Member Profile : Mark & Jenny Bernstein

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


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

Jenny: About 40 years.

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

Jenny: I'm a San Francisco native.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged Recap

This past Saturday evening, Jews from all over the city visited Congregation Beth Sholom to mark our entrance into the final days of preparation for the Yamim Noraim ("the Days of Awe"). A joint production of Beth Sholom, The Kitchen, Kehillah San Francisco, and Congregation Anshey Sfard, Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged made for a special night (and early morning!) – the spirited service didn't end until almost 2 a.m.!

The centerpiece of Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged was a communal singalong featuring brothers Yehuda and Nahman Solomon. (Yehuda is the frontman of the Israeli-American folk-rock band, Moshav, as well as founder of Los Angeles' Happy Minyan.) Yehuda and Nahman were joined by prayer leaders and hazzanim from all of the participating communities – together, they led the crowd in giving voice to Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and penitential piyyutim (liturgical poems). According to Ashkenazi tradition, the recitation of Selichot begins after midnight on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah and, although our service didn't wind down until the wee hours, there was no shortage of energy and ruach in the Beth Sholom Sanctuary! Even at the end of the service, attendees danced, stomped, and swayed with the music and piyyut, awakening to the urgency of this moment and our need for teshuvah.

Before the main service began, attendees gathered for a lovely Havdalah ceremony and a community Selichot beit midrash co-led by Rabbi Aubrey Glazer and Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan. The study session compared our traditional High Holy Days liturgy and selected lyrics of recently departed songwriter, Leonard Cohen (z"l). The takeaway from the session was the value of wrestling with the difficult personal work of teshuvah and cultivating a relationship with the divine (a struggle reflected in Cohen's poetry and lyrics).

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, the need for a commitment to teshuvah becomes increasingly urgent, but it is likewise important to balance the moments of reckoning with moments of joy. Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged provided both.

Thanks to the rabbis, performers, and prayer leaders who made the evening so moving and fun. Thanks, too, to all of the friendly folks from The Kitchen, Kehillah San Francisco, and Congregation Anshey Sfard who participated, making a memorable evening that much better. Todah rabbah, and l'shanah tovah u'metuka (for a good and sweet year)!

A selection of photographs and videos are included below. Please visit our Facebook page for more.

Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged

Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged
Sing in the "Season of Awe"!

Congregation Beth Sholom,
The Kitchen, Kehillah San Francisco, and Congregation Anshey Sfard
co-present a rollicking musical exploration of the traditional Selichot liturgy.


September 16, 2017
9 – 10 p.m.,
Special "Heart Opening" Havdalah
   w/ Moshav (for young adults)
10 – 11:30 p.m.,
Broken Prayer & Its Repair: A Communal Selichot
   Beit Midrash
On The Prayerful Songbook of
   Leonard Cohen
11:30 p.m. – 1 a.m.,
Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged

At 9 p.m., we invite young Jewish singles, couples, and friends to join us for scotch and a rousing musical Havdalah with Yehuda Solomon (frontman of the popular Isareli-American band, Moshav), Nahman Solomon, and our community leaders.

At 10 p.m., all ages are invited to join us for Broken Prayer & Its Repair, a deep dive into the songwriting of the late, great Leonard Cohen (z"l) and its Selichot significance.

Then, at 11:30 p.m., we’ll open our hearts, dance, and prepare for the work of redeeming our world in 5778! After the incredible success of last year's Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged, we're super psyched to again raise our voices together. Yehuda, Nahman, Hazzan Avyatar Alfassi, Rabbi Glazer, and other friends will lead us in the joyous communal sing-along experience, one that features appearances by many special guests – musicians, singers, and rabbis – it’s a neo-Carlebach kumzitz meets The Last Waltz mash-up! Singing and moving together with communal leaders and singers from CBS, Kehillah San Francisco, The Kitchen, and Congregation Anshey Sfard, we’ll rediscover the power of the Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and meaningful penitential piyyut (Jewish liturgical poems).

All parts of this special evening are free, but pre-registration is required. Please register below!

A Parnas Fellowship Evening @ SFJAZZ

Facebook_Schmooze11_LeonardCohenParnasProgram_SFJAZZ_March2017As a special thank you to members of the CBS Parnas Fellowship for their generosity and dedication to our community, this past Thursday evening Rabbi Glazer and the CBS Board of Directors hosted a special concert tribute to the songbook of the late, great Leonard Cohen (z”l) at SFJAZZ. The concert also functioned as a pre-release party for Rabbi Glazer’s new book, Tangle Of Matter & Ghost: Leonard Cohen's Post-Secular Songbook of Mysticism(s) Jewish & Beyond (Academic Studies Press, 2017).

Before the concert began, Scott Horwitz, our CBS Board President, spoke briefly, expressing how grateful he and the CBS Board are for the support provided by the Parnas Fellowship, and how proud he is when he talks to people from outside the CBS community about what’s happening on our campus today. Immediately following Scott’s remarks, a congregant stood and offered an impromptu kol hakavod to Scott, Rabbi Glazer, and the CBS Board for their leadership and hard work over the last year-and-a-half. Both Scott’s comments and those of the congregant received big rounds of applause.

Following Scott’s comments, Book of J, a side project of musicians Jeremiah Lockwood and Jewlia Eisenberg, performed four sets of Cohen songs for a capacity crowd in SFJAZZ’s Joe Henderson Lab. Each set was introduced by Rabbi Glazer, who provided illuminating, humorous, and often moving anecdotes or context gleaned from Tangle Of Matter & Ghost. Book of J was fabulous; their Cohen covers were distinctive and compelling – it was impossible not to tap your foot or sing along. The concert provided an introduction to Rabbi Glazer’s effort, in his new book, to "find Cohen," who was presented throughout the evening as something of a mystic in exile. This experience of exile is fundamental to Jewish identity – in the preface to Tangle Of Matter & Ghost, rabbi and scholar Shaul Magid writes, "Cohen writes his home where he is. And therein lies his Jewishness!" Magid also uses the term, umheimlich (uncanny), which Freud used to describe things that are familiar, yet foreign at the same time. Maybe a sensitivity to this kind of cognitive dissonance is the special province of the Jewish artist? After all, the best art and mysticism allow us to see the mundane anew – familiar, yet foreign, or even extraordinary.

