Learning More About The Israeli Settlements

EranKaplan_AcshavYisrael_SettlementsLast Sunday afternoon, May 7, the Achshav Yisrael committee of CBS presented its tenth program, "The Israeli Settlements: A Historical Overview and Current Developments."

Just below, Achshav Yisrael committee member Eileen Auerbach provides a report and shares some photographs taken during the event.

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Professor Eran Kaplan, PhD, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair of Israel Studies in the Department of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University, gave a thoughtful presentation about the history of the Israeli settlements and recent developments, including legislation like the Regulation Law.

Importantly, given the politically-charged nature of the subject matter, the audience was able to engage in civil discourse about the settlements, asking informed questions and challenging one another with respect. Kol HaKavod to Achshav Yisrael and all in attendance!

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Some photos from the program appear below.

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ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ovid Jacob, Eva-Lynne Leibman, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, Lucia Sommers

Elai Levinson's Bar Mitzvah

Facebook_ElaiLevinsonShalom. My name is Elai David Levinson, and I will be called up to read from the Torah as a bar mitzvah this Shabbat, May 6.

I am a 7th grader at Claire Lilienthal Alternative School. During my free time, I can be found drawing, writing, editing my movies, drumming with my band, Planet 17, and reading. Some of my favorite subjects to draw are maps, political figures, stadiums, landscapes, and monsters. My interests include politics, geography, comedy, history, film, religion, and more.

Throughout the year, I have been studying my double parshiyot, Acharei Mot and Kedoshim, with my tutor, Noa Bar, as well as with Rabbi Glazer and many more. Both parshiyot are from the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra). Acharei Mot is about Aaron purifying the people by sacrificing a goat, and sending the other goat to Azazel, as a scapegoat. This parsha is also where the term “scapegoat” originates from. In Kedoshim, G-d demands that Israel will be holy, and demands the people also be holy.

I would like to thank my parents, Rami and Vered, for guiding me along on this extraordinary journey of becoming a bar mitzvah and participating in the tradition of my ancestors. I would also like to thank my sister, Yarden, for always being there for comfort and company. Additionally, I thank my many relatives and friends in Israel and the U.S. Next, I would like to thank Henry Hollander, for always being supportive and friendly, and Noa Bar, my tutor, for being such a wonderful teacher and helping me learn to leyn my parshiyot in a relatively short amount of time. Lastly, I would like to thank Rabbi Glazer for inspiring me and helping me understand my parshiyot.

Todah Rabah v’Shalom.

The Israeli Settlements

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Buy your tickets for our upcoming Achshav Yisrael program!

IsraeliSettlement "The Israeli Settlements: A Historical Overview and Current Developments" will take place on Sunday, May 7, 3 - 5:30 p.m., in Koret Hall.

What are the Israeli settlements, and what is their legal status?

Israel is perpetually in the media spotlight, and news coverage is full of references to "the Settlements." What are these Jewish communities? How did they get their start? Are they legal? According to whom?

Join Achshav Yisrael for an informative lecture with Dr. Eran Kaplan, who will present a historical overview of the Settlements and explain recent developments – including relevant Israeli legislation such as the Regulation Law. We will also have the opportunity to ask him questions, and to hold civil dialogue on the topic.

Professor Kaplan, an Israeli-American, holds the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair of Israel Studies at San Francisco State University.

$15 advance registration or $20 at the door. Light Israeli-style appetizers and refreshments are included.

Those wanting to attend who can not afford the standard admission fee due to financial hardship should contact the CBS office in advance to work out an exceptional fee.

ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ovid Jacob, Eva-Lynne Leibman, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, and Lucia Sommers

Photo credit: Mary-Katherine Ream, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Tiberias With Love

Facebook_RobertsWe're pleased to announce From Tiberias With Love: Letters of Spiritual Direction from 1777 Community in Eretz Yisrael, a four-session mini-course that will meet at 8 a.m. on Thursdays in March (2, 9, 16, 23), immediately following morning minyan.

Scroll down to register now!


Does distance really make the heart grow fonder? What would you do if your spiritual leader and core community left your diasporic home to return to Eretz Yisrael? How would you continue your spiritual journey in the diaspora while remaining committed to your teachers and colleagues now settled far away?

These questions resonate as we reconsider the neglected history of Yishuv Aliya, the immigration of Hasidim in 1777, which consisted of several hundred people who arrived at the same time. At its head were four Hasidic leaders of White Russia: R. Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, R. Abraham of Kalisk, R. Zvi Hirsch of Smorytzsch, and R. Israel of Plock. The caravan set out in March 1777 from Eastern Europe and arrived in Eretz Yisrael, via Istanbul, in September of the same year.

Historians have different opinions about the causes of this immigration, but there can be no doubt that this conscious community was seeking an intimate experience of egalitarian fellowship built upon unique approaches to Torah and tefillah that can inspire our own search.  Of special interest then are fifteen igrot, or "Letters of Love," penned by R. Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk and R. Avraham haKohen of Kalisk that served as long distance spiritual direction primarily to Hasidim in Eastern Europe. By examining this ongoing correspondence as a form of spiritual direction, we will explore the creative spiritual tensions between mind-centered techniques (HaBaD) in relation to heart-centered techniques (HaGaT) of the spiritual life in community.

Bi-lingual texts will be distributed. No prior knowledge of Hebrew or Hasidism required; the syllabus will be made available to those who register.

Image credit: Detail of "Tiberias, looking towards Hermon," David Roberts (Scottish, 1796-1864), First Edition Lithograph

Max Lederman's Bar Mitzvah

Facebook_MaxLedermanShalom! My name is Max Lederman and I am entering 9th grade at the Lycée Français de San Francisco. So, yes, I am fluent in French and working on Spanish and Latin.

