Emor – Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23

Facebook_CoverDesign_EmorThis week’s reading builds upon last week’s distinction between the Priestly Torah, which focuses on the priestly views of ritual (as distinct from those of the masses), and the Holiness Code, which interweaves the priestly elements of ritual with popular customs.

What further distinguishes Chapters 21 and 22 of Leviticus from the rest of the Holiness Code (Chapters 17–26) is a primary concern for the priesthood rather than for the Israelite people as a whole. There is an internal symmetry wherein the code for ordinary priests (21:1-9) and the code for the High Priest (21:10-15) both begin with funerary regulations and conclude with marital restrictions.

Parashat Emor also addresses the annual callings to holiness: a weekly sabbatical retreat; an annual paschal offering on the 14th of Nisan as well as the seven day cycle of Pesach (Passover) beginning on the 15th of Nisan; the gathering and elevating of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover to its culmination in Shavuot; the primal cry of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei for Rosh Hashanah; followed by a fast day on the 10th of Tishrei; culminating with a seven-day festival for dwelling in booths while dancing with the four species on the 15th of Tishrei and then the after-party of the Eighth day of Assembly marking the pilgrimage route home with Shemini Atzeret.

By contrast, the first section of Emor speaks to laws pertaining to Temple service of the High Priest.

All in all, there is something about sacred time that speaks to each of us differently, yet the sacred somehow finds a way to take place in our lives through the Jewish calendar and the synagogue.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's stark artwork is inspired by Emor's focus on separation, especially as it pertains to distinctions between pure/impure or sacred/profane. The Israelite approach to sacrifice, illness, hygiene, sexual biology, food, agriculture, and more is informed by a severe dualism that makes sense in context; nonetheless, it is impossible not to feel empathy for those members of the tribe who are cut off from their people because they are deemed taboo or impure.Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

The Financial Four -- February 28, 2018

The latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel Horwitz, is shared below.

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Dear Congregation Beth Sholom Community,

I am so excited to be writing this update as we are rounding the final bend on many of the objectives I communicated to the Board just two (short) years ago! So I'd like to put a stake in the ground right now so that everyone can be just as excited and forward-looking as I am.

1. Although picking up our financial situation in January 2016 was not easy, with the help of some wonderful Friends of the Synagogue like Joe Ratner and Todd Strauss, among others, we were able to create a new direction and financial models for the synagogue that are sustainable. No one is thinking we are done, but looking at our financials year over year, we can start again to make longer-term plans.

2. While staff changes are always hard, we made it through some tough personnel decisions and can now begin envisioning the synagogue and the services that we want. We've made some new hires, are out in the world collecting models from other institutions, and are primed for creating some new positions and creative new ways of thinking about customer service here. Talk about bang for your buck!

3. We have had a wonderful relationship over the last two years with our bank, and they have been super supportive of the work being done to keep them informed, to make sure they receive all their interest payments, and to prepare them for our loan renegotiation! Still, it would be remiss of me not to get some competitive bids; and I am happy to say I have had no issue getting other banks to the table. In that vein...

4. As I am sharing some of our financial data with competitive banks, I thought it would be a great time to share the exact same information with you, our congregation. On February 13, I spent two hours thoroughly going over all the CBS financial information with David Golden, Michael Samson, and Zohar Kaplan. While the protocols for corporate and non-profit accounting differ, I’m sure we all got something out of it.

Today, I am thrilled to to offer to you, from the Board, increased financial transparency. If you click through this link, you will be able to see our reviewed financials for the last three years as well as a recent Treasurer's report. In addition, we're sharing some other financial information the competitive banks have asked for in order to propose terms: see here, here, and here. Maybe even more importantly, as you click through, the Board will know this type of reporting is important to you; and how much you appreciate our (my and the Board’s) efforts to keep you informed.

As always, l’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four Five -- August 1, 2017

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

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Hello, I hope you are having a wonderful summer!

As we at all prepare for the High Holy Days and 5778, I would like to give you an update on the ongoing financial picture at CBS.

