Esther Lopez's Bat Mitzvah

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Shalom!  My name is Esther Lopez and I am a rising 8th grader at The Brandeis School.  My favorite things to do are sing, dance, spend time with my friends, and binge watch Netflix shows.

I am so excited to share my special day with you!  Becoming a bat mitzvah raised a lot of confusing questions for me. For example, is it more important to feel holy or to do holy things? I discuss this topic and more in my dvar torah.

My parsha is Chukat which has a lot of important events.  For example, Aaron and Miriam both die. When Miriam dies, the wandering Israelites complain about the lack of water. Moses asks G-d what to do. He tells Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and there will be water. Moses gets impatient and strikes the rock twice, leading to his inability to enter the Promised Land in the future.

Thank you to Noa Bar for leading me up to this day, and to Rabbi Glazer for helping me to think about what all of this means for me. The biggest thanks goes to my friends and family for giving me the courage to become a bat mitzvah.

Talya Sahara Glazer's Bat Mitzvah

DATE: Monday, June 4
TIME: 7-8 a.m., followed by a Kiddush breakfast sponsored by CBS.

We would love to have you join us at this family simcha. Please RSVP.

Shalom. My name is Talya Glazer and I love to dance. I take jazz funk and hip hop at Geary Dance Center. I love living in San Francisco, the American Jerusalem, and hope to live in Jerusalem itself one day.

One of the things I enjoy about the CBS community is being surrounded by the "regulars" who come to minyan and Shabbat services on a regular basis. They have embraced me and I am grateful for their presence. I am also grateful for their advice on everything from the best way to handle grape juice for kiddush at Kabbalat Shabbat services, to finding the best comics.

My kavvana for my bat mitzvah is to listen to the wise voice within and from the divine to follow the path of possibility.

Zinnia Estes' Bat Mitzvah

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Shalom! My name is Zinnia Estes. I am just finishing 7th grade at Presidio Middle School. My Bat Mitzvah has been a stressful, crazy, exciting process. I can’t believe I was three when I first entered the Congregation Beth Shalom community as a preschooler. After preschool, I started going to Hebrew school every week and Kabbalat Shabbat once a month. This past year, I have been studying for my big day, aka my Bat Mitzvah.

Besides Hebrew school and Bat Mitzvah prep, I have a pretty busy life. I also enjoy surfing, skating, and playing trumpet, piano, and ukulele. Oh, let's not forget my most important hobby--playing with my puppy, Django!

At first when I started working on my Bat Mitzvah I must admit I had a bad attitude about it. However, I came to like it more and more. I started to think about how cool it was that I was learning a new language. I also thought about how lucky I am to have this experience. Many generations of women before me could not have this experience and some still can’t. As I studied and prepared I was inspired to do a good job for myself and for all those who won’t have this opportunity. I also learned that hard work pays off. I know I’m going to look back on this experience and be proud of my accomplishments.

My parsha is Beha'alotecha, which translates to "when you rise up." The parsha covers a lot of material, but in general describes the Israelites’ journey through the desert. When I step up to the Torah I will be thinking about the many journeys of Jewish people that came before me.

There are a lot of people that I would like to thank. I first want to thank Rabbi Glazer and Noa Bar for helping me learn and prepare for my Bat Mitzvah. I want to thank my family and friends who are coming to the service to support me. Thank you to my parents for helping to make my Bat Mitzvah a great day.

Gabriela Bernstein's Bat Mitzvah

Hello! My name is Gabriela (Gabi) Bernstein, and I am a seventh grader at the Brandeis School of San Francisco as well as a life-long member of Congregation Beth Sholom. I enjoy reading, writing, art projects, theater stage design and listening to Broadway show tunes. I also perform with a singing group called Trebles at my school.

On Saturday May 26, I will be called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah. I will be chanting from Parashat Naso, in the book of Numbers. The material is a giant pile of topics, all smushed together into one monster Torah portion.

