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.

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 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

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