Purimpalooza 5778 Recap

The CBS campus was packed this past Thursday afternoon and evening, as Beth Sholom community members of all ages donned costumes and imbibed good spirits during our annual Purimpalooza: Community Purim Carnival & Spiel To Support CBS Educational Programs. It’s a mitzvah to act the fool on Purim, so we tipped back our cups, ate dessert before dinner, grogged as we bounced, and generally went happy-wild together in costumed bliss.

Beloved Bay Area Jewish educator and entertainer Mimi Greisman put on a Purim puppet show that was a huge hit with our youngest community members, and the live entertainment by youth band Planet 17 (Elai Levinson, Alana Moore, Noa Resnikoff, and Hannah Urisman), the hip hop dance troupe Presidio Panther Dance Team (featuring Talya Glazer), and DJ Don Marks were hits with our all-ages audience. As one long-time congregant remarked, "It’s such a delight to see so many kids and young families reveling in this holiday." Indeed, it was!

The main attraction of this year’s Purim celebration was Flashback 5728, the original CBS Purim spiel musical featuring a script, cast, and crew of community members (a full list of participants is included at the end of this post) as well as a lot of classic 60s songs. This year, as last, the spiel was produced and directed by our talented all-star volunteer, Tracy Swedlow. Queen Vashti (aka, Caitlin Ahrens, pictured at the top of this post) blew the crowd away with a powerful, Janis Joplin-like rendition of "Piece of My Heart," but that was just one of many spiel highlights!

Special thanks to the many volunteers — from our Beth Sholom Madrichim to the United Synagogue Youth (USY) teens to CBS elder statesmen (and women!) — who staffed carnival games, ran the food counter, bartended, and helped Executive Chef Jane Sykes in the kitchen! Thanks, also, to Camp Ramah Norcal and Grand Bakery for participating in and contributing to our Purim fun. Thanks to the CBS Family Preschool and Shabbat School parents who did heavy lifting on behalf of CBS education, successfully soliciting so many great prizes for this year’s Purimpalooza raffle and silent auction, and also to those who helped the Beth Sholom staff plan the event. (See the full list of community volunteers at the end of this post.)

Another round of Persian fist pounds to the five volunteer bakers – Allen Levy, Betty Newman, Debra Surkin Perloff, Rosemary Rothstein, and Maralyn Tabatsky – who made hundreds of hamantaschen using Eva-Lynne Leibman's delicious recipe for the festivities. We all enjoyed the fruit pastries of their labors!

Finally, Purimpalooza wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the entire Beth Sholom staff, including all of our CBS Family Preschool teachers and everyone in the main office! Thanks for taking the organizational lead and working tirelessly to make the special day possible.

Todah rabbah (thank you very much)!

Check out some photos from the festivities below.

Community volunteers: Laura Albers, Osher Almog & Kira Gaber, Astrid Altschul, Thomas Bettles, Chelseaa & Dan Bush, Ben Chinn, Elin Cohen, Shana Cohen, David Coupar & Ashley Polselli, Wendy Cown, Ari Dalfen, Jesse Fink, Ellen Ginsberg, Amanda & Andrew Gold, Denise Goldstein, Steven Goode, Andrea Gough, Melissa Hansen, Henry Hollander, Veronica Holman, Sara Horwitz, Jason Jungreis, Nathalie Kaplan, Leo Kessler, Michali Kolnick, Andrea Korsunsky, Viki Lam, Carla Lieberman, Robyn Lipsky, Don & Gabi Marks, Mellissa Miller, Arlo Novicoff, Dawne Bear Novicoff, Liz Noteware, Pam Polselli, Crissy Ponciano, Carolyn & Pankaj Prasad, Kristen Rice, Dan & Anna Rubinsky, Josh Seeherman & Rebecca Brown, CJ & Maya Suchovsky, Nate Teitelbaum

Donors to raffle and silent auction: Maura & Ari Feingold, MacKenzie & Tam Huynh, Stacy & Steve Jenson, Kenyette Jones, Derek & Melissa Miller, Ashley Polselli, Dan & Anna Rubinsky, and Lu & Norman Zilber

Flashback 5728 Cast & Crew: Caitlin Ahrens, Linda Bernstein, Max Billick, Asher Chinn, Ben Chinn, Ernie Ernstrom, Talya Glazer, Scott Horwitz, Steve Miller, Debra Surkin Perloff, Max Schleicher, Aaron Seeman, Tracy Swedlow, Elyssa Wortzman, Daniel Zilberman, and Josh Zilberman

It's PURIMPALOOZA Time!

Join us for a groovy, far out Purim!

PURIMPALOOZA:
Community Purim Carnival & Spiel To Support CBS Educational Programs

Thursday, March 1
4 – 8:30 p.m.
Koret Hall, CBS campus


Carnival: 4 – 7 p.m.
Mimi Greisman Purim Puppet Show: 4:30 – 6 p.m.
Flashback 5728 (spiel): 7 p.m.

People of all backgrounds are taking to the streets en masse. Women are standing up for equality and respect. Immigrant communities are being vilified. Are we describing the Purim story, the late 1960s, or today's headlines? In a world gone ape once again, Purim takes on special resonance.

Join the CBS community on March 1 to celebrate a world turned upside down! There will be carnival games, a bounce house, a delicious dinner prepared by CBS Executive Chef Jane Sykes, a raffle with amazing prizes, a silent auction, live music by youth band Planet 17 and an exciting hip hop performance by the Presidio Panther Dance Team (featuring Talya Glazer), and booze aplenty! Your kids will enjoy the Purim puppet show and singalong by beloved Bay Area Jewish educator and entertainer, Mimi Greisman, and you'll enjoy the fact that the puppet show is staffed by our teachers, allowing all the "big kids" time to schmooze. This year, we're also producing an entirely original CBS Purim spiel musical featuring a cast and crew of members, a script by Beth Sholom community member, Ben Chinn, and a lot of classic 60s songs. Flashback 5728 will be performed in the Beth Sholom Sanctuary.

