Jewish State or State of the Jews? Recap

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On Saturday, November 11, the Achshav Yisrael committee of Beth Sholom presented Jewish State or State of the Jews: The Role of the Conservative/Masorti Movement in the Israeli Religious & Cultural Leadership of the State with Yizhar Hess, CEO of the Masorti / Conservative Movement in Israel. The presentation was generously sponsored by the Steve Sloan Family.

Yizhar described the imbalance of state-sponsored rabbis in Israel, saying that the Orthodox had about 300 rabbis and the numbers of Masorti or Conservative rabbis were about 70. He went into detail in describing the powerful influence of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate on the State and its laws, especially focusing on the laws pertaining to marriage and divorce.

Yizhar described the Masorti Movement as actively participating in leadership positions throughout the country and subsequently exerting more influence over its laws and practices. He himself has been very active in fighting to allow women to pray at the Kotel (Western Wall). In fact, Masorti struggles for egalitarian and non-judgmental approaches to all of Jewish life, including marriage, divorce, religious pluralism, and conversions.

Yizhar and his associate, Cyndy Schlachter, a close friend of the Sloan Family, brought flyers and other information on supporting the Masorti/Conservative Movement, and invite American Jews to visit their offices in Jerusalem. Their website is www.masorti.org, you can call their New York office at 212-870-2216 or their Israeli office at +972 (2) 565-8000, or you can arrange to visit in Israel at The Masorti Movement in Israel, 98 Derech Hevron, P.O.B. 7559, Jerusalem 91074, Israel.

ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: David Agam, Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, and Maureen Samson

Jewish State or State of the Jews?

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Buy your tickets for our upcoming Achshav Yisrael program!

"Jewish State or State of the Jews: The Role of the Conservative/Masorti Movement in the Israeli Religious & Cultural Leadership of the State" will take place on Saturday, November 11, 1 - 3 p.m., in the Sanctuary. The program will follow a community kiddush lunch (12 – 1 p.m.), which all program attendees are invited to.

Join Achshav Yisrael for a special program featuring Yizhar Hess, Executive Director of the Masorti Movement in Israel. Yizhar is a 10th generation Jerusalemite. Following his military service, Yizhar earned a BA in Political Science and Hebrew Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A member of the Israeli Bar, his law degree is from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He holds an MA in Jewish Studies from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem and is working towards a PhD at Sussex University, Brighton, England.

Yizhar has a broad range of experience in Jewish communal service. After holding the Deputy Director position at the Shorashim Centre for Jewish Studies, Yizhar served as the Jewish Agency’s community shaliach to Tucson. On his return to Israel, he worked for the Jewish Agency as Director of Partnerships. He is a regular contributor to the Israeli press on the subjects of religion and state and is the co-editor of the book, Questions About God, published by Ma’ariv in 1998. He is known as one of the leading voices in Israel promoting Jewish Pluralism and represents the Masorti-Conservative Movement in the negotiations with the Israeli government regarding egalitarian prayer at the Kotel.
Questions and conversation to follow his presentation.

Adults advance registration: $15
17 & under (or still in high school): FREE
Advance registration required for all ages (below or call 415.221.8736).


Those wanting to attend who can not afford the standard admission fee due to financial hardship should contact the CBS office in advance to work out an exceptional fee.

ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: David Agam, Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, and Maureen Samson

Matot / Massei -- Numbers 30:2 – 36:13

Facebook_CoverDesign_MasseiParashat Matot

The final of the four tangible ways of measuring the intangibles of intentional community that I learned with Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel is Meaningfulness: "My uniqueness is an important resource and influence for the group."

As we read this week in Parashat Matot, Moses divides up the community according to tribes, assigning land and leadership roles accordingly as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. The Torah provides two names for the twelve tribes of Israel, both derived from the imagery of the tree: shevatim and matot. While a shevet is a "branch," a mateh is a "staff" – the former attached to the tree, the other detached. In other words, a mateh is a shevet that has been uprooted from its tree.

The twelve tribes embody this tension between unity and division. Eager to settle in plots east of the Jordan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, later joined by half of the tribe of Manasseh, demand these plots as their portion in the Promised Land. Moses, initially angered by this special request, subsequently agrees – on the condition that they join and lead Israel’s conquest of the lands west of the Jordan.

Today, we continue to face this tension in our modern Jewish tribe. We struggle between mateh and shevet Judaism, between denominationalism and unity, and between Conservative Judaism and "Just Jewish."

Both of these perennial tendencies of creating and grouping community are part of the Tree of Jewish communal Life; the question is how we strike a balance between our need for ideological affinity within a given denomination and the need to be a part of a unified peoplehood.

Parashat Massei

"One can find a squalid America as easily as a scenic America; a bitter, hopeless America as easily as the confident America of polyethylene wrapping, new cars, and camping trips in the summer."

For Robert Kennedy (1925–1968), the U.S. Attorney General (during his brother's administration) and U.S. Senator who was assassinated in 1968, camping is a scenic part of our American pioneering spirit (rather than a squalid one).

So when we read this week of the journey of the Israelites and the record of their forty-two station stops in encampments along the way to the Promised Land – from the Exodus to the plains of Moab across the river from the land of Canaan – we would be well served in reading into it a sense of real joy. As we approached our destination, the boundaries of the Promised Land were traced, and more importantly, Cities of Refuge were designated as havens, places of exile for inadvertent murderers. (How telling that the Cities of Refuge, which are an advanced institution dedicated to creating civil society and thus protecting it from the circle of bloodshed that comes with revenge, are referred to time after time in Scripture – here in Numbers as well as in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua.)

In the final surveying of laws relating to the land, we confronted the issue of inheritance head-on. The daughters of Tzelafochad – as proto-feminists – decide to marry within their own tribe of Manasseh to ensure that the estate which they inherit from their father should not pass to the province of another tribe.