The reading starts with a Levite census and details about their Tabernacle duties. We go on to learn what to do with someone who has leprosy (simple: banish them) and then, we learn about the Nazarites and their duties and abstentions. Finally, we get to the Priestly Blessing and the offerings that Tribal leaders brought to the Tabernacle. This is a lot to cover in one Torah portion, but there was one topic that stood out to me more than the others. You’ll have to come to services this Shabbat to find out which one it was!

I have found myself enjoying this process of learning trope and studying Torah. I’m excited (and nervous) for my family and friends to see me chant from the Torah and become a Bat Mitzvah.

I realize that this process would have been impossible without the support of so many. I want to thank Rabbi Batshir Torchio for guiding me on this journey over the past year, helping me learn not only to chant Torah and Haftorah, but also to find meaning in these texts. I’m also grateful to Rebecca Goodman and all the Rabbis and educators who have taught me at the preschool and religious school through the years.  Thanks as well to the staff at Congregation Beth Sholom for making this weekend possible! Thank you to my older siblings, Rafi and Daniela, for their constant support and encouragement; it was comforting for me to know they had also been through the B’nai Mitzvah process. Last but not least, thank you to my parents for being clear about how important being Jewish (and having a Bat Mitzvah) is and not letting me forget it with (gentle) nagging and (loving) speeches.

Noa Marks' Bat Mitzvah

Hello! My name is Noa Marks. I am a seventh grader at The Brandeis School of San Francisco, and I am so excited to celebrate my Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Beth Sholom this Shabbat!

Becoming a Bat Mitzvah has been an unexpectedly enjoyable journey. I have learned so much about the Shabbat service and the Torah service. I especially enjoyed learning to sing the prayers and to chant Torah using the correct tropes, all the while treating my family to my many practice sessions.

It has been challenging fitting in my Bat Mitzvah preparation with my many other activities and interests - lots and lots of soccer, surfing, lots and lots of homework, skiing, and our puppy, Khaya. Despite these time consuming activities, my studies and preparation went very well. I can’t believe that in only a few days I will present all my hard work from the last many months and become a Jewish adult!

At my Bat Mitzvah I will be reading from the Torah and sharing my thoughts on the weekly parsha, Parshat Emor. In Emor, G-d instructs Moses to tell the Israelites who can be a Kohen (or priest) and what requirements apply to the Kohanim. I have been thinking quite a bit about why G-d created these requirements for the priests, what qualifications should be expected of priests today, and what my expectations are for my own conduct. I hope you will join me this Shabbat to hear my thoughts on Emor!

As I look forward to my Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat, I am grateful for the support of so many people. I would like to thank Noa Bar, for helping me learn to chant Torah, and for guiding me with her beautiful voice through learning all of the prayers. I would also like to thank Rabbi Micah Hyman and Rabbi Dan Ain, for inspiring me and helping me with my Dvar Torah. Thank you so much to Beth Sholom's amazing staff for making my Bat Mitzvah possible. Thank you to my family, friends, and the Beth Sholom community who will celebrate this simcha with me. And, finally, I am so grateful for the loving support of my parents, brother, and puppy.

Leilah Goode's Bat Mitzvah

Hello. My name is Leilah Goode. I am a seventh grader at Claire Lilienthal Middle School. I love playing soccer, going to pop concerts, watching movies, and hanging out with my friends in addition to exploring all that San Francisco has to offer.

In Parashat Bo ("Go!"), God commands Moses to "Go to Pharaoh" to continue to plead for the Israelites' freedom. Pharaoh refuses, and his refusal causes additional punishment to befall the Egyptians in the form of three more plagues: locusts, darkness, and, finally, the death of all firstborn Egyptian sons. As the firstborn Egyptians begin to die, Pharaoh relents, and Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses proclaims that each year on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, a festival lasting seven days will be celebrated in order to recall our freedom from slavery in Egypt.

Freedom, at last. In my d’var Torah, I contemplate the privilege of living in a society founded on freedom, the challenges freedom brings, and the vigilance with which we must protect our liberty. Freedom cannot be taken for granted, even in America.