1. End of Year Report. We completed the 2016-2017 year on June 30, and have replenished our cash reserves by more than $300,000. This was accomplished through the tireless efforts of the development committee, YOU – our generous community, and a staff who dedicated themselves to the reshaping of a more sustainable future. Special thanks to our Rabbi, the Board of Directors, and Beth Sholom staff, who gave of themselves and continue to make the synagogue’s financial health a priority.

2. Building Loan Refinancing. Our annual financial review is already underway and we have heard from several banks that we are on the right track to secure healthy refinancing options for the balloon payment due in May 2018. While we aren’t out of the woods, our community has waged an impressive effort to keep us moving forward. Thank you!

3. Community Building. Among our ongoing efforts to energize the shul’s relationship with our community is an effort to evaluate and maximize the role of our kosher kitchen. We would like to know from you how you use the kitchen and its services? For the next two weeks, if you step into the kitchen for any reason, or would like to — we want to know why and how we can assist. Please email me – we’ll be happy to arrange a tour, or talk to you about ways our members and the community already use our wonderful kosher kitchen.

4. Matching Gifts. Please check with your employer regarding any employer charitable matching gifts or other donation opportunity available. We have a list of all the matching companies in the United States, and if yours is one of them, you can easily double your gift to the synagogue! At a minimum, please make sure that the synagogue knows where you and your family members are employed. Also, please consider signing up for Amazon Smile and other online services with Beth Sholom as your preferred charity of choice. Call the office and we will be happy to help you set up all the necessary contact information.

5. Member Renewal. Thank you to the 65% of our membership that has already renewed! To those that have yet to do so, we are planning an extraordinary, multifaceted High Holy Day experience and a 5778 packed with celebration, education, and exploration — so please get your renewal in today!

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

Emor – Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23

Facebook_CoverDesign_EmorThis week’s reading builds upon last week’s distinction between the Priestly Torah, which focuses on the priestly views of ritual (as distinct from those of the masses), and the Holiness Code, which interweaves the priestly elements of ritual with popular customs.

What further distinguishes Chapters 21 and 22 of Leviticus from the rest of the Holiness Code (Chapters 17–26) is a primary concern for the priesthood rather than for the Israelite people as a whole. There is an internal symmetry wherein the code for ordinary priests (21:1-9) and the code for the High Priest (21:10-15) both begin with funerary regulations and conclude with marital restrictions.

Parashat Emor also addresses the annual callings to holiness: a weekly sabbatical retreat; an annual paschal offering on the 14th of Nisan as well as the seven day cycle of Pesach (Passover) beginning on the 15th of Nisan; the gathering and elevating of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover to its culmination in Shavuot; the primal cry of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei for Rosh Hashanah; followed by a fast day on the 10th of Tishrei; culminating with a seven-day festival for dwelling in booths while dancing with the four species on the 15th of Tishrei and then the after-party of the Eighth day of Assembly marking the pilgrimage route home with Shemini Atzeret.

By contrast, the first section of Emor speaks to laws pertaining to Temple service of the High Priest.

All in all, there is something about sacred time that speaks to each of us differently, yet the sacred somehow finds a way to take place in our lives through the Jewish calendar and the synagogue.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's stark artwork is inspired by Emor's focus on separation, especially as it pertains to distinctions between pure/impure or sacred/profane. The Israelite approach to sacrifice, illness, hygiene, sexual biology, food, agriculture, and more is informed by a severe dualism that makes sense in context; nonetheless, it is impossible not to feel empathy for those members of the tribe who are cut off from their people because they are deemed taboo or impure.Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Pesach – Day 5

Facebook_CoverDesign_Pesach5777"Roots, man — we’re talking about Jewish roots, you want to know more? Check on Elijah the prophet. … yeah — these are my roots, I suppose. Am I looking for them? … I ain’t looking for them in synagogues … I can tell you that much." — Bob Dylan, 1983

Is the Messiah a person or a process of redemption?

In my forthcoming book on Bob Dylan’s gnostic theology, God Knows Everything Is Broken, I argue that the Hibbing bard fell prey to the allure of messianic personhood one night in a Tucson hotel room, as he described his own experience: "I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up." Months later, Dylan again found himself alone in empty arena sound-checks. Through these solitary communions, he worked up a new song, "Slow Train," which served, amid larger questions with ineffable answers, as his own journey through a messianic process.

