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Inside J. 22
FRONT COVER: Workers at Tel HaShomer Hospital near Tel Aviv which was converted to receive the Israelis who were under quarantine on the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan due to coronavirus, Feb. 20, 2020. (JTA/Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
BAY AREA 3 East Bay Farca case inspires state bill to bolster hate crimes law 4 San Jose exhibit gives Jewish veterans overdue recognition 5 Suspect ID’d in swastika case at Sacramento high school 6 Q&A: A pediatrician who moonlights playing klezmer 8 COVER STORY Jewish life in Bay Area upended by coronavirus 14 OUR CROWD 16 She spent the war in hiding, from a forest bunker to a haystack 18 S.F. native raising money to build ‘field of dreams’ in Israel 20 State approves agreement between Reutlinger, Eskaton 22 How Jewish summer camps are preparing for the coronavirus
OPINION 24 Letters to the Editor 24 Editorial 25 Views J. LIFE 40 Torah 40 Celebrity Jews 41 Classifieds 42 Lifecycles/Obituaries 44 Before You Go
CULTURE 28 29 29 30 31 32 33
Lori Starr to step down as CJM head: ‘Change is healthy’ Young ‘Shtisel’ star leaves orthodoxy in new Netflix Jewish offering Walnut Creek teen’s snapshot of Shabbat is a Jewish Lens winner Holocaust-era fiddle, via S.F., joins Violins of Hope Holocaust memoirs are a treasure, especially these two Hunkered down at home? Here are some Jewish shows to watch New haggadahs for 2020: nationalism, artistry, the environment
PASSSOVER FOOD 34 At Market Hall, they cry over the horseradish so you don’t have to 36 Jewish-owned food businesses hit hard by new restrictions 38 Gefilte fish poppers and matzah casserole with bitter herbs
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Bay Area NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
East Bay Farca case inspires state bill to bolster hate crimes law GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF When detective Greg Mahan learned someone was posting online threats to murder Jews from a bungalow near the North Concord BART station, he thought about what crime, exactly, was being committed. “I currently own an AR15 semi auto rifle,” an account linked to a screen name “Adolf Hitler (((6 MILLION)))” posted last June on the video-game networking site Steam. “I would probably get a body count of like 30 Kikes and then like 5 police officers,” the person wrote, “because I would also decide to fight to the death.” According to California’s law against making criminal threats, penal code No. 422, it is forbidden to threaten to commit a violent crime against another person — with the intent that the statement be taken as a threat. Yet another law (422.6), this one relating to hate crimes, forbids making threats based on “the perceived characteristics of the victim,” that may interfere with their Constitutionally protected rights, such as freedom of religion. “If you read [422.6], the law specifies individuals, but it expands it to a group of people,” said Mahan, a member of the Concord Police Department’s major crime unit. Thus, the posts could be read as, he paraphrased: “I’m going to kill all the Jewish people, and all the cops.” To Mahan, the hate crimes law seemed to best fit the alleged crime. The person behind the Steam account, Concord resident
Ross Farca, according to police, zeroed in on Jews. “I just would need a better target than … some random synagogue with kikes that aren’t really a threat,” the account posted. Elsewhere it professed infatuation with Nazism and racial violence. But the district attorney’s office in Contra Costa County did not charge Farca under 422.6, the hate crimes law. Instead it charged him under 422, the criminal threats law. That provision is not about civil rights or a protected class — but is a general admonition against threatening anyone, no matter who. The hate crimes statute is a lesser crime, only a misdemeanor. The criminal-threats provision can be charged as a felony. “You charge them with whatever you can,” Mahan explained. “We don’t have to overcharge or mischarge people. But especially if you think they’re a danger … [the main question is] how can we protect the public?” The discrepancy in the penal code caught Mahan’s attention, and the attention of the district attorney in Contra Costa County. Now it has the attention of state lawmakers, too. Last month, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democratic member of the state Assembly whose district runs from Livermore to Orinda and Walnut Creek, joined with fellow Assemblymember Timothy Grayson, a Republican-turned-Democrat whose district encompasses parts of
“One can define terrorism in many different ways. I believe threats of this nature are terrorism.” Rebecca Bauer-Kahan
the East Bay and North Bay, to introduce a bill they say will help “protect communities from acts of domestic terrorism.” Assembly Bill 2925 aims to change the language on 422.6, the hate crimes law, to give prosecutors the ability to charge threats — and certain vandalism and property destruction cases — as felony civil-rights crimes. “When you make a threat against an individual, it can be charged as a felony, but against these classes, it can’t,” said Bauer-Kahan, a graduate of Georgetown Law with a background in criminal defense. “That’s a fascinating discrepancy in the laws, as far as I’m concerned.” Bauer-Kahan, who sits on the board of Congregation B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek — and whose brother is Rabbi
CONCORD POLICE DEPARTMENT
AR-15-style assault rifle and ammunition magazines recovered during a search of Ross Farca’s Concord home in June 2019.
Ryan Bauer of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco — is highly attuned to the Jewish community’s anxieties in the wake of the Farca case. She said her office got nervous phone calls after the then 23-year-old was released on bail days after his June 10 arrest. “The question became: Why was he out?” she said. Around the country, homegrown extremism is on the rise, and often proliferates in the dark corners of the internet. In 2018, reports of personal attacks motivated by bias or prejudice reached a 16-year high, according to the FBI. Despite a flush of government resources devoted to fighting foreign terrorism after 9/11, the FBI last year reported that it conducted more investigations into domestic terror than into global terror groups. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security released its 2020 terorrism assessment. It labeled threats from domestic extremists, including white supremacists, “high” and threats from entities such as ISIS and al-Qaida “low.” Some opponents of certain domestic terrorism laws, including a federal law to criminalize domestic terrorism, cite First Amendment and free-speech concerns. Others say a new constellation of laws is needed to address a growing problem. The Contra Costa district attorney’s office would not comment on the legislation, citing pending litigation. But the bill has the support of the county DA Diana Becton, who helped write it. Farca, 24, now being held without bail following a fourth felony charge, currently faces three felonies in Contra Costa County and one in the Northern District of California stemming from allegedly lying to the U.S. government in an effort to join the Army in 2017. Though Mahan suspected the felony criminal threats continued on page 12
JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 3.20.2020 3
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
San Jose exhibit gives Jewish veterans overdue recognition MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF When Jay Coggan joined the Navy in 1967, there weren’t a lot of other Jews. In Vietnam, he said, rabbis were so scarce that he and his fellow Jewish service members were assigned a Mormon minister as a chaplain. “It’s an interesting thing to be a Jew in the military,” Coggan, now a major-general and commander of the California State Military Reserve, said in an interview with J. at the opening of the traveling exhibit “Uncommon Valor: Jewish American Medal of Honor Heroes.” Jews in the armed forces are still not common, but the Jewish veterans and service members who gathered for the March 8 opening at San Jose State University spoke passionately of the need for this part of the American Jewish story to be recognized. “Jews contribute not just in medicine, law and science, but in military service,” said
just 17 have been Jewish. They range from Benjamin Levy, a soldier in the Civil War, to Jack Jacobs, who saved a wounded comrade in Vietnam, to Simon Suhler, a Bavarian Jew who received the medal in 1868 for valor in the expansionist Indian Wars. His greatgreat-niece, Irene Spector, herself a Navy veteran, said that Suhler fought against the Apaches under the name Charles Gardner, a nom de guerre that somewhat backfired when it came time to apply for government entitlements. “He had a heck of a time getting a pension,” Spector said. The exhibit, which is up through April 10 in the lobby of SJSU’s Tower Hall, is sponsored by the Jewish studies program and the school’s Burdick Military History Project. But the vitrines, which include photos and objects such as replica medals, had a round-
“As much as we [Americans] support Israel, I think if we’re going to do military service, our place is with the United States military.” San Jose State professor Jonathan Roth
Visitors at the Jewish Medal of Honor exhibition in San Jose.
Quentin Kopp, a veteran himself and a retired judge, formaer state senator and former San Francisco supervisor (and current J. board member). The Medal of Honor is the country’s highest award for military valor. Of the more than 3,400 people who have been awarded one,
about journey to the South Bay. The exhibit was created in 2005 by Army veteran Greg Lee, head of the Jewish War Veterans’ California branch, who made it with a fellow veteran for the California State Military Museum in Sacramento. But at some point, it got lost in the system.
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Maj.-Gen. Jay Coggan, Jewish Navy veteran and commander of the California State Military Reserve, with unnamed attendee on March 8.
“They donated it to the California military department, and unfortunately it sat dormant for a number of years,” said Col. Kirk Sturm, head of the California Military Museum Command. After being discovered sitting in a building on the Los Alamitos training base, it’s been brought back to life — and spruced up — under the auspices of the California State Guard. It has visited a JCC in Irvine and Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, and after San Jose it’s going to Long Beach. The exhibit launch in San Jose included a day of lectures, including the 2020 Jewish Studies Levinson Memorial Lecture given by Kopp, who in his talk traced Jewish involvement in the military back to pre-American Revolution. “The history of American Jews in military service begins not in the 18th century, certainly not in the 19th century or thereafter, but begins in 1657,” he told those assembled. Despite that long history, a tiny number of Medal of Honor recipients have been Jewish. Was that rooted in anti-Semitism? Some think so. It’s why legislation was introduced in Congress in 2001, directing the military to take a second look at Jewish war heroes who might have been discriminated against. The Leonard Kravitz Jewish War Veterans Act did not pass, but it created a larger movement for examining whether minority service members may have been skipped over for similar reasons. (Leonard Kravitz was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor; his other claim to fame is being the uncle of singer Lenny Kravitz.) Many minorities have since received the medal, but only one was Jewish, and it was awarded in 2005 to Tibor Rubin, a Korean War veteran who died in 2015. What that means is up for debate, but Coggan is surprised. “[That] makes me think
there still was some discrimination,” he said. “That can’t be.” He knows times have changed since he first enlisted. “There was a tremendous amount of anti-Semitism in those days,” he said, when every possible offensive slur against Jews was used. “It was very common. We heard it all the time.” Though things are better now, the idea that Jews don’t serve remains prevalent. In 2017, Israel’s then-Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely caused outrage when she said of American Jews, “Most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. Most of them are having quite convenient lives.” San Jose State history professor Jonathan Roth, who runs the Burdick Military History Project and is a mentor for student veterans on campus, would like to counter that narrative. He said he wouldn’t mind seeing more young Jews consider the military — and not just the Israel Defense Forces. “As Americans, as much as we support Israel, I think if we’re going to do military service, our place is with the United States military,” he said. Having more Jews in the service might have changed the experience for Ken Gold, a captain in the California State Guard and a member of San Jose’s Temple Emanu-El. When he joined the guard in 1982, he kept his Jewish identity to himself to avoid standing out. “Even to this day I keep a low profile,” he said. Roth hopes people will see the stories of the Medal of Honor recipients and learn from them: not only about history, but about the sacrifices of Jewish Americans in the military and what that means for the larger story of Jews in the United States. “It’s, as they say, ‘good for the Jews’ to have Jews in military service,” he said. n
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
Suspect ID’d in swastika case at Sacramento high school ELISSA EINHORN | CORRESPONDENT A student at a Sacramento high school has been identified as the suspect who carved a large swastika into the school’s baseball field dirt earlier this month. Fellow students provided the tip that led to the person’s identification, school officials reported. In a March 17 interview, school principal Brian Ginter said the investigation was closed. He could not discuss potential consequences or whether criminal charges would be sought. The incident took place at Rio Americano High School, home to 1,685 students and a large Jewish student body. The swastika, stretching about six feet wide, etched in the basepath between first and second base, was discovered March 3. A week later, a meeting drew approximately 100 primarily Jewish parents and students who sought answers about whether the proper steps were being taken to ensure the safety of the school’s Jewish students. Ginter addressed the incident on March 3 in his “Principal’s Message” on the school’s website without sending a message directly to Rio families. “These types of incidents are disturbing and do not in any way represent the Rio Americano community,” Ginter wrote. “We will continue to work with our students and community to educate all involved and hopefully prevent these types of events from occurring in the future.” Word about the swastika began to spread. Dana Kurzrock, a Jewish parent of a Rio student, met with Ginter and helped to organize the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.
In her opening remarks, Kurzrock said she had discussed the swastika incident not only with Ginter but with vice principals, the Safe Schools office, the local Jewish Community Relations Council, rabbis, the Jewish Federation in Sacramento, the Anti-Defamation League and the FBI. “This is a learning experience,” she said. “We want Rio to be a hate-free zone.” After receiving complaints about a lack of adequate communication with school families, Ginter admitted that he had erred. “I am the first to admit that the communication was inadequate,” he told the crowd. “I should have 100 percent sent out a mass email telling folks to go to the ‘Principal’s Message’ page.” Even before the meeting, Ginter was aware that news about the swastika was gaining traction on social media. After he learned of a Facebook post by Jewish Rio father Dan Ott, the principal requested a meeting with Ott and his wife, Melinda, whose daughter is a freshman. After that meeting, Ott said he learned about another incident this year. “We found out that a swastika was found on a student locker in January. It was reported, but nothing happened and nobody heard about it,” he said. Also compounding the matter for some Jewish parents was a racial incident earlier in the academic year targeting the school’s African American students. In contrast to his handling of the swastika event, Ginter immediately sent out
an email to all Rio families. Many parents in the audience wanted to know why the same step wasn’t taken in response to the anti-Semitic incident. Rabbi Nancy Wechsler of Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael reached out to Rio’s administration and was mentioned as a resource for parents in the “Principal’s Message.” Wechsler has a daughter at the school. “To create a healthier culture at Rio,” Wechsler said, “everyone must understand that when they have one another’s back, the school is vastly improved. This time it was an anti-Semitic incident on the baseball field. Last time was a swastika on a locker, and prior to that a hateful incident against Black students. Who will it be next time? Hatred is a disease and it shows up in all kinds of forms.” Several Jewish students in the audience also expressed frustration at the lack of communication from the administration. They said their teachers didn’t know what had happened, and they criticized the absence of Holocaust education in the school’s world history courses. Attendees suggested adopting curricula, training opportunities and awareness campaigns that deal with diversity and bias. Most agreed that education, not punishment, is the best response to hateful acts. Scott Shapiro, father of a Rio graduate and a current student, urged Ginter to address the issue directly. “The world is filled with hate,” he said “It’s not just our problem. If we don’t speak up, it will continue to happen.” n
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Q&A: A pediatrician who moonlights playing klezmer TALKING WITH
ALIX WALL | CORRESPONDENT
homelessness and different kinds of abuse. I saw a “20/20” episode with a transgender college student, NAME: Dr. Ilana Sherer teenager and child. The kid AGE: 38 was doing really well, and CITY: Oakland it was an aha moment. I POSITION: Pediatrician thought, ‘What can we do to protect these kids, to keep them from struggling the way the adults are?’ When I got to UCSF for residency, I Dr. Ilana Sherer has a general pediatrics was directed to Stephen Rosenthal, who was practice in Dublin at the Palo Alto Medical creating the [Child and Adolescent Gender Foundation/Sutter Health with a specialty Center at UCSF Medical Center]. in caring for gender-nonconforming and transgender youth. She’s also a violinist Aren’t there a lot of Jews in this field? with Saul Goodman’s Klezmer Band. She Once, at the center, we were trying to lives with her wife and two children in schedule our next meeting and realized that Oakland. everyone in the room but one person was Jewish. I see it as part of the social justice J.: You like to say you’re the best terrain and my personal responsibility as klezmer violin-playing pediatrician in a queer person and a Jew. These are the the Bay Area. What’s that about? kids who need us to support and advocate ILANA SHERER: Classical violin was a for them in the way the generation before huge part of my life from age 5 through advocated for me. high school. At a Hillel event in college, I sat next to someone in a klezmer band. There How do you explain the rise in trans or was a deep learning curve, but I played nonbinary children? through college and then in medical school. Kids are now taught they can be whoever I’ve played quite a bit here but it’s more they want to be. Not all kids who experilimited now because of my kids. I grew up ment will continue identifying as transgenin a pretty mainstream Jewish community der, but they feel comfortable exploring it. and klezmer helped me see there were other In the past, a boy wearing a dress would ways to connect to Judaism. Once I entered get teased. Now, kids have the freedom to the klezmer/Yiddish world, I thought about explore how they present and dress. how this is what my grandparents spoke, and how Yiddish culture has these really With a relatively small body of strong leftist roots. research, how do you know which treatment protocols to follow? Did you always know you would be a We don’t start any medical intervention doctor? until puberty. Most children who present When I was growing up, I was often told as transgender now do so early, sometimes by my parents and others ‘You’re going to as early as 2 or 3, but we don’t need to do be a doctor,’ but I wouldn’t go along with anything but support and love them until what people thought I should do. For a time puberty. Then, they can take hormone blockI thought I might be a research scientist, ers, which are fully reversible. but then I realized I didn’t like working in South Dakota’s state representatives a lab. There was one person there who was introduced a law that would make it illegal a medical student studying to become a for doctors to give such hormone blockers pediatrician. I went along with them to a to children, but ultimately, it was defeated. clinic and thought ‘This is what I want to It’s so heartbreaking. Doctors providing this do.’ Everyone was right all along, but I had to care in climates like that are my heroes. I figure it out myself. admire those who are sticking their necks out. I feel very protected and lucky to be in When did you choose to specialize in the Bay Area. ■ gender-variant children? “Talking With” focuses on local Jews who are doing I worked at an LGBT health center during things we find interesting. Send suggestions to medical school. We treated a lot of email@example.com. gender people, many of whom experienced
Wishing you joy and many blessings at Passover and throughout the year!
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BAY AREA | FACING THE PANDEMIC
Jewish life in Bay Area upended by coronavirus GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF When 82-year-old Hinda Gilbert boarded the Grand Princess cruise ship in San Francisco on Feb. 21, she was looking forward to relaxing and playing some bridge as she and a friend headed to Hawaii for a 15-day voyage. On their way back on March 6, just one day before the cruise was to end in San Francisco, several passengers started showing flu-like symptoms. Then the news broke: 21 people on board the ship had tested positive for coronavirus. “We were quarantined to our room,” Gilbert, a member of San Francisco Congregation Emanu-El, told J. “We could not leave for five days. It was like a movie.” The ship’s passengers were told to disembark at the Port of Oakland, and Gilbert and her friend were brought to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield for a mandatory 14-day quarantine. They will remain there until March 24. “I’m just taking this one minute at a time,” said Gilbert, who is worried she’ll become ill with the virus through close contact she had with other cruise passengers. “You can’t complain you’re in this situation. You have to grin and bear it.” The coronavirus has caused dramatic disruption everywhere. Schools are canceled, synagogues are moving worship online and senior homes are on lockdown. JCCs in San Francisco, Palo Alto, the East Bay and other locations have closed. Jewish agencies are offering very limited social services. But the full impact of the virus, which now has residents in nearly every Bay Area county sheltering at home and restricted to essential travel only, goes beyond just closures. It is causing emotional, spiritual and financial ripples across the entire Jewish community. And nobody knows how long it will last, or what the long-term effects might be. “It’s been very stressful having to make decisions about community events that impact a lot of people,” said Rabbi Chai Levy of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. “I’ve been feeling the weight of that.” Netivot is closed, and all meetings, groups and gatherings have shifted online. “The Jewish value of saving a life overrides everything,” Levy said. “We need to err on the side of caution.” Congregation Emanu-El has canceled all programming until April 8 and is hosting services and classes online. Bar and bat mitzvahs through May 8 have been rescheduled, per CDC guidelines to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. The temple lost “thousands and thousands” of dollars from the cancellation of its March 9 Purim carnival alone. “When you lose that kind of money, it does have an impact,” said Rabbi Jonathan Singer.
Synagogues aren’t the only institutions worried about the financial fallout. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is closed indefinitely. The museum was already hurting from the coronavirus before the March 12 closure, according to chief operating officer Kerry King, when corporate partners who usually rent out space all started canceling. “It does feel very surreal,” King said. “Like many other things right now.” The Reboot Ideas Festival, a national gathering scheduled for late March in San Francisco that would have brought dozens of high-profile Jewish community leaders from around the world to the Bay Area, has been canceled, a move that CEO David Katznelson estimates will cost the organization in the six figures. “That’s hard for a midlevel nonprofit,” said the Bay Area resident. “The hope is that we will be able to recover that in various ways.”