It's going to be an absolute blast...and it's for a great cause! All proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to support and enhance CBS youth education programming: the CBS Family Preschool, Shabbat School, and USY teen activities.

We look forward to seeing you (or Esther or Hodor or Daniel Tiger) there!


General admission is $36 for adults and $18 for children (2–13 years of age). Tickets include dinner, unlimited games/activities, and two drink tickets (for adults) and one drink ticket (for children).

We are also offering a family package rate: $100 for two adults and up to four children (pre-purchase); $136, if purchased on day-of.

Admission and raffle tickets are available for pre-sale -- scroll down to buy. Pre-bidding for the silent auction items begins Thursday, February 22; bidding forms are located in the Rainbow Courtyard. They will also be for sale during Purimpalooza!

We're also looking for day-of volunteers to help out at the many different game stations, bartending, food service, raffle ticket sales, etc. Please click here to sign up for a spot or spots. Thank you!

ACTIVITIES & GAMES::
Carnival games – Hamantaschen Toss, Tip the Clown, Bounce House, Five Pin Bowling, Roller Bowler, Miniature Golf
Carnival stations – Craft Tables, Face Painting, Hamantaschen Making, Henna Tattoo, Photo Booth, Spin Art

FOOD & DRINK:
Drinks – Peace punch, wine, whiskey, beer, Pellegrino, coffee/tea, and other specialty drinks (adult & children’s options)
Food – Falafel, homemade hamentaschen, and ice cream

RAFFLE TICKETS & PRIZES:
Raffle tickets are $5 each.
Prizes available: 1 month Family Membership to the YMCA ($200 value); GoCar Tour 4-hour tour for 2 people ($200 value); 2 lower box seats to a SF Giants agreed-upon game ($150 value); 2 SF Symphony tickets to March 22 performance of Mahler’s Fifth ($150 value); Geary Dance Center 50% off certificate for a semester of dance ($150 value); 2 Tickets to Oregon Shakespeare Festival ($150 value); 4 tickets to California Academy of Sciences ($145 value); 2 tickets to Beach Blanket Babylon ($140 value); 1 year complimentary membership to Contemporary Jewish Museum ($115 value); March–July supply of frozen Grand Bakery challah dough (to be picked up weekly at the preschool – $100 value); March–July supply of baked Grand Bakery challah (to be picked up weekly at the preschool – $100 value); 4 general admission tickets to The Walt Disney Family Museum ($100 value); Oakland Museum of California membership ($95 value); Tour and wine tasting for 4 guests at St. George Spirits ($80 value); 3 Zanshin Dojo gift certificates (one month of Karate classes – $75 value each); 5 general admission tickets to Bay Area Discovery Museum ($75 value); Gift certificate to Burma Superstar ($75 value); 4 general passes Chabot Space and Science Center ($72 value); 2 general admission tickets to the Exploratorium ($60 value); 4 passes to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo ($60 value); 4 General Admission passes to the Legion of Honor ($60 value); 2 gift cards to Straw Restaurant ($50 value each); Small gold Sparkalicious backpack & lunchbox ($50 value); Trader Joes Italian dinner basket ($50 value); 2 Blue and Gold Cruise Tickets ($40 value each); 2 San Francisco Carousel tickets at Pier 39 ($40 value); 2 7D Experience Tickets at Pier 39 ($40 value); 2 Rock a Boat tickets at Pier 39 ($40 value); 4 meal vouchers to Proposition Chicken ($30 value each); 2 games of miniature golf at Urban Putt ($24 value); Easy Breezy gift card ($20 value)

SILENT AUCTION PRIZE PACKAGES:
Wine Lovers Package: Trefethen Family Vineyards Tasting for 4 people in the historic winery; a bottle of Trefethen Family Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay; a bottle of Trefethen Family Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon; Platypus Wine Tour in Napa for 6 guests; Sapphire Hill wine and food pairing in barrel room for 10 guests (valued at well over $1,000!)
Ballet Package: Pass to admit 2 to San Francisco Ballet March 6 dress rehearsal of Frankenstein (includes reception); Pass to admit 2 to San Francisco Ballet March 20 dress rehearsal of special Jerome Robbins program
Escape The Fog Package: Family Day passes to Oakland Zoo; One day admission for 2 to Gilroy Gardens; 4 general admission tickets to Children’s Fairyland, Oakland

SILENT AUCTION INDIVIDUAL PRIZES:
Prizes available: Soda Springs (child friendly) vacation home – up to 8 guests for one weekend; Challah baking lessons with Eva-Lynne Leibman; 49ers tickets to any home game; Summer pool party and BBQ with Katherine and Dale for one family (priceless); May 6th Day trip to Goatlandia Ranch in Sonoma for 20 children and their parents ($150 each); Step Stool decorated by Kitah Alef (priceless); Wagon created and decorated by Kitah Bet (priceless); Collaborative Canvas Art by Pre-K Hey (priceless); Collaborative Hanukkiah by Kitah Dalet (priceless); wine boxes; Play date in Sausalito with teachers Devin and Ariel – up to 4 children (priceless); Umbrellas decorated by Kitah Gimmel (priceless); Liza and Anne trip to SF Zoo (priceless); Outdoor Adventure Day for 15 children with Pre-K Hey teachers – up to 15 children aged 3 and up; Jewel Kade Crystal Charm Necklace; New Jogging stroller (details coming); Bonsai tree; Basket of Teacher Pam’s favorite early childhood books

The Financial Four -- March 21, 2017

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

*****
Donation_CBSYellow
Dear Chaverim,

It’s March, and while it may have gone unnoticed to some, I’m proud to say that Scott and I celebrated our one-year anniversary of living together and working together at the shul!

