member Profile : Mark & Jenny Bernstein

Today, we invite you to meet (or reconnect) with congregants Mark & Jenny Bernstein.


How long have you been members of Beth Sholom?
Mark: Approximately 18 years.

Jenny: About 40 years.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
Mark: Since 1989.

Jenny: I'm a San Francisco native.

Mark, where are you from originally?
Mark: New York.

What kind of work do you do?
Mark: I'm a technical writer and manager at Apple.

Jenny: I'm a graduate student at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in Special Education.

Do you have any hobbies or other pursuits that are important to you? If so, what?
Mark & Jenny: Reading, watching movies, hiking, exploring San Francisco museums and playgrounds with our three-year-old son, Dylan, going to Warriors' and A's games, and taking road trips.

What’s your favorite movie, book, or album? Why?
Mark & Jenny: Our favorite movie is Young Frankenstein. It's hilarious and witty, and brings tremendous joy and endless laughter – never gets old.

Jenny: For books, anything by Joyce Carol Oates. I especially enjoyed Them. I love getting lost in the worlds she creates.

Mark: My book pick is Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez. Amazing writing and a beautiful story.

For album, it's just so hard to choose, but let's go with a three-way tie between Joni Mitchell's Blue, Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town. Oh, and, The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street. Okay. So, four. I'll stop now!

Jenny: I'll go with Florence and the Machine's Lungs.

Mark & Jenny: And we'll both add Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Classic!

What’s your most meaningful Jewish memory?
Mark & Jenny: There are so many! Our top two are:
1. Watching our older children, Anastasia, Daniel, Alexander, and Emma grow up at Beth Sholom and become b'nai mitzvah.
2. Our marriage under the chupah in the sanctuary!

What, if anything, makes Beth Sholom special for you?
Mark & Jenny: The sense of community and the great friends we've made over the years. Also, Rabbi Glazer. His sermons are always inspiring and are profoundly meaningful to us. His spirituality connects us to our Jewish identities and the Beth Sholom community – plus he's nurtured our appreciation for Leonard Cohen!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the community?
We feel grateful to have been part of the wonderful Beth Sholom community for so many years. It is truly our second home – a place where we always feel comfortable, spiritually nurtured, and connected, and a place that has given our family so many special moments and memories over the years.

Americana Jam Band Returns!

AmericanaJamBandAmericana is a cholent – a rich stew – of diverse musical dialects and perspectives, including folk, bluegrass, country, soul, gospel, rock, and more.

Like the Jewish experience, though, Americana’s disparate elements work in unison to create an original sound and story that we recognize as specifically American.

Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Derailers, The Lone Bellow, and Son Volt – all of these artists and performers are on the same familiar road, searching for a way back home. We are their fellow travelers.

Congregation Beth Sholom invites you to experience the Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat!

It’s a folk-rock jam session with a Jewish soul, a casual prayer service with country swagger. If you like to sing and/or play an instrument (think piano, guitar, double bass, melodica, harmonica, or vibraphone), pull up a chair and join the jam on select Friday nights in 2017-18. Maybe you won't always play "in the pocket", but that’s not the point – it’s about our journey. Together, we’ll make music in a sacred space and create something new and meaningful as we mark the week’s end and the arrival of Shabbat.

Let's jam on Friday, March 23, 2018! The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat service is free.

Pesach – Day 5

Facebook_CoverDesign_Pesach5777"Roots, man — we’re talking about Jewish roots, you want to know more? Check on Elijah the prophet. … yeah — these are my roots, I suppose. Am I looking for them? … I ain’t looking for them in synagogues … I can tell you that much." — Bob Dylan, 1983

Is the Messiah a person or a process of redemption?

In my forthcoming book on Bob Dylan’s gnostic theology, God Knows Everything Is Broken, I argue that the Hibbing bard fell prey to the allure of messianic personhood one night in a Tucson hotel room, as he described his own experience: "I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up." Months later, Dylan again found himself alone in empty arena sound-checks. Through these solitary communions, he worked up a new song, "Slow Train," which served, amid larger questions with ineffable answers, as his own journey through a messianic process.

Meanwhile, many of his Jewish listeners turned a deaf ear to his next three albums. That's unfortunate, because they are necessary listening if you want to hear how Dylan’s "conversion songs" are inextricably linked to his ongoing, post-conversion work.

