Light It Up! Recap

facebook_lightitupThis past Thursday evening, December 14, over 200 members of the CBS community gathered in Koret Hall for Light It Up! : A Hanukkah Celebration. Together, we marked the third night of Hanukkah with a rollicking party. Our Beth Sholom margaritas and burrito bar were hits with the adults, and the many activity stations – face painting, cookie decorating, multiple craft tables, and more – were busy all night!

Light It Up's centerpiece, as always, was our communal candle lighting. Many families and individuals brought their favorite hanukkiot (Hanukkah menorahs) from home and, led by Rabbi Glazer and Jewish songster Jonathan Bayer, recited the Hanukkah blessings as we brightened the evening.

Following the candle lighting, our Troupe de Beth Sholom players performed a Hanukkah play, Miss Menorah & The Maccabees. With a beautiful set (created by Pam Seaman, one of our amazing CBS Family Preschool teachers), a terrific cast of Beth Sholom staff and parents from the community, and a show-stopping, electric sweater, Miss Menorah was a smash. All the children in attendance were riveted, and the parents chuckled and guffawed. After the play, Adam Lowy, a father in our CBS Family Preschool community, hopped on stage with Jonathan Bayer for an energetic, old school rap fest. When Adam encouraged the kids to show him how well they could jump, Light It Up! became a floor-shaking rager.

Todah rabbah (a hearty thank you) to: Rabbi Glazer and Jonathan Bayer for emceeing the evening; all of the Troupe de Beth Sholom players (Katherine Barboni, Ben Chinn, Rabbi Glazer, Kim Hegg, Beth Jones, Dale Kleisley, Vered Levinson, and Dan Rubinsky); Adam Lowy for raising the roof; Jason Jungreis, Adi Barak Marino, Rajeev Chopra, and Veronica Holman for volunteering to bartend; Ashley Polselli, Joan Gelfand, Liza Monge, and Ariel Bronstein for staffing the food tables; Anne Mccomas, Pam Seaman, and Janet Carignani for helping at the dreidel making and the cookie decorating tables; preschool teacher Pam Seaman for creating the impressive Miss Menorah set; Natalia Baba and Veda Gujiral who did all the face painting; and all of the CBS staff and leadership for creating such an amazing party! On the staff front, special thanks is due Executive Chef Jane Sykes for preparing so much delicious food, Operations & Event Manager Kim Hegg for dramatically transforming Koret Hall into a magical, purple-and-blue-bathed space, and CBS Family Preschool Director and Assistant Director Katherine Barboni and Dale Kleisley for doing so much of the heavy-lifting and orchestrating the two main attractions, the play and musical performance. Thank you all so much!

Below, we've posted a selection of photos taken during the celebration. If you missed it, we hope you'll join us next year.

Light It Up!

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Join the CBS community in Koret Hall on Thursday, December 14, 2017,
from 5:30 - 8 p.m. to mark The Festival of Lights!

The candles will be burning bright at Beth Sholom as we celebrate the third night of Hanukkah together! Our annual Hanukkah celebration is always a joyous party, but this year we're turning it up to eighteen by introducing some fun new elements including a special, Hanukkah-themed play by Troupe de Beth Sholom and some holiday-inspired rap action with Adam Lowy and Eric Steuer, two talented CBS Family Preschool dads!

Bigger! Bolder! Brighter!

As always, we invite attendees to bring their favorite hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) for our communal candle lighting and we'll be spinning happy holiday tunes, but there will also be fun activities for "kids" of all ages and we'll be serving classic Hanukkah eats, wine, beer, margaritas, and more.

BUY YOUR TICKETS BELOW!

LIGHT IT UP! SCHEDULE:
5:30 p.m. - Event begins (CBS Family Preschool & general Beth Sholom community)
6 p.m. - Shabbat School families join
6:30 p.m. - Candle lighting and community Hanukkah play
7 p.m. - Bands/singers perform Hanukkah music - lineup TBD

LIGHT IT UP! ACTIVITY STATIONS:
Face painting
Cookie decorating
Edible dreidel making
"Pin the Shamash on the Hanukkiah" game
Festive Hanukkah photobooth
Magen David art activity

LIGHT IT UP! FOOD & DRINK:
Latkes
Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts)
Salad
Burrito bar (burritos or taco salad)
Coffee & tea
Wine, beer, & margaritas
(1st drink included with ticket; additional drinks: $5 wine; $5 beer; $5 margaritas; $2 soda/juice)

Also, we are looking for volunteers to support the food service, bartending, and some of the activity stations. If you are willing to help us, please visit our SignUpGenius volunteer page to sign-up for a 30-minute time slot. VOLUNTEER HERE!

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The Financial Four -- January 17, 2017

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

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Happy Secular New Year!

I think we're especially fortunate to have two New Year celebrations; I use one for my spiritual health and the other for my (and incidentally, the synagogue’s) financial well-being. Some people say spirituality and financial considerations shouldn’t mix. Don’t believe that for a second; they are inextricably tied together. At the synagogue, like everywhere else, you get what you pay for – we commit to supporting our synagogue and the synagogue is there when we need and want it.