It’s been an exciting year, and while we still argue about who has to get up and feed Luna (Scott, always), we also get to spend time talking about how best to serve you and the synagogue every day, and that means a lot to us both. It would be silly not to take this opportunity to say how much I appreciate all that Scott has done. Or to mention how lovely it is to hear this from you whenever we see you. But I would be REALLY silly not to acknowledge all the fantastic help Scott has had along the way, and I'll do so in the form of some financial updates!

1. Our Fabulous Consultants. – Some of you may recognize the names Steven Dinkelspiel and Susan Jacobson from so much of their great work in the Bay Area Jewish community. CBS has had the good luck of having them engaged in helping us grow a more fervent development culture here at CBS. Steven and Susan have been essential in helping us to focus on what you, the members of the synagogue, think is most important, and we have been able to raise more than $300,000 so far in donations this year, outside of membership!

2. Our even more fabulous Board. – Talk about people dedicated to a cause! These are the wonderful people who take the time out of their already busy lives to dedicate themselves to the synagogue. Some of our board members took on the mitzvah years ago without any clue of how things would progress, while others stepped up in the middle of a crisis and have pitched in to fill needs and gaps. I’m happy to say that I personally know of at least three more community members (I can’t announce their names just yet) who are applying to join our amazing board, and we could not be luckier to have them – they will continue what we have grown here so far!

3. Our amazing staff. – For those of you who came to Purimpalooza, our Purim carnival and spiel, it is almost as if I can see your faces soften as you remember that terrific afternoon. Our staff put in countless hours to make all those games, delicious food, prizes, and fun happen, and the community experience led to a lot of generosity that still continues. We made about $8,000 net on the event itself, but big businesses wish they could garner as much goodwill as the great event has. And the staff is so excited, they're dreaming up more programming fun...like the Fress Kosher for Passover dessert event that will take place at Brandeis.

4. Numbers. All kinds of numbers. – CBS is engaged in some new accounting best practices, including surplus budgeting, cash and accrual metrics, meaningful fund accounting, and sub-line budget to actual reporting. We are running projections that, mostly through some significant cost cuts, will allow us to show a surplus for the year, which is critical for our loan covenants. Outside of the accountant realm, I also like numbers such as: the (sold-out) upcoming Parnas members event at SFJAZZ; the number of members who have supported and sponsored our Shabbat kiddush lunch program; the number of new members (~30); and the number of new events and types of events we are hosting here. I could not be more enthusiastic about the way you are making the synagogue a place for your celebrations and gatherings – and I couldn’t be happier for you.

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

Purimpalooza Recap

Facebook_Purimpalooza23_March2017The CBS community filled our campus on Sunday, donning costumes and good spirits for Purimpalooza: Community Purim Carnival & Spiel To Support CBS Educational Programs. We gamed, gambled, bounced, danced, ate, drank, grogged, and spieled together, toasting a temporarily inverted world.

Unquestionably, the highlight of this year's Purim celebration was Long Live The Spiel, the Purim spiel produced and directed by congregant and all-star volunteer, Tracy Swedlow. Featuring an all-congregant crew and cast (a full list of participants is included at the end of this post), the spiel adapted music and lyrics from the hit musical Les Misérables to tell the story of Esther, Mordecai, and the loathsome Haman.

Special thanks to the many volunteers — from United Synagogue Youth (USY) teens to CBS elder statesmen (and women!) — who staffed carnival games, ran the food counter, bartended, and helped Executive Chef Jane Sykes in the kitchen! Thanks, too, to the CBS Family Preschool parents and Shabbat School parents who hustled on behalf of CBS education by successfully soliciting so many great prizes for the Purimpalooza raffles and silent auction, and also to those who helped the CBS staff plan the event. (See the full list of community volunteers at the end of this post.)

Upside down Purim high-fives to all of the megillah readers – Pat Ackerman, Adam Hertz, Scott Horwitz, David Malman, Marshall Schwartz, and Rabbi Glazer – and their benevolent vizier, Owen Leibman, who organized and read, as well.

Persian fist pounds to the seven volunteer bakers – Karen Benjamin, Marsha Glantz, Ruth Jaffe, Eva-Lynne Leibman, Allen Levy, Sharyn Loeb, and Debra Surkin Perloff – who made 400 hamantaschen for the weekend festivities. We enjoyed the fruit pastries of their labors!

Finally, Purimpalooza wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the entire CBS staff, but Katherine Friedman Barboni, Dale Kleisley, Kim Hegg, and Jane Sykes deserve a special shout-out for taking the organizational lead and working tirelessly to make the special day possible.

Todah rabbah (thank you very much)!

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

Facebook_Purimpalooza1_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza10_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza4_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza5_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza6_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza8_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza12_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza14_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza13_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza18_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza19_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza20_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza24_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza26_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza27_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza31_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza32_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza35_March2017 Facebook_Purimpalooza36_March2017 Community volunteers: Gillian Adams, Osher Almog, Kathryn Bair, Daniela Bernstein, Chelseaa Bush, Daniel Bush, Asher Butnik, Janet Carignani, Rajeev Chopra, Wendy Cown, Sonia Daccarett, Andrew Dawson, Susan Dawson, Kira Gaber, Eli Ganz, David Goldenberg, Sam Goldenberg, Jackie Holman, Veronica Holman, Sara Horwitz, Ovid Jacob, Noah Keith, Leo Kessler, Miles Kessler, Viki Lam, Vered Levinson, Jason Levy, Carla Lieberman, Mia Mandler, Adi Barak Marino, Melissa Miller, Liza Monge, Devin Patrick, Kristen Rice, Anna Rubinsky, Dan Rubinsky, Bat-El Saad, Mo Safdie, Jennifer Sand, Eric Steuer, Tracy Swedlow, Jordan Toledo, Bret Wadleigh, Rick Wolfgram, Hsieyun Yang, Nicole Ziman, and Sasha Ziman