The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, closed until April 13, is facing a very serious financial situation, according to CEO Zack Bodner. The JCC has about 450 employees and a monthly payroll of $1.5 million. “For us to be able to cover that, we need the revenue coming in from programs, which we’ve had to cancel,” Bodner said. “Revenue coming from gym membership and personal training sessions is no longer happening. Revenue coming from preschool tuition and afterschool tuition isn’t happening.” Bodner said the only way the organization will be able to cover costs is through fundraising. “We’re really counting on the generosity of the community,” he said. “Understanding what the need is right now so that the mishpacha can be taken care of.” Hebrew Free Loan in San Francisco announced that it would be offering interest-free loans to those who are hurting
“The Jewish value of saving a life overrides everything. We need to err on the side of caution.” Netivot Shalom Rabbi Chai Levy
(Clockwise from top left) Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto; Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco; and the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
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financially in the crisis, whether from missing work, suffering small-business losses or dealing with health care costs. “We want to help people who are struggling from financial effects related to this,” HFL executive director Cindy Rogoway said. (Visit hflasf.org for more info.) Apart from financial worries, many Jewish leaders are concerned that closures deny people a familiar place to find solace during a high-stress time, when community is even more important. “The synagogue is a place for times of difficulty,” said Ellen Bob, executive director of Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto. “But the way to keep people safe is to keep people separate. So, there’s a lot of tension. It’s not good for people’s spiritual or mental health.” Etz Chayim is closed indefinitely. Bob said the congregation is figuring out how to hold virtual activities, learning sessions, prayer services and committee meetings, “and how to just make sure no one gets too lonely or isolated at home.” She also shared the personal toll the virus has taken on her as a communal leader.
BAY AREA | FACING THE PANDEMIC “It feels a lot like the days after the shooting in Pittsburgh,” she said about the Tree of Life massacre in October 2018. “It’s a very heavy responsibility.” Some Jewish institutions are set on remaining open no matter what. “We run a crisis organization,” said Naomi Tucker, executive director of Shalom Bayit, a Berkeley-based center for domestic violence prevention. “We can’t have our staff work
“Revenue coming from gym membership and personal training sessions is no longer happening. Revenue coming from preschool tuition and afterschool tuition isn’t happening.” Zach Bodner, CEO, Palo Alto JCC
remotely. We already work with a vulnerable and at-risk population.” While the organization is suspending public events and restricting nonessential people from its office, it will still be escorting its members to court hearings and holding small support groups. “It’s not an option to leave clients more isolated,” Tucker said. “We’re providing a vital service that must go on.” Other Jewish organizations, including the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, Jewish Family and Children’s Services based in San Francisco and Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay are also staying open to provide critical services such as counseling (by phone and video) and food delivery. The pandemic has had a huge impact on Jewish organizations that work with older adults, who comprise the most vulnerable group. According to the CDC, those 60 and older are at higher risk from becoming very sick from the virus. JCC East Bay CEO Melissa Chapman said she’s particularly worried about the elderly who are in need of community, but who no longer can attend social events such as senior classes, clubs and lunches. The center is closed until at least April 5 and all events have been canceled. “The potential for extreme isolation is very real,” Chapman said. “If you pull those opportunities, what does that look like for them? That’s going to have a trickle-down effect on their health. That’s what every piece of research will tell you.” Senior homes are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of coronavirus, which has attacked such facilities to deadly effect. Twenty-nine deaths were linked to one longterm care facility outside Seattle. Jewish senior homes in the Bay Area have put a
number of measures in place to ensure the safety of residents and staff and are keeping up with a rapidly evolving situation. Jay Zimmer, CEO of the Reutlinger Community in Danville, said staff members are “nervous.” At a recent meeting, Zimmer said, “I could look around the room and see that people who are already concerned — not only about themselves, but the residents and their family and friends — took on another look of concern.” There are concerns that separating the elderly from their family members could do harm to those whose physical health benefits from social contact. “We’ve been using video conferencing to engage families, at least to allow people to see each other,” he said. “Over an extended amount of time, that would not hold up.” On March 12, the city of San Francisco ordered all long-term care facilities to restrict visitors through April 21. The regulation includes the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, which already had been limiting visitors. In addition, CJL spokesperson Marcus Young said, all staff and essential personnel are being screened before entering, The Moldaw Residences in Palo Alto also is taking additional precautions. Communal dining has been suspended, and all prepared meals are either delivered or available for residents to pick up. “It’s frightening and very upsetting,” said 91-year-old Gisa Oloff. While the coronavirus presents much less risk to young people, they too are affected by the disruptions. Schools have been closed and trips to Israel and Europe postponed. Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco announced on March 12 that classes would shift online. Teachers will give assignments and do routine check-ins through video conferences with students, but won’t hold full classes. This will allow educators to tend to their own children at home, head of school Rabbi Howard Ruben said. “It’s been a cascading range of planning,” said Ruben, whose team had been anticipating a shift to online teaching for weeks. He said it is too soon to know what will happen if the school needs to remain closed. Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto also canceled school for and moved classes online. Meanwhile, Jewish leaders will continue offering emotional and spiritual support to those who are struggling. Rabbi Menachem Landa of Chabad of Novato said last week that he had been counseling “a bunch” of congregants. While Landa’s center is now closed, it has set up a relief service delivering food and supplies. The rabbi said he’s been getting about 10 requests per hour since starting the program on March 17. “At times like this, a leader is here to create comfort,” said Landa, whose first name means “comfort” in Hebrew. “That’s my job.” n
How have Jews fared during times of pandemic? GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF Once the deadly virus started spreading all over the world, devastated communities struggled to confront a pandemic they did not fully understand. Soon the finger-pointing started as people looked for someone to blame: It was the Jews. It was the mid-14th century, and the Black Death had begun to ravage Europe. In the end, it reduced the overall population by about a third. Rumors spread that it was a Jewish conspiracy, and as a result Jews suffered terrible discrimination. “When there are big epidemics, people get scared,” said Rutgers University’s Martin J. Blaser, a historian and professor of medicine and microbiology. “They often look to blame some kind of intruder or stranger. It has happened especially with the Jews.” Throughout the European continent, it was said that Jews were poisoning wells with the plague. Blaser said there is evidence of European Jewish communities being massacred during this time, a period he described as the “worst persecution of Jews” before the Holocaust. One source of the conspiracy theory may have been the lower death rates among Jewish communities. Blaser said that could have been related to the fact that once a year, Jews cleaned out their grain supply for Passover, lowering their chances of being exposed to rats, carriers of the plague. From the Black Death all the way up to the measles outbreak in 2019, Jews have been used as scapegoats for outbreaks of disease, Blaser said. Jews in New York City were blamed for last year’s measles outbreak, which disproportionately affected Orthodox Jewish communities. Health officials believe it was more easily spread in the tightknit community because of the large number of children in each family, extensive international travel and low rates of vaccination. The Anti-Defamation League reported a spike in anti-Semitic incidents related to the outbreak. Interestingly, it seems that Jews were not blamed for the Spanish Flu of 1918, the influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people around the globe. Jews even played a pivotal role in fighting it. The city’s health department was headed by a number of Jews, including Lawrence Arnstein, who helped organize the Red Cross response to the disease. Matilda Esberg, president of the Congregation Emanu-El Sisterhood, was involved on a local level in San Francisco overseeing the response. During the current coronavirus pandemic, Chinese and Asians have been blamed and discriminated against because the disease originated in China. Asian Americans have faced racist attacks, and there have been reports of Chinese businesses seeing a downturn in customers. Blaser sees parallels to how Jews were treated during past outbreaks of disease. “It’s the same mob mentality,” Blaser said. “Finding a victim. Unfortunately for Chinese people, they’ve borne the brunt of this so far.” n
In this illustration from a 1349 history book by Gilles li Muisis, residents of a town stricken by the plague burn Jews, who were blamed for causing the disease.
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BAY AREA | FACING THE PANDEMIC
Synagogues go online to ‘gather’ in time of coronavirus DAVID A.M. WILENSKY | J. STAFF Around sundown on March 13, Rabbi Daniel Stein of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek gathered with his family and about two dozen congregants to welcome in Shabbat, lighting candles and singing a couple of songs. They “gathered” not in their synagogue or in someone’s home, but virtually, through the online conferencing platform Zoom. They could all see each other’s faces and hear one another’s voices — but the tiny lag time made singing in unison
you are, we can hear you,” Mintz urged. During Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing, attendees typed in comments with the names of people they were praying for. And throughout the service, congregants commented with their appreciation: “Thank you to all our clergy for making this healing Shabbat available to us. I feel you are there for each of us.” “This is wonderful!!! The kids are dancing to the music!” At the end, Rodich emphasized, “We are not closed. We are finding new ways to
a service, but here we were asking people to turn on a screen just to be a part of the service.” For those who go to synagogue weekly, the coronavirus restrictions are jarring enough — how much more so for those who attend a daily minyan. Marilyn Heiss, who has been attending morning minyan every day at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco for 20 years and often leads part of the service, feels a major disruption. Her father, Seymour Heiss, died in June, so
no kiddush gathering afterward. But by the next day, synagogue leaders canceled services altogether. “Once the school district closed in Berkeley, we saw that as an expression of what the public stance is, and it became very clear that if we gathered as a community, it would undermine that effort,” said Beth Israel’s Rabbi Yonatan Cohen. Though it was an unusual experience for him to be hunkered down at home on a Friday evening rather than in front of his
“It was a strange experience, and it was strangely beautiful, too.” Rabbi Sydney Mintz
Rabbi Daniel Stein (top right) leads candle lighting and some songs over Zoom before Shabbat, March 13, 2020.
impossible, and the physical distance made “Good Shabbos” hugs and handshakes impossible. People expressed appreciation and smiled at the sight of their rabbi and friends, but there still are technological kinks to be worked out. “We’re going to continue trying to think of ways to connect,” Stein said at the end. “It’s going to be a tough few weeks, but we’re going to make it through together.” For the foreseeable future — under the threat of the novel coronavirus, the necessity of social distancing and the imposition of shelter-in-place orders — this is Shabbat. That same evening, Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco put on a full Shabbat evening service, streaming it via Facebook Live. Framed closely as they were by the camera, it was almost easy to forget that Rabbis Jason Rodich and Sydney Mintz and Cantor Marsha Attie were otherwise alone in Emanu-El’s cavernous domed main sanctuary. Facebook “likes” and heart “reacts” floated by as virtual congregants showed their appreciation for each new prayer or song. “Sing out! I promise that wherever
gather.” And, because some things never change, there were, of course, congregational announcements: Senior Rabbi Jonathan Singer typed a comment reminding people to tune in for Torah study the next morning. “It was a strange experience, and it was strangely beautiful, too,” Mintz told J. a few days later. “When I lead services, I get my energy from people smiling and clapping, so it was an exercise in creative imagination to reach out and try to feel this sense of hineinu — we’re all here — right now, in this virtual Shabbat.” Before the service, Mintz, Rodich and Attie said Shehecheyanu together, a prayer said the first time one does something — in this case, it was the first time they had livestreamed a service. And then Mintz said a blessing for the internet. She also likened it to Purim, which is thought of as topsy-turvy time, when everything is turned on its head. “Purim was ‘canceled’ because of the virus, but it was like it was still going on, everything still upside-down. Normally we ask people to turn their phones off at the beginning of
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DAVID A.M. WILENSKY
she is still in the one-year period of saying Mourner’s Kaddish for him daily. Though many synagogues are streaming Shabbat services, fewer are streaming daily minyans. But Heiss found out that Temple Beth Am, a Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles that she previously has been to, is livestreaming their morning minyan every day. It’s halachically dicey, but Beth Am has decided that more than 10 people in attendance virtually is good enough to say Kaddish. “From my point of view — there were 25 people watching — I would call that a minyan,” Heiss said. “But it has been the weirdest thing.” Meanwhile, her own shul’s ritual committee was scheduled to meet this week to decide whether and how they will proceed with streaming morning minyan. Streaming Shabbat services is well and good for some Jews, but that option is not open to Orthodox communities. As of Thursday of last week, the Modern Orthodox Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley was still planning to hold Shabbat services, albeit with some modifications: seats spread farther apart, no sermon,
community, Cohen said leading and attending services isn’t the most important part of his job. “My primary role as a rabbi is behind the scenes most of the time,” he said. “So rabbis teach classes and they give sermons and convene the community on Shabbat, but that’s a limited part of the week. The rest of the week we’re there for people for one-on-one learning and reaching out and pastoral counseling. “All those things happen all the time, and now due to the circumstances, they’re becoming much more public because it’s becoming the core of the rabbinate and it needs to be communicated publicly. Most parts of my job have become more intensified.” That’s not to say that Shabbat isn’t important, but that other things are coming to the fore now. “Shabbat is an essential mitzvah in our week and in our lives, but at this time, our role is to focus on all the other mitzvot that are so pronounced right now, in terms of what it means to be a community. It’s easy to be a community on Shabbat morning, but what does it mean to come together when we can’t be together? “Everyone who stays home now is performing a mitzvah just by staying home,” Cohen continued. “We’re protecting the health of others, our own health, respecting our elders in profound ways.” Some of these changes in mentality and way of connection may be permanent, too. Said Mintz: “When this lifts, it will have irrevocably changed every human being and every community, in how we connect with each other and how we think of connecting virtually. “But we’ll have to circle back when it’s all over and see how things shake out.” n
BAY AREA | FACING THE PANDEMIC
Federations, JFCS announce coronavirus emergency funds GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF The Bay Area’s largest Jewish nonprofits have launched emergency fundraising efforts to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. As fallout from the novel coronavirus, and responses to it, ripple across the local Jewish community, institutions that rely on a membership-based model, such as JCCs, have been hit particularly hard, according to Roxanne Cohen, director of community impact for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. Shelter-in-place orders are in effect throughout the Bay Area, shuttering non-essential business for at least three weeks. “There’s certainly concern about business disruption and uncertainty about long-term impacts,” Cohen said, noting that generally, JCCs rely on gym memberships for between 70 and 90 percent of their revenues. Last week, the Federation announced a COVID-19 Response Fund and created a portal on its website where people can donate. The donation page can be accessed directly at my.jewishfed.org/covid-19. In recent years, the S.F-based Federation has opened single-issue emergency funds after serious incidents, including terrorist attacks in Israel, the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and the 2017 North Bay wildfires that devastated communities and largely destroyed Camp Newman in Sonoma County. The organization raised about $1.3 million after the North Bay fires, with funds going not only toward rebuilding but
also toward emergency preparedness for future events. Cohen said it was premature to set a funding goal for the COVID-19 Response Fund “until we get a full scope of what the need is.” She said the Federation this week will be sending out a survey to local Jewish institutions, including synagogues, to “learn more about needs as they are projected.” Cohen stressed that dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will be “a marathon, not a sprint.” To that end, the Federation has also established an emergency COVID-19 task force, chaired by San Francisco philanthropist John Goldman, a past president of the Federation and the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services. Since the taskforce was still in the process of forming at press time, the Federation could not make Goldman available for comment. “Other than his agreement to spearhead the task force, the details have yet to be fleshed out,” spokesperson Kerry Philp wrote in an email. JFCS also launched an emergency fund in recent days with money going directly to those affected by the coronavirus crisis. Nancy Masters, the agency’s associate executive director, said that as of March 17, the agency was almost entirely focused on responding to needs emerging as a result of the public health emergency. JFCS caters to many elderly Jews through its Seniors At Home division. “The initial calls are from people who don’t have food and who need food
COURTESY SUE TENEROWICZ
Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco delivering food during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic.
delivered to them, people who need care at home and from isolated seniors who need support,” Masters said. She said the situation was evolving and that, over time, additional needs may become apparent. Many people will be facing lost wages as the economy suffers from global fallout and local businesses stay closed. “JFCS has always provided, and will continue to provide, emergency assistance to the community in need,” Masters said. “Exactly what will be needed? This is just Day 1 of the shelter-in-place order.” Donations to the JFCS coronavirus community emergency fund can be made at donate.jfcs.org/give/277027. In addition, executive director Anita Friedman has posted a coronavirus update, recapping her agency’s current services, at tinyurl.com/ jfcs-sf-update. Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay, which serves a similar clientele on the other side of the Bay Bridge, is collecting donations for vulnerable populations, such as low-income families, refugees who have lost their jobs and isolated
seniors, at jfcs-eastbay.org/donate-now-2. Jyl Jurman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, said in an email that the agency was busy coordinating with its community partners and was still assessing needs. More information, including a link to donate to the coronavirus response, can be found at jvalley.org. With the stock market tumbling and more layoffs anticipated, financial effects are expected to increase. Hebrew Free Loan is offering interest-free loans to individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic, either from missed paychecks, small-business losses or health care costs. More information can be found at hflasf.org/apply/loans-we-offer. Masters said JFCS has a long history of reacting to crises and will be prepared to meet the challenges sure to emerge in the coming weeks. “We’ve had multiple scenarios over many years where we’ve needed to gear up and respond to these types of emergencies,” she said, citing, among other things, wildfires and recessions. “We’ve been gearing up to respond to disasters since 1850.” n
Here are the Jewish organizations open and offering support GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF This week residents in most Bay Area counties have been following orders to limit all nonessential travel and stay in their homes through April 7 as public health officials work to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. While grocery stores, pharmacies and police and fire stations will remain in operation — along with media outlets including J. — there are also a number of Jewish organizations offering critical services to Bay Area residents who are in need of food, counseling or other forms of help. San Francisco-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which also serves the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma counties, is offering delivery from its food bank, delivery of food and supplies to seniors, and counseling for families and adults. Need assistance? Call the JFCS Bay
Area Critical Help Line at (415) 449-3700. Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay is providing counseling and case management (Go to: tinyurl. com/jfcs-eastbay-counseling) by phone or video conference, and meal delivery services to those in need. For delivery information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Shalom Bayit, a Berkeley-based center for domestic violence prevention, is still serving its clients. However, it is suspending public events and restricting nonessential people from its office. Go to shalom-bayit.org Hebrew Free Loan in San Francisco is offering interest-free loans to those who are hurting financially in the crisis, whether from missing work, suffering small-business losses or dealing with health care costs. For more information, contact Aimee Gruber at (415) 546-9902. Locations of Meals on Wheels in San Francisco, Contra
Costa and Alameda counties, as well as in Castro Valley, Hayward, San Leandro, San Lorenzo and Diablo Region, are requesting younger volunteers. Meals on Wheels is considered an essential service under the “shelter in place” order. Go to: tinyurl.com/mealswheels-find Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley is still offering phone appointments for therapy clients and emergency food assistance for Holocaust survivors and isolated seniors. The S.F.-based Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, which provides spiritual care to those living with illness or caring for the ill, will remain open. Go to: tinyurl.com/ healing-center Jewish funeral home Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco, Lafayette and Redwood City is remaining open. Go to sinaichapel.org n
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BAY AREA | FACING THE PANDEMIC
Agencies, therapists reach out to the anxious and isolated MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF Isolation, uncertainty, fear — therapists, social workers and doctors are expecting coronavirus anxiety to increase over the next three weeks, as 7 to 8 million people in most Bay Area counties have been ordered to self-quarantine at home. But the mental health community has also been encouraged by the measures people are taking to reach out. “A lot of what we’re hearing is people want to figure out ways to stay connected, even with public health demands to be isolated,” said Rabbi Eric Weiss of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco. With this week’s shelter-in-place announcement asking residents to stay home except for essential errands (like food shopping or getting medicine), Rita Clancy is concerned about seniors. “It’s going to be really, really hard,” said Clancy, the director of adult services at Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay. “People are going to be scared and anxious.” The agency provides home care, counseling, legal help and mental health services to seniors, many of whom are housebound. They are some of the people at highest risk physically, but they can also suffer mentally from anxiety caused by the uncertainty around symptoms and contagion. Clancy foresees even more anxiety over the coming weeks as seniors become more and more isolated from caseworkers and other people in their support system. Instead of face-toface visits, the agency’s social workers will communicate by phone. Clancy said that’s not ideal, but it’s the only way they can keep on top of clients’ physical and mental health without compromising their own safety. “We’re not going to be sitting idle, that’s for sure,” she said. “We’re going to be doing what we can.” Meanwhile, S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services has set up resources for people feeling anxious or overwhelmed during the crisis. Beyond making sure vulnerable Jewish seniors and disabled people are being looked after, the agency is offering emergency counseling, consultation and advice by telephone or video conference, as well as online workshops with tips for parents to support children
struggling with anxiety over the pandemic. Across the bay, Berkeley-based psychotherapist Jason Brand said, “In the mental health community, we’re kind of scrambling to figure out how we’re going to continue to do our work.” Brand, who works with couples and young adults, said for many of clients the reality of the situation hadn’t really sunk in. He was seeing clients in his office the day before the shelter-in-place order was announced. “I think we will see a shift as we all start to be cooped up inside,” he said. He said that an enforced quarantine in a household could bring many stressors, as families feel the pressure — especially if parents are having trouble getting along or have children with mental health issues. But Brand encourages couples and families to work together as team members and allies, especially in the face of their own kids’ anxiety. He recommends keeping calm in front of children and limiting their exposure to the media. “We don’t need to sugarcoat this, but they don’t need the full onslaught,” he said. Brand also said that families with children out of school should find order in routine. “Kids want structure,” he said. “As much as they complain
when their alarms go off, they know internally that they need that structure.” Elissa Epel, a professor of psychiatry at UCSF who studies the causes and effects of stress, told J. in an email that routine and structure can help people deal with uncertainty. “Routine and self-care behaviors are especially important during this time,” she said. “Now that people are working at home, new rules need to be set. This will be more of a challenge for large families in smaller homes.” But according to Epel, there’s a plus side to anxiety: It gets people to take the recommended safety measures seriously because they aren’t downplaying the risk. “Anxiety is good,” she said. “Clearly the safety behaviors are what we need to be doing. Anxiety drives social distancing and safety behaviors.” And concern about isolation is actually encouraging people to make an extra effort to reach out to others. Clancy said volunteers have been calling her agency offering to help. “It’s better to reach out,” Clancy said. “It’s better to care and do a little gesture for somebody.” She’s mustering volunteers to make regular phone calls to isolated seniors to help preserve the human-to-human connection that is very important to those who are home alone. Weiss said that facing the unknown can encourage creativity and innovation; he’s been hearing about people creating art, journaling and making music as they’ve been at home. Epel suggested finding strength in Jewish ritual. “Prayer can be very powerful right now if we let ourselves focus and connect with our spirituality and religion,” she said. And although isolation and fear create uncertainty, there are many ways of fighting anxiety, whether it’s with a song or a prayer, or just a phone call to a friend. “Feeling in touch with our common humanity right now is important,” Epel said. “This terrible virus brings us to our shared experience of being human, and we can feel compassion for each other.” n
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE East Bay case inspires effort to bolster state’s hate crime law continued from page 3 charge levied against Farca would prove unwieldy to prosecute, the case is bolstered by two weapons charges, both more serious than the threats charge. According to police, a search of Farca’s Concord home at the time of his arrest turned up an assault-style rifle that was illegally assembled (in addition to 13 high-capacity magazines, paper targets, a sword, camouflage clothing and what Mahan described as a “tremendous amount of anti-Jewish hate stuff,” including pro-Nazi and “pro-concentration camp” materials). Farca’s attorney, Joseph Tully, has said his client is autistic and that he did not mean for his threats to be taken seriously. Autism is not known to increase violent behavior. Of the illegal assault weapon felony, Mahan said, “that’s probably going to be the strongest charge. It’s a physical item that actually exists, that we found.” Introduced Feb. 21, AB 2925 was co-authored by a halfdozen members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus,
including Marc Berman, whose district includes parts of the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. On March 5 it was referred to the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. The bill is in its infancy and no votes have yet been taken or scheduled. The bill proposes changing the hate crimes law from a misdemeanor into a “wobbler” — a crime that could be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on circumstances. If charged as a felony, the crime could be punishable by up to three years in jail, and could add $25,000 or more to the bail amount. If cash bail is eliminated in California (pending a voter referendum in seven months), a judge will consider the felony charge in determining whether the accused poses a threat to public safety, Bauer-Kahan said. A supporter of eliminating cash bail, Bauer-Kahan said this about the Farca case: “If the only question was whether he posed an imminent danger, I think he would have been held.” Instead, bail was set at $125,000 and posted days after Farcas’ arrest with the help of a bail bonds company. Mahan believes a stronger hate crimes law in place
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would have given law enforcement an additional tool, which might have increased the bail amount. Then perhaps Farca would have remained in custody. “Higher bail would have helped us,” Mahan said. The new legislation is similar to an assembly bill (AB 907) introduced last year that would have created a new prohibition against criminal threats targeting places of worship. That legislation earned unanimous support in the assembly but stalled in the state Senate. Bauer-Kahan stressed that if passed, AB 2925 would be applicable not only to threats against Jews, but also to threats against other protected classes and their locations, such as LGBTQ centers, black churches and women’s health clinics. “One can define terrorism in many different ways,” Bauer-Kahan said. “I believe threats of this nature are terrorism.” Mahan called the bill a “pretty darn good idea.” “We live in a day and time when this kind of extremism is on the rise,” Bauer-Kahan said. “It’s incumbent upon us to do everything we can to keep our community safe.” n
PRESERVING THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF OUR COMMUNITY The rapid progression of COVID-19 has required everyone in our community to react and respond to new information and restrictions every day. The recommended practice of social distancing is particularly challenging when so many of us turn to our Jewish communities for comfort, care, and connection.