Meanwhile, many of his Jewish listeners turned a deaf ear to his next three albums. That's unfortunate, because they are necessary listening if you want to hear how Dylan’s "conversion songs" are inextricably linked to his ongoing, post-conversion work.

Following a few short years of "conversion," Dylan, in 1983, released "Infidels," a virulent self-critique, embarking on "a very personal battle to construct a world view that retains [his] faith in both God and humanity." Around this time, Dylan even recorded an album of Hasidic songs (the bootlegged out-takes are called "From Shot to Saved"). It is through the outreach of Rabbi Manis Friedman that Dylan found his direction home, and Chabad legend has it that the Hibbing bard prayed in a hoodie at the Crown Heights headquarters. During Dylan’s first appearance before the late Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson at his farbrengen, a traditional Hasidic gathering, the latter did not acknowledge the former because of his apostate status – only after Dylan immersed in a mikvah to return to his Jewish self would the rebbe smile at him at the next farbrengen.

While this "re-conversion" story is kept under wraps, Dylan’s public return to roots was still misunderstood as a returning of a secularist, or nonobservant Jew. Perhaps their singing spokesperson accepted the darkening spiritual awareness that "everything is broken." Yet the return to his Jewish roots, for Dylan, was more radical. Importantly, he returned not as a zealot, which "Infidels" rejects, but as a Jew devoid of Orthodox ideology. In his perennial reinventions, Dylan’s pendulum swings — not merely from one orthodoxy to another — but from orthodoxy to heterodoxy. Already wobbling into heterodoxy in 1985, Dylan remarks: "Whether you believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah is irrelevant, but whether you’re aware of the messianic complex, that’s … important … People who believe in the coming of the Messiah live their lives right now, as if He was here …"

Unlike the medieval Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, who aborted his messianic meeting to convert Pope Nicholas III in 1279, Dylan’s modern messianic mission with Pope John Paul II in 1997 was met with equally dubious reception as the Vatican called him "a false prophet." Did Dylan believe his messianic search had evolved from personhood to process, to then dissolve the differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?

Like every SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) seeker so allergic to setting foot in a synagogue, Dylan eventually returns home to the root of his soul. Being "aware of the messianic complex" demarcates the theology of Dylan’s songbook and enables its rapid shift, from the apocalyptic songs to those affirming a personal sense of gratitude for his redemption. This struggle to clarify the source of messianism emerges in many lyrics, for example, in "Pressing on to a Higher Calling" (from the 1980 album "Saved"), which points to the shift from personhood to process. Such a journey, especially when it is frustratingly circuitous, is only possible by struggling with messianism as a process.

So for Pesach, don’t leave home! Rather stay attuned during the seder. Open that door at home for Elijah and see there is really an internalizing shift taking place, from messianic personhood to process. It is an opening to that "kind of sign [each and every one of us] need[s] when it all come[s] from within"!

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer
(This piece originally appeared in J. Jewish News of Northern California, April 7, 2017).

Artwork note: This week’s illustration depicts the Korban Pesach, or "sacrifice of Passover." Also referred to as the Paschal lamb, it figures prominently in Christian rhetoric, where Jesus Christ is portrayed as the ultimate sacrificial lamb, or Lamb of God. The illustration seemed a fitting accompaniment to Rabbi Glazer's examination of Bob Dylan's messianic search. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Israel Mission Remembrance (II)

From December 22, 2016 – January 2, 2017, almost 30 members of the CBS community traveled to Israel as part of the CBS/Kol Shofar Intergenerational Communal Family Mission. The trip itinerary was thoughtfully designed by Rabbis Aubrey Glazer and Susan Leider (Kol Shofar), and we've heard from many participants about how extraordinary and memorable an experience they had.

Today, we continue to share participant remembrances with a wonderful report from Lu and Norman Zilber on full, inspiring days in Jerusalem. If you read these contributions and wish to join a future congregational mission to Eretz Yisrael, please let us know.