Donors to raffle and silent auction: Kathryn Bair, Katherine Friedman Barboni, Rebecca Brown, Rhoda Draws, Ari Feingold, Maura Feingold, Stacy Jenson, Steve Jenson, Dale Kleisley, Eva-Lynne Leibman, Anne McComas, Debbie Patrick, Devin Patrick, Jim Patrick, Bat-El Saad, Pam Seaman, Josh Seeherman, Tracy Swedlow, Jane Sykes, Robyn Sribhen White, Lucille Zilber, and Norm Zilber

Long Live The Spiel Cast & Crew: Caitlin Ahrens, Emilia Alroy, Iris Alroy, Babalou, Linda Bernstein, Marion Bernstein, Max Billick, Asher Chinn, Ben Chinn, Sonia Daccarett, Rabbi Billy Dreskin, Dick Gentschel, Rabbi Glazer, Talya Glazer, Katherine Hollander, Scott Horwitz, Ilan Jacob, Ovid Jacob, Sidney Keith, Steve Miller, Irv Rothstein, Rosey Rothstein, Marcia Sohn, Norman Sohn, Tracy Swedlow, Elyssa Wortzman, Daniel Zilberman, Mark Zilberman

Dance The Pain Away

DancingHasidsIt's easy for us to shirk our Jewish responsibility to wrestle with the more challenging and anachronistic aspects of our tradition. In a few weeks, when we read Parashat Vayikra, we'll reconsider the ancient Israelites' sacrificial practices, which seem quite alien to us today. Yet the psychological distance imposed by time and social change doesn't relieve us of our duty to parse and digest the rituals.

Evan Wolkenstein, Director of Experiential Education for American Jewish World Service (and a teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay), writes,

"Nearly 2000 years have passed since the last turtledove’s blood was wrung against the altar walls, and we are still forced to acknowledge that, interesting as they may be, these verses are relevant almost exclusively through creative hermeneutics. We may look to Vayikra for inspiration. We may find its details somewhat disturbing. But no matter our potential discomfort, one thing is certain for all of us—we would never remove these passages from the Torah."

We would never remove the passages because, as Wolkenstein puts it, "none of us is better off by forgetting any part of the past." To the contrary, the past should inform and improve our present; earnest discourse about (and with) the past makes us better Jews and better human beings. Such soul-searching, though, is often uncomfortable, and few Jews outside of our clergy make a regular habit of it. Those who do and who elect to share their ruminations are too often criticized or ignored.

Case in point: every year, a handful of Jewish writers point out that the Purim story has a "a dark and dangerous underside." Invariably, these voices are lambasted and labelled "self-hating" or "naive." In fact, it is the reactionary critics, those who refuse to reside in the uneasy and uncertain space of Purim, who do a grave disservice to our tradition and, importantly, to our future. Lest this seem like a partisan broadside, however, the Jews at the other end of the spectrum – those who refuse to observe or celebrate Purim because they've written it off as a politically incorrect tale of "bloody revenge" (and even attempted genocide by Jews, not of Jews) – are no less misguided.

Two years ago, writing in The Forward, religious studies professor Shaul Magid, allowed as how "Purim is essentially about the celebration of violence." But he doesn't stop there. He doesn't suggest that Purim should wither on the vine or be reduced to a Disney-fied carnival, an intellectually impotent combo of Halloween and Mardi Gras. Instead, he suggests a way forward by sharing a story. How very Jewish of him.

"If you want to approach Purim with a spirit of open-mindedness this year, I’ve got an idea of how to do it. There is a story about blotting out Amalek told in the name of the Hasidic master Zvi Elimelekh of Dinov (1783-1841). I heard the story from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (z"l). During the Purim feast, Zvi Elimelekh suddenly stopped the festivities and said, 'Saddle the horses and get the carriages, it is time to blot out Amalek.' His Hasidim were petrified. 'What could the master mean?' Being obedient disciples, they got in their carriages and followed their rebbe. He rode into town to a local inn where the Polish peasants (the Amalekites of his day?) were engaged in their own drunken bash.

The rebbe and his disciples entered the inn. When the peasants saw them, they stopped dancing. The music stopped. Everyone circled around the rebbe and the Jews as they walked to the center of the dance floor. The room was silent. The rebbe looked at one of the peasants and put out his hand with his palm to the ceiling. Silence. The peasants looked at one another. Suddenly one of them stepped forward and took the rebbe’s hand. They slowly started dancing. The musicians began playing. In a matter of minutes, all the Hasidim and peasants were dancing furiously with one another.

You want to blot out Amalek? [...] Reach out your hand. And dance. That is how you blot out Amalek. Crazy? Ask Zvi Elimelekh of Dinov. That is what it means to take Purim seriously.
"

Put another way by David Bowie (z"l),

"Let's dance -- put on your red shoes and dance the blues
[...]
Let's sway -- you could look into my eyes
Let's sway under the moonlight,
this serious moonlight.
"

This year, maybe, we can dance with one another (and with our tradition), warts, disagreements, and all.

PURIMPALOOZA!

Mark your calendars for a doozy of a party!

Facebook_Purimpalooza2 PURIMPALOOZA:
Community Purim Carnival
& Spiel To Support CBS Educational Programs


Sunday, March 12
11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Koret Hall, CBS campus


Carnival: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Long Live The Spiel!: 2 - 3 p.m.
Megillah reading: 3 – 4 p.m.

Political intrigue, unrestrained vanity and ego, misogyny, revenge fantasies – are we talking about the Purim story or today's headlines? During this topsy-turvy time, Purim takes on special resonance.

Join the CBS community on March 12 to celebrate a world turned upside down!