Throughout the parsha, the land ultimately serves as a horizontal platform for action, one that always binds us in a vertical relationship to what is right, just, and compassionate – the divine. Just as we journey across lands here on earth, we must not forget the journey of the soul.

Although journeys on land may be long and treacherous, there is no greater journey than the turn inwards. Each Shabbat, we are offered this chance to slow down and share in this ongoing spiritual journey with our community.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration is concerned with worldly boundaries, the lines we etch into or lay over the landscape to demarcate property and/or spheres of influence. "When you arrive in the land of Canaan, this is the land which shall fall to you as an inheritance, the land of Canaan according to its borders." (Numbers 34:2) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

David Malman, Calligrapher & Mensch

Facebook_DavidMalman_SiddurMinyanBookPlate_GronowskiFamilyChapel_CBS_August2016In February 2016, our twice-daily egalitarian minyan was featured by J Weekly. The article emphasized just how important our CBS minyan is to the larger Bay Area Jewish community.

"San Francisco is home to about a dozen egalitarian congregations, yet Beth Sholom, a Conservative synagogue in the Inner Richmond, is the only one that provides the essential community service of a daily minyan. I say it’s essential because of the Jewish practice of saying Kaddish daily for 11 months after the passing of a loved one, a practice more common among liberal, egalitarian Jews than one might assume."

We’re proud of our minyan. Many members describe it as our congregation’s "beating heart." Our regular daveners (prayer participants) join the minyan because they want to be there for every person who needs to pray, recite the mourner's Kaddish, or recall the anniversary of a loved one’s passing with communal support. CBS is the minyan's home, providing space, financial support, and leadership, but the minyan is literally and figuratively "made" by those who participate – people like congregant David Malman.

Years ago, David and his wife, fellow congregant Ellen Shireman, read an issue of CJ Voices, the magazine of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), that included a feature about an East Coast minyan that presented a personalized siddur (prayer book) to individuals who came regularly to say Kaddish for a loved one. Ellen and David were inspired by the lovely tradition, and decided that CBS should and could offer the same.

Facebook_DavidMalman1_SiddurMinyanBookPlate_Boardroom_CBS_August2016Facebook_DavidMalman2_SiddurMinyanBookPlate_Boardroom_CBS_August2016"The people who come [to say Kaddish] do it to honor their parent or loved one," David told me recently, "but the rest of the minyan deeply appreciates it. It’s a kind of symbiosis – the minyan supports the mourners, but, through their regular presence for those months, the mourners support the minyan."

In 2008, David approached Rabbi Micah Hyman, then the spiritual leader of CBS, and proposed that CBS adopt the siddur gifting tradition. Once Rabbi Hyman was on board, David bought a calligraphy pen and obtained a number of siddurim and label stickers from the CBS office. The next step? Learning how to create calligraphy for the bookplates David would place in the front of each siddur.

"When we read that [CJ Voices] article, I thought about it and said to Ellen, 'I know how to do this!' I’ve been fascinated with letters since I was a kid." As a teenager, David practiced writing calligraphy in English and even dabbled with some Hebrew. Later, in his twenties, when the art career of David Moss took off, he was reminded of how moving calligraphy and Judaica can be. "I was looking at these insanely beautiful ketubot…and [the work] broke my heart." David considered picking up the practice again, but his calligraphic impulse lay dormant until he and Ellen decided to get married in 2005. "When I started thinking about our ketubah," he recalled, "I felt I should do it – create the calligraphy." And so he did. Today, the ketubah that David created, which incorporates both English and Hebrew text, hangs in their home. "I guess it worked out!," he said with a smile.

Facebook_DavidMalman3_SiddurMinyanBookPlate_Boardroom_CBS_August2016The labels David used for his first CBS siddurim bookplates were small, and fewer lines of text could fit; as a result, only English text was included. As his calligraphic confidence grew, so, too, did the label size. Today, each bookplate features an English inscription as well as the name of the memorialized individual in both English and Hebrew. The date on which the deceased passed away is also included, using both the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars. David points out that the date serves a practical purpose – whenever the siddur owner wants to double check the date of their loved one’s Yahrzeit, they need only crack their prayer book.

Since 2008, David has created approximately 20 bookplates. His process and specific approach continue to evolve. Currently, David is trying to find the ideal label stock. The original, smaller labels took the ink well, with little bleeding. He hopes to find a larger label that does the same. The personalized siddur gifting practice has also spread; David and Ellen are evening minyan regulars, but the morning "minyan-aires" learned of the practice through the CBS grapevine and soon adopted it.

Facebook_DavidMalman2_SiddurMinyanBookPlate_GronowskiFamilyChapel_CBS_August2016What hasn’t changed in almost a decade is the bookplates’ purpose and the hand creating them. Each is crafted with care by David, placed in a siddur, and presented to a minyan participant who completes the 11-month period of mourning. (Occasionally, if the last day of Kaddish is missed, the presentation will occur on the first Yahrzeit of the deceased.) David describes this presentation as “a tiny ritual, maybe 20 seconds long,” but its brevity is not a reflection of its meaningfulness or sincerity.

Each bookplate is a handsome artifact. David, ever humble, attributes this to the art of calligraphy rather than his particular hand. He thinks that the Hebrew letters, in particular, are "extremely beautiful," and not just aesthetically. "We’re the People of the Book. Our letters are the atomic particles of our civilization. When you look at these pieces, you might think, 'Oh, they’re just bookplates,' but they’re not. Each one is a little brick in the greater Jewish building." This is true with respect to language – David points out that including both the English and Hebrew helps Hebrew literacy – but also klal Yisrael (all of the Jewish people). "Fundamentally, this is a community building enterprise. It enriches our community and it enriches the history of these books – it's all about continuity. When these become 'feral' siddurim, set out into the wild, someone will open these prayer books and see names and a date, and know a bit more about where this book lived and whose lives it touched. That’s important."

It is, indeed. Kol HaKavod, David! Thank you for this wonderful mitzvah!