A lot has happened in a few short weeks since my last post. So, with no further ado, let's look at our recent progress.

1. Commitment to Cash Flow – While we continue our bold push to create a sustained culture of giving, we are well on our way to making our projections for the year, coming in at or below budget on our expenses. This good news is a direct result of...

2. Our Commitment to Savings – Many of our Board members and volunteers have come up with great ideas to help us save money. We are investing in programming changes for our synagogue database, our telephone systems, and our postage and copying contracts in order to create more sustainable long-term cost structures. Some of you may have noticed some of our customer relationship management (CRM) changes, and may have experienced a glitch here and there. We are grateful for your patience and understanding as we work through these systemic changes and get everything working correctly while we continue to do our job of keeping your financials accurate and up to date.

3. Commitment to Staff and the Environment – So many people came to tell us how wonderful the High Holy Days services were at CBS, and many felt this was because of the hard work of our staff. We agree, so we have reworked our staff benefits to include Commuterchecks and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) benefits for anyone who opts in. We also scheduled some lovely back massages for the hardworking CBS Family Preschool and office staff just before our wonderful Light It Up! Community Hanukkah celebration.

4. Commitment to the Community – We all know that Beth Sholom is not an island, and we have been making a lot of plans to partner and work with other synagogues. Here, in the financial office, we are forging a CRM redesign for use by other congregations in the Bay Area. We thank Congregation Emanu-El and Peninsula Temple Beth El (San Mateo) for encouraging us to "boldly go where (few) synagogues have gone before." Stay tuned for exciting updates on that front!

Finally, thanks to you, our members, who give all of our commitments – and your commitments to us – meaning and purpose.

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

Light It Up! Recap

facebook_lightitupgitta-joelle_lightituphanukkah_december2016Last Thursday evening, members of the CBS community came together in Koret Hall for Light It Up! : A Hanukkah Celebration. Because so many in our community will be traveling during Hanukkah this year (which runs December 24 – January 1), we threw a pre-holiday party. We didn't want to miss the chance to celebrate together!

While the many kids in attendance came for the face painting, cookie decorating, games, music, and dancing, the adults seemed most excited about the latkes, Krispy Kreme sufganiyot, and "adult" beverages. The warmth and energy of Light It Up! was impossible to resist, though, and the evening's entertainment was as much of a treat as the seasonal comfort foods and good drinks.

Following our daily evening minyan service, which took place alongside the happy chaos of the party, Rabbi Glazer introduced the group hanukkiot lighting. Shortly thereafter, up-and-coming Jewish rock stars Talya and the Latkes played two songs for an enthusiastic crowd. Just a few licks into their cover of The Maccabeats' hit "Candlelight," and the dance floor filled. Fans of all ages smiled broadly. Even babies crawled toward the music, pumping their little fists. (Don't believe us? Check out the photographs below!)

Following Talya and the Latkes were father-son DJ duo, Don and Saul Marks, who provided tunes that kept the dance floor hopping for the rest of the party.

Todah rabbah (a hearty thank you) to: Rabbi Glazer for emceeing the evening; Kaleil and Ilan Jacob and Talya Glazer (Talya and the Latkes), and Don and Saul Marks for providing good tunes; Adi Barak, Dov Schnaider, and Lael Sturm for volunteering to bartend; CBS Family Preschool teachers Anne McComas, Bat-el Saad, and Devin Patrick for helping at the dreidel making and the cookie decorating tables; preschool teacher Pam Seaman for making the amazing hanukkiah for our Pin The Flame On The Menorah game; Lowell High School students who did all the face painting; and all of the CBS staff and leadership for creating such a good party! On the staff front, special thanks is due Executive Chef Jane Sykes for preparing from-scratch sweet potato latkes and other delicious eats, Operations & Event Manager Kim Hegg for creatively lighting Koret Hall to transform it into a Hanukkah spectacular, and CBS Family Preschool Assistant Director Dale Kleisley for helping set up so much of the space. Thank you all so much!

Below, we've posted a selection of photos taken during the celebration. If you missed it, we hope you'll join us next year.
dreidelsgelt_lightituphanukkah_december2016 scottmissysuejoe_lightituphanukkah_december2016 kaleililanjacob_lightituphanukkah_december2016 servinglatkes_lightituphanukkah_december2016 candydreidel_lightituphanukkah_december2016 maarivminyan_lightituphanukkah_december2016 hanukkiotlighting1_lightituphanukkah_december2016 hanukkiotlighting2_lightituphanukkah_december2016 talyaandthelatkes6_lightituphanukkah_december2016 talyaandthelatkes4_lightituphanukkah_december2016 clairerockingout_lightituphanukkah_december2016 talyaandthelatkes_lightituphanukkah_december2016 sufganiyot_lightituphanukkah_december2016 facepainting3_lightituphanukkah_december2016 facepainting2_lightituphanukkah_december2016 cookiecarrier_lightituphanukkah_december2016 djsdonsaulmarks_lightituphanukkah_december2016 dancefloor_lightituphanukkah_december2016 dancefloor2_lightituphanukkah_december2016 dreidelprojections2_lightituphanukkah_december2016 hanukkiotlighting3_lightituphanukkah_december2016

The Financial Four -- November 30, 2016

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

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Miss me?