Help meet both individual and organizational needs through the COVID-19 Response Fund at Jewishfed.org Our website also lists resources, opportunities for support, and online activities. In these unprecedented times, despite the need to live with greater separation, we are committed more than ever to keeping everyone connected to Jewish life, and as healthy and safe as possible. 121 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 | 415.777.0411 | JewishFed.org JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 3.20.2020 13
Spotlight on the Community
Evan Bloom, owner and cofounder of Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, has been included on the San Francisco Business Times’ “40 Under 40” list of influential and interesting business leaders around the Bay Area. The list notes Wise Sons’ journey — “From a pop-up experiment and a single brick-and-mortar deli in the Mission, the company has grown to seven locations in the Bay Area and Tokyo, with more California locations coming soon” Evan Bloom — and calls it a “leading brand in Jewish and deli food.” Professor Kitty Millet, chair of the Jewish Studies department at San Francisco State University, has won the inaugural Marcus Transformative Research Award from the university’s College of Liberal and Creative Arts. The award will help Millet complete research on her forthcoming book “Kabbalah and Literature,” by funding research travel and a leave of absence this semester. The book is set to be published by Bloomsbury next year.
Shimon Sheiba and Polina Bronov
event in Silicon Valley on March 3 and at a lunchtime event in San Francisco March 4. Both events were for supporters of the American Technion Society, and they spoke about their IDF service and their current studies and research. The San Francisco Opera has announced that it has received a $6 million gift from noted local Jewish philanthropists Tad and Dianne Taube to name the opera’s general director position. The Taubes are longtime patrons of the S.F. Opera, having already gifted the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater, a 299-seat venue at the opera. The Northern California Branch of the Workers Circle/Arbeter Ring
dians of the Yiddish Broderzinger movement.” And local klezmer trio Baymele will create and perform “In Veldele,” a concert series of new Yiddish music that will be performed in outdoor parks.”
COMINGS & GOINGS
Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco has announced the hiring of Toby Glaser, who is scheduled to be ordained as a cantor at Hebrew Union College in May (pending any delays due to the coronavirus situation; on March 12, HUC began holding its classes online). “In addition to having a truly impressive voice, Cantor Glaser infuses
Two students from the Technion, Israel’s technical and scientific university, were in San Francisco earlier this month. Shimon Sheiba started a data mining lab while studying for his bachelor’s degree at the Technion and is now a master’s student there working on technology that tailors medical treatments to individual patients with chronic diabetes. Polina Bronov is in the last semester of her senior year; she served as a social worker in the Israel Defense Forces and is majoring in industrial engineering and management. They spoke at an evening
Cantor Sharon Bernstein
Cantor David Frommer
KRISTEN LOKEN-SFOPERA SF Opera general director Matthew Shilvock with Dianne and Tad Taube
has awarded three grants of $1,800 for Bay Area projects dedicated to the advancement of Yiddish culture. The first project is “Doubly Suppressed, Doubly Forgotten: the Meir Noy Collection of Yiddish Songs,” in which Cantor Sharon Bernstein will record “striking and unusual” songs from Noy, a 20th-century songwriter. In “Broders & Badkhens,” musician, translator and artist Jeanette Lewicki “will celebrate the historic working-class roots of Yiddish comedy” and “create a deck of large (roughly matzoh-sized) art cards honoring the singing come-
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Rabbi Carla Fenves
Rabbi Sarah Joselow Parris
services with an extra dimension through percussion,” congregational president Lindsay Braunig wrote in an email to the Sherith Israel community. “During his interview mock service, the sanctuary was filled with ruach and joy. Every face in the room was smiling.” Glaser, who is from Melbourne, Australia, is scheduled to lead his first service at Sherith on Friday, July 3. Sherith is also saying goodbye to Cantor David Frommer. On May 8, the congregation is scheduled to hold a special Shabbat service to celebrate his contributions to the congregation. Frommer is a chaplain in the National Guard, and is awaiting an active duty deployment somewhere on the East Coast. Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco is saying goodbye to one of its assistant rabbis, Rabbi Carla Fenves — who is married to Frommer. Rabbi Sarah Joselow Parris, who has been working at Emanu-El as director of congregational engagement, is joining the clergy team as the new assistant rabbi. “I believe in the power of one-to-one connections, and I am eager to help all members of our congregation find new meaning in their relationships with Judaism, with each other, and with Emanu-El,” Parris said in an email to the community. “It has been a pleasure getting to know so many of you this past year; I look forward to connecting with others, and I will work hard to serve this congregation and our members and families as they navigate their Jewish lives.” n
THANK YOU TO OUR GENEROUS SUPPORTERS
The JCCSF community came together for a joyful evening at its annual Celebration fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the entire range of programs at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, from preschools, to wellness, to arts & cultural events and unique holiday experiences for everyone. CHAIRS Jessica & Michael Eisler Julie & Adam Young GOLDEN GATE Anonymous Friend Family Foundation Marci Glazer Susan Lowenberg & Joyce Newstat PRESIDIO Linda & Sandy Gallanter Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund Koret Foundation Eleanor Myers Jackie & Dan Safier LAUREL Gale Mondry & Bruce Cohen Jeanne Dinkelspiel Shirley & Benjamin Eisler Jessica & Michael Eisler Suzanne & Elliott Felson Randi Dodick Fields & Bob Fields Katherine Blum & Tom Kennedy Wendye Robbins & Craig McGahey Drake & Dash Robinson John & Barbara Osterweis Holly Hagens & Todd Sisitsky Laura & Joe Sweeney PACIFIC Aaron David Productions Cahill Contractors, Inc. Cargomatic Rosalind Cohen EXOS Gibson Dunn Gould Evans
JPMorgan Chase & Co. David Kremer Nellie & Max Levchin Julie & David Levine Nonpareil Event Planning & Design Barbara & Richard Rosenberg Anne Thorson & Peter Ross The Seligman Family Foundation/ Sterling Bank & Trust Melissa & Steven Sloan Woodruff Sawyer Julie & Adam Young CALIFORNIA Armanino Foundation Pamela & Larry Baer Juliet & Chip Bergh The Coles Family Kate & Jeff Colin The Field Family G2 Insurance Services LLC Deborah & Steve Goodman Rochelle Alpert & Steven Greenwald Barbara & Ron Kaufman Jamie & Mark Myers Mattye Bresnen & Damon O’Connor Nelli & Kevin Perkins Alison Block & Timothy Poore Tara & Douglas Rappaport Randi & Max Saffian Jane & John Siegel Stewart Cellars Taube Philanthropies Rory & Jamie Weinstein Melissa & Joshua White Xantrion, Inc.
WASHINGTON Anonymous Linda & Andrew Ach Roxanne Durr & Francis Arrastia Ellen & Philip Blix Charles Zukow Associates, Inc. Susan & David Dossetter Christine Glastonbury & Michael Feldman Amy & Marty Felsenthal Laura & John Fisher Susie & Alan Greinetz Stefanie & Chris Gross Nicole & Zachary Haupert Suzanne Schneider & Dov Herbstman Lynn Altshuler & Stanley Herzstein Tracy & Todd Iverson Jodi Sherman Jahic & Sejo Jahic Cathy & Jim Koshland Caitlin & Stuart Landesberg Kerri & Mark Lehmann Courtney Fitzpatrick & Jim Morrone Oakland Athletics Hope Van Sciver & Dave Pakula Belena Stanford & Eric Reading Sue Diamond & Marty Schenker Sally & Jim Shapiro
INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund Koret Foundation Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation SF Department of Children, Youth and Their Families Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture
1. Adam Young, Julie Young, Marci Glazer, Jessica Eisler, Michael Eisler 2. Wendye Robbins, Steve Sloan, Melissa Sloan, Craig McGahey 3. Melissa White, Josh White, Jose Cisneros 4. Eve Myers, Joe Loecher, Lisa Goldman, Jamie Myers, Mark Myers 5. Benji Friend, Michael Eisler 6. Lisa Goldman, Bob Fields, Randi Dodick Fields 7. Eric Reading, Belena Stanford, Kerri Lehmann, Mark Lehmann 8. Max and Randi Saffian 9. Suzanne Felson, Julie Young 10. Shana Penn, Danny Grossman, Marci Glazer, Susan Lowenberg, Sean Taube, Rabbi Jason Rodich
3200 CALIFORNIA STREET, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94118 // JCCSF.ORG JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 3.20.2020 15
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She spent the war in hiding, from a forest bunker to a haystack MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF Helen Fixler was 14 years old when the Nazis invaded her town. At least, she thinks so. “As a matter of fact, I’m not sure of my age,” the Oakland resident said. In her family’s desperate escape from the Nazis, they had to leave everything behind, and the years that followed were so traumatizing that many of her earlier memories were obscured. Fixler (née Nudler) spent formative years of her adolescence hiding in a forest, in a hole in the ground, staying quiet in the day and scrounging for food from the fields at night. And always, the family lived in fear of being discovered — a fear that did come to pass, with fatal consequences for almost everybody the young Helen loved. “I think about it now and I think, how in the world I can survive so much misery?” she said sadly. Fixler was born in Młynów, as it’s known in Polish. At the time it was an ethnically mixed region that had swung between Poland and Ukraine for years (it is now called Mlyniv and is in northwest Ukraine, close to the Polish and Belorussian borders). She remembers a happy, Yiddish-speaking home, with a book-loving mother and four siblings, including a beloved younger sister. But anxiety began to creep into their household even before the Nazis arrived in 1941; the area was occupied by the Soviets, and the local Ukrainians were virulently anti-Semitic, Fixler said. But it became much worse once the Nazis took over, and the Nudler family and the other Jews of Młynów were rounded up. “After a short while, we were put in a ghetto under horrible conditions, horrible conditions,” she said. “In one room, without food or anything.” The Jews were used for forced labor, and one day, Fixler’s father heard disturbing news. “While he was out, he heard rumors that we would be exterminated,” she said. In fear for their lives, Fixler’s parents, younger brother and sister (two older brothers had been conscripted into the Russian army), uncle and young cousins made a daring nighttime escape from the ghetto, which was surrounded by barbed wire fence. There was nowhere to go except into the nearby forest. “I was hiding in the woods,” she said. “My whole family ran away from the ghetto; we dug out a bunker. There were 12 of us.” Fixler said they stayed in the forest for a couple of years, and she still remembers the brutal winters. At night they made small fires, but they had no warm clothes, only what they’d taken with them. She also remembers how hungry they were. Although they tried to stay out of sight, they had to look for scraps
Helen Fixler at home in Oakland, with her certificate of recognition from the state Legislature.
Helen and Leonard Fixler at their wedding in Canada in 1949.
of food in the fields or beg for bread from villagers, which made them vulnerable. “We were afraid,” she said. “We did it late at night. So the winters were really bad.” The rumors her father had heard were true: The Jews in the Młynów ghetto were murdered. Even though the Nudlers had escaped that fate, they faced a harsh, uncertain and grim future. “One day, somehow, the Ukrainians found out about us and surrounded us and started shooting,” Fixler said. The family scattered in all directions,
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running from the bullets. Helen found herself alone. She never saw her mother, brother or sister again. “They killed them in the woods, the woods,” she said. “Who knows how much they Profiles of Holocaust survivors, refugees and partisans suffered.” in our community will appear in each issue of J. Polish partisans who found Fixler wandering gave her some food, One day they heard voices in Russian and to her joy they also found her father. and knew what that meant: The Red Army They were the only two in the family group had arrived, and Fixler and her father were who had survived. able to come out of hiding. After being Fixler’s father had been shot and liberated, they returned briefly to an empty wounded, and she described the nightmare of Młynów, reuniting with the two older going in the dark to a nearby stream, where brothers who had been conscripted. There she would break the ice and wash her father’s was nothing else left for them in the town, bandages in freezing water. so they headed for the Pocking displaced Continuing their life on the run, Helen and persons camp in Germany, hoping to reach her father came upon a farm. “We sneaked Israel or the United States. Sadly, Fixler’s father died in Germany following hernia surgery, which he had hoped would allow him to more easily immigrate as a healthy man. “Surviving the Holocaust and a short while later, dying in Germany,” Fixler said, shaking her head. In 1948 she made it to Canada, where she had relatives. That’s where she met her husband, Leonard Fixler, also a Holocaust survivor. The two moved to California in 1956 with their two daughters and joined Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland. They also had a son, who predeceased them. “We made a life for ourselves,” she said. “It wasn’t easy at the beginning.” Leonard worked in menswear and Helen became a travel agent. During her career she traveled around Helen Fixler (née Nudler), second from right, before the the world, from India to German occupation, with her parents, brothers and sister, South America and the and maternal grandmother. Soviet Union. But she never into a stable, and in the stable was a haystack,” went back to Młynów. she said. That’s where they hid for about eight “I still didn’t go to my hometown,” she months, emerging only at night. Eventually said, “because I was afraid.” they were spotted by the farmer’s wife, a Czech Now 93 (she estimates), her mind is on woman who let them stay there and dropped the past more than ever. Leonard passed off food when her husband’s back was turned. away in 2014, and Helen still sometimes She saved their lives, Fixler said. wakes up at night in fear thinking that Yet, after so much horror, she said she just she must run from the Ukrainians, a cold wanted to die. reminder of the shadows of the past that still “I was very depressed all the time, and I follow her. And she said she thinks of those used to cry all the time,” Fixler said, through she lost so young. tears. “And my dad would hug me and say, “I think of my little sister all the time,” she ‘Don’t cry, my child.’” said, “and my brother.” n
A Spiritual Care Note regarding the Coronavirus We are inundated with valuable information on the Coronavirus. It is a reminder that the miracle of modern medicine sits on the edge of discovery and anticipation. Even the common aspirin was once a hoped for combination of chemicals that would help reduce pain, and otherwise bring comfort. But, before even aspirin, someone had an idea, something they imagined at the laboratory bench, and then took a chance to try something new. Aspirin, now common-place, was once a discovery. Every drug was once the product of our God-given capacity for imagination harnessed by someone in a laboratory hoping to find something that would help others. Hope and imagination are the corner-stones of spiritual capacity. The core of discovery is a leap of faith. Modern medicine brings us all health and healing by the way it harnesses hope, imagination, and leaps of faith. In leaps of faith, it is as if we are like the Children of Israel. The Haggadah tells us that we are to say that we were once slaves in Egypt and led from there by God’s outstretched arm into freedom. If we really do imagine that we were there, in Egypt, then the truth is that we did not really know the end of our own story. We did not know that a sea would part, that manna would appear, that we would build a golden calf, or convenant with God at the Ten Commandments. All we did, when we were in Egypt, was say “yes”, into the unknown. The real truth from that story is that no one knows the end of their own story, nor of a loved one’s. Yet we hope, imagine, take leaps of faith. We all come to understand whether in science, a personal decision, or how we get involved in the world, that we do it out of a hope for something we imagine can be better, for which we will take a leap of faith and discover something new. Whether your day involves a paying job or not, from not knowing if a work event will be cancelled to adjusting your daily routine, the unknown itself can yet be a place of discovery: to focus on the task we have, one moment to the next to face hope, to imagine, to discover. All spiritual life lives in the un-known of what might yet be true. We best build a future when we include each other in our common endeavors with hope, imagination, discovery. Discovery may come in a moment of deep pain, celebration, anxiety, or an unexpected moment. But, as the sun settles into the horizon we can reflect on a day made better by the sensitivity expressed, the smiles we offered, the engagement we entered, the leaps of faith we took and supported. In a crisis such as this, it is important to support our common health: wash your hands, stay home if you are sick, be sure to see your doctor. And, it is, as well, where we see the spiritual life of a scientist laboring at the microscope to discover what she hopes will be a deeper understanding of how a virus works, what she imagines is how to prevent its spread, and take her leap of faith toward the discovery of treatment, even a vaccine. We may not know when a cold wind will calm. But we can sew and when it tears, re-sew, the communal fabric into something that warms, that protects, that offers love, that offers care, that is ever expansive enough to hold collective uncertainty, and collective hope, to hold personal and communal anxiety and do what we can to bring discovery to the common good. Rabbi Eric Weiss, CEO/President, © 2020 Providing Jewish spiritual support for people coping with illness, loss and dying, regardless of affiliation or ability to pay. 2530 Taraval Street, Ste. 202, San Francisco, CA 94116 | www. Jewishhealingcenter.org | 415.750.4197 JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 3.20.2020 17
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
S.F. native raising money to build ‘field of dreams’ in Israel ANDREW ESENSTEN | CORRESPONDENT When Nathan Gadye tried to check five large duffel bags full of baseball bats, gloves and balls onto his flight from SFO to Israel a few months ago, El Al security had some questions for him. First, was he moving to Israel? No, the San Francisco native replied; he had already made aliyah in 2009. OK, then what’s in the bags? Gadye told them it was baseball equipment for the kids he coaches in the eastern Galilee. Then they wanted to know what baseball is, so he mimed throwing a ball. After a bit of joking around, they let him proceed to his gate. Despite the Jewish state’s recent successes on the diamond — Team Israel has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and Israel jumped from No. 41 to No. 19 in the world rankings after winning its group in the first round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic — in the country itself, baseball is still far from commonplace. There isn’t even a Hebrew word for baseball. That’s where Gadye comes in. As both a youth coach and a proponent of growing the game in the Holy Land, the 29-year-old Lowell High School graduate is trying to raise money to build a diamond near the Golan Heights, at Kibbutz Gadot, where he lives with his Israeli-born wife. He already has a name for it: Shalom Park. “I’m not looking to build Yankee Stadium,” Gadye said in a phone interview. “I want to build a community baseball diamond for kids to play on that’s safe, where they can come out on the weekend and play catch with friends or hold a little game.” Since December, he has raised about $2,500 toward his goal of $20,000 through a GoFundMe campaign at tinyurl. com/gfm-bb-gadot.