I would like to thank my tutor, Noa Bar, for all her patience and perseverance in helping me learn my segments of this week’s Shabbat torah service. I would also like to thank Rabbi Glazer and Rabbinic Intern Amanda Russell for familiarizing my havurah with the weekly prayers and reinforcing that there are many acceptable interpretations of our stories. Thanks to my havurah and CBS for being part of a collective journey. And thanks to my family for encouraging me to embrace all aspects of my heritage.

Micah Mangot's Bat Mitzvah

Shalom! My name is Micah Mangot. I am a seventh grader at Herbert Hoover Middle School. I enjoy reading, hanging out with my friends, singing, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my family, and swimming.

In Parashat Va'eira, on God's instruction, Moses asks Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh refuses and God turns the water of the Nile into blood, Pharaoh is ready to let the Israelites go but God hardens his heart. This process repeats itself with the plagues of frogs, hordes of insects/wild animals, boils, and burning hail. Parashat Va'eira ends without any real resolution. Since God hardens Pharaoh's heart, the parsha raises a question of restrictions on our freedom. In my D'var Torah, I explore what restrictions there are on our freedom and how that relates to my bat mitzvah.

Becoming a bat mitzvah is a big moment. What is important is not only the actual service and party, but also all of the planning and learning that happens before. As a result of this process, I have learned perseverance and the skill of trope reading. To me, this is just the beginning of my learning and of being a part of the community.

I would like to thank my tutor Noa Bar for helping me learn the Hebrew necessary, Rabbi Glazer for working with me on my D'var Torah, and my family and extended family for supporting me wholeheartedly on this journey. I would also like to express my appreciation to the congregation.

Raquel Sweet's Bat Mitzvah

My name is Raquel Sweet. I am 13 years old and attend The Brandeis School of San Francisco, where I am in seventh grade. I enjoy swimming, dancing, and playing with my dog, Teddy.

I have belonged to Beth Sholom for my entire life. I have so many memories from the synagogue, from attending PJ Shabbat to celebrating all of the holidays – and, of course, my sister’s bat mitzvah last year.

This week, it will be my bat mitzvah. I will be reading from Parashat Noah. This is the story of Noah and the flood. The parsha also includes the story of the Tower of Babel. What many people don't know about this parsha is that it talks about the first time that people ate meat. Before the time of Noah, no one ate meat - everyone was a vegetarian. I am vegetarian myself, and at my bat mitzvah, I will be talking about reasons we have for making different decisions in life including my deciding to become a vegetarian.

I am so excited to celebrate with everybody this Shabbat. I am very thankful to have all my family and friends coming from near and far to join me. I am also excited to be sharing this occasion with my Beth Sholom family. I look forward to seeing everyone this Shabbat to join me and my family at this simcha.

Zoe & Hana Jaeger Skigen's B'not Mitzvah

Facebook_HanaZoeSkigenShalom. Our names are Zoe and Hana Jaeger Skigen. We are twelve-year-old twins and we just finished Grade 7 at the Synergy School in San Francisco's Mission District, where we also live.

This Shabbat, June 17, we will become b’not mitzvah. We have spent our entire lives doing meaningful things together and the process of preparing to become b’not mitzvah has been one of the highlights. We have been members of Beth Sholom since we were born; we attended "Mommy and Me" and Tot Shabbat programs in addition to the CBS Family Preschool and Shabbat School (religious school). Beth Sholom is literally a "house of peace" for us and our second Jewish home. We are still best friends with the children we met at Beth Sholom from our infancy.

In this week’s parsha, Parashat Shelach Lecha, we learn that Moses sends twelve spies to the land of Canaan as authorized by God. When they return, they bring back incredible things, like enormous grapes, as well as seemingly bad news. Ten of the spies report that the people of the land are unconquerable – that Canaan is filled with giants. Many of the Israelite people panic and want to return to Egypt. As a havruta (learning in pairs), we had lengthy conversations about how and why such conflicting perspectives could emerge about the same land. The process has been both intellectually and spiritually moving for both of us.