Well, not to worry; things have been hopping around the synagogue, so much so that I haven’t had a moment to do my favorite part of the job – updating YOU, our generous community! But there's lots of good news to share, so let's get to it.

1. Our 2015-16 financials are in the bag. – Closing out the year presented a few challenges, but we were able to get our financials done and through the audit by September; a noble timeframe. The auditors were happy, the bank was happy, and the financials are available to anyone who wants to see them.

2. An unbelievable High Holiday season. – There is very little we could do without you, but this is particularly true of the High Holy Days. The services at CBS this year – joyous, moving, meaningful – were successful because of you. Now, following the High Holiday season, I’m in the fortunate position of seeing just how much you value our services and community experiences: $748,000 in membership dues, $238,000 in Kol Nidre pledges, and more and more of you coming to events all the time! Speaking of...

3. All the ways we celebrate together. – The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat was packed this past Friday evening with congregants and amazing performers. The upcoming Hanukkah celebration (Light It Up!, December 15), our b'nai mitzvah and birthday celebrations (mazel tov on your 85th, Norm!), the December 6 new member event, which looks like it is officially "sold out" — all of these are ways we use the synagogue to connect as a community. CBS is not just charity that its members support. CBS is a place to see and rejoice with people we love to see and rejoice with.

4. But, yes, it is ALSO a charity. – We are doing some amazing things with the money you generously donate: we are focusing on improving efficiencies and workflows; finding better ways to engage you, our prized members; and utilizing technology that is creating a better customer experience. Starting this month, a select group of you will be receiving membership statements via email. In the next few months, we will be enabling powerful systems to allow you to make donations from wherever you are. Just imagine it – you see something happening in your world, and CBS can be an instantaneous part of your reaction. You can learn more about it by registering for a class, or you can make a donation that will help combat anti-Semitism, enable a community Israel opportunity, or sponsor a child’s Jewish heritage – all of this while you're on the go, boarding at an airport, in a ride share, or between meetings. We want to be wherever you are.

So...on that note, no need to miss me too much! Stop by the synagogue any time, and let’s discuss all the ways that you and I can make this place sing!

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

Light It Up!

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Join the CBS community in Koret Hall on Thursday, December 15, 2016,
from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. to mark The Festival of Lights!


Because so many in our community will be traveling during the actual holiday this year (December 24 – January 1), we’re throwing a pre-Hanukkah party so that we can all be together.

This year's shindig will be bigger (and brighter) than years past. As always, we invite attendees to bring their favorite hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) for our communal candle lighting and we'll be spinning happy holiday tunes, but there will also be fun activities for "kids" of all ages and we'll be serving a light dinner, classic Hanukkah eats, and wine, beer, and other beverages.

Buy your tickets on or before December 8 for:
Adults: $18
Ages 6-12: $8
5 & under: FREE

December 9 – 15:
Adults: $25
Ages 6-12: $12
5 & under: FREE

Don't delay. BUY YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

LIGHT IT UP! ACTIVITIES:
Face painting
Cookie decorating
Dreidel making
No Limit Texas Dreidel
Bingo
Coloring

LIGHT IT UP! FOOD & DRINK:
Vegetarian chili
Salad
Latkes
Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts)
Coffee, tea, soda, & juice
Wine & beer
(1st drink included with ticket; additional drinks: $3 wine; $2 beer; $1 soda/juice)

BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE
CandleLighting4_CBSCommunityHanukkahCelebration_December2015

Meet Claire Ambruster, JVS Summer Intern

CBS is pleased to introduce our Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Kohn Summer Intern, Claire Ambruster. Claire is supporting multiple departments at CBS during her internship (June 21 - August 12), including communications. Wearing her communications hat, Claire will learn about thoughtful development and management of social media strategy and also gain blogging experience. Today, we're sharing her first blog contribution.

We've been very impressed with Claire so far, and are fortunate to have her on our team, even if only for the summer!

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My Journey to Working in the Jewish World

Facebook_ClaireAmbrusterLast week, I began my summer internship through the Kohn Summer Intern Program – a project of Jewish Vocational Service. My fellow interns and I met for the first time at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. We enjoyed a tour of the museum, schmoozed, and discussed our goals for the summer. As Kohn interns, we each work separately at different Bay Area Jewish nonprofits. On Fridays, we come together for interesting seminars, during which we discuss everything from Jewish life to job skills. I will be working with Congregation Beth Sholom (CBS) this summer, and am very excited for the opportunity to explore the inner workings of this synagogue – from drafting CBS Facebook posts to managing membership databases. I am also enjoying getting to know the Beth Sholom community. Simultaneously, I look forward to getting to know the other Kohn interns and learning about the different types of work they are doing to invest in the Jewish world.