CBS encourages all community members to sustain and strengthen our twice-daily minyan through participation. As David points out, ours is the only egalitarian minyan "between Los Angeles and Vancouver, and perhaps west of the Rockies with the exception of Phoenix [and the aforementioned cities]." Pick one day of the week (or even just one day a month), and commit to joining the minyan for davening in the morning, evening, or both. Not only will you sometimes have the privilege and honor of making minyan when a mourner from outside the community has come to CBS to say Kaddish; you might even find yourself surprised by the value of a regular commitment to Jewish prayer.

Kadima Konvention Recap

Facebook_GroupPhoto2_KadimaKonvention_MarchApril2017CBS is proud to have hosted Kadima Konvention 2017 this past weekend (March 31 – April 2, 2017). The Kadima Konvention is a regional gathering for children in Kadima, the middle school arm of United Synagogue Youth (USY), the youth organization of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). Kids in Grades 6 and 7 from all over Northern California were invited to participate in a special weekend filled with fun activities, learning, Social Action/Tikkun Olam, and much more. CBS Youth Advisor David Agam, pictured above with some of the San Francisco Kadima-niks who attended, provided the following report.


In under 48 hours, our San Francisco Kadima-niks warmly welcomed their peers from all over the region, and bonded with them and with one another through team-building, play, prayer, film, food, games, lectures, intellectual conversation, contests, song, and, yes, even a little sleep.

A whopping 14 San Francisco Kadima-niks participated in the Konvention, representing over one third of the total participant body! On behalf of USY and CBS, I would like to thank the Kadima-nik families for bringing their kids to us and for allowing our event to take off the way it did. This San Francisco group is vibrant, diverse, and passionate; it plainly knows how to learn, grow, and have fun through living Jewishly together. I am so privileged to be a part of it.

Who made this wonderful Shabbaton possible?

· The Congregation Beth Sholom staff and community at large, including our indispensable host families;
· the USY Regional Executive Teen Board;
· the ever tireless New Frontier Regional Coordinator, Sarah Milller;
· USY/Kadima chapter advisors from all over the region;
· and, of course, the San Francisco USY/Kadima families.

I look forward to more such successful events through Kadima and USY with your children.


Check out some Havdalah pictures and a group photo that includes many of the Konvention participants.

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Israel Mission Remembrance (III)

From December 22, 2016 – January 2, 2017, almost 30 members of the CBS community traveled to Israel as part of the CBS/Kol Shofar Intergenerational Communal Family Mission. The trip itinerary was thoughtfully designed by Rabbis Aubrey Glazer and Susan Leider (Kol Shofar), and we've heard from many participants about how extraordinary and memorable an experience they had.

Today, we continue to share participant remembrances with another report from Lu Zilber on what she learnt about the West Bank and northern Israel during the trip. If you read these contributions and wish to join a future congregational mission to Eretz Yisrael, please let us know.


Facebook_LuZilberPhoto1_GolanTzafon (North)

On the long ride to Tzfat, our wonderful guide, Abraham, gave us the skinny on the territories – or the West Bank or Judea and Samaria. You get to pick what to call the place.

We travelled a road that parallels the Green Line. What, you ask, is the green line? It is the armistice line from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the War of Independence. It's referred to as the green line because that's the ink color used when they drew the armistice map. Geography shows you what's really going on here. In the old days, circa 1000 BCE, Jews lived in the hills of Judea and Samaria, which was located at a critical juncture point in the fertile crescent. The Philistines and other peoples of the region were in the coastal plains below. This made them vulnerable to the Jews; the Jews could easily attack from the heights. Concerned about this vulnerability, the Philistines attacked the Jews. There aren't any more Philistines, so you can see how well that plan worked out for them. Fast forward to the 19th century. Jews have discovered Zionism and start moving back to the land. Guess who is occupying the hills of Judea and Samaria? This gives them a clear shot at Ben Gurion Airport with nothing more than a shoulder-fired missile. Tel Aviv is also in range of a slightly larger weapon. The country is only 11 miles wide at this point!

So the point of the Israeli settlements is to surround the Arab towns located in the hills, thus preventing them from attacking. The same idea is at work in the Golan, except the Golan is unpopulated. So Israel has a "trilemma": it must keep itself secure while keeping itself a Jewish state while keeping itself a democracy. Netanyahu keeps getting reelected because he is doing NOTHING, which many view as preferable to change.

As of this date, there are no settlements on Arab land. (Land ownership is a debate for another day.) But as you ride north from Jerusalem, you understand the trilemma clearly. By the way, who lives in the settlements? The world press likes to focus on the right wing nut jobs but, in reality, most of the residents are commuters with jobs in Tel Aviv (remember the settlements are only 11 miles away!).

We got to Tzfat just before Mincha and visited the Yosef Caro Synagogue. After the expulsion from Iberia in 1492, several tzadiks settled in Tzfat: Isaac Luria, Yosef Caro, and others. They formed small havruta (communities) and basically invented Kabbalah. We were granted an hour for shopping, but the shops, which on my last visit were manned by the artists themselves, are now gone quite commercial. You can find magnificent Judaica at magnificent prices, but I was disappointed on the whole.

The Golan

We got into Land Rover jeeps and drove from our lovely kibbutz hotel, the Pastoral at K'far Blum, to the Golan Heights. Golan is the mountainous region looking down on northern Israel. We stopped at a lookout point that was once a Syrian gun emplacement. I took pictures, including the one you see accompanying this post. The emplacements were aimed directly at the kibbutzim below. Our guide grew up in the nearby town and told us he couldn't count how many shells rained down each day of his childhood. Rained down on a civilian population, mind you. As our guide, Abraham, says, "they didn't want us in Europe, they don't want us here, they don't want us anywhere."

