David Malman, Calligrapher & Mensch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Shavuot: The Kabbalah of Ice Cream

Blog2_KabbalahOfIceCream_posterJoin fellow members of our Bay Area Jewish community for an illuminating night (and dawn!) of learning, rejoicing, and good eats on Tuesday, May 30, and Wednesday, May 31!

Start the evening with a community dinner and post-nosh learning at Congregation Chevra Thilim, then move on to Richmond District staple Toy Boat Dessert Café (for some sweet, edifying licks) before settling in at CBS for our Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night Torah study session established by Jewish mystics.

Check out the full schedule below and join us for some or all of what promises to be an edifying and magical night! Please note that all teaching portions of the evening are free and open to the public, but the community dinner requires a ticketed reservation.

Shavuot Stroll 5777

8 p.m. – Community dinner and davennen (Congregation Chevra Thilim)
If you plan to attend the dinner, please reserve your seats by clicking here.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children 5 and up, and free for children 4 and under.

9 p.m. – Our first taste of learning: Roadmap to Sinai, with Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi (Congregation Chevra Thilim)
10 p.m. – depart from Chevra Thilim

10:30 p.m. – The Kabbalah of Ice Cream (Take 2 scoops!), with Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi & Rabbi Aubrey Glazer (Toy Boat Dessert Cafe)
12 a.m. — depart from Toy Boat

12:30 a.m. — Tikkun Leil Shavuot, all-night study session with Jonathan Bayer, Henry Hollander, Michael Loebs, Rabbi Aubrey Glazer (Congregation Beth Sholom)

First session (12:30–1:30 a.m.)
Falling In Love Again: A Wedding At Sinai (Includes a discussion of David Moss ketubot)
Rabbi Glazer

Second session (1:30–2:30 a.m.)
The Torah in African-American Spirituals: The Many Migrations of the Story of God and the Jewish People
Jonathan Bayer and Henry Hollander in conversation
(w/ performance by Bayer of selected spirituals in the style of Reverend Gary Davis)

Third session (2:30–3:30 a.m.)
Talk by Michael Loebs (title/subject TBD)

Fourth session (3:30–5 a.m.)
The Fantastic Tales of Rabbi Bar Bar Hanna as told in the Talmud and illustrated by Canadian artist Aba Bayevsky
Henry Hollander & Rabbi Glazer
In the midst of an in-depth discussion about terms of sale for ships, the Talmud suddenly decides to blow our minds! Giants, big fish, huge snakes, vast dimensions, circus acts, miracles, and more.

5 a.m. — Shacharit davening, Gronowski Family Chapel (Congregation Beth Sholom)


Please also join the CBS community for Shavuot services on Wednesday, May 31, and Thursday, June 1.

Wednesday, May 31
9 a.m. — Shavuot, 1st Day service
12 p.m. — Shavuot Lunch & Learn Kiddush, Book of Ruth
1:45 p.m. — Mincha Gedolah Shavuot*


Thursday, June 1
9 a.m. — Shavuot, 2nd Day service (with Yizkor memorial service)
12 p.m. — Shavuot Lunch & Learn Kiddush, Book of Ruth
1:45 p.m. — Mincha Gedolah Shavuot*

Our normal, evening minyan service (6 p.m.) is replaced by this 1:45 p.m. service.

5776 Shavuot Shul Crawl

CBS is delighted to again participate in the annual

Wheat4_Website Join fellow members of our Bay Area Jewish community for an illuminating night (and dawn!) of learning, rejoicing, and good eats on Saturday, June 11, and Sunday, June 12.

As in years prior, participants will start the evening at Sherith Israel, then move on to the Jewish Community Center, and Congregation Emanu-El, before settling in at CBS to participate in a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night Torah study session established by Jewish mystics. This year, in addition to those traditional stops, Richmond District staple Toy Boat Dessert Cafe is also an important way station!

Check out the full schedule below and join us for some or all of what promises to be an edifying and magical night!

Sensual Torah 5776WheatVerticalGroup_Website4

8:30 p.m. – BODY: Body and Spice, havdalah with Cantor Marsha Attie and Rabbi Julie Saxe Taller (Congregation Sherith Israel)
9:30 p.m. – depart from Sherith Israel

10 p.m. – SAVORY: Cheese tasting with the Limburger Rebbe, with Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, supported by David Green and Rabbi Batshir Torchio (JCCSF)
11:00 p.m. — depart from JCCSF

11:30 p.m. – VISUAL: Beholding Torah, with Rabbi Carla Fenves and Rabbi Jason Rodich (Congregation Emanu-El)
12:15 a.m. — depart from Emanu-El

12:30 a.m. — SWEET: On the Kabbalah of Ice Cream, with Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi & Rabbi Aubrey Glazer (Toy Boat Dessert Cafe)
1:45 a.m. — depart Toy Boat

2 a.m. — MIND: Tikkun Leil Shavuot, all-night study session with Henry Hollander, Michael Loebs, Rabbi Aubrey Glazer (Congregation Beth Sholom)
First session: Healing Secret Faces So Divine in Zohar’s Idrah Rabbah for Shavuot, Rabbi Glazer (full description here)
Second session: Night Illuminations: Light and Darkness in the Bahir, Michael Loebs (full description here)
Third session: Prayers, Personal & Prescribed, Henry Hollander (full description here)
Fourth session: Dialogue on Dawn, Henry Hollander & Rabbi Glazer (full description here)

5:45 a.m. — Shacharit davening, Gronowski Family Chapel (Congregation Beth Sholom)


Please also join the CBS community for Shavuot services on Sunday, June 12, and Monday, June 13.