Although I now am committed to Jewish practice, I did not always envision that for myself. I grew up in a secular home in San Francisco. Although we lit Hanukkah candles each year, we also strung colored lights around our Christmas tree. As I grew older, I wanted to learn more about my tradition, and I asked my parents to enroll me in Hebrew school. Once enrolled, I quickly became inspired by Jewish teachings. When the time came to pick a high school, I decided to further my Jewish education and enrolled in a pluralistic Jewish high school. I soon fell in love with Jewish studies – from Talmud to contemporary Jewish thought. As I grew, I developed confidence in my faith. I began to contemplate taking larger concrete steps towards Judaism, and I pondered the idea of having a bat mitzvah ceremony and eventually going through conversion, as I am not yet considered halachically Jewish.

Last summer, I was given the opportunity to have my long-anticipated bat mitzvah ceremony. I was participating in the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) summer program in Los Angeles, and had spent several weeks engaging in a whirlwind of profound learning with my peers. On the final Shabbat of the program, I stood before a crowded room, eagerly anticipating the ceremony. I read from the Torah, singing notes I had learned only weeks beforehand. Afterward, I reflected on the biblical passage, in which the daughters of Tzelafchad demanded to receive their father’s inheritance, which traditionally went to sons. In the same spirit of the daughters of Tzelafchad, I stood in front of the community to inherit and reaffirm my Jewish identity. After years of questioning my Jewish identity, it was incredibly redemptive and exhilarating to read from the Torah and feel the joy surrounding me.

It is moments like this one – where communities come together in joy and in loss – which remind me how important Judaism is in my life. I look forward to helping build the Jewish world here at Beth Sholom for the remainder of the summer!

Kezayit (An Olive's Worth): A Proper Purim Greeting

Purim is almost here! It won't be long before we're masked, spieling, ring tossing, and bottoms upping! Mark your calendars for Sunday, March 12, 2017, when our PURIMPALOOZA: Community Purim Carnival & Spiel To Support CBS Educational Programs will take place!

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According to Wikipedia, Quora, and just about any website we could find, there are three traditional Purim salutations: "Chag Purim Sameach!" ("Happy Purim Festival/Holiday!" in Hebrew); "Freilichin Purim!" ("Happy Purim!" in Yiddish); and "Purim Allegre!" ("Happy Purim!" in Ladino). Indeed, when you've come to CBS Purim carnivals and megillah readings in past years, it's a sure thing you were welcomed with one of those greetings.

The thing of it is, "Chag Purim Sameach!" ain't exactly exact. Although the greeting is widely used and accepted, Purim isn't technically a festival, or chag. The only chagim we observe are the Yom Tovim, the six Biblically-mandated festivals: the first and seventh days of Pesach (Passover), the first day of Shavuot, both days of Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Sukkot, the first day of Shemini Atzeret, and Yom Kippur. In the Diaspora, the redundant, second-day iterations of some of these are also considered Yom Tovim or chagim. Purim is notably absent from the list. Somewhere along the line (l'dor va'dor -- generation to generation), however, the greeting that should be reserved for true chagim was also attached to Hanukkah and Purim.

In a recent discussion with Rabbi Glazer, your CBS Communications Coordinator learned of a more appropriate greeting for Purim, one you might consider using this year. "V’nahafokh hu!" ("We shall invert things!") Rabbi Glazer explained that this greeting, which is drawn from two verses in the megillah (Esther 9:1 and 9:22), is the most incisive option. It speaks to Purim's most significant theme, namely that "everything should be inverted in a cruel and broken world, leaving only compassion and random acts of selfless lovingkindness."

Rabbi Julia Andelman (of the Jewish Theological Seminary) breaks things down further in a 2014 article:

"Purim is a holiday of reversals—written into the megillah itself. Haman creates an elaborate ritual by which the king should honor him, but his enemy Mordechai is honored with that same ritual instead. The gallows Haman builds for Mordechai end up being the instrument of his own death. And the fate of a nation changes from doom to victory in the blink of an eye: 'And so, on the 13th day of the 12th month—that is, the month of Adar—when the king’s demand and decree were to be executed, the very day on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to get them in their power, v’nahafokh hu — the situation was reversed—and the Jews got their enemies in their power instead' (Esther 9:1). Reversals of fortune, narratives doubling back on themselves in opposing incarnations, are to be found everywhere in the Book of Esther; and so the theme of a holiday — v’nahafokh hu — is born. Cross-dressing, inebriation, public parodies of teachers and friends—all of these traditionally questionable or forbidden boundary crossings are sanctioned and even celebrated on this one day of the year when norms are freely reversed."

This year, let's turn things upside down and shake out what's broken or cruel. V’nahafokh hu!

The Dreidel -- Unmasked!

PlayingDreidel_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015Hanukkah is over. For a few evenings, we'll gaze longingly at the counters, tables, and ledges where our hanukkiot so recently glowed...and then our attention will shift to family debates about which movie and Chinese restaurant is right for Christmas Day. Today, though, we hope to extend your Hanukkah glow for at least a few more minutes!

Along with hanukkiot, latkes, and sufganiyot, visions of dreidels spin through our heads when we think of Hanukkah. Why the association? Chabad's website explains:

"The dreidel, known in Hebrew as a sevivon, dates back to the time of the Greek-Syrian rule over the Holy Land -- which set off the Maccabean revolt that culminated in the [Hanukkah] miracle. Learning Torah was outlawed by the enemy, a 'crime' punishable by death. The Jewish children resorted to hiding in caves in order to study. If a Greek patrol would approach, the children would pull out their tops and pretend to be playing a game. By playing dreidel during Chanukah we are reminded of the courage of those brave children."