Rabbi Glazer plans to have a book release party for the entire CBS community at Toy Boat Dessert Café on Clement Street in early June. Details are forthcoming. To our Parnas Fellowship members, todah rabbah (thank you very much)!

Check out some photos from the evening below and see even more on our CBS Facebook page.

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Tisha B'Av

"Goin’ to leave this Broke-down Palace
On my hands and my knees I will roll roll roll
Make myself a bed by the waterside
In my time - in my time - I will roll roll roll.
"

Why bother fasting on Tisha B’Av?

Broke-down Palace was first performed here, in San Francisco, on August 18, 1970, at the Fillmore West, appearing in the number six spot in the first (acoustic) set.

There is a moving anecdote about Broke-down Palace involving the American novelist and Merry Prankster, Ken Kesey. Kesey was renowned for appearing somewhat confused and disjointed, mixed in with his moments of genius, particularly as he reflected upon the death of his son. Kesey’s son died in a tragic accident, when the high school wrestling team's van drove off a cliff during a snow storm. Not long after his son's death, Kesey was invited to see the Grateful Dead play a gig somewhere on the West Coast. During the second set, the whole band turned to him and began playing Broke-down Palace. With tears in his eyes, Kesey later explained that it wasn't until that moment that he really understood the truly transcendent purpose of art, as he put it: "All my life I thought art was this [he stuck a fist in the air]. But at that moment I realized that art was really this [he made a hugging motion]."

So I ask again, why bother fasting on Tisha B’Av?

Many progressives with utopian aspirations feel that there is no longer any reason to fast. After all, who really wants to rebuild another "Broke-down Palace"? And of course, there is the modern State of Israel.

But think again! Expand your spiritual horizons and join us this coming Saturday evening at CBS, starting at 7:45 p.m., for reflection and meditation in Makom Shalom with Makor Or as we prepare the heart to enter into the sacred theater of Lamentations, which we will read at 8:50 p.m.

The Book of Lamentations itself is a singular work of genius in the Hebrew Bible. While it appears to be a standard template from the genre of Near Eastern laments, or kinnot, precious little of the focus is actually on the Temple cult itself. Here’s the rub — Tisha B’av and Lamentations beckon us to be present in our spiritual lives to degradation, poverty, homelessness, shame, anger, and rupture from God. And to top it off, there is the unmitigated audacity of the Sages (of blessed memory) in Pesikta de-Rav Kahana (20:5), who suggested but a few hundred years after the Second Temple’s destruction that the possibility of rebirth and creativity actually emerges from the ashes of destruction! The birthday of the Messiah is also purported to take place on Tisha B’Av! And then there is the fact that "Jewish Sadie Hawkins Day" is six days later — aka Tu B’Av! And how do we reconcile the teaching of Rabbi Aha in the name of Rabbi Yohanan who suggests that Israel "produced many more righteous people in its destruction than when it was built up"?

Tisha B'Av is a time for us to look deeper inside our hearts, acknowledge the brokenness, and to sing along with the Montreal bard:

"There is a crack, a crack in everything—that’s how the light gets in!"

Only after you have experienced the catastrophe can the song then be sung:

"In my time - in my time - I will roll roll roll..."

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Religion after Religio

CohenRabbi Glazer will present a talk entitled Religion after Religio: Unbinding the Binding of Isaac, Jesus Christ, & Joan of Arc through Zen on Monday, April 4, at 7 p.m., in the Board Room. His presentation considers how religion binds "the finite to the infinite, revelation to reason, matter to ghost" by focusing on the songbook of Leonard Cohen.

Rabbi Glazer writes, "Cohen returns to the stories of binding and crucifixion of Isaac, Jesus, and Joan of Arc. By inverting sacrifical imagery, Cohen sings of redemption in unexpected places and positions, until a complete dissolution of these binaries takes place, shifting into a vision of Buddhist Nirvana."

Harp Society Workshop and Recital

HarpMark your calendars for Sunday, April 10. From 6:30 - 8 p.m., award winning harpist, composer, and teacher Julia Kay Jamieson will present a recital in the CBS sanctuary. This special program will include music by Renié, de Falla, Ellington, A-ha, Tournier, Piazolla, Mercury, Leonard Cohen, and more. A more traditional harp repertoire will be paired with Jamieson’s own transcriptions of popular and jazz works. There will also be special guest appearances by Bay Area harpists Natalie Cox, Alexandra Perdew, and Diana Rowan.

CBS congregant, harpist, and board member of the Bay Area Chapter of the American Harp Society, Susie Spiwak, is part of the team producing the program, and CBS members should note that BACAHP will be donating 50% of all tickets purchased by CBS members and friends to CBS! Tickets for CBS members are $20 -- please click here to purchase now. (Purchase your tickets by Friday, April 8, and save 10%. Use promo code ADVANCE.)

Do you want to hear more? Attend Jamieson’s Fearless Improv workshop that afternoon. From 1:30 - 4:30 p.m., the BACAHS presents a hands-on harp workshop taught by Jamieson. You don’t have to play the harp -- observers are invited to attend and experience the tremendous range of a harp through improv and take away tips for their own music appreciation. All ages and levels welcome. For details and reservations, please click here.