Facebook_LuZilberPhoto1_JerusalemJerusalem shel matah, Jerusalem shel malah. Jerusalem of the earth, Jerusalem of the spirit. Today, we saw both.

When King Herod (the paranoid) rebuilt the Temple, he first built a platform with arches and a buttressing wall that leans inward to prevent the arches from expanding. All four of these outer walls are standing today, even after 2000 years. The westernmost one was closest to the spot where the Holy of Holies was located, so that’s the one we pray at today. The walls are comprised of gigantic stones weighing 400 tons each. How did they get them in place? They were rolled down from the northern side, which was the highest point.

We visited the Western Wall and said a Shehecheyanu. We then descended below to see Herod’s construction. We walked for over four hours today and are pooped, but Shabbat is approaching, so we meet our group in 15 minutes to walk to shul.

Our guide is fantastic. He is a treasure trove of history (which he calls our collective memory), architecture, and politics. For example, today’s Arab Muslims do not recognize the Jews' presence in Jerusalem because in fact they have no collective memory of our being there.

We climbed up on the roof of the city to see the Muslim Dome of the Rock, built circa 700 CE, the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque with its dome, and lo and behold, the Jews rebuilt the grand synagoge in their quarter with, you guessed it, a dome! Politics.

Norm’s two cents on Jerusalem

To leave the old city from the roof, we walked through a section that was a warren of streets with one room shops on top of each other.

It looked exactly like Istanbul, down to the packets of saffron and other exotic spices. Merchandise here caters to three religions. It's startling to see tallesim (or tallitot) hanging above wooden crèches (Nativity scenes).

Leyning Torah in Eretz Yisrael

We walked over a mile to the Masorti congregation where they generously gave our group a warm welcome and three aliyot. Our rabbi's niece and daughter read the first and second aliyot and I did the third (about Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers). My nervousness was dispelled by the crying babies and chattering congregants.

There was a couple about to get married and the congregation celebrated mightily. Because of this couple, there was a lovely kiddush following services. The food was better than the hotel's!

It's always a pleasure to attend services in another country. The traditions and melodies may differ a bit, but you always feel you belong and most people welcome us. We are having a restful Shabbat afternoon since tomorrow's schedule is another heavy day.

We visited (and had lunch at) the Mahane Yehuda Market, which reminded us of Istanbul, but on a smaller scale. Loads of vendors selling nuts, baklava, olives, halvah, pastries (no ruggelach, but heaps of various sufganiyot donuts), and spices, along with fish mongers and fruit and vegetable stands. We grabbed some delicious fish and chips, and shared a sufganiyah filled with caramel (yum!). We bought a selection of baklava and some hazel nuts and almonds. The baklava is much less sweet than what you find in the US and is chock-full of ground pistachios. We then walked to the "time elevator," a large screen film experience (your seat moves like a roller coaster) retelling the story of Jerusalem from the time of King David. Its all done in 30 minutes and is a bit hokey, but the kids thought it was “amazing."

Our bus then took us to a promenade above the city at sunset to get a view of the "City of Gold." Every couple of minutes, the view changed and got more and more beautiful.

- Lu Zilber

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.

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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

The Financial Four -- January 17, 2017

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

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Happy Secular New Year!

I think we're especially fortunate to have two New Year celebrations; I use one for my spiritual health and the other for my (and incidentally, the synagogue’s) financial well-being. Some people say spirituality and financial considerations shouldn’t mix. Don’t believe that for a second; they are inextricably tied together. At the synagogue, like everywhere else, you get what you pay for – we commit to supporting our synagogue and the synagogue is there when we need and want it.

A lot has happened in a few short weeks since my last post. So, with no further ado, let's look at our recent progress.

1. Commitment to Cash Flow – While we continue our bold push to create a sustained culture of giving, we are well on our way to making our projections for the year, coming in at or below budget on our expenses. This good news is a direct result of...

2. Our Commitment to Savings – Many of our Board members and volunteers have come up with great ideas to help us save money. We are investing in programming changes for our synagogue database, our telephone systems, and our postage and copying contracts in order to create more sustainable long-term cost structures. Some of you may have noticed some of our customer relationship management (CRM) changes, and may have experienced a glitch here and there. We are grateful for your patience and understanding as we work through these systemic changes and get everything working correctly while we continue to do our job of keeping your financials accurate and up to date.