A warm-up run at Kibbutz Gadot.
He says the money will be used to level an overgrown field, repair the grass, install irrigation, bring in dirt for the infield and build a backstop. A lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, Gadye grew up playing sandlot baseball in San Francisco’s Parkmerced neighborhood, which he said “kind of looks like a kibbutz” with its grassy patches and snaking paths. He attended Camp Newman in the summers and became a bar mitzvah at Congregation Emanu-El. After taking a trip to Israel at age 16 as a Diller Teen Fellow, he fell in love with the country and decided he wanted to move there.
Nathan Gadye with some of the baseball equipment he brought to Israel from the U.S.
“I want to build a community baseball diamond for kids to play on that’s safe, where they can come out on the weekend and play catch with friends or hold a little game.”
Shalom Yitzchak “Tiki” Frazin (left) and Motti Zacks.
After high school, he did just that and served in a special forces unit in the Israel Defense Forces for five years. (His baseball training gave him a leg up on his peers when it came to throwing grenades, he said.) He remembers in 2012, during officer training, when he and a fellow soldier from the U.S. would wake up at 4 a.m. to watch Giants’ postseason games on a “crappy TV” on their base. Then they’d “participate in field exercises half asleep [and] fall asleep during classes, but it was all worth it.” The Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series that year. As a volunteer coach, Gadye works with boys and girls
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from first grade to high school on Kibbutz Gadot and, separately, with a group of religious boys in fifth and sixth grades from around the Golan Heights. The practices are held on soccer fields, asphalt basketball courts and dance studios — wherever there is space. “A lot of what we’re working on is basic fundamentals, just to get them to be able to throw the baseball,” he said. “It’s pretty foreign to them.” Recently he took a group of kids to meet members of the Israeli national team — mostly Americans who took Israeli citizenship to join the squad — that is scheduled to compete at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. He said he hopes the team will inspire more Israeli kids to get into baseball. In addition to coaching, Gadye studies physical education at a teachers’ college and plays in the four-team amateur Premier League, which is dominated by U.S. expats. One of the players he coaches is 11-year-old Shalom Yitzchak Frazin, who lives on Moshav Yonatan in the Golan Heights. “I used to throw barely 15 feet,” he told J. over the phone. “Now I can throw 50 feet, easily.” Moving forward, Gadye wants to expand his program to surrounding Druze and Arab communities. “A couple months ago I met with a Druze leader in Rameh [an Arab town in northern Israel] to get an idea of how to get kids in his area involved,” Gadye said. “He explained that the kids want to explore and breathe fresh air. And I think that a baseball diamond is a location that the players can look forward to coming to.” Gadye secured a microgrant as an alumnus of the Diller Teen Fellows program, and he also received a donation of $1,500 (which bought the aforementioned baseball equipment) from Jack Anderson, 89, one of the founders of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California in 2004. Gadye told Anderson he thinks baseball can be a “catalyst for peace” in the region. Recounted Anderson: “He said to me, ‘If I can get kids to throw a baseball around, they’re not going to be throwing rocks at each other.’ ” n
ATTENTION HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AND SPOUSES
The Claims Conference has negotiated the following liberalizations with the German government.
Article 2 and CEE Fund
The following Jewish Holocaust survivors, who were persecuted in the open ghettos identified below, for at least three months, may be eligible for a monthly pension from the Article 2 or CEE Fund: •In Romania, survivors persecuted in Botosani, Galati, Focsani, Tecuci, Roman, Piatra Neamt, Barlad, Vaslui, Alba Iulia, Constanta, Targu Neamt, Harlau, Buzau, Ramnicu Sarat, Stefanesti, Craiova, Pascani or Bacau between August 1941 and August 1944; •In Bulgaria, survivors persecuted in Plovdiv, between September 1942 and September 1944; •In the Netherlands, survivors persecuted in the ghetto in Amsterdam, between September 1941 and September 1943. Note: Jewish Nazi victims from these open ghettos in Romania, Bulgaria and Amsterdam may also be entitled to a pension from the ZRBG (Ghetto Pension). This pension is not administered by the Claims Conference. The maximum annual income and asset limit for the Article 2 Fund and for social welfare services has been changed. The annual maximum income for eligible recipients is now $49,850 per annum and the maximum allowable assets held by the recipient has been raised to $997,020 (excluding the principle residence of the applicant). The German Ministry of Finance has determined that “old-age pensions and pensions on account of reduced earning capacity, occupational accident, occupational illness, or death, or comparable benefits” should not be included in calculating an applicant’s income for the purpose of an application to the Article 2 Fund. For more details see http://www.claimscon.org/what-we-do/compensation/background/article2/ comparable-payments/. NOTE: It is not possible to receive an Article 2 Fund pension in addition to a pension from the BEG. Applicants who were a fetus during the time that their mother suffered persecution described may also be eligible. Eligibility is dependent on all the criteria of the fund being met and for a full set of criteria see www.claimscon.org
Child Survivor Fund
The Child Survivor Fund will provide those who took part in the Kindertransport a one-time payment amounting to €2,500 per person. Participants of the Kindertransport in this sense are deemed to be Jewish persons who met the following cumulative criteria at the time of the transport: o they were under 21 years of age at the time of the transport, unaccompanied by their parents and took part in a transport that was organized by third parties, not organized by the German government, in order to escape potentially threatening persecution by German forces; o they were transported from somewhere within the German Reich or from territories that had been annexed or occupied at the time; o the transport took place between November 9, 1938 and September 1, 1939 or was approved by the German authorities after November 9, 1938 but before September 1, 1939. In addition, all pension recipients who were in one of the open ghettos in Romania, Bulgaria or Amsterdam named above and born after January 1, 1928, may be entitled to a one-time payment from the Child Survivor Fund administered by the Claims Conference.
New Payment to Spouses of deceased Article 2/CEE Fund beneficiaries
Beginning January 1, 2020, the Claims Conference will provide payments to eligible spouses of deceased recipients of the Article 2 and Central and Eastern European (CEE) Funds. A spouse of an Article 2/CEE Fund beneficiary may, upon the death of the Article 2/CEE Fund beneficiary, be entitled to receive €513 per month for up to 9 months, paid in three quarterly installments, if the following conditions apply: 1 The spouse is alive as of January 1, 2020 or the date of application, whichever is the latter; and 2. The spouse is alive at the date of the payment; and 3 The spouse was married to the Article 2/CEE Fund beneficiary at the time of death of the Article 2/CEE Fund beneficiary; and 4. The Article 2/CEE Fund recipient passed away at any point while he or she was receiving a payment from the program. The spouse of a Holocaust survivor must be alive at the time of each payment. Other heirs, including children, are not entitled to receive any payment in lieu of the spouse. To download an application from our website, please go to: www.claimscon.org/apply For more information, contact: Claims Conference | P.O. Box 1215 | New York, NY 10113 | Tel: 646-536-9100 Email:email@example.com www.claimscon.org The Claims Conference has an Ombudswoman. To contact the Office of the Ombudswoman, please email Ombudsman@claimscon.org or write to The Ombudswoman, PO Box 585, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10113
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BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE “No relocation is planned and none is expected.”
State approves agreement between Reutlinger, Eskaton GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF California’s attorney general has approved an agreement to shift management control of the Reutlinger Community in Danville to Eskaton, a nonprofit regional senior care provider. Attorney General Xavier Becerra conditionally consented to the shift in “control and governance” of the 70-year-old Jewish senior living center, pending approval from the California Department of Social Services. Deputy Attorney General Anita Velasco notified lawyers of Becerra’s decision in a letter dated March 11. The announcement came amidst some impassioned opposition to the deal within the East Bay Jewish community. At a public hearing on Nov. 5, some family members, donors and former board members voiced concern that it would lead to a change in the character of the facility, which was founded in 1950 as the Home for Jewish Parents in Oakland. Opponents worry about a sunset clause in the agreement that gives Eskaton the right to relocate the business “to another comparable facility” in the region after five years. In late November, 13 plaintiffs connected to the senior home filed a lawsuit against Sacramento-based Eskaton and Reutlinger officials. The lawsuit sought an injunction on the agreement, citing “no accountability to the Jewish community.” In February, a superior court judge determined that the plaintiffs did not have “the required standing” to pursue their claim.
Eskaton, formed in the 1960s, manages more than 30 senior living facilities in Northern California and is non-denominational. Eskaton CEO Todd Murch told J. that relocation after five years would be “very expensive,” and that he did not “see
running an independent senior-care facility. “This affiliation partners our community with an experienced and financially strong nonprofit provider,” Zimmer wrote, “that will allow us to expand our services; preserve our charitable mission, as well
Reutlinger Community President and CEO Jay Zimmer (left) and Board President Jordan Rose at a Nov. 5 meeting about the management agreement between Reutlinger Community and Eskaton.
a scenario where that would make a lot of sense.” In a Nov. 21 op-ed, Reutlinger CEO Jay Zimmer said the affiliation between the two nonprofit organizations would lead to improvements and had been made due to “market conditions,” and challenges in
as our Jewish culture and heritage; and ensure the long-term survival of our community.” He said Eskaton promised $5 million in capital improvements. “While the agreement references possible relocation after five years,” he wrote, “I
want to make this clear: No relocation is planned and none is expected.” Section 1.4 of the 700-page agreement stipulates that Eskaton “will preserve the name and identity of Reutlinger as a skilled nursing and residential care facility with a commitment to the Jewish values, policies and practices that have defined Reutlinger since its inception.” Reutlinger has a capacity of 180 residents. There is an assisted-living area with three levels of care, along with a skilled nursing care and rehabilitation center (for both short-term stays and long-term placement). Under California law, nonprofits that operate health care facilities must receive the attorney general’s approval for any major transactions. The attorney general must look at that proposed transaction for any possible “inurement” (deal) that would be outside the public interest, and, among many other considerations, whether the agreement could “create a significant effect on the availability or accessibility of health care services to the affected community.” Attorney General Becerra “considered such factors,” Velasco wrote in her letter, “and consents to the proposed transaction.” The letter named 10 conditions enforceable by the attorney general’s office, including that Eskaton, within the first year of the affiliation, hold a public meeting to educate members of the Jewish community “on how Eskaton will be preserving Jewish culture and heritage at the Reutlinger facility.” n
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of Northern California
Connection & Community. Now more than ever. For 125 years, J. has served to help unify the Bay Area Jewish community: To report on issues of greatest importance to our community To instill pride in our collective achievements To honor organizations and individuals making a difference in our lives In times of crisis and concern, J. reminds us just how connected we are and how vital our mutual support and compassion is in easing the challenges we collectively face. During this time of COVID-19, J. is committed to keeping you informed about how this pandemic is affecting our community. Please consider making a gift to J. Now, more than ever, we need the support of every reader so that we can continue to serve the community during this unprecedented time and into the future. On behalf of the J. Board and staff, we wish you and your families a safe and peaceful Passover. May our resilience serve us well in the months ahead. For daily updates about the impact COVID-19 is having on our Jewish community, look to jweekly.com or sign up for our e-newsletters at jweekly.com/newsletter.
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How Jewish summer camps are preparing for the coronavirus BEN SALES | JTA As swine flu swept through the United States in the late spring of 2009, Jewish summer camps took some drastic measures. One set up a quarantined area where some 45 infected kids and counselors lived apart from the rest of the camp. Another took every camper’s temperature twice a day and sent children home if the result topped 100. The measures were onerous, but campers got used to them. That experience is weighing on the minds of Jewish camp directors as they look ahead to a summer season that may well be held in the shadow of another public health crisis. Directors say they are not yet worried that summer camp, still three months away, will be substantially curtailed by the coronavirus — even as synagogues are shuttered, Jewish day schools are closed and international travel is curtailed. But they are beginning to make preparations to ensure camp operates this summer as normally as possible. “We’re going to do everything we can, if it’s legally permissible, to operate our summer camps,” said Rabbi Mitch Cohen, the national director of Camp Ramah, the Conservative movement’s network of summer camps. Cohen suggested that Ramah may implement a policy whereby if a kid has been overseas within two weeks of
camp starting, they must wait before coming. He also is considering hiring additional medical professionals across the camps, or setting up separate infirmaries for kids who are showing symptoms of COVID-19. At Camp Sprout Lake in upstate New York, one of five overnight camps affiliated with the Young Judaea Zionist youth movement, director Helene Drobenare has already ordered 26 cases of hand sanitizer and had cleaning staff disinfect the entire facility. She is uploading games and Hebrew exercises to the camp website for kids to occupy themselves while their schools are closed. “While we know this remains a dynamic situation, as of today camps are determined and fully plan to go ahead with operations this summer,” Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, said in a statement. The foundation, a nonprofit that supports Jewish summer camps, canceled its biennial conference slated for this week in Baltimore and moved everything online. The schedule will now include two sessions on coronavirus: one about strategies for supporting staff and families and the other on crisis communications. “Summer camps may, in fact, be one of the safest places for any child to be this summer, since they are generally protected, remote and closed environments,” Fingerman said.
If camp is meaningfully curtailed this summer — and that’s a big if — it would be a shock to American Jewish life. Jewish overnight camp is a rite of passage for more than 80,000 Jewish children each summer. For many it is the physical and emotional space where their Jewish identity is formed. At most Jewish camps, the campers observe Shabbat, learn a little Hebrew, celebrate Israel, and eat, breathe and sleep among Jewish peers. In the more religious camps, the kids eat strictly kosher food and pray daily. The most dedicated Jewish campers come back summer after summer, then become counselors and sometimes send their own kids to the same camp they attended. “I did a shiva visit Saturday night, and a group of parents came to me and were like, ‘You better not cancel camp, you better not cancel camp. We gotta get our kids out to camp,’” Cohen said. “They’re canceling school. Camp is the only thing they’re looking forward to.” For now, camps say they expect programming to take place as expected. The Union for Reform Judaism, which operates a network of 15 overnight camps with a total of about 10,000 campers, said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it is in close communication with parents and staff about the coronavirus. “Summer programming is expected to take place as
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| EVENTS | PEOPLE “Summer camps may, in fact, be one of the safest places for any child to be this summer, since they are generally protected, remote and closed environments.” Jeremy Fingerman
Bay Area Jewish camps are planning to go ahead with summer sessions. Shown above are Camp Tawonga camper cabins.
planned,” the URJ said. If parents do end up pulling their kids out due to the coronavirus, Cohen said he was committed to giving them a full refund — even if that means cutting back on expenses. Ramah has 10 overnight camps across North America. “I don’t think this is an existential threat to Ramah,” he said, regarding the possibility of mass refunds. “It will be
devastating. It will create a tremendous burden for us in philanthropy. “Our stronger camps have reserves that they can get through this. Our weaker camps, or smaller, or camps with less reserves could be destroyed, but that’s when the movement will have to step in and will have to help out.” Many Jewish camps also hire a contingent of staff from Israel and elsewhere overseas. Across the Ramah network,
20 percent of the staff is from abroad. Drobenare employs 40 Israeli counselors at the three camps she directs — one overnight camp and two day camps. With travel restrictions growing in recent days, both Cohen and Drobenare said there is a possibility that Israeli and other foreign staff won’t be able to come to the U.S. Ramah and Young Judaea also run summer trips to Israel that could be threatened by the travel bans, though they are hopeful that the restrictions will ease by the summer. Ramah also runs a high-school semester program in Israel that, as of press time, was ongoing. For now, concerns about summer camp remain speculative. Parents are mostly worried about whether their kids will attend school next week, not camp this summer. And in any case, Drobenare said, camp directors are used to uncertainty. “This is what camp directors do,” she said. “We’re not used to COVID-19 but we’re used to crisis management. Camp directors right now are staying calm and being like, get your communication, get your parents, get your teams together and we’re gonna ride this out.” ■
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Opinion J. is here to serve our community in this unsettling time LETTER FROM THE EDITOR At first, it was just Wuhan. Now virtually everyone around the world has had their lives changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Here in the Bay Area, 7 to 8 million people in nearly every county have been ordered to “shelter in place,” going out only for urgent needs or to work in certain critical industries. What are those industries? Grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, police and fire stations, public transit — and, yes, media outlets, which are on the official list of “essential services.” In a crisis situation like this, we all turn to the media to find out what’s happening and how we can protect ourselves. It’s the truest example of the media as public servant. At J. we take that responsibility very seriously. As your Jewish community publication, our mission is to inform, inspire and strengthen you, our readers, telling our Jewish stories, bringing us all closer together and nurturing those connections. In the past two weeks, we have focused on how we can best perform our mission in the face of this unprecedented situation. When just a few synagogues and JCCs were canceling services and other events, we started an online list and reported the closures as they were announced. We updated it constantly until nearly all public events had been shut down. This week we have turned our attention beyond the immediate closures to look at the longer term. What will be the financial fallout as Jewish agencies cancel events and JCCs are no longer able to serve the public? How can we help parents at home taking care of children while schools are closed? How are Jewish social agencies taking care of people experiencing increased anxiety, and the homebound seniors who rely on them for critical needs? What are rabbis and others doing to reach out to the most vulnerable populations? The shelter-in-place policies coupled with social distancing practices are forcing synagogues to reimagine their spiritual offerings. Services in the liberal denominations are being livestreamed or held via Zoom. B’nai mitzvah celebrations, weddings and funerals are limited to small family gatherings. Some rabbis are organizing online Kaddish minyans, so grieving Jews can fulfill that holy mitzvah. Just as at many offices, most of J.’s staff has been working remotely. After going to press on March 18, the small crew that has come into the office to finish the current issue will be joining the rest of the staff at home. We are developing new ways of working, using new technologies that require us to think differently and interact with each other with heightened sensitivities. We won’t let you down. Stay safe, and stay home. n
JTA-NADAV C.J. PHOTOGRAPHER
PICTURE THIS: Nina Abrahams and Amit Bigler moved their wedding in Israel up a week, before the country banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Love prevails.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Sadness over canceled trips
The J. article “Bay Area Jewish orgs respond to coronavirus: Israel trips canceled …” (Feb. 28) made it seem that the loss of money was the most important issue for those of us who had to cancel our trip to Greece and Israel. A far greater loss was that we will not have the learning, the experience and the group bonds that are created with these trips. Congregation Beth Am trips over the years have created memories and friendships that offer value way beyond the actual costs of the trip. It is just unfortunate that we had to cancel this one, which promised to be extra special.
CAROL KANTOR | LOS ALTOS
Helping untie infertility knots
Thank you for sharing information about the important new Fertility Loan Program available at Hebrew Free Loan (“HFL helps parents conceive through its fertility loan
program,” March 3). Providing financial support to help build Jewish families is a growing need across the U.S. that is largely overlooked. Infertility rates, cost of living, the age of new parents and the costs for treatments are all rising in general, but particularly in the Bay Area. Only a few U.S. communities in the country provide fertility loans, grants or any type of support for this isolating and often financially debilitating issue. We at Hasidah (a Jewish nonprofit in Berkeley) have been a proud HFL partner for almost five years to help Jews of all backgrounds realize their dreams to have a child. The Bay Area is lucky to have such a resource in our midst.
RHONA EDELBAUM SLOAN | MILL VALLEY
Sick logic from Polish kook I just learned that coronavirus is actually good. And that pogroms were also good — at least, according to Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who spoke
Social distancing puts intentional Jewish community to the test RABBI JOSHUA LADON | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR Schools are closing, synagogues are altering service schedules or outright canceling, funerals are limiting numbers to just a minyan. For those of us embedded in lived Jewish community, this moment of social distancing is a rupture to our system of intentional community. But, if we view them right, engaging with the system of mitzvot which draw us into community — what Maimonides prescribes in the Mishneh Torah as the fullest expression of “acts of loving kindness,” like visiting the sick and comforting mourners — has been practice for moments like these, when we need community the most.