I (Zoe) enjoy playing trumpet in a city-wide orchestra and school band. I like all things musical and especially like to teach myself to play new instruments. I am active member of the Gay/Straight Alliance at school and I play on the school basketball team. In my free time, I make videos, arrange music, and I am passionate about tikkun olam and activism. In the summers, I enjoy going to Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa. For my mitzvah project, I taught formerly-imprisoned, mentally ill adults cooking classes.

I (Hana) am on the student council at school, in the school choir, and play on the school futsal, basketball, and cross country teams. I am a proud feminist and activist and I am also a member of the Gay/Straight Alliance. I also have a deep affinity for animals and am an avid reader. I play ukulele and in my free time I enjoy writing songs. For my mitzvah project, I performed a concert at the Jewish Home for the Aged. This is particularly meaningful to me because this is where my great grandmother, Bea, lived and died. Camp Gilboa is a special place in the summer for me as well.

We want to thank our mother and father for supporting us and gently pushing us through the process of becoming b’not mitzvah. We also want to thank our Baba and Savta and our Bubbie, Susan Jaeger, for helping us to develop our Jewish identity. A special thank you to Noa Bar, our tutor, and to Rabbi Glazer for teaching us how to stick with such a large task and the importance of Torah. Most importantly, we would like to thank each other. Having a twin sister always makes life a little easier and we always feel a little safer in the world knowing we have each other.

We are so elated to together share this life cycle event along with our friends and family who are traveling from near and far to witness this simcha!

Samantha Friedland's Bat Mitzvah

Facebook_Samantha-FriedlandShalom. My name is Samantha Friedland, and I am a 7th grader at Creative Arts Charter School. My main hobbies are playing the flute, the guitar, and soccer. I also love being with friends and family, and just having fun.

My bat mitzvah will take place this Shabbat, May 27. It will be an exciting event for me, my friends, and my family. My Torah portion is about the census Moses took of the people in the desert on their long journey to Israel. This portion talks a lot about each of the tribes and their roles they had to play in order to survive in the desert for so long.

Thank you to Randi, my tutor, and to Rabbi Glazer, for guiding me through my studies and teaching me so much about Torah and my Torah portion. Thank you to all of my family and friends for making me laugh and for always supporting me.

Aliyah Baruch's Bat Mitzvah

AliyahBaruchMy name is Aliyah Baruch. I attend Aptos Middle School and I am in the seventh grade. I like playing soccer, hanging out with my friends and family, taking care of animals, and traveling.

On April 22, I will have my bat mitzvah. It is a big milestone in my life that I will be sharing with people from many parts of the world, including San Francisco, Israel, Las Vegas, and New York. No matter how near or far away my guests travel from, I am so thankful that they will share this important day with me.

I think that your bat mitzvah will stay with you for your whole life; it won’t just be forgotten the day after you’re called to the Torah. My parsha talks about how Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, set an alien fire and got struck down because G-d did not instruct them to make the fire. Some rabbis have other opinions about why G-d struck them down; perhaps "they wanted to rise within the priestly rankings and overthrow Moses and Aaron." But I don’t think that is the case. I think the story of Nadav and Avihu is an example of good intentions that backfired because they wanted to be more involved but went about it in the wrong way.

I want to thank my mom and my dad, my brother Myles, my grandparents, and all my cousins, aunts, and uncles for all the love and support they have shown me. I also want to give a special thanks to Rabbi Aubrey Glazer for his help and Noa Bar for giving me the gift of Torah and teaching me how it relates to everyday life. Finally, I want to thank Congregation Beth Sholom for teaching me Hebrew and Jewish learning as well as being the place where I made so many great friendships.

Eva Leavitt's Bat Mitzvah

Facebook_EvaLeavittShalom. My name is Eva Sivan Leavitt and I’m a seventh grader at The Brandeis School of San Francisco. I am looking forward to my bat mitzvah, which will take place this Saturday, March 18.

I've been part of the Beth Sholom community since preschool, and now I’m entering the adult community. My portion is about Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, and Aaron making the golden calf.