That's a familiar story -- it's what we've been told our whole lives. But it's also a myth, and one created long after the days of the Maccabees.

In fact, the dreidel is a variation on an Irish or English top that spread over all of Europe during the late Roman Empire. Known as a teetotum, each of these four-sided tops was inscribed with letters that denoted the result of a given spin. For example, the German version of the game used N (Nichts, or nothing), G (Ganz, or all), H (Halb, or half), and S (Stell ein, or put in).

Dreidels&Gelt_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015Across Europe, teetotum was most often played around Christmastime; the reason for this seasonal popularity remain unclear but, just like their neighbors, Ashkenazi Jews played the game at this time. Yet Jews adapted the tops' lettering for Yiddish speakers, replacing German letters with Hebrew ones: Nun (Nit, or nothing), Gimel (Gants, or everything), He (Halb, or half), and Shin (Shtel arayn, or put in).

Over generations, as the dreidel game was introduced to far-flung Jewish communities that didn't speak Yiddish, various explanations for the letters' significance were put forth. One of the most famous explications is that the letters represent the four kingdoms that tried to destroy Israelites/Jews: Nun for Nebuchadnezzar, or Babylon; He for Haman, or Persia; Gimel for Gog, or Greece; and Shin for Seir, or Rome. But the most popular story -- probably because it's the only one that explains why the dreidel game is primarily played in the month of Kislev -- posited that the letters stood for the phrase "Nes gadol haya sham," or "A great miracle happened there." That's the Hanukkah miracle, of course, and the accompanying myth about the clever ruse of brave little Torah scholars caught on, too.

Sometime in the 19th or 20th century (CE), this mythic origin of the dreidel game became the officially sanctioned account. It's a compelling, fun story for children, but the real history of the dreidel is no less remarkable.

Indeed, the most marvelous of Hanukkah miracles is an ongoing one: the ability of the Jewish people to adopt the customs and ideas of their neighbors -- just filtered through a Jewish lens. Consider how many of our "traditional" Jewish practices are variations of customs adopted from the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, or Romans. We often toast the fact that those four "evil empires" have fallen while the Jewish people live on -- Am Yisrael Chai! -- but, curiously and counter-intuitively, some facets of those cultures live on in our Jewish traditions.

Culture is a wonderfully complex cholent.

CBS Community Hanukkah Celebration

CandleLighting6_CBSCommunityHanukkahCelebration_December2015Yesterday evening, around 150 members of the CBS community came together in Koret Hall to light hanukkiot and mark the fifth night of Hanukkah.

Of course, a lot of folks came for the latkes, sufganiyot, and wine. Yum!

Special thanks to CBS Executive Chef Jane Sykes for preparing from-scratch sweet potato latkes, cranberry applesauce, and traditional applesauce (and Chef’s Assistant Helen Leibman for cooking all the "regular" latkes), CBS Kashrut Supervisor Debra Surkin Perloff for trekking to Daly City to pick-up the sufganiyot from Krispy Kreme, Rabbi Glazer and Music Director Jonathan Bayer for providing good tunes, and Facilities Manager Jason Zimmerman and his team for managing the audio and setting up all the tables! Thanks, too, to Danielle Hurwitz, Program Director of Camp Ramah in Northern California, who was on hand with an information table and made herself available to answer any questions that parents or prospective campers had about this new and exciting Jewish summer camp.

Below, we've posted a selection of photos taken during the celebration.
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CBS Family Preschool Hanukkah Party

CandleLighting4_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015The CBS Family Preschool Hanukkah Party took place yesterday morning in Koret Hall, and we snapped a handful of photos of the event to share with you.

Before the meal, several preschool classes presented short performances, the first of which involved a parade of heroic-looking Mini Maccabees brandishing shields. This zealous lot marched around Koret Hall, flexing their muscles and (quietly!) singing “The Maccabees." Apparently, these little revolutionaries — actually the PreK Hey class — sung louder and more vigorously during their rehearsal, but their spirit was still on amble display. The Dalet class also performed Hanukkah songs before preschoolers, parents, teachers, and CBS staff all enjoyed a delicious lunch of latkes, chili, salad, fruit, and oh-so-many desserts! The Alef-Bet and Gimmel classes baked some tasty Hanukkah cookies, as well.

Following the meal, several hannukiot were lit as all present recited the blessings. Around that time, someone produced inflatable dreidels…and the party really ramped up!

Special thanks to CBS Executive Chef Jane Sykes for preparing so much tasty food (and Chef’s Assistant Helen Leibman for cooking all the latkes), CBS Kashrut Supervisor Debra Surkin Perloff for obtaining the sufganiyot, Facilities Manager Jason Zimmerman and his team for managing the music and microphones and setting up all the tables, and, last but anything but least, Katherine Friedman Barboni and Dale Kleisley, Director and Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education, respectively, for making all of this possible!