3. Commitment to Staff and the Environment – So many people came to tell us how wonderful the High Holy Days services were at CBS, and many felt this was because of the hard work of our staff. We agree, so we have reworked our staff benefits to include Commuterchecks and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) benefits for anyone who opts in. We also scheduled some lovely back massages for the hardworking CBS Family Preschool and office staff just before our wonderful Light It Up! Community Hanukkah celebration.

4. Commitment to the Community – We all know that Beth Sholom is not an island, and we have been making a lot of plans to partner and work with other synagogues. Here, in the financial office, we are forging a CRM redesign for use by other congregations in the Bay Area. We thank Congregation Emanu-El and Peninsula Temple Beth El (San Mateo) for encouraging us to "boldly go where (few) synagogues have gone before." Stay tuned for exciting updates on that front!

Finally, thanks to you, our members, who give all of our commitments – and your commitments to us – meaning and purpose.

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four -- November 30, 2016

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

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Miss me?

Well, not to worry; things have been hopping around the synagogue, so much so that I haven’t had a moment to do my favorite part of the job – updating YOU, our generous community! But there's lots of good news to share, so let's get to it.

1. Our 2015-16 financials are in the bag. – Closing out the year presented a few challenges, but we were able to get our financials done and through the audit by September; a noble timeframe. The auditors were happy, the bank was happy, and the financials are available to anyone who wants to see them.

2. An unbelievable High Holiday season. – There is very little we could do without you, but this is particularly true of the High Holy Days. The services at CBS this year – joyous, moving, meaningful – were successful because of you. Now, following the High Holiday season, I’m in the fortunate position of seeing just how much you value our services and community experiences: $748,000 in membership dues, $238,000 in Kol Nidre pledges, and more and more of you coming to events all the time! Speaking of...

3. All the ways we celebrate together. – The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat was packed this past Friday evening with congregants and amazing performers. The upcoming Hanukkah celebration (Light It Up!, December 15), our b'nai mitzvah and birthday celebrations (mazel tov on your 85th, Norm!), the December 6 new member event, which looks like it is officially "sold out" — all of these are ways we use the synagogue to connect as a community. CBS is not just charity that its members support. CBS is a place to see and rejoice with people we love to see and rejoice with.

4. But, yes, it is ALSO a charity. – We are doing some amazing things with the money you generously donate: we are focusing on improving efficiencies and workflows; finding better ways to engage you, our prized members; and utilizing technology that is creating a better customer experience. Starting this month, a select group of you will be receiving membership statements via email. In the next few months, we will be enabling powerful systems to allow you to make donations from wherever you are. Just imagine it – you see something happening in your world, and CBS can be an instantaneous part of your reaction. You can learn more about it by registering for a class, or you can make a donation that will help combat anti-Semitism, enable a community Israel opportunity, or sponsor a child’s Jewish heritage – all of this while you're on the go, boarding at an airport, in a ride share, or between meetings. We want to be wherever you are.

So...on that note, no need to miss me too much! Stop by the synagogue any time, and let’s discuss all the ways that you and I can make this place sing!

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four -- October 11, 2016

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

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Donation_CBSYellowsorcerorsapprentice Dear Friends,

It would be hard for me to believe that we are where we are today but for the fact that I spent the last six weeks bearing witness to the Herculean efforts of your Board, your President, and your synagogue staff. They've created magic. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they have breathed new life into the unexpected, masterfully coordinated a concerted effort to achieve the improbable, and, of course, prepared themselves for the requisite clean-up to come (a heads up that your statements may NOT be perfect for another month or so!). You should be proud of what we have accomplished together.

It would be selfish not to share the good news, so (in order of personally-perceived awesomeness):

1. 23 new members. – Folks, what else is there to say? In a time when every synagogue is losing members, our community has responded to our year-long campaign with a resounding," Yes! We love the programming and the feeling of belonging at Beth Sholom — it meets a spiritual need for us." There are so many people to thank for this — the CBS Family Preschool directors, our Achshav Yisrael Committee, all the Thinking Matters volunteer teachers, Christopher Reiger, and of course, our beloved Rabbi — who greets every idea with "I have a friend/contact who..." Kol Hakavod to all.