Some of my hobbies are art and cooking, and I also sing in a chorus. I have lived in Israel for a year, and I love traveling. Traveling gives me a chance to see the world in a different way and to learn about other people and cultures.

I think that to enter adulthood is to learn more about yourself and not so much about reaching a milestone or becoming a certain age. I think that each person has a different path to entering adulthood.

I want to thank Rabbi Glazer for helping me with my drash, and to Noa Bar for teaching me my Torah portion and my haftarah.

Shana Cohen's Bat Mitzvah

Facebook_ShanaCohenHello! Hej! Jambo! Hola! שלום! Bonjour! Hallo! Helló!

My name is Shana Cohen, and I am a third generation San Franciscan and a student at Gateway Middle School. I like soccer (I play on SF Sol), reading, spending time with family and friends, animals, horseback riding, art, and being creative. I am bilingual – I speak both Swedish and English – as well as bicultural. I especially enjoy traveling, and have been fortunate to spend summers in Sweden with my family, and to travel and meet people around the globe. Wherever I go, I make friends and have experiences that I will always remember. So many people from my life have made an impact on me that has contributed to my journey towards reaching the age of mitzvot.

On February 25th, I will have my bat mitzvah, a changing point in my life. I will be sharing it with friends and family from many parts of the world including California, Sweden, Germany, and Kenya. No matter how far (or near) you came from, I am so thankful you are here to share this day with me and my family.

In this week's parsha, we learn that all Jews, rich and poor alike, were required to contribute half a shekel for the Mishkan. You will learn more about Parashat Mishpatim during the Torah service, which includes my d’var Torah.

The maftir that I will read describes a census taken of the children of Israel. Everyone over the age of 20 is required to give half a shekel to restore the Mishkan. The Mishkan was a portable structure used until the Temple was built in Jerusalem. The Israelites could bring sacrifices to redeem for sins or express thanks. Later, in the Torah portion Ki Tissa, God calls Moses to Mount Sinai to get the commandments. Meanwhile, the people became impatient and worried. As a result, they make a golden calf to have a substitute for God. When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai he sees the calf and breaks the tablets. God punishes the Israelites by making them drink the gold of the golden calf. Moses is mad but tells God to give them a second chance. He then returns to Mount Sinai to receive a new set of tablets.

I want to thank my mamma and pappa, my brother Ari, all my grandparents, and the rest of my family and friends. I also want to give special thanks to Rabbi Aubrey Glazer and Noa Bar for instilling in me the gift of Torah, and connecting it to my everyday life. I also want to thank Congregation Beth Sholom for supporting my ongoing Jewish education, and the opportunity to create lifelong friendships.

It will be my pleasure to see you at CBS this Shabbat.

Sabina Lyon-Freedman's Bat Mitzvah

facebook_sabinalyonfreedmanMy name is Sabina Lyon-Freedman, and I’m in the 7th grade at Roosevelt Middle School. I enjoy playing violin, baking, acting, reading, watching movies, writing novels and poems, spending time with friends (including some of my best friends at Beth Sholom), and petting my cat, Buster.

For my bat mitzvah this coming Shabbat, I will be chanting part of Parashat Vayeira. It is a very busy and important parsha. Abraham and Sarah are told that Sarah will bear a son. Abraham challenges God's plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaac is born, and, in response to Sarah's demand, Abraham banishes Hagar and Ishmael. God then tests Abraham's devotion by commanding him to sacrifice his beloved Isaac. I will be focusing in my d’var Torah on the section where Lot makes the problematic decision to offer his daughters to the men of Sodom in order to save his guests.

For my mitzvah project, I am playing violin for residents of the Rhoda Goldman Plaza, where my grandpa lives.

I am grateful to my family and friends. And I’m especially happy that members of my family will be coming from Maine, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Canada, Peru, Israel, and many other places to share this special moment with me. I would like to thank my tutor, Marilyn Heiss, for teaching me how to chant Torah and lead the service. I’ll miss the fun times with her. I want to thank Rabbi Glazer for helping me write my d’var Torah. And I want to thank my cat Buster for being soft and cuddly.