Just below, we've posted a selection of photographs taken during the lunch, and we invite YOU to join us for future community events at Beth Sholom!
LatkesOnTable_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 MiniMaccabees1_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 MiniMaccabees2_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 Dale&Katherine_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 HanukkahSong_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 Dreidels&Gelt_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 ServingLatkes_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 TastyEats_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 PlayingDreidel_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 FoodSpread_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 CandleLighting1_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 InflatableDreidelMayhem1_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015 InflatableDreidelMayhem2_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015

Directing the Heart for Hanukkah

LeadAs you gather with family and friends these eight nights of Hanukkah, I would like to share with you a wonderful practice that may deepen our experience of the holiday. Opportunities for blessing surround us at all times; they are liminal moments. How can the joyous act of lighting a hanukkiah be transformed into a profound, meditative experience? Meditation is about awareness, and awareness hinges upon intention. This guide is about harnessing intention to open a deeper awareness of all the wondrous experiences that take place around you during the ritual lighting of the hanukkiah.

This practice was inspired “The Seven Seekers,” a story by great Hasidic master, Reb Nahman of Bratzlav. The practice of directing the heart is drawn from this story of a wedding feast that lasts seven days. During each day of the feast, one beggar shares a blessing with the bride and groom who are married in the darkness of the forest. Every time we light another candle on the hanukkiah, we have the capacity to draw forth another spark of blessing. The beggars' gifts reveal potential that was hidden in plain sight. With each candle, these gifts are illuminated as blessings, made lucid by the light of the hanukkiah.

1st Candle: Blessing of long life
1stNight The gift of the Blind Seeker: To see beyond a blink —
You think I am blind. In fact, I am not blind at all, but to me the time of the whole world is not worth a moment’s fleeting glance. I am very old and still very young: despite my great age, I have not even begun to live.

Blindness is in fact acuity of vision so great that one does not perceive the details of mundane existence. Rather, one learns to see everything from the perspective of eternity. The duration of time is not merely measured by years, months, and hours; time matters in our lives in terms of the content and the significance of events that fill it. Consider one extraordinary moment of touching eternal time that you have experienced this year and how to carry forward that awareness into life. This is the gift of blessing being offered in this candle.

2nd Candle: Blessing of good life
The gift of the Deaf Seeker: To hear beyond need —
You think that I am deaf. In fact, I am not, but to me the whole world is worth nothing, so why should I listen to its cries of want? All the sounds in the world are brought forth by want; everyone cries for what s/he lacks. I, however, live a good life and lack nothing, and so these wants are not for my ears.

Deafness to the vanities and troubles of the world sometimes allows the gift of the good life before us to emerge more clearly. Too often, we get caught up in the white noise of life, keeping up with the Steins and the cries of pain uttered by those who think they are enjoying true abundance. Yet what emerges is nothing more than gratification of ephemeral needs. Living a good life is about remaining focused on eternal pleasures. Lasting relationships are the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

3rdNight4thNight3rd Candle: Blessing of mellifluous life
The gift of the Tongue-tied Seeker: To speak poetry —
You think that I am heavy of speech. In fact, I am not really a stutterer at all. I am unwilling to speak, because all that humans say lacks praise of the divine. In fact, I am extraordinarily eloquent; I am a master of poetry and speech, and when I begin to speak, there isn’t a creature on earth that does not desire to listen, and in my words there is all wisdom.

Stuttering is often indicative of a high spiritual level. When speech is lofty, we often only hear fragments of it. Like Moses, the stuttering seeker has the wisdom to bridge the material and spiritual worlds by relating to the divine utterances that flow through the created world. Awareness of both the totality of time and the uniqueness of each individual minute is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

4th Candle: Blessing of melodious life
The gift of Twisted-neck Seeker: To be beyond spirit —
You think I have a crooked neck. In fact my neck is straight and fine, but I twist it to prevent my breath from mingling with the vanities and ephemeral pleasures which fill the world. My throat is beautifully formed, and I have an excellent voice, with which I can imitate every sound in the world that is not speech.

Music is symbolic of the creation of harmony. The Twisted-neck Seeker can discover the inner connection between things and draw them together, creating harmony. No matter how disconnected we feel in exile from each other and from the Divine, redemption will come when all the gifts of these seekers are integrated. Listening to the music of your soul as it opens you to a more melodious life is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

5th Candle: Blessing of joyous life
The gift of the Hunchback Seeker: To be humble and contain much —
I am not a hunchback at all; in fact, my shoulders are so powerful as to be the little that contains much.” The Hunchback Seeker, like Jacob, is the pillar that supports the structure of all our worlds. While it seems as though the Hunchback Seeker can apparently bear nothing, the opposite is true. The ability to control the world is to perceive the infinite within the finite. Living life fully requires cultivation of humility to make space for others, and most importantly to make space for the Divine presence to dwell in our midst. Knowing your place in the world and in those relationships that allow for the light of the other to shine forth is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