There will be carnival games, a bounce house, a dance-off, delicious food prepared by CBS Executive Chef Jane Sykes, two raffles with amazing prizes, a silent auction, a performance by youth band, Planet 17, an interactive megillah reading, and booze aplenty! This year, however, we're also producing an original CBS Purim spiel musical featuring a cast and crew of members and adapted lyrics and music from the famous musical, Les Miserables. Long Live The Spiel! : The Exciting Story of Esther to the Music of "Les Misérables" will be performed in the CBS Sanctuary.

We will also have a Music & Movement Room designed for children three years of age and younger. This special activity is sponsored by the San Francisco Jewish Baby Network and PJ Library. Popular Bay Area songster Jonathan Bayer will be playing music in the room and we will have lots of books from PJ Library on hand for your kiddos to enjoy. (A one-time entry fee of $3 includes "in and out" privileges for the rest of the day!)

It's going to be an absolute blast...and it's for a great cause! All proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to support and enhance CBS youth education programming: the CBS Family Preschool, Shabbat School, and USY teen activities. We look forward to seeing you (or Esther or Hodor or Simone Biles) there!

General admission is free, but you will need to purchase $1 "activity tickets" to exchange for games, food, and drinks. Activity tickets will be available for sale the day of the event only. Raffle tickets are available for pre-sale -- scroll down to buy -- as well as during PURIMPALOOZA.

We're also looking for day-of volunteers to help out at the many different game stations, bartending, food service, raffle ticket sales, etc. Please click here to sign up for a spot or spots. Thank you!

ACTIVITY/FOOD/DRINK TICKET "FEES":
Carnival games (Sport Hockey, Hamantaschen Toss, Tip the Clown, Mini Golf, Five Pin Bowling, Flip the Frog) = 1 ticket per play
Carnival stations (Crown Decorating, Face Painting, Henna Tattoo, Photo Booth, Spin Art) = 3 tickets
Caricature station (with professional artist Rhoda Draws = 10 tickets
Bounce House = 2 tickets
Bloody Mary = 8 tickets
Mimosa = 8 tickets
Beer & Wine = 6 tickets
Pellegrino soda (Orangiata or Limonata) = 2 ticket
Coffee/Tea = 1 ticket
Ice cream = 3 tickets
Chili = 5 tickets
Quesadilla Triangles = 2 tickets
Fig Bars = 2 tickets
Cheese Sticks = 1 ticket each
Bananas & Clementines = 1 ticket each
Homemade Hamantaschen = 3 tickets for 2; 2 tickets for 1

RAFFLE TICKETS & PRIZES:
General raffle tickets are $54/4.
Prizes available: A pair of San Francisco Giants AT&T Park box seats (for mutually agreed-upon game, $300 value); a pair of San Francisco Opera tickets ($214 value); a pair of San Francisco Ballet tickets ($200 value); Geary Dance Center 50% discount for semester tuition ($200 value); Primp Salon hair care gift box ($200 value); wine tasting for 4 at Judd's Hill Winery ($160 value); Skin Remedy organic skin care package ($120 value); a pair of Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park passes ($110 value); 2 tickets to a performance of Beach Blanket Babylon ($110 value); a pair of tickets to Legion of Honor & a copy of Monet: The Early Years ($105 value); Cleanerific from Jewish Family & Children's Services – 2 people for 2 hours of "green" home cleaning services ($100 value); one month subscription to Tutu School (4 classes, $100 value); a $100 Straw gift certificate; a pair of tickets to attend Harvest Wine Celebration in Livermore Valley; a 4-person emergency supply kit ($85 value) and meeting with an emergency planner to develop a family emergency plan; a manicure/pedicure gift certificate to Polish ($80 value); a membership to the Contemporary Jewish Museum ($75 value); 4 Chabot Space & Science Center tickets ($70 value); a pair of California Academy of Sciences tickets ($70 value); a pair of de Young Museum or Legion of Honor tickets ($60 value); a Bixbee light-up butterfly packback w/ matching lunchbox ($60 value); an Italian dinner for 4, courtesy of Trader Joe's ($50 value); a $50 Proposition Chicken gift certificate; complimentary wine tasting for 4 people at Gloria Ferrer Winery; 2 $25 gift certificates to Giorgio's Pizza; a $25 gift card to Y & I Clothing Botique; 1 caricature (head and shoulders) created from a photo by professional caricature artist Rhoda Draws; 2 $25 Bazaar Café gift certificates; a gift care for 10 Zumba Fitness classes w/ Taina Lipinski (classes occur at CBS)

Jackpot raffle tickets are $100/1 and $250/3.
Prizes available: 1-week, all-inclusive (except airfare) vacation in Cabo San Jose, Mexico ($3,000 value); a weekend retreat at a lovely home in Sonoma County ($1,000 value); a pair of San Francisco 49ers tickets (for mutually agreed-upon game, $700 value); wine and cheese pairing for a group of 10 people in a private barrel room at Sapphire Hill Winery ($360 value)

SILENT AUCTION PRIZES:
Prizes available: 14,000 points toward RCI Resort vacation at the RCI location of your choice (up to $2,000 value, depending on location selected); group challah class for up to 10 people with Eva-Lynne Leibman, in her kitchen or yours ($500 value); individual challah class with Eva-Lynne Leibman, in her kitchen or yours ($100 value); dinner with CBS Family Preschool directors Katherine and Dale (catered by CBS Executive Chef Jane Sykes); Beauty Counter Baby Basket w/ baby wash, baby oil, and baby balm ($54 value); a personalized makeover with Lesley Merritt plus a $25 gift card for purchases of $75+; 1 box of red wines; 1 box of white wines; 1 box of mixed red/white wines; 1 basket of Belgium beer and delicacies; a sleepover party led by Anne McComas & Katie Bair, CBS Family Preschool teachers; 2 4-hour babysitting packages for 2 children (with Batel Saad, CBS Family Preschool teacher); a special project created by each CBS Family Preschool classroom

Megillah Gras In Pictures

The CBS community filled our campus yesterday afternoon and evening, turning out en masse for Megillah Gras: Community Purim Fundraiser To Benefit CBS Education. We played, danced, ate, drank, and grogged together into the night, toasting a temporarily inverted world. The shared enthusiasm and warmth of the event was palpable; our hearts are full.