Following a few short years of "conversion," Dylan, in 1983, released "Infidels," a virulent self-critique, embarking on "a very personal battle to construct a world view that retains [his] faith in both God and humanity." Around this time, Dylan even recorded an album of Hasidic songs (the bootlegged out-takes are called "From Shot to Saved"). It is through the outreach of Rabbi Manis Friedman that Dylan found his direction home, and Chabad legend has it that the Hibbing bard prayed in a hoodie at the Crown Heights headquarters. During Dylan’s first appearance before the late Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson at his farbrengen, a traditional Hasidic gathering, the latter did not acknowledge the former because of his apostate status – only after Dylan immersed in a mikvah to return to his Jewish self would the rebbe smile at him at the next farbrengen.

While this "re-conversion" story is kept under wraps, Dylan’s public return to roots was still misunderstood as a returning of a secularist, or nonobservant Jew. Perhaps their singing spokesperson accepted the darkening spiritual awareness that "everything is broken." Yet the return to his Jewish roots, for Dylan, was more radical. Importantly, he returned not as a zealot, which "Infidels" rejects, but as a Jew devoid of Orthodox ideology. In his perennial reinventions, Dylan’s pendulum swings — not merely from one orthodoxy to another — but from orthodoxy to heterodoxy. Already wobbling into heterodoxy in 1985, Dylan remarks: "Whether you believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah is irrelevant, but whether you’re aware of the messianic complex, that’s … important … People who believe in the coming of the Messiah live their lives right now, as if He was here …"

Unlike the medieval Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, who aborted his messianic meeting to convert Pope Nicholas III in 1279, Dylan’s modern messianic mission with Pope John Paul II in 1997 was met with equally dubious reception as the Vatican called him "a false prophet." Did Dylan believe his messianic search had evolved from personhood to process, to then dissolve the differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?

Like every SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) seeker so allergic to setting foot in a synagogue, Dylan eventually returns home to the root of his soul. Being "aware of the messianic complex" demarcates the theology of Dylan’s songbook and enables its rapid shift, from the apocalyptic songs to those affirming a personal sense of gratitude for his redemption. This struggle to clarify the source of messianism emerges in many lyrics, for example, in "Pressing on to a Higher Calling" (from the 1980 album "Saved"), which points to the shift from personhood to process. Such a journey, especially when it is frustratingly circuitous, is only possible by struggling with messianism as a process.

So for Pesach, don’t leave home! Rather stay attuned during the seder. Open that door at home for Elijah and see there is really an internalizing shift taking place, from messianic personhood to process. It is an opening to that "kind of sign [each and every one of us] need[s] when it all come[s] from within"!

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer
(This piece originally appeared in J. Jewish News of Northern California, April 7, 2017).

Artwork note: This week’s illustration depicts the Korban Pesach, or "sacrifice of Passover." Also referred to as the Paschal lamb, it figures prominently in Christian rhetoric, where Jesus Christ is portrayed as the ultimate sacrificial lamb, or Lamb of God. The illustration seemed a fitting accompaniment to Rabbi Glazer's examination of Bob Dylan's messianic search. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

It's Americana Jam Band Time!

AmericanaJamBandAmericana is a cholent – a rich stew – of diverse musical dialects and perspectives, including folk, bluegrass, country, soul, gospel, rock, and more. Like the Jewish experience, though, Americana’s disparate elements work in unison to create an original sound and story that we recognize as specifically American. Woody Guthrie, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Derailers, The Lone Bellow, and Son Volt – all of these artists and performers are on the same familiar road, searching for a way back home. We are their fellow travelers.

Congregation Beth Sholom (CBS) invites you to experience the Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat! It’s a folk-rock jam session with a Jewish soul, a casual prayer service with country swagger. If you like to sing and/or play an instrument (think piano, guitar, double bass, melodica, harmonica, or vibraphone), pull up a chair and join the jam on select Friday nights in 2016-17. Maybe you won't always play "in the pocket", but that’s not the point – it’s about our journey. Together, we’ll make music in a sacred space and create something new and meaningful as we mark the week’s end and the arrival of Shabbat.

Let's jam on Friday, May 26, at 6:30 p.m.! The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat service is free, but pre-registration is required – please take a quick minute to sign up below.

Mark your calendar for all of the Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat dates:
October 28, November 25, January 27, February 24, March 24, April 28, May 26, June 23, July 28, August 25