This is the time when our social networks are going to have to be real social networks and not simply soapboxes for shouting into the wind. As social distancing becomes the norm and as more people enter quarantine is exactly the time to ramp up our efforts to ensure vibrant Jewish community. I have been thinking a lot about what I will need as a husband, father and rabbi — what my community will need and what I will have to give. It is counterintuitive but clear that if we are going to get through this social distancing, we are going to have to do it together. This is the time when our social networks are going to have to be real social networks and not simply soapboxes for shouting into the wind. All the rabbis I know work tirelessly to visit the sick and make sure the needy in their community are taken care of. In this moment of social contraction, as work is slowing and kids are home, people looking for ways to pass the time can aid in the holy work of ensuring each
member of our community is seen and heard. Here are some ideas to make social distancing a moment of real Jewish community 1. Kids home from school can virtually visit the sick. They can FaceTime with elders of their community, they can make cards, they can make videos where they sing and dance. Rabbis have lists of people who need joy in their life; all the people who used to be sick, are still sick and we are going to have more people in quarantine before this gets better. This should be a moment for connection! 2. Remember phone trees? Communities should make phone or text trees, where everyone in the community is asked to phone or text five people a day, simply to check in, to see if anyone needs anything, to provide an outlet and a reminder that everyone is being thought of. Create the community WhatsApp groups we should have already developed. Parents are going to need serious mental support to get through weeks of school closure. People need to know others are going through similar challenges. People need places to ask for help. Let’s create the networks we wish we always had. 3. Turn yourself into a delivery service. Social distancing does not mean quarantine. And there are plenty of people who will need goods delivered to them. This is a time to make sure everyone in our communities has the food and supplies they need, and to mobilize those who can deliver goods. 4. Rethink rituals. Ritual has always been something that helps us transcend time and space. However, Jewish ritual life assumes some range of communal practice. The technology that connects us today is a powerful tool for us to reimagine communal ritual. We need to think about how to use this technology in synchronous and asynchronous ways. Yes, we can livestream
last week on Polsat TV news from Poland. He Korwin-Mikke declared, “Jews are now is a far-right Polish politician, philosopher and powerful because they had pogroms.” Well, writer. that’s a different way of looking at some things Korwin-Mikke, repelled early by science and that some people did. history, says coronavirus improves humanity’s Korwin-Mikke also claimed that not only gene pool by eradicating the weak through were rabis in favor of pogroms, but they also natural selection. Hmm. I guess that means actually provoked violence because they that the people who died heroically gave up understood that “natural selection” benefits their lives to make the rest of us stronger. from massacres, and massacres are what Regarding pogroms, Korwin-Mikke’s fresh make Jews more powerful. Who knew? approach sees them as a kind of contest. JUNE BROTT | WALNUT CREEK When asked why pogroms were good, he said “because the weak in the Jewish community Illogical use of Torah died and the strong survived.” Aha, now I understand. Before, I naively In his recent letter to J., Mark Cohen quoted believed that my paternal uncle was killed in the Torah parashah Mishpatim, in which Jews a Bialystok pogrom just because he was a Jew. are directed to take care of strangers, and But Korwin-Mikke explains that my uncle was then wonders: “Aren’t these Torah principles shot and killed because … he was weak! … as important to consider as is support for So … uh … his death and the deaths of Israel — if not more so?” (“A Torah-values my murdered grandparents actually have voter,” March 6). improved the stock of the Jewish people? Hmm. Placing support of Israel on an equal footing How self-sacrificing they were. with caring for strangers — and claiming that
Rabbi Joshua Ladon is services, but more so, the West Coast director of we need to think how to education for the Shalom take our rituals at home Hartman Institute. He lives and reimagine them as in Berkeley with his wife communal. and three children. 5. Learn some Torah. Learn Torah with friends on the phone, on video, on WhatsApp. Rabbis, maharats, cantors, teachers — take the leap and put yourself on Facebook Live, YouTube or make a podcast. This is the time to fill the world with Torah! 6. Embody your Jewish practice. Jewish life is not just communal and cerebral, it is also embodied. This is the time to clean for Passover, to draw posters for the Sukkah, to learn how to tie tzitzit or write Hebrew calligraphy, to make an Omer calendar or Rosh Hashanah cards. 7. Get to know your neighbors. I know my Jewish community better than my most immediate neighbors. This is the time — from a distance — to check in and be aware of what my closest neighbors, from all communities, need. If this virus has taught us anything, it’s that we are all deeply connected. 8. Ask for help! This is going to be scary and lonely. We need to commit to be charitable in listening to others’ needs and open our hearts. Lived Jewish community is thick. We eat meals together, visit each other in sickness, sit together in sorrow and laugh together in joy. All of these practices are in service of illuminating the divine light in the world while bestowing dignity on one another. And all of these practices have been practice for this very odd moment, when we have to contract from the world. Perhaps we can fill the space left behind with these acts of kindness, so that we may radiate God’s divine light. n
this is the Torah’s way — could have come only from misplaced priorities. This is just one more application of the old adage of not seeing the forest for the trees. Of course the Torah teaches us “not taunt or oppress a stranger.” But its Five Books of Moses are dedicated to a much greater goal of creating a nation of Israel, its land and ways of life. And this is the only major and magnificent Torah way.
VLADIMIR KAPLAN | SAN MATEO
The importance of print
I get most of my news by watching TV or sometimes by going online. For the past several weeks it has been exclusively about the coronavirus, with very brief breaks for weather and traffic. It’s so overwhelming at times. The bonus of print is that there is something else to look at, something else to read, something else to remind us of what it was like before the “new normal” took effect.
We can’t escape the virus, but we can escape the anxiety and changes to our day-today lives by picking up a printed publication and just turning to the pages not devoted to covid19.
STEVEN PALMER | ALAMEDA
J. welcomes letters to the editor. Letters must not exceed 300 words and must be dated and signed with current address and daytime telephone number. J. also reserves the right to edit letters. The deadline is noon Monday for any given week’s publication. Email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to J. The Jewish News, 225 Bush St., Suite 480, S.F., CA 94104.
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Mentoring is a gift, asking for help a blessing ANASTASIA TORRES-GIL | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR When I got off the phone with the national president of Hadassah (the world’s largest Zionist women’s organization), who had called to invite me to serve on the board of this amazing nonprofit, I was filled with a sense of resolve, renewal and responsibility. I was also a bit overwhelmed. Of course, I knew about the work of Hadassah — the creation of two hospitals in Jerusalem that were known as “bridges to peace” in the Middle East and were world-famous for their medical miracles, such as stem-cell treatments that reversed the effects of multiple sclerosis. I was eager for my first board meeting. I’d served on other boards and I thought I was experienced enough for my new role, but I quickly realized that to truly be effective and not to feel like deadwood on a board — which I detested from my days as a nonprofit director — I couldn’t go it alone. It has taken me many years (and many failures) to realize that asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. I wish I could go back in time and convince my younger self this. I’d never had a mentor. Maybe it was because it didn’t occur to me in my youthful ignorance that I needed one, but it’s more likely because, as a professional in a male-dominated field, no one had ever offered or felt particularly approachable. The corporate culture I was most familiar with was “sink or swim,” and you’d better do it quickly and you’d better be tough. Fortunately for me, by the time I was mature enough to realize I would benefit from a mentor, I was already a dedicated volunteer with my local Hadassah chapter. I was surrounded by smart, compassionate, accomplished women who were typically 20 years my senior. They were not interested in taking me down but in lifting me up. One of these women, Liz Alpert, was also on the Hadassah national board. Liz is whip-smart, bold, adventurous and, to my delight, lots of fun. Liz is also generous about sharing her time with me. Because of her decades of Hadassah national leadership, Liz was like my personal encyclopedia of Hadassah. She could fill in the blanks, read between the lines and give me the historical perspective that wasn’t possible to glean no matter how thoroughly I would prepare for the board meetings. Sometimes we disagreed on matters, but I always respected her well-reasoned opinion. Somewhere between meetings and conferences, Liz and I became great friends. We led a fashion, food, wine and design travel tour to Israel, where I depended on Liz’s detail-oriented personality more times than I can count. We’ve had fun together at Hadassah conferences across the U.S., and I discovered from our “walks and talks” along the beach in Santa Cruz that Liz has more hustle than I’ll ever have. Recently, Liz and I were walking around Lake Merritt in Oakland (well, Liz was walking and I was perpetually hurrying to catch up to her). The lake that morning was like a mirror, particularly tempting as we got to the boathouse. “Let’s rent a rowboat,” I said. Liz asked if I’d rowed before. Yes, I replied, and off we went. In the middle of the lake after I’d lost the oar (yet again), Liz realized that she should have asked me not
Liz Alpert rowing on Lake Merritt
whether I’d done this before, but whether I knew how to row, which I did not. Of course, Liz knew how to row from childhood summer camps. She spent the rest of the morning patiently coaching me and taught me how to row at least well enough to get back to the dock. I think the rowboat adventure (or misadventure, depending whom you ask) is a good analogy for our mentor-mentee relationship. I had the passion, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Luckily, Liz was there to teach me how to safely navigate. Our mentoring relationship is a wonderful mélange of mother-daughter, sisters and friends. It’s women
supporting and nurturing women with love and wisdom, and it creates a Anastasia Torres-Gil is a family bond without biolretired attorney who headed ogy. I have experienced this up the first hate crimes unit in one other area of my life, of the Santa Clara County with Sammie. District Attorney’s Office. Sammie Rogers came She is the creator of the into my life as a teenonline pro-Israel comic strip ager when I became her “Zionist Pugs.” This piece quasi-foster mother, and originally appeared on over the years we, too, ThriveGlobal.com. have evolved into this same wonderful mélange. It seems the key to creating this is for both partners to be open and take a leap of faith. Without the competitiveness of a work environment or the invariable drama involved in mother-daughter relationships, something special but unnamed is created. I can offer to help Sammie navigate life’s challenges without the subtext of the frequent mother-daughter condemnation and hurt feelings. And Sammie offers me love and inclusion that helps fill my heart. It’s a wonderful feeling as a mentor to root for your mentee and celebrate in her successes and in the way she confronts life’s challenges and loss and to watch her persevere and thrive. Mentoring is a celebration of strength of both the mentee and the mentor — and of the bond between them. While I am confident in Sammie’s strength and perseverance, she is confident in mine. And we rely on each other. I brought Sammie to Israel for a vacation, but she brought me up to the top of Masada to see the sun rise. She led the way, she encouraged me, she stayed with me while I caught my breath. Neither of us could accomplish what we did without the other, and we had fun doing it and such a sense of renewal, resolve and responsibility. That’s what mentoring brings to both partners. n
Urban Adamah makes house call with produce for seniors Lorelai Kude, a member of Aquarian Minyan in the East Bay, wondered what Urban Adamah, the Jewish urban farm in Berkeley, was doing with all of its fresh produce during the shelter-in-place order. She called the farm on March 16, and the next afternoon a volunteer, Nir Berenzovsky, arrived at her house with a crate of rainbow chard. “We’re taking care of between 30 and 40 households of elderly members,” Kude said. “They harvested it wearing gloves and masks, washed everything, bagged it and delivered it to my house, fully protected.” A few members of the minyan, most of whom are in their 70s or older, came by to pick up some of the produce and distribute it to other members who live near them. “They were enthusiastic and super-kind and generous,” Kude said. “We are blown away by their generosity.” n
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Nir Berenzovsky, an Urban Adamah volunteer, drops off fresh produce at the home of Lorelai Kude.
My parents, McCarthyism and how ‘the unthinkable is always possible’ MATT ELKINS | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR My parents, Morton and Thelma Elkins, liked to say that California was founded by those who chose to leave someplace else. My dad arrived from Philly in the late 1940s to attend graduate school at Stanford on the GI Bill. My mom graduated from Hunter College, took a job in the New York shipyards, then visited a friend in San Francisco and never went back East. They both left behind families bewildered by their choice to relocate so far away. Political southpaws, they soon found themselves involved in the hot mess known as McCarthyism and its “theater” production, the House Un-American Activities Committee. They bore the scars of this era for the rest of their lives, in ways I could not fully comprehend. My sisters, Rachel and Judy, were 6 and 4, and Mom was six months pregnant with me, when my father and his attorney entered S.F. City Hall in May of 1960 for his confrontation with HUAC. He had lost his job as an English teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District for refusing to sign the newly legislated loyalty oath, known as the Levering Act, and had been subpoenaed to appear before the committee. The oath required state employees to defend the constitutions of California and the United States, and to forswear allegiance to radical causes. Protesters from all walks of life refused to sign, and lost their jobs; my parents were among their ranks. The new oath was simply unacceptable to them, as it violated freedoms ensconced by the Constitution. Their refusal to sign was an intellectual exercise; the paranoid mood that pervaded government (and much of the public) made their refusal subversive and, therefore, a possible communist conspiracy. My dad’s grilling by the HUAC was broadcast live by KQED. The questioning focused on his job as a warehouseman, which he took after losing the teaching position. He had become active in the ILWU, running for office, organizing. This was another red flag for HUAC. After beating around the bush for a bit, they finally got to the point. “Did you ever take money from the Communist party?” If it were a thing at that time, he probably would have said, “as if.” Granted, my parents’ friends held different political opinions and values, which were fully accepted in the openminded San Francisco discourse that was prevalent. Instead, HUAC was suspicious about which Bay Area educational institutions were recipients of my dad’s GI bill money. I have the full recordings of his testimony, which my nephew found at the Library of Congress. I keep them on my phone for those times where I need strength, or just miss my dad’s mischievous voice and tone. With a large presence of police, water cannons and protesters outside, he largely built a defense based upon the superseding rights guaranteed by the Constitution, quoting specific amendments at every turn, conferring with his attorney, and asking what relevance a particular question had to the task at hand. The proceedings had a merry-go-round quality, with the committee asking the same questions in different ways, and getting the same answers. My dad was prepared. In his own, very familiar way, he utilized his time to defend, disarm and educate, flustering and flummoxing his interrogator before
finally being excused. My mom worked for the Red Cross, and managed to fly under the radar even though she also refused to sign the oath while employed there. Any organization that could be conscripted for “civil defense,” including the Red Cross, was not immune from the Levering Act. She always held a special place in her heart for the organization, and the supervisor who had her back. She had
Mort Elkins in the Army Air Corps
COURTESY MATT ELKINS
been fired as a social worker with S.F. Health and Human Services, as a non-signer. Her indignant response and protest to that act (in the form of a letter) carried a familiar lifelong warrior’s tone. So it was not surprising — given my parents’ actions — that they were subject to wire taps, threats, even a swastika scrawled on their new home soon after my father’s testimony was broadcast. The conflict nearly tore my parents apart even though they agreed politically in the cause. Raising a family and putting food on the table while being tailed by G-men in trench coats — and suffering unfounded, untrue accusations of communist sympathies — made for tough sailing in a more intellectual pursuit of justice and Constitutional clarity. My dad once said they were the frogs who knew they were slowly being boiled to death, which I always thought was funny. Both had a deep dislike and fear of the communist witch-hunts, spreading like lava across the country, ruining lives in its cold-war path. Not signing the oath, based upon their understanding
Matt Elkins is a Novato of the first and 14th resident with a career not Amendments, was an related to his journalism earlier, more dangerous degree. This piece would version of “taking a knee.” make his mom very happy. The outcome could eventually lead people to jail, the poorhouse, even suicide (an outcome that befell a friend of my father, but that’s another story). It’s impossible here to reveal the very real suffering the many years of McCarthyism foisted upon its victims. Many books and media have addressed the subject. One that I take great pride in is a dog-eared copy of Frank Rowe’s “The Enemy Among Us: A Story of Witch-hunting in the McCarthy Era.” I found it in my parents’ large collection of material from that era, and was gratified to see their names mentioned in the reflections and experiences of the author, himself a decorated war hero fired by San Francisco State University for refusing to sign the loyalty oath. The Levering Act finally was declared unconstitutional in 1967, and my father went back to school, entering UC Berkeley for a master’s in social work. He went on to work for the city of Berkeley and Contra Costa County. Mom had a long career as a psychiatric social worker in private practice and at the Oakland Jewish Community Center. They also ran a travel store in Berkeley called Easy Going for several decades. My parents stayed surrounded by the people who emerged scarred but alive from their political battles. They knew what to do when Vietnam and Berkeley met on Telegraph Avenue, marching with their kids down the street lined by the California National Guard. They continued to fight other battles as they came up, whack-a-mole style. Even while she had cancer and was suffering from macular degeneration, my mother organized and fought for the rights of low-vision sufferers. This included founding a low-vision support group that met at her house, and has continued throughout the years with monthly meetings at Ashby Village in Berkeley. Dad died in 1997, and my mom in 2017. While visiting KQED recently to record my reflections for a radio segment called “Letter to my California Dreamer,” I bumped into a senior editor at the station, who told me that, while discussing my story with her own mother over dinner, was surprised to learn that her mom also refused to sign the Levering oath back in the day. At that moment, I could not help but think how happy my folks would be to know that their struggle could still be discovered, remembered and shared — not only for historical purposes, but also as a warning that the unthinkable is always possible. n
ADD YOUR VOICE J. welcomes your local voice on timely Jewish issues and events of the day. If accepted, submissions are subject to editing. Approximate length: 750 words. Email to email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the views of J. or its board of directors.