6th Candle: Blessing of balanced life
The gift of the Handless Seeker: To be dexterous in healing —
You believe that my hands are stumps, but they are really quite sound. In fact, they are extraordinarily powerful, but I do not use my strength in this world, because I need it for another purpose.” The Handless Seeker, like Joseph, has a unique ability to act on the material world, to heal the pain of the world by extending more light and love into it. By returning to your authentic self and sharing in acts of justice and righteousness with others, the giving here becomes a receiving. How you choose to extend more light and love into the world is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

7thNight7th Candle: Blessing of redemptive life
The gift of the Footless Seeker: To be footloose in the dance redemption —
This day of the story is never told, but Reb Nahman hopes we shall complete it on our own. The Footless Seeker, like David, brings redemption. It is the dancing of David through the power of the feet, grounded on earth but reaching the heavens, that represents the deepest conviction of ‘emunah. Considering how to extend redemptive consciousness into the world is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

8th Candle: Blessing of integration
The gift of this final candle is the overflow that comes with redemptive consciousness. It is an opportunity to return to that opening acuity of vision and now begin to integrate it into our lives. Seeing everything from the perspective of eternity allows us to see every moment of life as extraordinary, every moment as touching eternal time. These eight lights are now installed in my soul so that I may continue to carry forward that awareness into life. This is the gift of blessing offered in this candle.

Blessings,
Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Image credits: Lead image, Flickr user Bart (CC BY-NC 2.0); 1st, 4th, and 7th night candles by Flickr user slgckgc (CC BY 2.0); 3rd night candles by Jordan Sangerman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Special Message From Rabbi Glazer

CandleDear CBS Communal Family,

In the wake of the mass shooting yesterday at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, we send our blessings of healing and condolence to all the victims' families. The tragic events occurred less than a week after a gunman killed three people and wounded nine in another shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

As we approach the kindling of lights for Hanukkah, let us continue to champion the Jewish values of hope in the midst of despair and of affirming life in the face of these recent terrors. May the memories of those who lost their lives be a blessing, and may their families know no more suffering.

Yesterday, blood banks in Southern California urgently solicited donations in order to assist the wounded being treated at local hospitals. That call serves as a reminder of the value of donating blood when and where you can -- Bay Area residents can make donations at any Blood Centers of the Pacific location. For more information, call 888-393-4483 or visit www.bloodcenters.org.

Blessings of hope,
Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Why Is Gambling Associated With Hanukkah?

DreidelFor American Jews, it’s that time of the year again. Parents of young children are talking about "the December Dilemma,” Jewish a cappella groups are in overdrive, hanukkiot (Hanukkah menorahs) are being pulled out of deep storage, and we’re all drooling in anticipation of latkes, applesauce, and sour cream. Adam Sandler even wrote and performed a fourth version of his beloved “Hanukkah Song." That’s right, friends — Hanukkah 5776 is almost here!

This Sunday evening is the first night of Hanukkah, and a lot of us are planning holiday parties. In preparation, we’re in the market for extra dreidels…because, as Bryan Adams sung, it ain’t a Hanukkah party if the dreidel don’t spin ‘round (did I mishear that lyric?). Yet, although dreidels are considered de rigueur for Hanukkah parties, they typically don’t do a lot of spinning; they’re more often decorative, described by one clever writer as more “party favor than party favorite.”

Even relegated to a decorative role, the dreidel is a staple of Hanukkah. So how did a European gambling game called teetotum become associated with Hanukkah observance in the first place? We know that diaspora syncretism gave us the dreidel and that the rabbis later invented a backstory — the Israelites-played-dreidel-to-fool-the-Greeks-into-thinking-they-weren’t-studying-Torah myth — but why did they link the game with Hanukkah? The answer, it turns out, has to do with rabbinic attitudes about gambling and Hanukkah’s relationship to another minor holiday, Purim.

"C'mon, big money, big money! Papa needs a great miracle to happen here!"

Back in the day (the Mishnah’s day, that is), dice playing, pigeon racing, and other “games” of chance were popular betting activities that the rabbis viewed as inappropriate or unfortunate. So they debated how best to restrict or moderate the degenerate behavior. Different approaches were put forth, but it seems that the rabbis appreciated the need for occasional laxity or release, and the holidays of Hanukkah and Purim seemed like excellent times to look the other way.

Why?

Purim tells the story of the powerless Jews of Shushan defeating their Persian enemies against all odds. Metaphorically, Purim is understood as an overturning of the social order, a day when activities that were forbidden or discouraged the rest of the year were permitted. It’s observed as a carnival with excessive drinking, costumes (including cross-dressing), and, often, lotteries and raffles (gambling!). With the world turned upside down, why not roll the dice? After all, the Jews of Shushan made risky gambits that paid off!

The Hanukkah story isn’t so different, really, as the small-but-oh-so-zealous Maccabean force repels the great army of the Seleucid Greeks and reclaims the Temple. It’s another the deck-was-stacked-against-us tale.

The shared spirit of Hanukkah and Purim presents us with a compelling justification for why gambling is associated with both holidays -- but this is mostly conjecture. There is also an explanation put forth by historical sociologists who insist that the Yiddish version of teetotum, which was especially popular at Christmastime in Germany, was played by a lot of Ashkenazim in December and therefore became attached to Hanukkah by virtue of the Christian and Jewish holidays' proximity to one another. Although this is almost certainly the most accurate account, it doesn’t negate the valuable symbolism of the world-turned-upside-down concept.