I’m an avid soccer player and have been playing since I was a toddler. You’ve probably seen me in synagogue in one of my soccer jerseys! I play on a competitive travel team and practice several times a week. But I also love baseball, basketball, and football. Beyond sports, I can be found reading history or science fiction, playing video games or watching TV. I also love spending time with my family and am excited to have them by my side when I am called to Torah.

I have been preparing for my bar mitzvah for a whole year now, and in only a few days the wait will be over! I have learned a lot over this past year about my history and myself. I will be reading from Parashat Korah, which is found in the Book of Numbers. The parsha is full of blood, as G-d and Moshe (Moses) must confront Korah, the leader of a rebellion. Although many die by the hand of G-d in this parsha, we also learn of G-d’s peaceful side when Aaron’s staff blooms.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for helping me on this wild ride with my sister by my side. Thank you, Rabbi Glazer, for teaching me about the Torah, especially my parsha, Korah. And thank you to my tutor, Marilyn, for helping me study blessings and giving me haftarah and Torah lessons.

"Understanding Israeli Society"

Buy your tickets for Achshav Yisrael's fourth program!

Door "Understanding Israeli Society," will take place on two consecutive Sundays, February 14 & 21, 9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. in the Main Meeting Room.

Israel is both a young country and one of the oldest civilizations in the world. During this special, two-session Achshav Yisrael program, Abraham Silver will lead us on an exploration of Israeli society. We will learn how Israeli society developed, as well as how it operates and what it looks like today. His insights will provide participants with a unique perspective on who Israelis are and how they think, and a more multi-faceted appreciation of the modern State of Israel’s successes and challenges.

Abraham Silver is a lecturer on architecture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. An expert on Israeli culture and history, he has devoted the last twenty five years to creating and implementing innovative and informal educational experiences with the goal of helping people of all ages and backgrounds understand their connection to the land of Israel and the Jewish people.

Due to a limited number of spots, advance registration/ticketing is required. Please sign up only if you can attend both Sunday morning sessions.

A light breakfast will be served during each session. Tickets are $36 per person (covering both sessions) and are available for purchase at: https://www.universe.com/understandingisrael

AchshavYisraelLogo ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.
Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: Eileen Auerbach, Alex Bernstein, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Eva-Lynne Leibman, Ephraim Margolin, Lucia Sommers


Image credit: via Flickr user zeevveez (CC BY 2.0)

The Dreidel -- Unmasked!

PlayingDreidel_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015Hanukkah is over. For a few evenings, we'll gaze longingly at the counters, tables, and ledges where our hanukkiot so recently glowed...and then our attention will shift to family debates about which movie and Chinese restaurant is right for Christmas Day. Today, though, we hope to extend your Hanukkah glow for at least a few more minutes!

Along with hanukkiot, latkes, and sufganiyot, visions of dreidels spin through our heads when we think of Hanukkah. Why the association? Chabad's website explains:

"The dreidel, known in Hebrew as a sevivon, dates back to the time of the Greek-Syrian rule over the Holy Land -- which set off the Maccabean revolt that culminated in the [Hanukkah] miracle. Learning Torah was outlawed by the enemy, a 'crime' punishable by death. The Jewish children resorted to hiding in caves in order to study. If a Greek patrol would approach, the children would pull out their tops and pretend to be playing a game. By playing dreidel during Chanukah we are reminded of the courage of those brave children."

That's a familiar story -- it's what we've been told our whole lives. But it's also a myth, and one created long after the days of the Maccabees.

In fact, the dreidel is a variation on an Irish or English top that spread over all of Europe during the late Roman Empire. Known as a teetotum, each of these four-sided tops was inscribed with letters that denoted the result of a given spin. For example, the German version of the game used N (Nichts, or nothing), G (Ganz, or all), H (Halb, or half), and S (Stell ein, or put in).

Dreidels&Gelt_CBSFamilyPreschoolHanukkahLunch_December2015Across Europe, teetotum was most often played around Christmastime; the reason for this seasonal popularity remain unclear but, just like their neighbors, Ashkenazi Jews played the game at this time. Yet Jews adapted the tops' lettering for Yiddish speakers, replacing German letters with Hebrew ones: Nun (Nit, or nothing), Gimel (Gants, or everything), He (Halb, or half), and Shin (Shtel arayn, or put in).

Over generations, as the dreidel game was introduced to far-flung Jewish communities that didn't speak Yiddish, various explanations for the letters' significance were put forth. One of the most famous explications is that the letters represent the four kingdoms that tried to destroy Israelites/Jews: Nun for Nebuchadnezzar, or Babylon; He for Haman, or Persia; Gimel for Gog, or Greece; and Shin for Seir, or Rome. But the most popular story -- probably because it's the only one that explains why the dreidel game is primarily played in the month of Kislev -- posited that the letters stood for the phrase "Nes gadol haya sham," or "A great miracle happened there." That's the Hanukkah miracle, of course, and the accompanying myth about the clever ruse of brave little Torah scholars caught on, too.

Sometime in the 19th or 20th century (CE), this mythic origin of the dreidel game became the officially sanctioned account. It's a compelling, fun story for children, but the real history of the dreidel is no less remarkable.

Indeed, the most marvelous of Hanukkah miracles is an ongoing one: the ability of the Jewish people to adopt the customs and ideas of their neighbors -- just filtered through a Jewish lens. Consider how many of our "traditional" Jewish practices are variations of customs adopted from the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, or Romans. We often toast the fact that those four "evil empires" have fallen while the Jewish people live on -- Am Yisrael Chai! -- but, curiously and counter-intuitively, some facets of those cultures live on in our Jewish traditions.

Culture is a wonderfully complex cholent.