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Culture Lori Starr to step down as CJM head: ‘Change is healthy’ ART | LAURA PAULL | J. STAFF It seems like only yesterday that Lori Starr arrived from Toronto to take the helm of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Already an accomplished arts administrator and scholar when she stepped in as executive director in June 2013, Starr’s tenure began when the CJM had been in its unique Jessie Square building for a relatively short time. It was “five years new,” Starr said, with an ambitious mission yet to be realized. This December, after more than seven years in the position, Starr will wrap up business at the San Francisco institution to pursue other opportunities and projects. The museum’s board announced her decision in a press release on March 12. “I have worked in the museum and cultural sector for five decades, and it’s time to write a new chapter in both my personal and professional life,” she told J. She said she aims to consult, advise, write, teach and, above all, “to be of service” in the broader world of contemporary art. “Seven years, in the Jewish tradition, is when you rotate your fields — your shmita year,” said Starr, who will turn 66 in May. “There must be some good wisdom behind that: the
fgbelief that change is healthy and good.” At the CJM, Starr has developed and implemented a strategic plan that has seen the museum — which has no permanent collection — host about 50 exhibitions, including those originated by its own curators and many top-flight traveling exhibits. In the latter category, popular exhibits such as “Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait” and one on filmmaker Stanley Kubrick explored both the artists and their art, along with the contribution of their Jewish heritage to their ideas and works. Meanwhile, the CJM’s original exhibitions cast a curious, complex and critical eye on a wide range of subjects. The lengthy list includes “Designing Home: Jews and Mid-Century Modernism,” “Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid” and the current “Levi Strauss: A History of American Style.” (Note: the museum is closed because of coronavirus concerns.) Under Starr’s direction, the CJM has highlighted the presentation of work by emerging artists from diverse backgrounds and strengthened its commitment to Bay Area and California artists. The Dorothy Saxe Invitational, which every two or three years invites artists of all backgrounds
“It’s really good timing for a new director to come in and put their imprimatur on the next chapter of the museum.” Lori Starr
GARY SEXTON PHOTOGRAPHY
to respond to a selected Jewish theme, also offers the art-loving public the chance to purchase the exhibited works. The next invitational exhibit is planned for 2021. For Starr, the past seven years “have been a period when the museum has proven itself to be a leader in originating exhibitions that come from the broad, Jewish intellectual capital of the Bay Area.” Many CJM exhibits invite artists to unpack complex themes or issues by interfacing directly with Bay Area scholars and theologians. Also, the museum has expanded its outreach, partnering with a host of other Bay Area cultural and educational institutions to broaden its audience and to explore community concerns. Starr has supported the museum staff’s desire to explore the ways art can help
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people understand the past and relate it to current events. “We have responded with boldness and bravery around the current tenor in public life,” she said. “For example, we’ve brought on a whole new program in partnership with the [ JFCS] Holocaust Education Center for middle and high school students. No matter what exhibition they are touring, they hear from a Holocaust survivor, in person.” With respect to the continuing need for Holocaust education, she said, “This is something we never thought, seven years ago, would be so urgent for us to do, but we have had to respond to changing times. I think the museum is poised to be an even stronger leader in that arena.” Elliott Felson, president of the CJM’s board of trustees, said in the announcement that Starr “has been very important to the museum, and she leaves us with an exceptionally talented team to continue its success. We are thankful for her commitment to ensuring a successful transition for the CJM and the extended timeline she has given us to find the museum’s next leader.” A New Jersey native, Starr studied art history at Rutgers and in 1987 came west for the Getty Leadership Institute, a highly regarded program for current and future museum leaders. She rose through the ranks at the L.A.-based J. Paul Getty Trust, the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic organization dedicated to the visual arts, ending as its director of public affairs and communications. She then served as museum director at the Jewishdriven Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, before moving to the Koffler Centre of the Arts in Toronto. Her husband, artist and sculptor Rick Oginz, has traveled with her throughout her career, and they have raised two sons. Starr, who replaced longtime director and CEO Connie Wolf and interim director Denise Childs when she was hired, will continue to serve as the CJM board goes into search mode for the next nine months. “It’s really good timing for a new director to come in and put their imprimatur on the next chapter of the museum. I anticipate that many wonderful and qualified candidates are going to come forward,” Starr said. For now, Starr is eager to dive into the museum’s “extremely complex” preparations for “Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything,” a big September exhibit coming from Montreal and New York. She said she expects it to be a big hit here, though there’s more to the CJM’s goals than “blockbusters.” “What I’ve always spoken with our board about is the mix and the balance,” she said. “You don’t only want to do prestige, intellectual, scholarly shows — but you don’t only want to do blockbusters, either. Because then you lose your critical edge. You’re not introducing new ideas about art, culture [and] identity. Our responsibility is to create this vibrant mix. That’s the CJM’s wheelhouse.” n
Young ‘Shtisel’ star leaves orthodoxy behind in new Netflix Jewish offering TV | ESTHER D. KUSTANOWITZ | CORRESPONDENT Jews are concerned. About many things. The election, the environment, the state of anti-Semitism, coronavirus. And, although it requires significantly less handwashing, one of our persistent concerns is about how we are portrayed on screen. As the number of Jewish stories has increased, especially on TV, we worry about how the portrayals of Jews are positive or negative; accurate and authentic, and what these stories and characters say about Jews everywhere. So when we hear about a new TV show or film telling a Jewish story, we are often as nervous as we are excited. “Unorthodox,” a four-part series about an Orthodox Jewish woman that will drop March 26 on Netflix, was created and co-written by Alexa Karolinski, 36, who grew up in Berlin’s small, recovering Jewish community and now splits her time between there and Los Angeles. The upcoming series, based on a 2012 memoir by Deborah Feldman, stars Shira Haas, the 24-year-old Israeli actor with the intense gaze that “Shtisel” audiences adore for her portrayal of Ruchami (Gitti’s oldest daughter). But when the trailer premiered this month, online conversation turned from excitement to worry: Would the community be portrayed fairly, with the understanding that it is, factually, restrictive? The answer is that it’s complicated. A system whose rigidity and uniformity work for many in the community may feel oppressive to others. “Unorthodox” is the story of what happens when a young woman leaves ultra-Orthodoxy to find meaning and music in an unknown environment. For some, this will resonate deeply as a tale of self-empowerment and self-fulfillment; others will proclaim it another condemnation of traditional Judaism and an example of secular values trumping Torah. The series begins with the story’s protagonist, Esther Shapiro (Haas), furtively collecting her things and fleeing her community in Williamsburg — on Shabbat, no less. The response to her departure illustrates how challenged the community is by difference. Some call Esty an orphan, because her father is an alcoholic, and her mother lives in Berlin with her partner. Esty lives with her aunt and bubbe. Esty knows she’s different. She has a love for music, which is nurtured by her bubbe but ultimately shut down by the
community as being inappropriate. At her first meeting with a prospective husband, Yakov, she says, “You should know, I’m not like the other girls. I mean, I’m normal. But I’m different from the other girls.” “Different is good,” Yakov replies. Early on, it’s tempting to believe that their arranged marriage could actually work. But there are problems, stemming from their differences and their challenges in marital communication. When Esty vanishes, Yakov’s mother pronounces her “trouble from the start.” The community’s rabbi says, “We can’t have our people losing their way. It sets a bad precedent.” And so the Williamsburg community sets out to track her down and bring her back. One person in pursuit is Moishe, someone who also is “different” and has strayed. He’s a gambler with possible ties to criminal activities but has been given another chance, and Esty’s retrieval will be his community redemption. Moishe is desperate for it and not above resorting to abuse to get Esty to return home. The power of expression in Haas’ eyes is remarkable, ranging from terror to gratitude and from vulnerability to strength. It recalls some of Ruchami’s most powerful and memorable “Shtisel” moments. But this is no “Shtisel” sequel. The male and female nudity (minimal, but present) tell us we’re no longer in Geula, the haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem. And Esty’s embrace of music, dancing and a secular life bring about the intimate behavior to which rabbis often warn that “dancing” will lead. Much of the series is set in Germany, where co-creator Karolinski was born where the U.S.-born memoirist Feldman now lives. When Karolinski (and co-creator Anna Winger) met Feldman in Berlin, they began brainstorming a show “that would bring together themes that have affected our lives — her as an American Jew living in Berlin and me as a German Jew living in the U.S.,” Karolinski told me in an email. Thus, they decided to start the series by bringing Esty to Berlin, “so we can include our thoughts about history and inherited trauma in the present.” This setting is of both practical and symbolic value. Esty’s familiarity with Yiddish makes the transition to German easier, and her encounter with a diverse group of classical musicians enables conversations about Germany’s role in history. Yael justifies her jokes about the Holocaust by saying,
Shira Haas in the poster for “Unorthodox”
“We’re too busy defending our present to be sentimental about our past.” Esty’s identification of Germany as a place of horrors begins to coexist with Berlin as the geographical place of her freedom and rebirth. In the first episode, we witness Esty wading into a lake near the villa where (she is told) Nazis had discussed the implementation of the Final Solution. This spiritual mikvah enables a fresh start. When Esty arrives in Berlin, with no suitcase but plenty of baggage, she is searching for something that was missing in her life. She learns to advocate for herself, to express her opinions and to express herself musically. She embraces that “different” doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no place for her. It could be argued that one of the reasons “Shtisel” was so widely popular is that the characters who push boundaries do so mostly from within the community. “Unorthodox” makes the case that only by breaking free from that structure can people become the fullest versions of themselves. This may not satisfy those who seek validation for their own community practice, but the story is compellingly told. As Esty finds her voice, she retreats from Orthodox practice and community (the series examines only the beginning of her journey). A year later, she may be completely secular, or find her way back to some of the people in her old community. But more likely, she will find a way to balance her needs that doesn’t force her to choose one life over the other. n
Walnut Creek teen’s snapshot of Shabbat is a winner in Jewish Lens competition In the photograph of a Walnut Creek home, a man and woman face each other across the table. Shabbat candles cast a reflection in the darkened windows. It was the photographer’s first attempt to capture the scene, but the photo of her parents taken by 14-year-old Talia Bruner, an eighth-grader at Contra Costa Jewish Day School, has won first place in an international photo competition for teens. The competitors were asked to express their Jewish identity. “It was quite an exciting surprise,” said Eden Bruner, Talia’s mother and director of development at CCJDS.
The contest is run by the Koret International School for Jewish Peoplehood at the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, under the auspices of Israeli photographer
Zion Ozeri. Bruner’s photo won the top prize in the international division, beating out entries from France, Brazil, South Africa and a host of other countries. Bruner’s photo and the other top 20 selections will be on display at the museum starting March 22. It’s the second year that students from CCJDS have entered the contest. The instructions were to use creative expression to capture what the museum calls the “pillars of Jewish peoplehood” — shared collective memory, Jewish values, multi-faceted connection to Israel, Hebrew or other Jewish languages, Jewish creativity and culture, or
Jewish faith and lifestyle. For Bruner, the choice was easy. “Shabbat is something that’s really special to me,” she said. The resulting photo speaks to her personal connection to Shabbat. And there was something extra, too, something that Bruner didn’t plan. After she took the shot, she realized that the reflections in the windows (from the candlelight) reminded her of all the past generations of Jews that also celebrated Shabbat just as she does now. “It’s like the ancestors are the shadows in the windows,” she said. — Maya Mirsky n
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Holocaust-era fiddle, via S.F., joins Violins of Hope MUSIC | LAURA PAULL | J. STAFF San Francisco resident Marsha Cohen had never heard of Violins of Hope until the collection’s appearance in the Bay Area this winter. (She read about it in this paper.) It was at one of the concerts — with musicians playing string instruments that had been rescued from the Holocaust and restored at a workshop in Tel Aviv — that she suddenly knew what to do with the violin her father had brought back from World War II. Since his death in 1989, it had been sitting in its case or, at best, on a mantel, unused. “When I went to the San Francisco public library and touched the other violins on display,” she told J., “it occurred to me that ours could join them. Although it was, in a way, a violin of revenge.” Why revenge? Cohen’s father, an artistically inclined man who ran a family store in Paterson, New Jersey, was drafted into the Army in 1943. He landed in France some 50 days after D-Day (June 1944) and served as a private first class through the end of the war in September 1945. “By that time, he knew, obviously, that Jews were being slaughtered,” said Cohen, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Most of the stringed instruments in the Violins of Hope collection share a similar backstory. Many were played by prisoners in concentration camp bands, a fact that hits home with Cohen: Her father-in-law, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, “told me he played [music] for the SS” when he was a prisoner during World War II. It was those sorts of instruments that, one way or another, eventually found their way to the Israeli workshop of Amnon and Avshi Weinstein, father and son luthiers who have dedicated themselves to the restoration of violins and other string instruments from the Holocaust. Those are the Violins of Hope, and there are nearly 100 of them. But her father’s violin has a different story. It’s the story of a young American who came through the Depression and always wanted a violin but could not afford one. “He had a beautiful tenor voice and sang in his
PATRICIA KRISTOF MOY
Avshi Weinstein and Marsha Cohen with her father’s violin.
synagogue,” his daughter recounted. In the Army, he was on a mission as an artillery spotter when he came upon a violin with no sign of an owner. It had a beautiful sound, by his account, but ended up being sold by his fellow soldiers when he was on furlough. Upon his return to Germany shortly after the war, he spotted another one in an empty house whose occupants had been evacuated. “This was one of two violins my father ‘liberated’ from the Germans,” Cohen said. “The first was better, but he came home with this one” — taking something from the ruins of battle, as many soldiers did. “I guess I always knew,” Cohen said, “because he had two other spoils of war: a German helmet and a Luger pistol. He would take them out of the closet and show them to the boys and men of our family.” But the violin? That was for him. “He taught himself to play. He would take it out and fiddle, just fool around on it,” she said.
Though he won a Bronze Star for bravery, he rarely talked about the war to his family. And his love for the instrument was not shared by his children or grandchildren. So it stayed in his daughter’s possession and came with her to San Francisco, where she and her husband have lived for more than 30 years. Whenever Cohen saw it, she reflected on the events that had brought it into their home. “I never felt entirely comfortable that my super-sweet father, who wouldn’t hurt a flea, had basically stolen the violin from a civilian home,” she said. “But back then, I’d never thought about violins — Jewish-owned and otherwise — winding up in concentration camps; stolen, in essence, by the Germans. Hence my nomenclature: the revenge violin.” Cohen formally handed it over to Avshi Weinstein on March 11 at the War Memorial Veterans Building, where a Violins of Hope exhibition was on display. In all, 51 stringed instruments from the VOH collection came to the Bay Area for a scheduled eight-week residency that began Jan. 16 (recent events were canceled). The huge touring show consisted of classical and folk concerts, major exhibits, and talks and panel discussions in eight Bay Area counties with more than 40 partnering organizations. Venues included Kohl Mansion, the Paramount Theater and Davies Symphony Hall, and most of the performances, some by major orchestras, used some of the restored violins. The touring show has been to many cities and will likely go to many more, although its next planned stop in Los Angeles has been canceled due to the virus pandemic. “I feel glad that it has ended up with Violins of Hope,” she said of her father’s violin. “I’m sure my father would be tickled that it endures and that this story would continue to be told.” Though Avshi Weinstein was traveling and wasn’t available to be interviewed for this article, Cohen said that his preliminary examination showed it to be “an ordinary violin” that might be worth $300 to $400 today. “He wanted it more for the story,” she said. “The fact that it had come into the hands of somebody from [the U.S.] who went there — and brought back a violin to play.” n
PASSOVER GREETINGS SPECIAL SECTION ISSUE DATE: April 3
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Holocaust memoirs are a treasure, especially these two OFF THE SHELF HOWARD FREEDMAN My understanding of the Holocaust has been shaped enormously by the teachers, cousins, friends, and others from Europe who have been part of my life and have shared their experi ences before and after World War II. I think about this because we are in the final stages of this historical moment. Within a decade, there will be very few people who can recall Howard Freedman their experiences during the Nazi is the director era. We will need their stories, and of the Jewish nobody will be there to tell them. Community Library, It is for this reason that I am a project of Jewish especially grateful for the wealth of LearningWorks, in memoirs that many survivors have San Francisco. All left behind. And what encourages books mentioned in me is that there are still hundreds this column may be of such works that we have yet to borrowed from the encounter because they have not library. been translated into English. Such is the case with two extraordinary books newly translated from French. Françoise Frenkel, the author of “A Bookshop in Berlin,” was born in Poland in 1889. At a young age she fell in love with French culture and studied at the Sorbonne. She eventually moved to Berlin, where she opened the city’s first French language bookstore, Le Maison du Livre, in 1921 (a rather remarkable feat, given that Germany and France had been at war just three years earlier). She ran the shop until 1939, when it had become abundantly clear that it was time to leave. Her memoir’s original French title translates to “No Place to Lay One’s Head,” and it’s a particularly fitting one, as Frenkel’s existence after leaving Berlin became a life on the run. She moved first to Paris, and then to southern France
after the Nazi invasion. Depending heavily on the kindness of strangers, she spent two years moving from place to place, successfully evading capture until she was betrayed by a guide during an attempt to enter Switzerland. The book, written after her second attempt to cross ille gally into Switzerland succeeded, has an interesting history. It was published in 1943, and it was completely forgotten until a copy was found in a French attic in 2010, leading to its repub lication. It has now been ably translated into English, along with a foreword by Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. Frenkel composed her memoir as Europe’s Jews were still being slaughtered, while Moishe Rozenbaumas was compelled to write “The Odyssey of an Apple Thief” as an elderly man decades later, “so that my grandchildren and the children of my grandchildren will have access to their own history in order that we don’t forget what happened to our people.” Most of Rozenbaumas’ youth was spent in the Lithu anian shtetl of Telz, which was well known as a center of Jewish learning, and he offers a superb portrayal of the town. Moishe’s life changed enormously when his father left for Paris, following the collapse of his clothing business. The plans were for him to send for his family, but he seems to have barely tried. This left Moishe as the family’s chief breadwinner at the age of 11. Following the Nazi invasion of Lithuania, Rozenbaumas attempted unsuccesfully to convince his mother and brothers to flee eastward with him (they would eventually all be shot to death). Still in his teens, he left on his bicycle, crossing into Latvia and then the Soviet Union. He eventually made his way on freighters along the Caspian Sea to Soviet Asia. He soon became a soldier in the Red Army and was wounded multiple times in harrowing battles against Germany. He returned to Lithuania after the war, first as part of a unit interrogating Lithuanians who had collaborated with the Nazis (including a young man who had killed one of Rozen baumas’ brothers). He was then reunited in Vilnius with a
woman he had known well in Telz, and they soon married. Although once an eager member of the Communist Party, Rozenbaumas soured on the Soviet Union, and in 1956 he and his family managed to defect first to Poland and then to France. He was reunited with his father (about whom he remained ambivalent) and entered the clothing business. Rozenbaumas is a particularly introspective narrator. He is haunted by his inability to save his family in Telz, and he interrupts the narrative to lament at length his longtime inability to awaken to what was wrong in the Soviet Union. The book concludes unconventionally with a chapter devoted to religious thought. Drawing heavily from Dutch philosopher Spinoza, Rozenbaumas reflects on his turning toward Judaism later in life — an unexpected outcome given his earlier atheism and the difficulty that many Holocaust survivors had in accepting a deity who would allow such a cataclysm to occur. Jonathan Layton’s translation from French is twice removed from its source, as Rozenbaumas originally wrote his autobiography in Yiddish, and it was lovingly translated into French by his daughter Isabelle in a process that she details in her introduction. May such translations across language, time and place continue, keeping these important voices alive. n
“A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman’s Harrowing Escape from the Nazis” by Françoise Frenkel (288 pages, Atria) “The Odyssey of an Apple Thief” by Moishe Rozenbaumas (248 pages, Syracuse University Press)
Tales of Polish Jews in transition to modernity soar in new translation from Yiddish BOOKS | DONALD WEBER | JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Yiddish emerged as a primary literary language for a rising generation of writers and intellectuals in the small towns of East ern Europe, but even more so, in the vibrant Jewish cultural center of Warsaw. Hersh Dovid Nomberg (1876−1927) was an important figure during this physical and spiritual transition. Raised in a Hasidic family in Mszczonow, Poland, Nomberg rejected his ultra-Orthodox roots and moved at the age of 21 to secular Warsaw, where he joined the coterie of writers around the charismatic Y. L. Peretz. Very litt le of Nomberg’s literary work, which includes poetry, plays, novels and journalism, is available in English. But thanks to the Yiddish Book Center’s new publish ing imprint, White Goat Press, and Daniel Kennedy’s superb translation, we can now
rediscover Nomberg’s poignant, unsett ling and moving stories about uprooted Jews. “Warsaw Stories” invents a landscape inhabited by young Jews in flight from tradition, between worlds, at home nowhere, dreaming, swindling, gossiping, masquerad ing, rebelling, yearning, overcome with rage and shame, and above all feeling lost in a disorienting urban landscape. Nomberg’s most famous character is Fliglman, or “wing man,” a young man in “flight” who appears to be the author’s alterego. He receives Nomberg’s empathy, but is also the object of substantial satire: “His eyes looked like they were fogged up with steam, as if all one needed to do was wipe them with a handkerchief for them to shine brightly.” Fliglman is a romantic with high expec tations and precise requirements for his romantic life. “No shallow soul would ever be
capable of loving him,” Fliglman determines, but he remains clueless about the shallow dimension of his dreamy philosophizing, or his avoidance of female relationships. In the end, Fliglman looms as one of Nomberg’s unmoored comic souls, “an apostate” in the eyes of his family. Perhaps an even thicker portrait of a new Jewish generation is on display in “High er Education.” In this fascinating story, we meet Lyuba Fidler, a young woman of “ sad, clear eyes,” deep powers of observation and fiery political commitments. Fidler moves between a world of weary bourgeois compla cency and unearned comfort, and her own committ ed revolutionary identity. Virtually all the characters in “Warsaw Stories” live m uddled lives, for they remain tangled up in the webs of modern Jewish history. Nomberg’s genius comes from his
ability to register the psychic and emotional valences of this bewildering liminal moment at the turn of the century. Nomberg’s portrait of Jewish life in the early 20th century may be dark, but his imag ination of shadow and despair, of anger and bewilderment, of madness and revolutionary fervor, flows from the landscape of partial assimilation that his characters uneasily inhabit. The newly arrived Jews of “Warsaw Stories” are a richly drawn, recognizable people in motion. Hopefully, we will soon have more Nomberg available in translation, so we can learn more about this neglected but important Jewish writer who emerged on the global literary scene a century ago. n
“Warsaw Stories” by Hersh Dovid Nomberg, translated by Daniel Kennedy (166 pages, White Goat Press)
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Hunkered down at home? Here are some Jewish shows to watch TV | ESTHER D. KUSTANOWITZ | CORRESPONDENT There’s a ton of Jewish content out there these days, thanks to streaming services. So whether you’re actually quarantined or just engaging in social distancing, here is a mix of 10 varied Jewish pieces of entertainment that can help you keep your Jewish up while you hunker down.
COMEDY “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Netflix, four seasons A New York lawyer follows her old boyfriend (from camp!) to Southern California, makes some oddball, new friends and learns about herself through musical numbers — dropping in many, many Jewish moments along the way. Plus, a mental-health awareness storyline emerges in Season 3 and is tackled with great care from that point until the end of the series. Extra credit: Track the Jewish references in the episodes, which range from kugel to a challenging Jewish mother to Birthright Israel to identifying the Holocaust as a driver of Jewish identification. Consume with wine and rugelach.
Midge twirl about in nice dresses, assess whether her jokes are (or aren’t) funny and debate why Midge would buy her brisket for a Yom Kippur break-fast (with the rabbi!) from a nonkosher butcher. You also may want to consider how the series portrays Midge’s sister-in-law, Astrid, a Jew-bychoice: Is she meant to be comic relief or a religious touchstone? You decide. “The Frisco Kid” Available to rent on Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes This comedy movie classic from 1979 features Gene Wilder as a rabbi (fresh from Poland) who needs to cross the American frontier to get to a pulpit job in San Francisco. Along the way, he encounters bank robber Harrison Ford, a 36-yearold Harrison Ford! To top things off, Wilder’s Rabbi Avram Belinski finished at the bottom of his class at his yeshiva, which sets up a lot of humor, such as the rabbi happening upon a colony of Amish people, whom he takes for Jews. “Mossad 101” (Season 1) Netflix Using Mossad’s agent selection program as a (fictional) competition provides alternately tense and humorous
COURTESY ENDEMOL SHINE INTERNATIONAL
The cast of “Mossad 101”
at the Marzipan Bakery near Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market.