Noa Shenkar's Bat Mitzvah

facebook_noashenkarShalom! My name is Noa Shenkar, and I'm excited to step up to the bimah for the first time and lead the CBS community in prayer!

I've enjoyed the time I've studied with Rabbi Glazer and Rabbi Elisheva [Salamo]. It is fun to learn more about the Torah, and to discuss the messages in my Torah portion, Parashat Lech Lecha.

Lech Lecha brings up some difficult questions of truth. When Abraham faces a crisis, he must think very quickly, and decide whether or not it is permissible or not to tell a lie in order to get out of a complicated situation with the Pharaoh.

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday, November 12.

Simona Lewis' Bat Mitzvah

SimonaLewisHello. My name is Simona Lewis. I’m an eighth grader at The Brandeis School of San Francisco. My interests include hanging out with my friends, dancing, playing and creating computer games, and spending time with my family. This coming Shabbat, September 10, I will become a bat mitzvah.

My parsha is Shoftim, which means judges. In this parsha, Moses tells the Israelites about different rules about appointing judges and how to have a just society. He explains the requirements to be a judge, the rules about the cities of refuge, as well as the requirements a king must have if the Israelites choose to appoint one. Parashat Shoftim also includes the famous commandment, "Tzedek tzedek tirdof," or, "Justice, justice you shall pursue."

I would like to thank my parents for always being there for me and helping me prepare for this big day in my life. I would also like to thank Rabbi Jill Cozen-Harel for her support and for helping me learn how to read and chant Torah and haftarah, as well as helping me write my drash. I would also like to thank my brother and sister for encouraging me and listening to me practice countless times. Lastly, I would like to thank The Brandeis School of San Francisco and the Congregation Beth Sholom community for celebrating this milestone in my life with me and my family.

Please note that Simona's bat mitzvah will take place at Camp Newman on Saturday, September 10, but that she will observe a tefillin bat mitzvah at CBS this Thursday, September 8, during morning minyan (7 a.m.).

Simone Jochnowitz's Bat Mitzvah

Facebook_JochnowitzHello. My name is Simone Jochnowitz. I’m an eighth grader at A.P. Giannini Middle School. My interests include hanging out with my friends, playing trombone in my school band, dancing, and going on walks with my dog. This coming Shabbat, August 27, I will become a bat mitzvah.

My parsha is Ekev, which means "if." In this parsha, Moses tells the people Israel about all the good things that will happen to them IF they follow the laws and commandments that he has taught them. He reminds them about the unfortunate episode involving the Golden Calf, and other evil actions they committed during their 40 years in the desert. Parashat Ekev also contains the famous question, "What does HaShem want?" (The answer: "Follow his ways and do justice.")

I would like to thank my mother and father for teaching me the haftarah and helping me with my speech; Rabbi Glazer for his support; my brother and sisters for their love and encouragement; and the Congregation Beth Sholom community for celebrating this simcha with me and my family.

New Books In Our Library Collection

Rosemary Rothstein and the rest of the CBS Rabin Family Library Committee have been quite busy this past year. New books are added to our collection all the time. We invite you to come by and take a look!

If you would like to check out a book, just take a card from the library desk, sign your name and date, and place the card in the black mesh wire box. If you have an interest in some Jewish subject and can’t find what you are looking for, email Rosemary or Henry Hollander and they will see what they can do for you.

Below, congregant and bookseller Henry Hollander provides a few short reviews of some recently-acquired titles.

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Heart of Many RoomsA Heart of Many Rooms: Celebrating the Many Voices within Judaism,
by David Hartman

The late David Hartman (z"l), founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, encouraged thoughtful re-evaluation of Jewish ideas within a traditional Jewish setting. This collection of essays includes sections on "Family and Mitzvah with an Interpretive Tradition," "Educating Towards Inclusiveness," "Celebrating Religious Diversity," and "Religious Perspectives on the Future of Israel." Hartman’s contribution to Jewish education has had an invigorating effect on the many teachers who have studied at the Hartman Institute. While his legacy continues to benefit and shape the institute, we are now deprived of Hartman’s direct teaching. A Heart of Many Rooms provides a a good introduction to this significant Jewish thinker's thought.