2. $748,000 in membership dues (and counting). – You may have received your call from the Board in the last four weeks. Or you may have renewed your membership in March, without so much as a whispered reminder. No matter how or when you renewed, THANK YOU for allowing us to make 102% of our financial membership goals! As Sally Field and more recently, my husband have said, "They like [it]...they really like [it]!" It is an honor to be a part of this synagogue with you. (Special thanks to Steven Dinkelspiel and Beth Jones – nothing works unless there is some plan to the practice.)

3. 10% over projected building contributions. – When we built this incredible place, we knew it was going to take some serious dough to keep it running. And our membership has stepped up to make sure it does. For those of you who question or wonder about the efficacy of the building in today’s virtual world, all you need to do is come this month to see an Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat or listen to attendees of our Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged services kvell about (be proud of) how we were able to co-create programming with and host the Mission Minyan and The Kitchen. In order to congregate, a congregation needs space.

4. Speaking of...how about a grant to open a Kosher/Halal Food Truck? – Okay, I get it, it's not quite what you were expecting, but CBS is one of four finalists for an Earned Income grant from the Jewish Federation to use our already fabulous kitchen and chef to make Jewish food and culture more portable. Not since the exodus from Spain 500 years ago has there been this much excitement about Jews on the move! Thanks to Kim Hegg, Jane Sykes, Eric Silverman, and the coolest Federation ever for going on this vision quest with us. We’ll keep you posted.

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!

Emor -- Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23

CoverDesign_EmorIn a candid moment, the renowned American scholar of the Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels (b. 1943), once remarked that her research of these early religious texts taught her something interesting:

These ancient stories in religion speak to our desire. But they move us toward hope.

Where might one experience this correlation between desire and hope that really speaks to us about Judaism as a religion? Is it through interpersonal ethics? Familiar customs? Or, on the other hand, through rituals that deepen the human-divine relationship? Holiness calls out to us, but how and when do we hear the call?

The second section of Emor, literally “speaks out” and addresses us in describing the annual callings to holiness: a weekly sabbatical retreat; an annual paschal offering on the 14th of Nisan as well as the seven day cycle of Pesach (Passover) beginning on the 15th of Nisan; the gathering and elevating of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover to its culmination in Shavuot; the primal cry of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei for Rosh Hashanah; followed by a fast day on the 10th of Tishrei; culminating with a seven-day festival for dwelling in booths while dancing with the four species on the 15th of Tishrei and then the after-party of the Eighth day of Assembly marking the pilgrimage route home with Shemini Atzeret.

By contrast, the first section of Emor speaks to laws pertaining to Temple service of the high priest.

All in all, there is something about sacred time that speaks to each of us differently, yet the sacred somehow finds a way to take place in our lives through the Jewish calendar and the synagogue.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is inspired by the many harsh directives that appear in Parashat Emor, directives that exclude many Israelites (e.g., the deformed, disabled, or sick) from full belonging and that command our ancestors to stone to death various offenders. From Leviticus 24:13-14: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and all who heard shall lean their hands on his head. And the entire community shall stone him." Holiness may call out to us, but in the stratified and severe worldview of our ancestors, it has the voice of a potentate. So, again, with the wrestling! Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

CBS To Be Featured in Synagogues 360

Synagogues360In conjunction with the Beit Hatfutsot Museum (The Museum of the Jewish People) in Tel Aviv, Israel, photographer Louis Davidson is creating Synagogues 360, a photographic exhibit of historic and exceptional synagogues around the world. Mr. Davidson and the Beit Hatfutsot Museum have decided to feature the CBS campus because of our home's outstanding contemporary architecture.

On Friday, May 27, Mr. Davidson will visit CBS to shoot interior and exterior photographs. The Synagogues 360 project is an entirely supported by the museum, and its sole purpose is the photographic preservation of Jewish heritage for posterity.

Keep your eyes peeled on the Synagogues 360 website for CBS in the near future!