Watch one over Zoom with your girlfriends while sippin’ on Manischewi-Quarantinis. encounters. Officers assess the recruits’ smarts and skills, eliminating one candidate every episode. As a scripted series, not reality TV, it’s enjoyable and moves quickly, with snappy banter and dramatic moments to set up season 2. Bonus: It may provide parents with ideas about how to frame quarantine as a competition among their children, with incentives like an extra roll of toilet paper, Purell or other “luxury” item for the winner. COURTESY COMEDY CENTRAL
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer in “Broad City”
“Broad City” Amazon Prime and Hulu, five seasons Comedy Central’s hilarious and raunchy series looks inside the lives of Abbi and Ilana, two (unabashedly Jewish) best friends living in New York city, with a significant dollop of Jewish cultural identification and identity discussions. Watch one over Zoom with your girlfriends while sippin’ on Manischewi-Quarantinis. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Amazon Prime, three seasons This is the show Jews love to love, unless they’re in the group of Jews who love to hate it. What’s to disagree on? (Have you met any Jews lately?) But seriously: The portrayals of these Jewish characters thrill some and irk others on every level from casting (some of the main actors aren’t Jewish) to how observance is pictured. If you haven’t watched it yet, give it a try. Now’s your chance to see
DRAMA “Mossad 101” (Season 2) Netflix Why is this in the drama category when Season 1 is listed under comedy? Because sometimes that line is hard to parse, especially in Israel. But also because Season 2 makes a marked tonal shift. Gone is the lighthearted quality of Season 1’s “contest,” clearing the path toward an intense assignment in another country with real stakes. Use this season to kick off a conversation about the Mossad, its secrecy and whether an end will always justify a means. “Srugim” Hulu and Amazon Prime, three seasons A dramatic series about religious singles in Jerusalem — some have called it “No Sex and the City” — that sends a message we already knew: Jewish dating is complicated; might as well stay inside. A great way to virtually visit Jerusalem’s German Colony and Katamon neighborhoods. Unfortunately, not a great way to pick up some rugelach
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“False Flag” Amazon Prime and Hulu, two seasons Five people suspected of having carried out a political kidnapping get swept up in the investigation and publicity surrounding the event. The government treats them as suspects, and even their families begin to treat them with suspicion. Watch it in its original Hebrew (with English subtitles, if you like) to prep you for the Apple Plus U.S. remake, which stars Uma Thurman (“Pulp Fiction”), Noah Emmerich (“The Americans”) and Kunal Nayyar (“The Big Bang Theory”). “Hunters” Amazon Prime, one season This gritty, comic book-styled fantasy imagines a group of vigilantes (led by Al Pacino) who track down Nazis in 1970s America … and kill them. It extrapolates from realistic Nazi sadism against Jews by creating fictional “games” of concentration camp persecution and torture. And thereby launches dozens of internet and podcast conversations both in favor of the series’ creativity and in condemnation of it for not portraying history accurately, even within a fictional context. (Honestly, there’s just no pleasing us.) “Transparent” Amazon Prime, four seasons and a musical finale This critically acclaimed series about transgender parent Maura Pfefferman (San Francisco’s own Jeffrey Tambor) and her family also provides a deep dive into what Jewish culture and identity mean to the Pfefferman family. Supporting guest stars include deli meats, the mikvah, epigenetic trauma, marijuana, a family trip to Israel and Bradley Whitford. In summary, there is more streaming content now than ever before — with more being added all the time. So tune in, Netflix and kvell, kvell and Purell … and #neverforget. n
New haggadahs for 2020: nationalism, artistry, the environment and more DAVID A.M. WILENSKY | J. STAFF The Passover seder is the most widely observed Jewish ritual, by Jews and non-Jews alike. That fact alone makes the haggadah, the guidebook to the seder, one of the most important Jewish texts. This year, as every year, the haggadah has been reimagined, augmented and illustrated anew, with dozens of new editions published, and likely thousands more tossed together and photocopied by families and communities around the world. Here are some of the most interesting new entries. “The Passover Haggadah: An Ancient Story for our Modern Times” Have you ever wondered what Tablet Magazine would look like if it were a haggadah? Here’s your answer. In this new haggadah from the editors of Tablet, much of the commentary is written by people Tablet’s readers — literate, educated Jewish insiders — will recognize, such as writer and erstwhile Bloomberg presidential campaign staffer Abigail Pogrebin, Tablet political columnist Liel Leibovitz and Jewish writer and activist Shais Rishon (aka “MaNishtana”), who is known for his sharp commentary about the black Jewish experience. It also includes a couple pages that might as well be food articles on the Tablet website: “Charosets of the World” and “Drink Your Plagues: 10 Deadly Cocktails.” (Indeed, readers can go to tabletmag. com/haggadah for full recipes.) Among its many small touches of web journalism snark, “Chad Gadya” is subtitled “A Fun Song About Murder.” If you’re a fan of Tablet the magazine, you’ll probably like Tablet the haggadah. Asufa Haggadah, 2020 The Israeli art and design collective Asufa mostly works on slickly designed consumer gadgets as well as poster art and T-shirts. But Asufa has also become known for its annual art haggadah, which features the work of dozens of individual artists, each contributing a two-page spread. Clashing visual styles mimic the riot of voices and generations reflected in the text, which itself is part of the art in its placement, shape and fonts. One standout page in this year’s edition shows the heroes and villains of the Passover story in the style of a poster for a contemporary Hollywood blockbuster, recalling recent imagery of “Star Wars” and “The Avengers” — Moses’ staff glows like a lightsaber. Most pages are much more abstract, but all are dynamic and modern. The Asufa haggadah is a stunning mishmash of artistic sensibilities, each spread a
feast for the eyes. But Anglophones beware: This is the classic Hebrew text alone with no translation. “The Promise of the Land: A Passover Haggadah” by Rabbi Ellen Bernstein “On Passover we celebrate the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom and the coming of spring,” Bernstein writes in the introduction to her environmentfocused haggadah. What a blessing to read a haggadah that acknowledges the changing of the season as one of the central themes of the
Four Children is arranged around a circular spinner with four evocative images that could represent any of the Four Children. Spin it to line the images up with descriptions of the different children. It’s expensive, but you’ll only need one for the whole table. “The Koren Youth Haggada” by Daniel Rose The world does not want for children’s haggadahs, but this new edition from Koren is a fine addition in that expansive category. It manages to be accessible without skipping any of the traditional text and without
(From left) “The Unbound Haggadah,” Asufa haggadah, “From Ancient Egypt to Modern Israel,” “The Passover Haggadah: A Biography,” Tablet’s haggadah, “The Other Side of the River, the Other Side of the Sea,” “The Promise of the Land”
seder. Why is there an egg on the seder plate? Why fresh leafy greens? Because Passover is a spring festival celebrating rebirth — both ecological and national. “The Promise of the Land” includes most of the traditional text, but much of it only in translation, augmenting it with questions for discussion (“Might the earth and its creatures actually sense our oppression?”) and commentary from leading lights (next to a passage that mentions idolatry, an excerpt from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the U.K.: “Affluence, no less than slavery, can make us forget who we are and why”). “The Unbound Haggadah” by Eli Kaplan-Wildmann I’ve never seen anything like this. “The Unbound Haggadah” is somehow both an interactive handmade art piece and an actual haggadah that you can use around the table. It consists of 10 thick cards tied together with a red string. Untie it and pass the cards out around the table. Each card is printed in full color, front and back, with text and engaging artwork. Some even have moving parts! The text about each of the
talking down. In one striking example, commentary on the karpas page (where we dip a vegetable in salt water and eat it) quotes from Talmud: “Since the day the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed the gates of prayer have been locked and prayer is not accepted as it once was. But the gates of tears will always be open.” This haggadah then asks its young reader to reflect: “Why do you think God accepts our tears more readily than our prayers?” Koren’s signature elegant fonts are there, of course, and bright, friendly illustrations by Rinat Gilboa adorn the pages. If you’ve got an inquisitive child who is receiving a thorough, fairly traditional Jewish education, this haggadah will be a terrific accompaniment to their seder experience. ”From Ancient Egypt to Modern Israel: The 3,000-Year Journey of the Jewish People” from StandWithUs Brought to you by the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, here is the perfect haggadah for those who read the story of the Exodus and the whole of our covenant with God as a real-estate contract, a holy deed and title to the land of Israel. Not content to tell
the story of the Exodus, “This haggadah takes us on the Jewish journey from slavery and oppression in Egypt … to the story of modern Israel.” The juxtaposition between ancient and modern can be jarring; among several painterly illustrations of Jews being oppressed (slavery in Egypt, destruction of the Temple, Auschwitz), it includes an image of masked Palestinians lobbing rocks. Only one of the Four Children is singled out for Israel-related commentary, and it perfectly encapsulates this haggadah’s hasbara attitude: The Wicked Child “may wonder why Israel is so important to the Jewish people,” “might be missing basic information” and “It is our job to invite him or her to join our greater Jewish family though inspiring celebrations like tonight’s seder and, if possible, a visit to Israel.” It should be obvious if this is the exact right haggadah for you — or the exact wrong one. “The Other Side of the River, the Other Side of the Sea” from T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights The left-wing political haggadah is nothing new, but this is an especially nice one. It is the opposite of the StandWithUs haggadah; where that one focuses on Passover’s particularist lessons, this one emphasizes the universal. Its primary themes are racial justice, immigration, gender and workers’ rights, which are brought into the haggadah through commentary and personal stories from activists and rabbis. One page features a vibrant illustration of a quetzal, a bird that symbolizes spring and freedom in Central American cultures, drawn by a migrant child while being held by U.S. authorities at a tent city in Texas in 2018. And that’s this haggadah in a nutshell: the themes of Passover seen through contemporary injustices. “The Passover Haggadah: A Biography” by Vanessa L. Ochs “The haggadah has grown into a commonplace book chronicling generations of verbal, illustrative, and ritual strategies that were considered, in their times and in their places, suitable for the task of transmission,” writes University of Virginia religious studies professor Vanessa L. Ochs in this excellent new book. If you can buy only one new haggadah this year — honestly, don’t. Buy this accessible and thorough history of the haggadah instead. It’ll do more to enhance your understanding and experience of the seder than any of the haggadahs above. (And it’ll help you understand how we came to the point where the mixed bag of haggadahs above exists at all.) n
JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 3.20.2020 33
PASSOVER FOOD At Market Hall, they cry over the horseradish so you don’t have to ALIX WALL | CORRESPONDENT If you think about the Jewish holiday foods that are the most labor-intensive for home cooks — in other words, kind of a pain to make — you can assume that those items are big sellers at Oakland’s Market Hall Foods. (Spoiler: Horseradish and latkes top the list.) “In the past, when we decided we were going to make our own horseradish, I stood in the back of the kitchen making it in the food processor batch by batch, making everyone cry,” said Sandy Sonnenfelt, director of prepared foods at the upscale food marketplace in the Rockridge neighborhood. “Now we’ve gone to making it in an upright vertical chopper. In making 150 pounds of horseradish, everyone still cries.” Yes, 150 pounds. Before we go any further, a few other figures: Each Passover season, Rockridge Market Hall sells about 800 to 1,000 pounds of cooked brisket, approximately 1,000 matzah balls and 800 to 1,000 pieces of gefilte fish. Executive chef Scott Miller uses 150 pounds of raw chicken livers to make his famous chopped liver, with a yield of about 300 pounds to sell. For hosts who want to focus on being with family rather than preparing the food, the menu offers individual items to fill a table and a combination “everything but the plate” — house-made horseradish, haroset, roasted shank bone, parsley, a long-cooked egg and a box of matzah. Does Sonnenfelt worry about the coronavirus shutdowns hurting the holiday business? “Our stores are very busy at the present time,” she said earlier this week. “How this will shake out for Passover is anyone’s guess.” Ever since Market Hall opened in 1987, it’s been known for its prepared foods department. Long before people started using delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, they have been stopping at places like the Pasta Shop at Market Hall and choosing from an array of prepared dishes displayed in refrigerated cases. Market Hall has been a resource for Jewish holiday foods since it opened, especially for those who want to host a Passover seder, Rosh Hashanah or Hanukkah dinner but aren’t able or willing to do all of the cooking. (It should be noted that while the store keeps to a kosher-for-Passover
product list, its kitchen isn’t kosher, nor kosher for Passover, for that matter). The menu planning is done by Sonnenfelt and Miller, who has worked at Market Hall since it opened (Sonnenfelt is a newcomer by comparison; she started there in 1995).
living in Israel on a kibbutz and in Jerusalem before immigrating to the U.S. “In Jerusalem I had neighbors from Kurdistan and Yemen,” said Sonnenfelt. “That’s where I first learned about Sephardic flavors. It gave me a very different culinary viewpoint than the Ashkenazi
Scott Miller and Sandy Sonnenfelt of Market Hall Foods.
Miller, a Bay Area native with Jewish roots, said the chopped liver recipe he uses comes from his great-grandmother, but he mostly learned about Jewish holiday foods through his work as a chef. Sonnenfelt — whose pink-tinted hair makes her easy to spot on the floor — is originally from Benoni, South Africa. She spent five years
34 3.20.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
COURTESY MARKET HALL FOODS
foods I had grown up with.” While the side dishes in the holiday menus vary year by year, there are hardly any major changes because the holidays are when people feel nostalgic about the foods they grew up with. “Not everyone wants interesting,” or the food trends du jour, said Miller. “People
want what they want, and that tends to be pretty traditional, so these menus have mostly been the same for decades.” Every once in a while, they’ll introduce something new. That happened a few years ago with their vegetable kugel. “Someone on staff thought the old one was boring, so we came up with a new one, with spinach and green garlic,” said Sonnenfelt. She said it’s been quite popular. So how do you teach a kitchen full of non-Jewish chefs who have no cultural reference for these dishes to cook food that is so personal to people? “Everyone in that kitchen has an honorary Jewish degree by now,” Sonnenfelt joked. “That’s part of what Scott’s talent is, he writes very clear recipes.” Additionally, “we do it a lot and we do it every year and so most of our people have a lot of practice,” Miller added. “We have some pretty high standards in terms of palates around here; we won’t sell it if it’s not good. And we have a lot of loyal and vocal clientele who will let us know what they think. The goal is to make them happy so they keep coming back.” Because of Passover’s proximity to Easter, the two menus often overlap. Both, for example, have a spring chicken dish with artichokes. But the ham for Easter is brisket for Passover, and the kugels are strictly on the seder side. Roasted potatoes can work for either. Major holidays may dominate, but Market Hall also celebrates lesser-known occasions. Sonnenfelt and Miller just released a menu for Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebrated this week. Both chefs are proud of the results. “Our general manager is from Iran, and for years he wouldn’t let us do Persian New Year,” said Sonnenfelt. “He was afraid we couldn’t do it well enough because we’re not from his country — or his mom.” But the chefs proved him wrong. “We had to have a huge tasting between him and his family members, and they were in tears,” Miller recalled. “It reminded them of their mom, which is the highest praise.” Sonnenfelt said no matter what tradition dishes represent, anyone can enjoy them. That would answer the question someone once fielded from a customer inquiring: “Do you have to be Jewish to
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Market Hall seder plate with freshly prepared horseradish, shank bone, haroset and
order from the Hanukkah menu?” Both Miller and Sonnenfelt spoke of the challenges in preparing foods that are highly personal to people, but on a large scale and in advance. Both for practical reasons and matters of taste, Market Hall’s haroset recipe adds figs, dates, cardamom and lemon juice, giving it a Sephardic twist and avoiding the problem of browning apples (the lemon helps prevent that). While Passover is the timelier holiday to discuss, it’s worth mentioning that Hanukkah is also robust. Market Hall makes thousands of latkes each year and sells around 1,000 per day during the holiday. One person is frying them all day long. “We go through a crazy amount of potatoes and oil,” Miller said. “And we make them as big as we can get away with, because otherwise we would need to make 20,000. Standing over the griddle all day is a brutal job — one of the hardest jobs that happens during the year here.” SMALL BITES: AL’s Deli, the IsraeliJewish Mission District restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Aaron London,
has closed after eight months in business, Eater reported. The fast-casual restaurant opened last July and featured London’s inventive, whimsical spins on Jewish favorites, such as stuffed latkes and a corn dog-falafel hybrid, with amba, the Israeli pickled mango sauce, made from local peaches rather than mangoes. The concept was part Jewish deli, part Israeli street food. London had visited Israel on a research trip, which influenced the menu. While the restaurant had its regulars, it did the lion’s share of its business in corporate catering. With the coronavirus scare and tech employees working from home, all of those orders dried up. Last fall, London told J., “This is the food I’ve been wanting to do for three years, and this is when it finally happened. Israeli food is the hot thing now, but it’s a coincidence and good timing. I found the right place and way to express it, and here we are.” London is focusing all of his energies on his nearby AL’s Place, named best new restaurant in the country by Bon Appétit magazine in 2015. ■
BECAUSE OF PASSOVER’S PROXIMITY TO EASTER, THE TWO MENUS OFTEN OVERLAP. BOTH, FOR EXAMPLE, HAVE A SPRING CHICKEN DISH WITH ARTICHOKES. BUT THE HAM FOR EASTER IS BRISKET FOR PASSOVER, AND THE KUGELS ARE STRICTLY ON THE SEDER SIDE.
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Jewish-owned food businesses hit hard by new restrictions ALIX WALL | CORRESPONDENT In early March, Grossman’s Noshery & Peter Levitt, said it was a heartbreaking Bar started a new Instagram account. decision. “We’re trying to do the right thing Among the tantalizing photos: Fox’s U-Bet for our hourly and key employees who Chocolate Syrup, the staple ingredient in face severe hurdles feeding and housing egg creams. Ba-Tampte deli mustard. The themselves and their families,” she said. interior of a cinnamon babka. A short video Business was down 40 percent even before of raw bagels being coated in “everything” this week’s order, and painful layoffs had to seeds. happen, she said. The couple behind the new Santa Rosa Jewish deli, over a year in the making, were building anticipation and targeting March 20 as the opening date. Then came the coronavirus. On March 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for a shutdown of nonessential businesses in the state, such as bars and wineries. On March 16, Bay Area residents in most counties were told to begin “sheltering in place,” starting at midnight, through April 7. Only essential businesses such as supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open; restaurants were to serve only takeout or delivery. Restaurants everywhere are grappling with Terri and Mark Stark were looking forward to opening how to survive — and take their Jewish deli in the North Bay. care of their employees — in this sudden new reality. While the Over the years, many people have come CDC has said the virus is not transmitted to Saul’s on the second night of Passover through food, it can live on shared surfaces and held their own seders, but that fun like doorknobs and tables and be transtradition won’t be happening this year. mitted through touch and through group “Our role in Berkeley is nourishing interaction. people with food and space to talk and “We’re taking it one hour at a time,” said hang out with each other, but that’s not Grossman’s owner Terri Stark, who owns what we can do right now,” said Adelman, several other restaurants in Santa Rosa who noted that the Bay Area’s restaurant and Healdsburg with her husband, Mark. scene — and the entire industry — will not She said in the meantime, they are planlook the same after this is over. ning to do takeout and delivery. AL’s Deli, which opened in San FranThe last time J. spoke to Stark was six cisco eight months ago and offered a months after she and her husband had lost combination of Israeli street food and their first restaurant, Willi’s Wine Bar, in Jewish deli, was the first restaurant with the 2017 Tubbs Fire. Jewish ties to succumb to the pandemic, “It’s hard to believe,” she said this week. as much of its business came from tech “In the last three years, we’ve had one thing companies (story, page 35). after another, and they’ve been hugely The owners of Solomon’s had already impactful for the restaurant business.” reduced their hours, but after the goverSaul’s Deli in Berkeley and Solomon’s nor’s press conference, they decided to shut Delicatessen in Sacramento already down operations altogether. Solomon’s has decided to shutter their dining rooms, and been open less than a year. Che Fico, the Italian restaurant in San Partner Jami Goldstene said she has Francisco with a Jewish section on the been looking into loans to help take care of menu, has closed preemptively as well. Solomon’s employees. Karen Adelman, who owns Saul’s with continued on page 39
Adding other flavors to the seder table: gefilte fish poppers and matzah casserole with bitter herbs COOKING FAITH KRAMER Every Passover, I add a little extra discussion to the seder table by serving a few dishes based on international Jewish foodways. This year I’m spicing up my gefilte fish (and stuffing it in peppers) and serving a matzah casserole with bitter greens and a lemon-egg sauce. Many Ashkenazi Jews who settled in Mexico (and in Central and South America) add some spice to traditional Eastern European foods, which inspired me to add salsa to gefilte fish. Since the word gefilte actually means stuffed or filled, I decided to stuff the Faith Kramer is fish into small, sweet peppers. Serve this dish as you would regular a Bay Area food gefilte fish, or use as an appetizer as “gefilte fish poppers.” writer. She blogs Mina is the name for a dish traditional to Sephardic seders: a about her food at layered matzah casserole. My recipe below is vegetarian, stuffed clickblogappetit. with bitter greens tamed by Swiss chard and chopped fennel. I com. Contact used dandelion greens (believed by some to be the original bitter Faith at clickblogherbs). Leeks are a Sephardic Passover food and fennel is an firstname.lastname@example.org. Italian-Jewish seder choice. Shumar (fennel in Hebrew) is said to sound similar to the phrase in Exodus for Pesach night, leil shimurim (the night of watching, or watchfulness). The sauce is adapted from traditional Passover recipes used by Greek Jews. Passover begins on the night of April 8 this year.