In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, there were only 50 manned tanks on guard duty. Everyone else left to go celebrate the holiday. The tanks were manned by terrified 19-year-old soldiers; the senior officer was 23. Because the Syrians had to line up in single file in order to move through the pass between the volcanos, the Israelis were able to hold off several hundred Syrian tanks and 1,200 military vehicles in all. They aimed at the first and the last in a group, immobilizing them, then they could pick off the middle tanks. The ones that got through eventually turned back because they were running out of gas. The 50 Israeli tanks were reduced to seven during the Syrian attack, but those seven then attacked the Syrians. Their commander told them there was no one to stop the Syrians getting to Haifa but them.

During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israelis finished capturing Nasser's forces in Sinai and then started on the Golan. The United Nations (UN) was about to vote on a resolution to end the fighting. Abba Eban was the UN rep and was told to filibuster until the Israelis had time to take the Golan. He spoke for 12 hours.

There was a Mossad agent who had grown up in Egypt, was fluent in Arabic and had a swarthy complexion. His name was Eli Cohen. He posed as a Syrian business man and befriended the Assistant Defense Minister of Syria. He wrangled a trip to the Golan and noticed the emplacements were hidden behind clumps of trees. This info was passed on to the Israeli army, who then knew exactly where to strike. That's how the Israelis were able to capture the Golan in 12 hours.

Israel Mission Remembrance (II)

From December 22, 2016 – January 2, 2017, almost 30 members of the CBS community traveled to Israel as part of the CBS/Kol Shofar Intergenerational Communal Family Mission. The trip itinerary was thoughtfully designed by Rabbis Aubrey Glazer and Susan Leider (Kol Shofar), and we've heard from many participants about how extraordinary and memorable an experience they had.

Today, we continue to share participant remembrances with a wonderful report from Lu and Norman Zilber on full, inspiring days in Jerusalem. If you read these contributions and wish to join a future congregational mission to Eretz Yisrael, please let us know.


Facebook_LuZilberPhoto1_JerusalemJerusalem shel matah, Jerusalem shel malah. Jerusalem of the earth, Jerusalem of the spirit. Today, we saw both.

When King Herod (the paranoid) rebuilt the Temple, he first built a platform with arches and a buttressing wall that leans inward to prevent the arches from expanding. All four of these outer walls are standing today, even after 2000 years. The westernmost one was closest to the spot where the Holy of Holies was located, so that’s the one we pray at today. The walls are comprised of gigantic stones weighing 400 tons each. How did they get them in place? They were rolled down from the northern side, which was the highest point.

We visited the Western Wall and said a Shehecheyanu. We then descended below to see Herod’s construction. We walked for over four hours today and are pooped, but Shabbat is approaching, so we meet our group in 15 minutes to walk to shul.

Our guide is fantastic. He is a treasure trove of history (which he calls our collective memory), architecture, and politics. For example, today’s Arab Muslims do not recognize the Jews' presence in Jerusalem because in fact they have no collective memory of our being there.

We climbed up on the roof of the city to see the Muslim Dome of the Rock, built circa 700 CE, the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque with its dome, and lo and behold, the Jews rebuilt the grand synagoge in their quarter with, you guessed it, a dome! Politics.

Norm’s two cents on Jerusalem

To leave the old city from the roof, we walked through a section that was a warren of streets with one room shops on top of each other.

It looked exactly like Istanbul, down to the packets of saffron and other exotic spices. Merchandise here caters to three religions. It's startling to see tallesim (or tallitot) hanging above wooden crèches (Nativity scenes).

Leyning Torah in Eretz Yisrael

We walked over a mile to the Masorti congregation where they generously gave our group a warm welcome and three aliyot. Our rabbi's niece and daughter read the first and second aliyot and I did the third (about Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers). My nervousness was dispelled by the crying babies and chattering congregants.

There was a couple about to get married and the congregation celebrated mightily. Because of this couple, there was a lovely kiddush following services. The food was better than the hotel's!

It's always a pleasure to attend services in another country. The traditions and melodies may differ a bit, but you always feel you belong and most people welcome us. We are having a restful Shabbat afternoon since tomorrow's schedule is another heavy day.

We visited (and had lunch at) the Mahane Yehuda Market, which reminded us of Istanbul, but on a smaller scale. Loads of vendors selling nuts, baklava, olives, halvah, pastries (no ruggelach, but heaps of various sufganiyot donuts), and spices, along with fish mongers and fruit and vegetable stands. We grabbed some delicious fish and chips, and shared a sufganiyah filled with caramel (yum!). We bought a selection of baklava and some hazel nuts and almonds. The baklava is much less sweet than what you find in the US and is chock-full of ground pistachios. We then walked to the "time elevator," a large screen film experience (your seat moves like a roller coaster) retelling the story of Jerusalem from the time of King David. Its all done in 30 minutes and is a bit hokey, but the kids thought it was “amazing."

Our bus then took us to a promenade above the city at sunset to get a view of the "City of Gold." Every couple of minutes, the view changed and got more and more beautiful.

- Lu Zilber

Responding to the Executive Order on Migration and Refugees

SS-St-LouisThis Shabbat, from 11 – 11:45 a.m., please join us for a special bimah dialogue featuring Rabbi Glazer, Dr. Lindsay Gifford (Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology, University of San Francisco), and Vlad Khaykin (Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco).

As the world faces the most severe refugee crisis since World War II, affecting tens of millions of displaced people, the current administration signed an Executive Order that halts U.S. refugee resettlement efforts. In solidarity with many leading American Jewish organizations, all arms of the Conservative movement released an official statement condemning the presidential order and calling upon Jews everywhere to advocate for the rights of immigrants and reject the targeting of any individual based on their religion.

In this Shabbat discussion, Rabbi Glazer, Lindsay, and Vlad will explore the urgency of the refugee crisis, how it relates to Jewish values and shared history, weigh security concerns and the refugee vetting process, and look at how tradition teaches us to responsibly respond to these challenges with the ethical imperative "not to stand idly by as the blood of your brother is at stake" (Leviticus 19:16).

Please join us. The interactive discussion will take place from 11 – 11:40 a.m., and will be preceded by our full Torah service (beginning at 9:40 a.m.