Special thanks to the many volunteers -- from United Synagogue Youth (USY) teens to CBS elder statesmen (and women!) -- who staffed carnival games, ran the food counter, bartended, and helped Executive Chef Jane Sykes in the kitchen! Thanks, too, to the CBS Family Preschool parents and Shabbat School parents who hustled on behalf of CBS education by successfully soliciting so many great prizes for the Megillah Gras raffles and silent auction, and also to those who helped the CBS staff plan the event. Todah rabbah (thank you very much)!

Megillah Gras wouldn't have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the entire CBS staff, of course, but Dale Kleisley, Assistant Director of Early Childhood Education, deserves a special shout-out for leading the Purim charge! Kol HaKavod, Dale!

Check out some photos from the program below.

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!

Megillah Gras!

Mark your calendars for the one Purim party you don't want to miss!
AND BUY YOUR RAFFLE TICKETS NOW!

MegillahGras_Poster Megillah Gras:
Community Purim Fundraiser
To Benefit CBS Education


Wednesday, March 23
4:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Koret Hall, CBS campus


It's time to celebrate a world turned upside down, people! It's Megillah Gras time!

Join the CBS community on March 23 to revel in the joy and craziness of Purim. There will be carnival games, a bounce house, a dance-off, delicious food prepared by CBS Executive Chef Jane Sykes, two raffles with amazing prizes, a silent auction, an interactive megillah reading, lots of alcohol (of course), and more!

It's going to be an absolute blast...and it's for a great cause! All proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to support and enhance CBS youth education programming: the CBS Family Preschool, Shabbat School, and USY teen activities.

We look forward to seeing you (or Esther or Donald Trump or Chewbacca) there! The megillah reading will begin shortly after 7 p.m.

General admission is free, but you will need to purchase $1 "activity tickets" to exchange for games, food, and drinks. Activity tickets will be available for sale the day of the event only. Raffle tickets are available for pre-sale via Universe -- click through to purchase them now! -- as well as during Megillah Gras.

ACTIVITY/FOOD/DRINK TICKET "FEES":
Carnival games (Skee Ball, Slap Shot Hockey, Hamantaschen Toss, Tip the Clown, Mini Golf, Bounce House, Jug Tumble, Fishing Hole) = 1 ticket per play
Mixed drinks = 9 tickets
Beer/wine = 6 tickets
Non-alcoholic beverages = 2 tickets
Ice cream = 4 tickets
Falafel w/ the works = 6 tickets
Potato Knish = 3 tickets
Boureka = 2 tickets
Bag of popcorn = 3 tickets
Homemade Hamantaschen = 3 tickets for 2; 2 tickets for 1

RAFFLE TICKETS & PRIZES:
General raffle tickets are $18/1 or $54/4.
Prizes available: A pair of San Francisco Opera tickets ($214 value); a pair of San Francisco Giants AT&T Park box seats (for mutually agreed-upon game); 4 passes to the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) guest passes ($48 value); a 1-year membership to the CJM ($75 value); a pair of San Francisco Ballet Repertory Season tickets ($200 value); house cleaning voucher - 2 cleaners for 2 hours (courtesy of Jewish Family & Children's Services); $250 Sports Basement gift certificate; all the fixings for an Italian dinner for 4 courtesy of Trader Joe's ($50 value); California Academy of Sciences tickets ($35 value each); 2 Good Shab-Box! Shabbat dinners to go; a $25 Shubert's Bakery gift certificate; a $25 Cole Hardware gift certificate; 2 passes (for up to 5 guests) to the Bay Area Discovery Museums; an original artwork by CBS community member Helen Leibman; 2 tickets to the San Francisco Zoo ($38 value); Salvestrin Winery complimentary legacy tasting (for up to 4 guests; $100 value)

Jackpot raffle tickets are $100/1 and $250/3.
Prizes available: 2 1-week, all-inclusive (except airfare) vacations in Cabo San Jose, Mexico; a five course small plate food and wine pairing at Sapphire Hill in Healdsburg for up to 10 guests in private room ($450 value)

BUY YOUR RAFFLE TICKETS NOW!

SILENT AUCTION PRIZES:
Prizes available: a 1-week, all-inclusive (except airfare) vacation in Cabo San Jose, Mexico; one made-to-order Eva-Lynne Liebman challah design ($100 value); a ceramic nature platter made by our Preschool PreK students; 8-10 hours of babysitting (up to 2 nights) by one of our USY leaders (a $150 value); a collaborative artwork on canvas, also created by our Preschool PreK students; a $150 gift certificate to Miss Tilly's Ballet & Theater Arts; a 2-hour Creative Canopy sewing birthday party package for 4 children ($185 value)

Shul School: "Thinking Matters" Resumes

Our "Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy"
course series continues this winter!

thinker Join an impressive line-up of teachers to wrestle with the exciting and challenging questions of modern Jewish philosophy! Can there be such a thing as a Jewish philosophy, or a philosophy of Judaism? How have Jewish traditions participated in the philosophical canon? How are Judaism and Jewish ideas relevant to the modern relationship of ethics, theology, and philosophy?

For an introduction to Jewish modern thought and philosophy, we recommend Steven Katz's essay, "Eliezar Berkovits & Modern Jewish Philosophy."