Survival in SarajevoSurvival in Sarajevo: How a Jewish Community Came to the Aid of its City,
by Edward Serotta

Serotta is a European journalist and photographer who reported and photographed Sarajevo during the long and brutal Bosnian siege of the city. The war that occurred in the period following the collapse of Eastern European communism pitted Muslims, Croats, and Bosnians against each other. The Jewish community was no one’s enemy. Within the besieged city, the small Jewish population very actively worked to maintain public health, find food for the population, reach out to the isolated elderly, and provide a route of escape for as many people as possible, Jew or non-Jew. Serotta tells the story of this community, nearly destroyed in the Holocaust fifty years earlier, in a moment of very bitter triumph.

Bat Mitzvah of Ana RosensteinA guide for Shabbat worshipers in attendance at the Bat Mitzvah of Ana Rosenstein, Michal Bat Leah Hannah v’Benyamin, Shabbat Shira-Parshah Beshallach, February 11, 2006, 13 Shevat, 5766,
Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco, California.

At most of our b'nai mitzvot, the family provides a short brochure to help explain to the uninitiated just exactly what is going on around them and why. This deluxe version of such a production is very well done and can provide a helpful model for families preparing their own (simpler) brochures.

Schocken Guide to Jewish BooksThe Schocken Guide to Jewish Books: Where to Start Reading about Jewish History, Literature, Culture and Religion,
edited by Barry W. Holtz

Three thousand years of Jewish life is a lot to take in. It can be hard to figure out where to start. This guide is one of the best introductions to the world of Jewish books out there.





Wolloch HaggadahThe Wolloch Haggadah. Pessach Haggadah In Memory of the Holocaust,
Illustrated by David Wander with calligraphy by Yonah Weinrib

This Haggadah was originally commissioned as a one-of-a-kind, hand-written and illustrated manuscript. There was a subsequent, high-quality limited-edition portfolio produced. This edition is the first trade edition. It was dedicated to the memory of the Wolloch’s parents, both of whom perished in the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, Haggadot manuscripts were produced for surreptitious use, and they reveal much about how Jews lived and maintained their spiritual lives in the face of overwhelming adversity.

A Haggadah that is a commemoration of the Holocaust is not something I am not always comfortable with. There is an implicit and often explicit connection between the ideas "we were slaves in Egypt" and "we were victims in the Holocaust" that is too rigid for my tastes. That said, this particular rendering of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, drenched as it is in what Salo Baron referred to as "the lachrymose conception of Jewish history," is both beautiful and horrible in its telling of the tale. Come and review it and make your own conclusions!

Meet Claire Ambruster, JVS Summer Intern

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

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

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My Journey to Working in the Jewish World

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

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

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

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

Lola Schnaider's Bat Mitzvah

LolaShalom! My name is Lola Schnaider, and I am a 7th grader at the Brandeis School of San Francisco! I enjoy dancing, playing sports, photography, and listening to lots of music. I love to travel and be out in nature with my friends and family. In a few short days, I will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah. To me, becoming a bat mitzvah means accepting my responsibilities as the newest member of the Jewish community, and figuring out my Jewish identity.

I will be reading from Parashat Naso, which is found in the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar. Several topics come up in my parsha including rules pertaining to contact with lepers, adultery, the nazarite vow, and the sacred, threefold Priestly blessing.

The topic that interests me the most is that of the sotah, which translates as "gone astray." Sotah is a ritual test that occurs when a husband suspects his wife of adultery. The wife must drink a mixture of clay and dirt from the floor of the Tabernacle, to prove her innocence or guilt. In my drash, I will offer a feminist perspective on the topic of sotah, as it relates and compares to our lives today. I am honored to be having my bat mitzvah at Congregation Beth Sholom, and I am thrilled to have my family and friends by my side.

I hope to see you all there!