Lindsay Gifford is Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology at the University of San Francisco. She has worked on Middle Eastern migration and refugee issues for the past decade, including with members of the Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese communities, with field research experience in Syria, Jordan, and the transnational Middle Eastern Diaspora. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University and was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCLA. She also volunteers with refugee resettlement agencies in the US, and is a member of GenR, a professional advocacy group for the International Rescue Committee.

Vlad J. Khaykin is a former Jewish refugee and Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco. He holds a degree in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and graduate degrees in non-profit management and Near East and Jewish Studies from Brandeis University, where he focused on Jewish-Muslim relations and the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim migrant xenophobia.

Image credit: Jewish refugees aboard the German liner, St. Louis, June 29, 1939. (Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images/via JTA)

Matot/Massei -- Numbers 30:2 - 36:13

Facebook_CoverDesign_MatotMasseiParashat Matot

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), a German-born Swiss author, once remarked: "Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin."

Hesse’s universal vision of human enlightenment requires us to transcend our worldly boundaries. Ironically, religion is sometimes responsible for the very divisions that hinder transcendence into a spiritual realm.

As we read this week in Parashat Matot, Moses divides up the community according to tribes, assigning land and leadership roles accordingly as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. The Torah provides two names for the twelve tribes of Israel, both derived from the imagery of the tree: shevatim and matot. While a shevet is a "branch," a mateh is a "staff"—the former attached to the tree, the other detached. In other words, a mateh is a shevet that has been uprooted from its tree.

The twelve tribes embody this tension between unity and division. Eager to settle in plots east of the Jordan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, later joined by half of the tribe of Manasseh, demand these plots as their portion in the Promised Land. Moses, initially angered by this special request, subsequently agrees—on the condition that they join and lead Israel’s conquest of the lands west of the Jordan.

Today, we continue to face this tension in our modern Jewish tribe. We struggle between mateh and shevet Judaism, between denominationalism and unity, and between Conservative Judaism and "Just Jewish."

Both of these perennial tendencies of creating and grouping community are part of the Tree of Jewish communal Life; the question is how we strike a balance between our need for ideological affinity within a given denomination and the need to be a part of a unified peoplehood.

Parashat Massei

William Henry Ashley (1778-1838), an American congressman and fur trader, once described the pace of his trapping expeditions: "As my men could profitably employ themselves on these streams, I moved slowly along, averaging not more than five or six miles per day and sometimes remained two days at the same encampment."

If the pace of Ashley’s journey seems slow, consider that of the Israelites. Along the way to the Promised Land—from the Exodus to the plains of Moab across the river from the land of Canaan — the Israelites record forty-two station stops in encampments. As we approached our destination, the boundaries of the Promised Land were traced, and more importantly, Cities of Refuge were designated as havens, places of exile for inadvertent murderers. (How telling that the Cities of Refuge, which are an advanced institution dedicated to creating civil society and thus protecting it from the circle of bloodshed that comes with revenge, are referred to time after time in Scripture – here in Numbers as well as in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua.)

In the final surveying of laws relating to the land, we confronted the issue of inheritance head-on. The daughters of Tzelafochad — as proto-feminists — decide to marry within their own tribe of Manasseh to ensure that the estate which they inherit from their father should not pass to the province of another tribe.

Throughout the parsha, the land ultimately serves as a horizontal platform for action, one that always binds us in a vertical relationship to what is right, just, and compassionate – the divine. Just as we journey across lands here on earth, we must not forget the journey of the soul.

Although journeys on land may be long and treacherous, there is no greater journey than the turn inwards. Each Shabbat, we are offered this chance to slow down and share in this ongoing spiritual journey with our community.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is concerned with "worldly boundaries," the lines we etch into or lay over the landscape to demarcate property and/or spheres of influence. "When you arrive in the land of Canaan, this is the land which shall fall to you as an inheritance, the land of Canaan according to its borders." (Numbers 34:2) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Camp Ramah Galim

Riding Your Wave In the Sea of Judaism: The Start-up Camp Ramah Galim

imgresThere is nothing quite like the oceanic rhythm of Camp Ramah campers and staff surrounding you from dawn till dusk. In those eternal moments, you begin to feel the pulse of this camp’s namesake — Galim. Singing, dancing, exploring, studying, rock climbing, scuba diving — an immersive summer at Camp Ramah in Northern California transforms hearts and minds to live Jewish lives.

Along with Elyssa and Talya, I have been blessed to visit, teach, and support our brand new Camp Ramah NorCal, known in Hebrew as Ramah Galim, or "Ramah of the Waves." Clearly, if we can create the ruach of Ramah amidst the strawberry fields of Watsonville, then we can do anything! Thanks to the devoted leadership of many, including CBS members Craig Miller and Alex Bernstein, Ramah Galim has been overwhelmed by the response of parents looking for a meaningful, authentic Jewish camping experience. Registration was expected at 100 and is now over 250! Who could resist such a panoply of ways to live your Judaism? Outdoor adventures, ocean explorations, and performing arts – each track of this new camp meets each child right where they are, lifting their souls ever higher.

Facebook_JoshHorwitz---AaronMiller---------RabbiGlazer_CampRamahNorcal_July2016 I've been part of Ramah since my second year as a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). Traveling to and teaching at almost every Ramah in the Northeast, it has become clear to me that the many unique Ramah traditions mark a transformational camping movement born from the vision of Conservative/Masorti Judaism; the movement continues to inspire and renew one generation to the next, producing Jewish leaders and families unlike any other!

And so this summer I brought deep expectations – along with my family (who joined many other rabbinic families from near and far) – to Ramah NorCal, the new jewel in the Bay Area Jewish community. As rabbi of CBS, along with our amazing Youth Advisor, David Herrera, we look forward to our ongoing partnership with Ramah Galim and its leadership (headed by Rabbi Sarah Shulman) Facebook_SarahShulmanLielRabbiGlazer_CampRamahNorcal_July2016with the goal of ensuring more and more Jewish campers feel their unique pulse as part of the waves of this oceanic blessing of Ramah Galim, and that this summer magic washes back through our communal family in the coming years.