Details and readings for the "Thinking Matters" mini-courses taught in January - March 2016 are included below.


s51-benjamin-540x304 January 7
People of the Book (1 session w/ Henry Hollander)

Henry Hollander's class will meet on Thursday night in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

January 7: People of the Book, Modernity, & Philosophy of Book Collecting

Reading: Walter Benjamin, "Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting," Illuminations, pp. 59-67

January 14, 21, 28, & February 4
Walter Benjamin: A Jewish Nietzsche? (4 sessions w/ Michael Loebs)

Michael Loeb's classes meet Thursday nights in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

January 14: On Friendship As Metaphysics

Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, "of the Three Metamorphoses," "Of War and Warriors," and "Of the Friend," from Thus Spake Zarathrustra, Part I
450px-Friedrich_Nietzsche_drawn_by_Hans_Olde 
Reading: Walter Benjamin, "Dialogue on the Religiosity of the Present" (1912)

January 21: Morality and the Critique of Violence


Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Part I

Reading: Walter Benjamin, Zur Kritik der Gewalt (Critique of Violence, 1921)

January 28: Art, Culture, & Technology

Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Book 2, pp. 57-59, 78-89, 107)

Reading: Walter Benjamin, Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936)

February 4: Redemption from History & Messianism

Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage & Disadvantage of History (Forward, Sec. 1-3, 6-7)

Reading: Walter Benjamin, Über den Begriff der Geschichte (On the Concept of History / Theses on the Philosophy of History, 1940), w/ "Theologico-Political Fragment"

February 11, 18, & March 17, 24
Philosophy of Purim: Modernity & Perennial Parody (4 sessions w/ Rabbi Aubrey Glazer)

Rabbi Glazer's classes meet Thursday nights in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

February 11: Philosophy of Purim in Woody Allen, Part I: God, Suicide, & the Meaning of Life
Source Sheet: Beyond Good & Evil: Philosophy of Purim & Hypernomianism
Source Sheet: Source in the Ethical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant

February 18: Philosophy of Purim in Woody Allen, Part II: Zelig, Inauthenticity, & Personal Identity


Source Sheet: Costumes, Masks, & (in)Authenticity

a-texas-judge-cited-the-big-lebowski-in-a-legal-decision March 17: Philosophy of Purim in The Big Lebowski, Part I: “I don’t roll on Shabbos," Jewish Identity, & the Philosophy of History
Source Sheet: Beyond Good & Evil: Philosophy of Purim & Hypernomianism

March 24: Philosophy of Purim in The Big Lebowski, Part II: “That Ain’t Legal Either," Rules, Authenticity, & Hyper-nomianism
Source Sheet: Beyond Good & Evil: Philosophy of Purim & Hypernomianism

February 25, March 3, 10, & 31
Ghetto Thinking: From the First Ghetto in Venice to the Last Ghetto in Lodz
(4 sessions w/ Dr. Michael Thaler)

Dr. Thaler's classes meet Thursday nights in the CBS Board Room from 7-8:30 p.m.

February 25: The Venice Ghetto


Source Sheet: Venice: The first ghetto

March 3: The Venice Ghetto


Source Sheet: Venice, 1616

March 10: The Lodz Ghetto


Source Sheet: Lodz: The last ghetto

March 31: The Lodz Ghetto
Source sheet: Lodz ghetto, 1942

Image credits: uncredited photo of Walter Benjamin; Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche by Hans Olde, 1899/1900; Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, and John Goodman in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski (Courtesy of Universal Studios)

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!

What's A Jew To Do With The Pagan Pull Of Halloween?

When I was a painting major in high school, I was a nominally-affiliated Conservative Jew wrestling with a challenging conundrum. What image should I choose for my inevitable tattoo? My entire peer group was preoccupied with the counter-culture of punk, and it was a given that either a piercing or tattooing was a de rigeur part of our misfit identity.

No matter how many images I poured over, I simply could not decide. Would it be an exploding head by Ralph Steadman or maybe a decomposing skull by Pushead? You get the picture; the more macabre the better!

SamhainBandAt the same time as I was agonizing over the tattoo image short list, I immersed myself in the most morose punk rock and death metal known to mankind. There was something about the wild and ecstatic sonic energy of the Misfits (1977-1983), for example, that drew me to a weekly mosh pit filled with thrashing dancers — this, I suppose, was my search for community. At some point, I stumbled onto a later incarnation of the Misfits known as Samhain (1983-1989), featuring lead singer Glenn Danzig, Eerie Von on both bass and drums, as well as other motley members. Samhain performed harrowing hits like "All Hell," "Bloodfeast," "Die, Die, My Darling," "Death Comes Ripping," and of course "Halloween II." I was totally absorbed by this celebration of the un-dead world, and I became curious about where this music and art was drawing its inspiration from -- what exactly is Samhain?

Who better to turn to for an answer than Philip Carr-Gomm, the Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Writing about the Paleopagan and Mesopagan druids in Britain, Carr-Gomm reflects:

"Samhuinn, from 31 October to 2 November, was a time of no-time…the Celts knew that there had to be a time when order and structure were abolished, when chaos could reign. And Samhuinn was such a time. Time was abolished for the three days of this festival and people did crazy things, men dressed as women and women as men. Farmers’ gates were unhinged and left in ditches, peoples’ horses were moved to different fields, and children would knock on neighbours’ doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a watered-down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Hallowe’en." (Philip Carr-Gomm, The Elements of the Druid Tradition, 1991)

Etching-Druid-Samhain-FestivalAt the time, I lacked the self-awareness to understand what it was about the counter-cultural adaptation of Samhuinn that held such sway over my peers and myself (never mind the power of the same impulse, mutatis mutandi, in Judaism, which is most apparent during the carnivalesque of Purim!) But given the anxieties of high school and the unmoored search for meaning, we were regularly swimming in creative chaos, a seemingly endless stretch of "time that is no-time." But Carr-Gomm expands on this concept:

"But behind this apparent lunacy lay a deeper meaning. The druids knew that these three days had a special quality about them. The veil between this world and the World of the Ancestors was drawn aside on these nights, and for those who were prepared, journeys could be made in safety to the 'other side.'" (Philip Carr-Gomm, The Elements of the Druid Tradition)

The argument Carr-Gomm presents is of a druid culture that is really more about life than death. These pagan rites were really focused on making contact with the spirits of the departed as sources of guidance rather than dread. The druids needed to connect to the “root-wisdom of the tribe” not as something dead, but "as the living spirits of loved ones." I found this idea very compelling, and it opened the door for me to turn back to Judaism.