So, this year, sure, most of the attendees of your Hanukkah party will be more into playing Exploding Kittens than the dreidel game. And that’s fine…but we encourage you to play both. Buy those dreidels. Spin those dreidels. Bet on those dreidels. Then ask all the players to donate part or all of their winnings as tzedakah — it’s tax-deduction time, anyway!

Hanukkah 5776 -- Rededicating Ourselves

Hanukkiahgt_logo6 Next Tuesday, December 1, is #GivingTuesday.

What is this curious hashtag weekday? Created by New York City's 92nd Street Y, #GivingTuesday is a response to the consumer-oriented shopping "holidays" of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. From the #GivingTuesday website:

"Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. ... Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources."

With #GivingTuesday nigh upon us, we're launching our Hanukkah 5776 Rededication fundraiser! Please read our Executive Director's letter below.

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Dear Friends,

The evenings have again grown dark, and we will soon gather with friends and family to light our hanukkiot. Each year, as we draw those we care about close and recite the Hanukkah blessings, we marvel at the miracle of sustained Jewish peoplehood.

Living in the Syrian Greek Empire, our 2nd century BCE forebears confronted the threat of compulsory assimilation. You know the score: they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat (latkes and sufganiyot)! Yet that bite-size summary discounts the Hanukkah story’s complexity. It’s also a story of civil war, a conflict between strict religionists and a secular, assimilated elite. Although the Maccabees saved the day, we’re not about to say the Shehecheyanu – to thank God for sustaining Judaism and Jewish peoplehood – because of their rebellion, but because the rabbis, two hundred plus years later, embraced creative adaptation.

Little wonder that Hanukkah is so relevant to 21st century American Jews! The 2013 Pew Research Center’s Portrait of Jewish Americans indicates that we are in the midst of a demographic decline of what some refer to as “the Jewish middle,” Jewishly engaged/identified individuals outside of Orthodoxy. If present trends continue, demographers predict that the American Jewish future will be dominated by two groups, the ultra-Orthodox and unaffiliated Jews with attenuated Jewish identities. Sound familiar?

VolunteerAs engaged Jews and members of Beth Sholom, a community with a history of pioneering regional and national leadership in the spheres of Jewish practice, philosophy, and social action, we can not accept the decline of American Jewish institutions and identity. We must demonstrate how Jewish tradition and the values we treasure can be balanced with the evolving needs of our contemporary lives. This balancing act between the particular and the universal takes place on a high wire — the stakes are huge. So it is once again time for CBS to move boldly forward, to blaze a path and serve as a role model in the changing world of American Judaism.

Your commitment to CBS has made our survival possible and will allow us to flourish going forward. As our Board President, Scott Horwitz, wrote in his note to the congregation in the 2015 Annual Report, “Thanks to the efforts of many, we are poised to start a new chapter. We’ve restored the fields, we’ve planted the seeds, and now it’s time to grow.”

DonationsWith the end of the tax year approaching and Hanukkah’s lessons in mind, now is an opportune time to make a charitable contribution.

What will your generous donation support?

In the past year, CBS has made tremendous strides, energizing our core programs and developing exciting new ones. Our already robust ritual and Shabbat programming has been strengthened by the engagement of a rabbinic intern and the introduction of accessible and spirited alternative services. The CBS Preschool is flourishing under new leadership and, working with our new Music Director, has enhanced its musical offerings. Our Shabbat School grew by 20 percent, we fine-tuned and expanded our b’nai mitzvah program, and our USY youth group was recognized as the most improved chapter in Northern California. We expanded our Lifelong Learning focus by offering regular “mini-courses” taught by an impressive roster of scholars and authors, and we partnered with the organization Kevah to create Jewish learning circles for adults. We also hired an Executive Chef who is regularly cooking up delicious and inventive kiddush menus that receive rave reviews from congregants.

Indeed, it’s been a very successful year at CBS…but this is just the beginning.

static1.squarespaceIn 2016, we will continue to augment our existing programming and services – CBS is here for our milestone events as well as for our daily davening, for our children’s education as well as our own – but we will also launch the innovative and ambitious Center for Progressive Judaism. The Center can be thought of as “a Jewish think tank,” designed to be a vital hub of Jewish life that stands on three pillars: Scholarship, Social Action, and Culture as Practice. Our state-of-the-art campus is the perfect facility to house the Center, and with your engaged participation, CBS and the Center for Progressive Judaism will ignite the Jewish passions of future generations.

We invite you to help us fuel this fire. Together, let’s kindle the Hanukkah lights and rededicate ourselves to the future of Judaism.

Contributions can be made via personal check (and mailed to CBS using the enclosed return envelope you will receive with the paper copy of this appeal) or online: http://bit.ly/1SfUZNn. (If you would prefer to contribute appreciated securities, please contact Ella Smirnova at 415.940.7122, ext. 108 or esmirnova@bethsholomsf.org for assistance.)

Todah rabbah, and Happy Hanukkah!

Sincerely,
Angel Alvarez-Mapp
Executive Director