While Elyssa was facilitating Jewish art and spiritual direction workshops for all ages, I was blessed to teach the staff and campers about some of the layers of meaning within the name Ramah Galim. This culminated with our dedication of the Aron HaKodesh during the camp's Founder’s Day, when I shared two "take-aways" from the Zohar on the mystery of galim, or waves. Firstly, to be children of galim is to be riding the waves of our ancestors, as the children of Abraham and Sarah who enacted mitzvot as innumerable as galei yam, the waves of the sea. Secondly, to download the taste of the world that is coming – that is, Shabbat — we must be as galim, for all exists within these waves, intermingled, heaps upon heaps, reaching out to all!

I am grateful for the ability to support and partner with Ramah Galim, and I know that the camp is so appreciative of the unconditional support provided by CBS. The pulsing rhythm of our CBS spiritual life will only be enhanced by continuing to support Jewish camping experiences and making spaces for informal, experiential Judaism to come alive in our community! As we welcome Rebecca Goodman to our team as Director of Youth Education,Facebook_RabbiGlazerArkDedication2_CampRamahNorcal_July2016 along with David Herrera who is been blessed to spend all summer with our campers at Ramah Galim, we have great things to look forward to together! May we continue to be and become children of galim! That is the secret of Ramah Galim and it is the secret of CBS. Let us continue to reach out to all, making new friends and deepening old friendships so that we continue building and nurturing our Jewish lives with love as deep as the ocean. May this summer immerse our children in the waves of inspiration that make up the oceanic blessing of Judaism. From these children inherit a better world, thanks to the actions we commit to take.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Photo captions:
- Josh Horwitz, Sam Toeman, Aaron Miller, Raquel Sweet, Nathan Fell, Adina Sweet, and Rabbi Glazer at Camp Ramah NorCal
- Rabbi Sarah Shulman, Liel Shulman, & Rabbi Glazer at Camp Ramah NorCal
- Rabbi Glazer speaking at the dedication of the Ramah Galim ark during Founder's Day

Special Message From Rabbi Glazer

NiceFranceHaving personally delivered a sefer Torah as part of a Masorti Olami mission with my former congregation to seed the newly formed Maayan Or in Nice, France, I once again write to our CBS communal family with a heavy heart. Following Thursday evening’s attack in Nice that left at least 80 dead and countless others injured, CBS, along with the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, released the following statement:

We are stunned and horrified by this latest terrorist attack in France. That this devastating attack came on Bastille Day, a national holiday celebrating liberty, magnifies its horror. Our prayers and sympathies to the families of the victims and the wounded as we once again stand in solidarity with the French people.

We join the international community in condemning this senseless attack, we pray for healing for those wounded, and we demand that all those responsible be brought to justice.

Join us this Shabbat at CBS for healing as we invoke the Hashkiveinu prayer, "May God protect our comings and goings for life and peace, now and forever."

May the memories of the victims be a blessing to those who loved and cherished them, to all of France and to all who seek peace.

Please consider supporting the healing efforts of our brothers and sisters in France here: https://masortiolami.org/one-time-donation/

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

The Financial Four -- May 31, 2016

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our volunteer Acting Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Donation_CBSYellowDear Fellow Congregants,

I don’t want to steal any thunder from this Sunday's Annual Meeting (June 5, 10 a.m., in Koret Hall), but there is plenty of financial news to share with you and not enough time to get through it all on Sunday morning (no matter how much coffee we brew)! With that in mind, I'd like to provide readers with a few highlights from the last two weeks.

1. Our very own Incredibles. Many people said we shouldn’t raise dues, but I'm humbled to say that in addition to quite a few families committing to higher-than-expected giving levels (and paying in full already!), we have our first family supporting CBS as Rosh Pina (Cornerstone) level Parnas members, an incredibly generous $36,000/year commitment! Like Dale Carnegie says, you can’t get what you don’t ask for. Lesson learned!

2. Our tiniest, freshest members are coming in droves. Although the current school year isn’t yet at a close, we have more than 60 of 71 possible slots filled for next year’s CBS Family Preschool. To say that we signed up 3 families last week and have 3 more tours scheduled for this week is a good indicator of just how well we are serving our community’s need for cost-effective, Jewish preschool. Someone should make honey cookies for the preschoolers -- surely their learning life is off to a sweet start!

3. Making our money count. Now that we have a better handle on our shul finances, our next step is to make them effective. New insurance quotes may result in $18,000 of savings, and we have already reduced facilities costs by more than $2,000/month through better maintenance and employee scheduling.

4. Who doesn’t love a good Kiddush? May marked our first month of financial profit in the kitchen. Maybe it was the brisket, but people have really stepped up to sponsor food and drink (I think I see hard liquor at our buffet tables, no?). The generosity involved in these sponsorships, for b’nai mitzvot and any other reason you can think of, is a gorgeous tribute to all the things we stand for in Conservative Judaism -- feeding the homeless, gathering as a community, and making the profane (like the aforementioned alcohol) sacred.

Keep your eyes peeled in upcoming HaLuach newsletters for more updates. I look forward to keeping you informed and answering any questions you may have.

Kezayit: Not Every Jew Looks Like You

What's this Kezayit thing? Read here.

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Kone-Miller-family- Writing recently in Tablet Magazine, author David Margolick acknowledged the Jewish people's chauvinistic tribalism.

"Why is it we Jews are not only quick to claim someone as our own, but insist upon claiming all of him? For better or worse, though, we do: our fierce feeling of specialness is something we don’t want to share with anyone else. [...] Our chauvinism knows no bounds, and tolerates no asterisks."