Sunday, June 12
9 a.m. — Shavuot, 1st Day service
12 p.m. — Shavuot Lunch & Learn Kiddush, Book of Ruth
1:45 p.m. — Mincha Gedolah Shavuot*


Monday, June 13
9 a.m. — Shavuot, 2nd Day service
12 p.m. — Shavuot Lunch & Learn Kiddush, Book of Ruth
1:45 p.m. — Mincha Gedolah Shavuot*

Our normal, evening minyan service (6 p.m.) is replaced by this 1:45 p.m. service.

Enlarging the Jewberhood: The Richmond Eruv

RabbiGlazerRabbi_RabbiZarchi_RichmondDistrict_SFCA_October2015I'm a casual birdwatcher. You’ll often spot me walking along a San Francisco street with my head tilted skyward, admiring a passing hawk, a migrating warbler, or a chattering blackbird. This past Tuesday, though, I found myself looking overhead for a very different reason. Led by Rabbi Glazer, Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi of Congregation Chevra Thilim, and a visiting rabbi from Miami, I ambled up and down 14th Avenue in search of cable wires, poles, trees, and tall hedges that might be used to help us construct a virtual wall. A virtual wall? Allow me to explain.

The Richmond District is home to the largest eruv in San Francisco. An eruv is a virtual enclosure created by Jews in order to allow religiously observant members of our community to “carry” on Shabbat. “Carrying,” in this context, simply means moving any object from one “domain" to another. According to halacha (Jewish law), Jews can move a book, for example, from room to room in their “place of the residence,” but that same book could not be carried from the house to shul; doing so would necessitate a crossing of multiple domains (from house to street to shul).

Rabbi_RabbiGlazerRabbiZarchi_RichmondDistrict_SFCA_October2015Not surprisingly, strict adherence to this rule creates a lot of tsoris for observant Jews. How can you carry your tallit from home to shul, much less your house keys? As is their wont, rabbis devised a workaround. Because the walls of a home’s courtyard are, halachically-speaking, an extension of a house, Jews could carry the aforementioned book from the house into the courtyard without violating halacha. The rabbis reasoned, then, that the walls of a city — Jerusalem, for example — delineate a larger, symbolic “courtyard” or “place of residence.” Effectively, all of Jerusalem is one home, so carrying a book from your apartment to the shul is totally kosher.

But what about cities like San Francisco — or pretty much any modern municipality — that lack city walls? In those cases, halachically-observant Jews need to create their own walls. For practical reasons, these are most often virtual boundaries traced by telephone wires, existing fences, and adjoining buildings. This virtual perimeter is technically called an eruv chatzerot (“mixed courtyard/domain") but is generally referred to simply as an eruv; it serves as a symbolic "walled courtyard,” and is therefore an extension of any individual “place of the residence” located within the eruv’s borders. Voila; problem solved! Observant Jews can carry their tallit, keys, pills, a jacket, or their newborn baby on Shabbat so long as they remain within the bounds of the eruv!

FullSizeRenderA virtual wall needs virtual gates or doorways, of course. These are created by the installation of a lechi, or doorpost, that must be connected to another lechi or suitable object (e.g., a telephone pole) by a wire; this horizontal wire forms the doorway’s lintel, or korah. Although these gates, or tzurot ha'pesach, go unnoticed by most of us, they represent a profound threshold for those in the know; passing through a tzurat ha'pesach, a Jew moves from what might be thought of as trief territory into sacred space. (One of the four entry points into the Richmond eruv is located on the southeast corner of 16th Avenue and Clement Street. Next time you’re on that corner, look up for the korah extending from lechi to lechi.)

1_EruvRevealed_Lechi16thClement_RichmondDistrict_SFCA_October2015Congregation Beth Sholom is situated just two blocks outside of the Richmond District’s existing eruv, which extends east-to-west from 16th to 43rd Avenues and north-to-south from Clement to Fulton Streets. In consultation with the Miami rabbi, an eruv specialist who flies all over North America to help establish new eruvim, Rabbi Zarchi and Rabbi Glazer are working to determine how the current eruv’s reach can be expanded. When Rabbi Zarchi constructed the eruv in 2012, he established eruv borders that were practically achievable, affordable, and didn't require an onerous city permitting process.

Nevertheless, he has always aspired to create an eruv that includes CBS and Congregation Emanu-El. Although Reform Judaism doesn’t officially mandate observation of halacha, some more traditionally-minded Reform Jews would benefit from Emanu-El’s being inside the eruv. More importantly, the more Jewish communities that are included — the bigger the “Jewberhood,” if you will — the better for klal yisrael, the whole of the Jewish people.

The process is in the early stages yet -- we're just sussing out expansion options -- but CBS will keep you posted on any progress. And, going forward, if you spot me on the street gazing up, it's possible that I won't be birdwatching or daydreaming, but checking on the condition of our eruv.
More information on the Richmond eruv can be found in this article, which appeared in the August 1, 2013, edition of J-Weekly.

Image descriptions:
1) Rabbi Glazer, the eruv consultant, and Rabbi Zarchi walk north on 14th Avenue
2) The eruv expert, Rabbi Glazer, and Rabbi Zarchi inspect potential eruv connections
3) Lechi definition from The Talmud, The Steinsaltz Edition: A Reference Guide, 1989
4) The tzurat ha'pesach at 16th Avenue and Clement Street
5) The eruv expert, Rabbi Glazer, Rabbi Zarchi, and Angel Alvarez-Mapp in conversation under the korah of the tzurat ha'pesach at 16th Avenue and Clement Street
5) Rabbi Zarchi, Angel Alvarez-Mapp, and the eruv expert talk logistics on the corner of 16th Avenue and Clement Street