That "slight, small turn" -- what the Kotzker rebbe called ein klein drei -- is all it took! I spent the next chapter of my search for meaning in and out of different ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic yeshivot (study academies), shteiblach (small, "old school" synagogues), and even Carlebach camp at Rainbow Festival, searching for the root-wisdom of my own tribe not as dead (which is how I was encountering religion in its institutionalized forms), but "as the living spirits of loved ones."

Still, even as I began to explore the riches of the Jewish world, I progressed deeper into the macabre counter-culture of Samhain. Eventually, I was invited by a close punk friend, S.M., to listen to Reign in Blood, a new record by the death metal band Slayer. I remember sitting in his broken-down, Section 8 housing as the lyrics of the album's opening song, "Angel of Death," started screeching from his turntable:

"Auschwitz, the meaning of pain
The way that I want you to die
Slow death, immense decay
Showers that cleanse you of your life
Forced in
Like cattle
You run
Stripped of
Your life's worth
Human mice, for the Angel of Death
Four hundred thousand more to die"


Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1993-051-07,_Tafel_mit_KZ-Kennzeichen_(Winkel)_retouchedThese words written by Slayer guitarist and lead-vocalist, Jeff Hanneman, scorched my soul. I immediately got up and left, nauseated. Perhaps that was the point -- to reach the point beyond meaning which is nausea. The systematic tattooing of prisoners at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Complex (including Auschwitz I, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Monowitz) set it apart as an experience beyond any common notion of pain or humiliation; in that respect, at least, Slayer was partially right. Prior to tattooing, upon arrival at the concentration camp, prisoners were issued their numbers. These were sewn to their uniforms, along with different shapes, symbols, and letters identifying status, nationality, and religion of the prisoner.

Prisoners selected for immediate extermination were almost never assigned numbers—after all, that would have been a waste! This history alone should have been enough to nauseate me and any of my friends, preventing us from considering anything resembling a tattoo. (Indeed, I recall another Jewish friend, A., who had tattooed most of his body when he became a skin-head in high school and then spent the next decade in laser surgery to remove every last trace.) Nausea can compell choices and actions; as I was to learn later from Emmanuel Levinas, writing as a soon-to-be-survivor of the Shoah in 1935, nausea, along with pleasure, were two visceral emotions that lead us to escape from being:

"There is in nausea a refusal to remain there, an effort to get out. Yet this effort is already characterized as desperate: in any case, it is so for any attempt to act or think. And this despair, this fact of being riveted, constitutes all the anxiety of nausea. In nausea -- which amounts to an impossibility of being what one is -- we are at the same time riveted to ourselves, enclosed in a tight circle that smothers." (Emmanuel Levinas, On Escape).

As the depths of my soul were being smothered in high school by this counter-cultural being-towards-death, my malaise had reached its limit and my innards were heaving outwards, propelling me along a new pathway of meaning. As I wended my way through university, eventually focusing on French language and literature, I became drawn to that same Jewish philosopher, Levinas, who escaped the clutches of Nazi genocide. Levinas’ courage to continue embracing life in the face of death, to see that beyond the slaughterhouse of Nazism an ethical first philosophy was still possible -- this gave me renewed hope as a Jewish philosopher. I came to the realization that the impossibility of choosing one image was now irrelevant; I would now never scratch an image into my skin for life -- the tattoo came to seem utterly banal. How I came to this realization without yet knowing of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), where she coined the controversial term describing the unthinking, mindlessness of the Third Reich’s leaders like Eichmann as "the banality of evil" still shocks me.

So here we are in American Jerusalem on erev-All Hallow's Eve, being pushed and pulled in so many directions as Jews. I see the terrified look in the faces of a visiting Israeli family here for just six months, trying to make sense of the mayhem about to unfold. "What should we do with our children?," they ask me. This is their welcome to San Francisco; for those new to American culture, it can be a scare. Far away from their homeland, this family has landed in the heart of another holy land called American Post-Judaism -- as Shaul Magid courageously reminds us in his book of the same title. Yet, despite the horrors of the latest stats, the family is in search of itself and meaning. How can they resist the pull of paganism and reclaim and redeem the foundations of Jewish monotheism from the shadow of "the Mosaic distinction," that moment when an earlier inclusive monotheism was eclipsed by a more exclusivist monotheism? By embracing cosmotheism, a theology that posits that "the divine world (or cosmos) and the world we live in are inextricably intertwined" according to Magid. But cosmotheism remains largely undiscovered.

So, this year, as my nine-year-old daughter pulls at my sleeve to take her out to "trick or treat," I am gentle, but firm in reminding her that if we do go, it will be nothing more than a dress rehearsal for Purim, our day of redemption — a time beyond time — beyond good and evil, when the divine cannot be divorced from the world.

Halloween
Image credits: 1) Original concert photo of band Samhain taken April of 1986 in a tiny club in Columbus, Ohio; J Fotoman; 2) Colored etching of a Celtic Druid Samhain festival at Stonehenge, uncredited and undated; 3) Nazi camp ID emblems in a 1936 German illustration, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license; 4) Halloween trick-or-treaters, photo by Pictoscribe (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)