Margolick made this admission in an essay exploring the Jewish antecedence of Supreme Court Justice nominee Merrick Garland, which he penned after reading a New York Times profile of Garland that included the following biographical detail.

"Friends say Judge Garland’s connection to Judaism runs deep. His father was Protestant, but he was raised as a Jew — he had a bar mitzvah in a Conservative synagogue — and he spoke movingly Wednesday of how his grandparents left Russia, 'fleeing anti-Semitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.'"

Upon learning that it was "only" Garland's mother who was Jewish, Margolick "felt instantly deflated," and became determined to dig deeper to see what could be turned up about Garland's paternal ancestry. In fact, Margolick learned, Garland's father is Jewish; the Times piece had reported Garland's father was Protestant in error. When the Gray Lady printed a correction, according to Margolick, "everywhere, Jews cheered."

Actually, this Jew didn't. If Garland identifies as a Jew (and is halachically Jewish as well!), why does it matter whether or not both of his parents are Jewish?

Louis-Jeff-used-for-BART-ad_smallerMargolick's article is a reminder that, for many contemporary, secular Jews, ethnic and genetic "purity" -- or yichus -- matters as much if not more than one's behavior or personal identification. Moreover, many members of the tribe (M.O.T.s) tend to prioritize our particularistic "subtribe" (e.g., Ashkenazim discounting Sephardic practice as alien or misguided rather than simply different, or Modern Orthodox Jews looking askance at their Reform brethren), further eroding the virtuous notion of klal Yisrael (the interconnection of all Jews).

Disappointingly, I can recall numerous conversations with fellow Jews, friends as well as relatives, who observed that Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel), Indian Jews (including the Bnei Menashe), and all manner of converts (gerim) "aren't real Jews." When I blanche, they'll often add something like, "You know what I mean, not genetically."

To be fair, whereas Judaism, the religion, and Jewishness, our ethnic/cultural identity, used to be inextricably intertwined, the two are now viewed as distinct by a large majority of Jewish Americans, and the comments of my friends and relatives reflect their prioritization of Jewishness over Judaism. They accept that Ethiopian Jews are Jews in the sense that they practice Judaism, but they lack any yiddishkeit, which is what qualifies them as "real" M.O.T.s.

Enter Debbie Rosenfeld-Caparaz of Lehrhaus Judaica and Dawn Kepler, Director of Building Jewish Bridges, who co-curated the photography exhibition, This is Bay Area Jewry, currently on view at Temple Sinai in Oakland. Kepler, quoted in a J Weekly article about the exhibition, points out that "many refer to the Bay Area as a diaspora of the diaspora," a region where Jewish identity is complex-compound. Kepler states that the exhibition aims to “[push] folks to think more deeply about what Jewish heritage means and to realize that there are lots of Jews, and not very many of them fit into that Ashkenazi stereotype.”

If, as some leading sociologists contend, the Bay Area offers a portrait of the future of American Jewry, Margolick will need to accept the fact that many dedicated and active Jews look very different from him and/or have very different origin stories. Moreover, a great many of us may have only one Jewish parent...or none!

Kol HaKavod to Rosenfeld-Caparaz and Kepler for conceiving of This is Bay Area Jewry, and to photographer Lydia Daniller and writer Robert Nagler Miller for their efforts, as well. For more information on the exhibition, click here.

Image credits: Both photographs by Lydia Daniller for This is Bay Area Jewry, 2016 -- Top: The Kone-Miller Family, members of CBS!

Rabbi's Message: 7th Day Passover 5776

CoverDesign3_PartingSeaNow that the seders are over, where is Passover leading us? What is the spiritual texture of the journey that leads us onwards as we reach the seventh day of Passover?

The seventh day of Passover is a time for reimagining what our world would look like — without Pharaoh, without the Angel of Death. It is a messianic moment on the journey to the Promised Land. We invite you to join us to explore the nuances of this spiritual texture!

This Friday at 9 a.m., Rabbi Moshe Levin and congregants from Congregation Ner Tamid will join our community in the Gronowski Family Chapel for a frielich celebration of this messianic moment (with some water surprises!) followed by an enhanced lunch together as joint Conservative communities.

The journey then continues on Saturday morning, with Zohar and meditation at 8:30 a.m. in Makom Shalom. I will share contemplative teachings from the Zohar on the secret of the seventh day of Passover followed by festival services and Yizkor. (This secret concerns a calving doe and a snake…)

This coming Shabbat of Passover offers many opportunities for us to delve deeper than the matzah meal into the heart of the matzah ball itself as we embrace the splitting of the Reed Sea, birthing a new spiritual reality. In our ongoing journey for freedom of the spirit, we will cross the narrow passages of our personal Egypts and emerge more passionate about Jewish communal life together, exploring what Job asked: “Can you really see the calving of does?” (Job 39:1).

Come join us on this spiritual journey and fall in love again with Judaism truly lived.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: The artwork that accompanies this post is an abstract representation of the parting of the Reed Sea. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Travel To Israel With The Intergenerational Communal Family Mission!

DaatHeaderCongregation Beth Sholom and Congregation Kol Shofar invite YOU to join us for an unforgettable Israel adventure!

CBS/Kol Shofar Intergenerational Communal Family Mission To Israel 2016
December 22, 2016 - January 2, 2017


The itinerary for this exciting and edifying trip was thoughtfully designed by Rabbis Aubrey Glazer and Susan Leider, who worked with Da'at Educational Expeditions to create an adventure that will provide spiritual, emotional, and educational nourishment to each and every participant. Pre- and post-b'nai mitzvah families may be especially interested in the group Torah service at Robinson's Arch in Jerusalem, a remarkable opportunity to celebrate Masorti/Conservative Judaism and Bay Area Jewry in Eretz Yisrael!

The icing on the cake? Abraham Silver, the lecturer who visited CBS in February and proved incredibly popular, will be our tour guide!

Together, we'll visit Jerusalem, the Golan, Tel Aviv, Masada, the Dead Sea, and much more. The complete trip itinerary is available as a digital catalog here and is also viewable as a simple list on the Da'at registration site.

The cost of the trip is $3,179/person, and that includes:
•9 nights of hotel accommodation, with late check-out on last day
•7 days of touring in a luxury, air-conditioned bus with a licensed, English-speaking tour guide
•2 walking tours with an English-speaking guide on Shabbatot
•1 group transfer and assistance from/to the airport
•All site entrance fees and program fees as per itinerary
•Meals: daily breakfast, 3 lunches, and 5 dinners
•Portage at the airport and hotels
DaatFlyer
REGISTER NOW FOR THIS EXCITING OPPORTUNITY!

Call the Da'at Customer Service Center:
888-811-2812 x 1

Visit the Da'at website and register online:
Da'at registration page

If you opt to call, please note that Da'at phone lines are open Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). If you register online, once on the trip's webpage, click the "Register Now" button to finalize your booking online.

In order to finalize registration, all participants will be asked to pay a $300 non-refundable deposit. Final payment is due 60 days prior to departure, and all travel documents (with e-ticket information, if applicable) and contact information will be sent to each participant approximately 3 weeks prior to departure.

Kezayit (An Olive's Worth): What's In A Name? (Or What's With Orev?)

CoverDesign2_RavenNow and again, someone asks me why I sign my CBS emails with a two-part first name: Christopher Orev. Fair question.

In day-to-day life, I prioritize my given, secular name, Christopher. In this respect, I'm like most Jewish Americans. My patronymic Hebrew name, Orev ben Avraham Avinu v' Sarah Imanu, is known by very few people and used by fewer still, generally reserved for use in a ritual context.

So why, then, do I insist on writing Christopher Orev? Because my Hebrew name is very important to me, and I feel it should appear in formal correspondence, especially in a Jewish context. Because the name itself is unusual, however, I'm often asked what it means. Not long ago, Rabbi Glazer suggested that I share the origin of the name on the CBS blog in the hopes that a handful of readers might find my explanation of interest.

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Those well-versed in Tanakh might worry that I've chosen Orev in some misguided tribute to one of the two Midianite chieftains killed in Shoftim 7:25. But, no, the ill-fated Midianite is not my namesake.

Because Orev means 'raven,' some friends of mine have assumed that my choice stems from my fondness for natural history and especially for reviled and misunderstood species. I am fascinated and excited by ravens, but that partiality isn't my principal motivation, either. Instead, I chose Orev because of the raven's mysterious role in the story of Noah.

"And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. He sent out the raven, and it kept going and returning until the drying of the waters from upon the earth. And he sent out the dove from him to see whether the water had subsided from the face of the ground." (Bereshit 8:6-8).

Where did the raven go?

Contemporary biblical critics contend that the raven's disappearance is evidence of the biblical narrative's many sources. According to these scholars, when the stories of Torah were first edited and assembled, scribes often included details from differing accounts (rather than choosing between them). By this reckoning, one of the ancient riffs on the flood story had it that a raven was released while another, slightly different version of the tale assigned the recon flight to a dove. The two versions were simply spliced together so that Noah released the raven and then the dove.

The literary, analytical, and rational inclinations of this particular Torah reader make me appreciative of such striking examples of narrative juxtaposition and mythmaking. But while I appreciate our sacred text through a decidedly non-supernatural lens, I also invest Torah with much social and mystical power. These two, very different approaches to Torah — one universalist and secular, the other specific and traditional — place me in a grey zone of contemporary Jewish identity, but I consider this balancing act (this push-pull or hybrid position) to be the very essence of the Conservative movement’s philosophy.

But what does this have to do with my name? Back to Noah’s raven; what became of it? There are a number of traditional drashs that explain the raven's disappearance, but I view the stray bird as an analog of my Jewish neshamah (soul). This particular orev "flew the coop," so to speak, for a few generations, but has at last come back to the ark (through the covenant of conversion).

I find a satisfying etymological riff on this interpretation in the Hebrew name itself, עורב. Ayin means "eye," Vav means "and," Resh means "beginning" or "head," and Beit means "house" or "home." Orev, therefore, can be read as "eye and head home," an oblique reference to the raven's "seeing" his way home. Likewise, my neshamah has turned anew (or returned) to Judaism and Jewish peoplehood.

Another gratifying etymological connection has been made between orev and erev, meaning 'evening' or 'dusk.' Both words are comprised of the same letters, and Hebrew linguists believe that the word orev was derived from erev, a reference to the raven's dark plumage. If so, the raven’s name is born of the gloaming, my favorite time of day, one electric with magic and possibility, and ideal for sustained rumination.

But the etymology can be (and is) taken one step further. Ervuv is the Hebrew word for 'mixture' and, just as day mixes with night at erev, some rabbis point out that, although it is officially deemed treif, the raven is the only bird species to split the difference on the Mishnah's four kashrut qualities; it possesses two kosher attributes and two treif attributes, and is therefore a "mixed" creature.

This mixture angle is also important to me. When I emerged from the mikveh, I was a new Jew. If you had asked me then if I stood at Sinai, I would have confidently replied, ‘Yes.' Yes, at least, with respect to metaphysics and psychology...but my personal history is not that of Hebrew school, kugel, or Camp Ramah. My Gentile past informs my Jewish identity in unexpected, generally positive ways, but the individual ger, like the individual shul, will never please klal Yisrael. Because I am actively engaged in the Jewish community (across the denominational, political, and theological spectrums), my very "Jewishness" is sometimes challenged. Some fellow Jews review my attributes and deem me kosher; others say I'm treif. I'd be fibbing were I to claim that this limbo doesn't trouble me, but I also recognize that it provides me with a special opportunity to examine questions of identity. I will be wholly Jewish and yet I will be "the stranger that sojourns among" my fellow Jews. The name I have chosen embodies two themes that are important to me: my (re)turn to Jewish peoplehood and also the peculiar/particular Jewish identity of the ger.