MINA WITH BITTER GREENS AND LEMON-EGG SAUCE Serves 10 to 12 (see note below) or 4 to 6 as a side dish
Heat half the oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and leeks until softened. Add 1 Tbs. garlic, sauté until golden. Stir in 1 tsp. paprika, half the salt and pepper, 1 Tbs. minced fennel fronds (or parsley) and 1 tsp. lemon zest. Add chopped fennel bulb; sauté until fennel is tender. Remove to large bowl. Do not wash the pan. Add 2 Tbs. oil to pan, sauté 1 tsp. garlic until golden. Stir in 1 tsp. paprika and remaining salt and pepper. Add chard and dandelion greens. Sauté until wilted. Taste. If bitter, stir in sugar, adding more as needed. Combine greens with fennel. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Make lemon-egg sauce (see below). Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Place heated stock in rimmed dish large enough to fit matzah. Quickly dip both sides of one matzah so the sheet begins to soften. Place flat in baking dish. Top with half of the vegetables. Spoon a quarter of the lemon sauce over vegetables. Dip a second sheet of matzah in stock, place on top. Spread remaining vegetables on top, spoon another fourth of sauce on top. Dip remaining matzah. Place on top. Cover with another fourth of sauce, sprinkle with remaining paprika. Lightly cover with foil. Bake 25 minutes, remove foil and bake about 20 minutes until sauce is bubbly and top matzah is crisped. Serve hot, warm or room temperature. Just before serving, drizzle with remaining sauce (reheated if necessary) and sprinkle with remaining garlic, fennel fronds and lemon zest. Lemon-egg sauce: Stir together until well combined (or process until smooth in blender) 4 large, beaten eggs; 1 tsp. lemon zest; 1½ cups fresh lemon juice; 2 Tbs. matzah cake meal; and ¼ tsp. salt. Place in pot and whisk in 2 cups room-temperature vegetable stock or water. Simmer over low to medium-low heat (do not boil), whisking almost constantly until reduced by half. Taste. Add salt if needed. Strain to remove any bits of cooked egg. Notes: If desired, replace bitter greens with additional chard. To serve 10 to 12 people, use 9-by-14-inch pan. Double filling and sauce (make in batches). Use 8 to 10 matzahs. For each layer, place two side by side and use pieces of others to fill gaps.
¼ cup olive oil, divided, plus extra for pan
1 tsp. plus 2 Tbs. minced grated lemon zest
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped fennel bulb
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts
8 cups chopped Swiss chard
SPICY GEFILTE FISH BAKED IN MINI PEPPERS
3 Tbs. finely chopped garlic, divided
3 tsp. paprika, divided
4 cups chopped dandelion or other bitter greens (see note)
½ tsp. salt, divided
¼ tsp. sugar, or as needed
¼ tsp. ground black pepper, divided
lemon-egg sauce (see recipe below)
1 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. minced fresh fennel fronds (leaves) or parsley
¼ and ½ cup Passover salsa (see recipe below)
1 large celery stalk
½ cup warm vegetable stock or water
2 1-lb. bags mini sweet peppers (see note)
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
3 sheets plain matzah
vegetable oil 1 lb. rockfish or similar white fish 1½ tsp. fresh lemon juice 2 large eggs 1 medium carrot 1 small onion
¼ cup matzah meal 1 tsp. sugar, or to taste ½ tsp. ground black pepper ¼ tsp. crumbled, dried oregano leaves ¼ tsp. cayenne, optional Chopped cilantro or parsley Jarred, ground white horseradish, optional
Prepare salsa. Oil a rimmed baking sheet. Choose peppers that are about 2½ to 3½ inches long and lay flat. Leave stems on. Slit peppers horizontally, leaving connected at tip and stem ends. Pull out seeds. Place fish, lemon juice and eggs in food processor. Process until puréed. Scrape into large bowl. Process carrot, onion and celery in food processor (no need to clean the work bowl) until minced but not puréed. Combine in bowl with fish and ¼ cup salsa. Sprinkle with matzah meal, salt, sugar, black pepper, oregano cayenne. Mix thoroughly. Taste a spoonful of batter. Add salt, cayenne and sugar, as needed. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Firmly pack fish into peppers, mounding an inch above top. Place on prepared sheet, bake 25 to 30 minutes until the peppers are tender and filling is firm and lightly browned. Serve hot, warm or room temperature, topped with cilantro and remaining salsa. Pass horseradish if desired. Passover salsa: Combine ¾ cup fresh diced tomatoes, ½ Tbs. minced garlic, 2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic, 1 Tbs. minced jalapeño (or to taste; remove seeds for milder flavor) and 2 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro or parsley. Mix. Add ⅛ tsp. salt and 1½ Tbs. fresh lemon juice. Stir well. Use ¾ cup for recipe. Refrigerate remainder and reserve for another use.
Mina with Bitter Greens and Lemon-Egg Sauce.
38 3.20.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
Notes: This recipe doubles very easily. Bags of mini sweet peppers are available in the produce section at your supermarket. You can substitute small red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers, if desired. Cut in half top to bottom, lay flat and stuff. n
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Jewish-owned food businesses hit hard by new restrictions continued from page 36
“It’s not like they can go out and get a job somewhere else right now,” she said. Goldstene has poured her heart and soul into the deli, which took much longer to open than anticipated. She has also been its public face, showing up nearly every day since it opened. She told J. that because she is one month away from turning 65, she had to make the difficult decision to stay home for now, following CDC recommendations. “I’m devastated,” she said. David Nayfeld, chef and partner of Che Fico, wrote on Instagram that the decision to close was based on feedback from staff. As hard as they tried to make more space between tables and constantly clean surfaces, “there has been a pretty overwhelming amount of feedback that they would feel more safe if they didn’t need to come to work,” he wrote. “They are our most important shareholders in this business and we must stand by them.” He also wrote that they would be offering takeout at sister restaurant Che Fico Alimentari. Many of the owners and chefs J. spoke with said customers can continue supporting their businesses by ordering takeout and buying gift cards for future use.
Restaurants are not the only food industry struggling to weather the crisis. Caterers and event companies have been hit just as hard. Richmond-based Anaviv Catering, owned by Israeli chef Arnon Oren, is offering wood-fired pizza on Sundays for pickup, meals for delivery and personal chef services on its website. Aliza Grayevsky Somekh, an Israeli chef based in Oakland who was profiled in J. a few months ago, had a calendar full of events this month and next, all of which have been canceled. That includes the community seder at Oakland’s Temple Beth Abraham. She has depended on that income for the past several years. She hopes that by offering kosher-forPassover food for delivery in the East Bay and other areas, she can help serve those who are alone or who can’t go to the supermarket. (Orders must be placed on her website by April 1.) After Passover, she will continue to offer kosher meals for delivery. “This has wiped me out completely,” she said. “I went from being full for March and April to having no money coming in. I’m trying to be creative, but if this continues and people won’t order takeout, I’ll need to figure out what else I can do.” ■
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Maybe you already ‘et’ — but here’s some food for thought TORAH RABBI PERETZ WOLF-PRUSAN
Vayakhel-Pekudei Exodus 35:1–40:38 It was “Ask the Rabbi—Open Mic Shabbat” at Congregation B’nai Balagan in Chelm. This new program was the result of a board of directors’ vote following the expenditure of a lot of money to the Chelm Marketing Mavens. The president stood before the Rabbi Peretz Wolfcongregation and explained that in- Prusan is chief stead of the rabbi giving a sermon, program officer the congregation is invited to come at HaMaqom|The forward and ask the rabbi anything, Place, formerly almost anything, just nothing about Lehrhaus Judaica. local politics, climate change or Israel. He can be reached Mr. Shusterman: “Yes, I have a at peretz@hmqm. question.” org. “Good, our first question.” “Where’s the sermon?” Another member: “I have a question.” “Yes?” “Why is this Shabbat a double Torah portion, Vayakhel and Pekudei, when in 2016 my son only read Vayakhel for his bar mitzvah? A week later, some other kid read Pekudei.” Oh no, thought the president. I got this, thought the rabbi. “There are four pairs in a regular year: Vayakhel-Pekudei, Tazria-Metzora, Acharei-Kedoshim and Behar-Bechukotai. There are other pairs for other reasons, but let’s stay with these. In a Jewish leap year, we add an extra month, consisting of 30 days — four more Shabbats — and so these portions expand, giving us four more readings. The next will be the year 2022.” “That’s the year of my daughter’s bat mitzvah. Who do I speak to about this? Should we pay half dues?”
“The Erection of the Tabernacle and the Sacred Vessels” by Gerard Hoet, 1728
Oy, thought the president. “Yes, young lady. Do you have a question?” “Yes, it’s a historical question. I have heard that David Ben-Gurion thought that an Arab could be president of the future Jewish state and that he also favored moving Arabs away from Jewish settlements. Which is true?” President: “We said no Israel questions!” “It was Palestine then. Not yet Israel.” President: “We said no Israel questions. Who are you?” “I’m in college now, but you presented me with Shabbat candles when I became a bat mitzvah seven years ago. I am a daughter of this congregation and a member of my Hillel and IfNotNow.” I got this, thought the rabbi, “Did you know that Ben-Gurion tried to have ‘et’ officially banned from usage because it lengthens the sentence without adding meaning and it is an unnecessary cost to modern Hebrew printing?” Congregation in unison: “What’s … an … et?” “A two-letter word, spelled alef-tav. It’s a grammatical marker for a direct object, an extra Hebrew preposition. “Ha” in Hebrew is “the.” “Et-ha” is Biblical Hebrew. We still translate “etha” as “the.” We say “The Tabernacle” even though in Hebrew it is spelled “et-ha Mishkan.” “That’s why Ben-Gurion tried to have “et” officially banned from modern usage. However, there is more going on in Chapter 35 of this Torah portion. There is an “et” parade beginning with verse 10, and then the “et” is repeated 41 more times! “And let all among you who are skilled come and make all that the LORD has commanded: (et) the Tabernacle, (et) its tent and (et) its covering, (et) its clasps and (et) its planks, (et) its bars, (et) its posts, and (et) its sockets; (et) the ark and its poles, (et) the cover and (et) the curtain for the screen; (et) the table, and (et) its poles and all (et) its utensils; and (et) the bread of display …” (you get the idea) “The Zohar regards each Hebrew word of the Torah as filled with meaning. “Professor Daniel Matt teaches that the “et” (that Ben-Gurion says is useless and has no actual meaning) is comprised of the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet (alef and tav), and it “means nothing but expresses everything.” It came to represent all of the qualities of the Divine as embodied in the Shechinah, the felt presence of God. “In this Torah portion, we build the “Et-Ha Mishkan,” literally “dwelling-place,” the place where God and Israel meet. It is here that God’s divine presence, the Shechinah (same root as Mishkan) resides where we gather. “Each of the 42 alef-tavs represent the continued presence of the sacred as each small piece of the Mishkan is assembled. Every clasp, plank, bars, posts, socket and pole. Each and every member of the community brings the “et” the alpha and omega, the beginning and end, the totality and the Divine Presence. No person or part is unimportant, each is bringing “et.” Mr. Shusterman: “Good sermon.” n
40 3.20.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
CELEBRITY JEWS Everyone is a Cohen on Capitol Hill Many Jews know that Leonard Nimoy’s famous Vulcan hand salute from “Star Trek” was inspired by the traditional gesture of blessing by Kohanim. CNN recently reported that House Democrats were advised by medical staff to use the “live long and prosper” greeting as a way to avoid shaking hands. Nimoy wrote in his autobiography that “when I searched Leonard Nimoy my imagination for an appropriate gesture to represent the peace-loving Vulcans, the Kohanim’s symbol of blessing came to mind.”
Deli by deli Haim is promoting its new album by performing in delicatessens nationwide. The “Haim Deli Tour” is scheduled to take the sister act of Danielle, Este and Alana Haim to New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. It’s a tribute to their first-ever show together as a band, at the famous Canter’s deli in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. The tour launched March 10 at Sarge’s Delicatessen & Diner in New York City, where a few lucky fans got invited to experience a five-song, mostly acoustic set in a very small setting.
Polanski award draws ire in France Roman Polanski has won a César, an award known as the French Oscar, for best director for his 2019 film “J’accuse” (titled “An Officer and a Spy” for U.S. screenings). The film tells the story of Alfred Dreyfus, the French Jewish officer wrongly imprisoned for treason at the end of the 19th century after a notorious trial. But the handing out of the award was met with protests against Polanski, who is still wanted in the U.S. Roman Polanski after admitting to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1978. He did not attend the ceremony “to protect himself,” AFP reported.
Goldberg still going strong Pro wrestler Bill Goldberg, 53, was in Saudi Arabia recently for the WWE Super ShowDown, where he won the WWE’s “Universal Championship” belt by defeating The Fiend. Golberg is a former NFL player who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2018. In a 2004 interview with the San Diego Jewish Journal, he said wrestling under the moniker “Goldberg” was meaningful: “I’m very proud of my tradition. It doesn’t mean I have to read the Torah every day, but hell, I wrestled in front of millions of people and called myself by my real name. That’s a testament to myself that I’m proud of.”
Amharic pop a first for Israel
Remember Eden Alene? Her Eurovision competition song is out and it is making a statement. “Feker Libi” is a straight-up dance tune, but it’s also a multilingual song with lyrics in Amharic, Arabic, English and Hebrew. Alene is the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to represent the country in the popular music competition taking place in May.
Call your mother, Barry Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the “Men in Black” films and “The Addams Family,” has written an autobiography called “Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother,” based on an incident in which that particular message was sounded over the PA in Madison Square Garden when the young Sonnenfeld was attending a Jimi Hendrix concert. He writes about his personal life and work in films, as well as his ongoing conversation with Larry David over who is more neurotic. n This week’s column is by J. staff writer Maya Mirsky.
Passover in a pandemic: Families on Zoom, solo seders and broken traditions BEN SALES | JTA Rena Munster was looking forward to hosting a Passover seder for the first time. In past years, her parents or another relative hosted the meal. But this year she had invited her parents, siblings and other extended family to her Washington, D.C., home. Her husband, an amateur ceramics artist, was making a set of dishes for the holiday. And she was most excited for her family’s traditional day of cooking before the seder: making short-rib tzimmes, desserts that would pass muster year-round, and a series of harosets made by her uncle and tailored to each family member’s dietary restrictions (one with no cinnamon, another with no sugar, another without walnuts and so on). Then came the new coronavirus. Now the family is preparing to scrap travel plans and hold the seder via video chat, like so much else in this new era. Munster expects to enjoy her family’s usual spirited discussions and singing. But she will miss the meal. “The hardest thing to translate into an online platform is going to be the food,” she said. “The family recipes and all the things that we’re used to probably won’t be possible. … We always get together to help with the preparations, and that’s just as much a part of the holiday as the holiday itself.” In a Jewish calendar packed with ritual observances and religious feasts, the Passover seder is the quintessential shared holiday experience. It is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish holiday ritual in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study of American Jewry. And the story of the journey from slavery to freedom, along with the songs, customs and food, have become a core part of Jewish tradition. But all of that has been upended by COVID-19 and the restrictions necessary to contain its spread. Israel has limited gatherings to 10 people — smaller than many extended families — and President Donald Trump has asked Americans to do the same. Countries are shutting their borders, making Passover travel near impossible. Hotels and summer camps that have held Passover programs, as well as synagogues that hold communal seders, are canceling. And families are scrapping traditions as Passover, like so much else in Jewish life, is remade for the current moment. “Something like a Pesach seder has a lot of people in a pretty close space,” said Mari Sartin-Tarm, who is immunocompromised due to medications she is taking following a January kidney transplant. “I’m concerned that if things are the way they are right now,
JTA/CREATIVE TOUCH IMAGING LTD/NURPHOTO
A Passover seder in North York, Ontario, Canada, on April 19, 2019.
if people are still kind of self-quarantined or schools are closed or businesses are closed, I don’t know that I could justify taking the risk of being at a Pesach seder. It’s really hard to say that as a Jew.” Kosher food professionals say shelves of kosher grocery stores will probably still be stocked with matzah and other Passover staples. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division, said that due to social distancing, some kosher supervisors have been supervising food production plants via a livestreamed walk-through. But he said the food is still being produced. “Most of the kosher-for-Pesach production began a long time ago,” he said. “There’s not going to be any problem at all in terms of availability of products for Pesach.” On the other end of the supply chain, Alfredo Guzman, a manager at Kosher Marketplace in Manhattan, said two deliveries of Passover food that were slated to arrive March 16 had canceled, though the suppliers hoped to arrive later in the week. Guzman was worried as well that because of social distancing measures, he would only be allowed to let in a limited number of customers at a time during one of the busiest times of the year. “I really don’t know what we’re going to have, what is coming, what is not coming, regarding products for Passover,” he said. “A lot of people are going to get nervous. … It’s not good for business, this situation, and it’s not good, I believe, for the people.” Even if the food does make it to the shelves and into people’s kitchens, the limitations on large gatherings could be a problem
for people like Alexander Rapaport, who runs the Masbia network of soup kitchens in New York City. Masbia hosts two seders every year for the needy, usually drawing around 40 people per night. The hardest thing to translate into an online platform is going to be the food. Rapaport stressed that while many observant Jews have little trouble finding an invitation to a family or communal seder, those who come to a Masbia seder truly have
nowhere else to go. “We are hoping for the best and we will definitely follow the Health Department guidelines on how to operate a seder — spread out the seating, limit capacity,” he said. “It depends how severe it will be three weeks from now. I hope we don’t have to cancel.” As Passover nears amid the coronavirus outbreak, some Jews would find any kosher grocery store a luxury. Rabbi Ariel Fisher, who is living in Dakar, Senegal, for the year while his wife conducts field research for her doctorate in anthropology, hopes to return to New York City to officiate at a wedding and spend the holiday with his parents. But if travel becomes impossible, he may be stuck in the West African city, where he estimates that the nearest kosher store is more than 1,000 miles away in Morocco. Now he is scrambling to make sure that they will have enough matzah and kosher wine for the holiday. He is hoping the local Israeli diplomats will be able to get a shipment of matzah, and also asked a good friend in the local U.S. embassy — which has access to Amazon Prime — to order some for him online. Barring that, he will try to import matzah all the way from South Africa. And if all of that fails, he plans to make matzah himself — starting with the actual wheat. In any case, if Fisher and his wife end up in Senegal for the holiday, they plan to host a seder for the tiny community of Jews
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PASSOVER Passover in a pandemic: Families on Zoom, solo seders and broken traditions continued from page 41
there who also would be unable to travel. “If we are actually here for Pesach, it will be the first Pesach in my life that I won’t have a Pesach store to go to to buy my Pesach supplies,” Fisher said. “While it’s not an ideal situation, the prospect of sharing Pesach with the friends and Jewish community that we’ve built here over the past few months is exciting.” Others now face the unusual prospect of conducting the communal meal alone. Efrem Epstein, who lives alone in Manhattan, planned to join with friends or family, or a synagogue, for the seders. Now he’s wondering whether he’ll end up hiding the afikomen and finding it himself. “Throughout the Haggadah, we read about many accounts of our ancestors, whether it be in Egypt or whether it be hiding in caves or any other times, that are going through some very challenging times,” Epstein said. “I’m an extrovert. I like being around people, but I also know that there are sources saying that if one is doing seder by themselves, they should ask the Mah Nishtanah of themselves. If that’s what I have to do this year, I accept it.” If people are limited to small or virtual seders on the first nights of Passover, they
might have a kind of second chance, said Uri Allen, associate rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn, New York. Allen is in a group of rabbis pondering the renewed relevance of Pesach Sheni, literally “Second Passover,” a day that comes exactly a month after the first day of Passover. In ancient times, Pesach Sheni was a second chance to make the paschal sacrifice for those who had been unable to on the holiday itself. Allen said that in any event, Jews should have a seder on the first night of Passover. But if they are looking for a chance to make a communal seder with friends or family, then depending on the coronavirus’s spread, they might be able to do so on Pesach Sheni — without the blessings or dietary restrictions. “I’m imagining both for my family and also probably many other families who are used to a certain kind of seder, larger gatherings and things like that, that probably won’t happen a lot this year,” Allen said. “I would definitely encourage and advocate, if your seder got interrupted or disrupted because of the coronavirus, why not have the seder that you wanted on Pesach Sheni — provided everything is clear and people can resume some sort of normal life.” n
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OBITUARIES HERBERT (HILLEL) BLUMENTHAL Dec. 1, 1917–March 9, 2020
Herbert (Hillel) Blumenthal died peacefully in his home on March 9, 2020 at the age of 102 years. “Hillie,” as he was known by his family and friends, was predeceased by his loving wife of 62 years, Gladys, and their son, Stephen. He is survived by his children Sheryl and Frank (Maddy), his two grandchildren Philip (Trish) and Risa (Mark), and his two great-grandchildren, Gabriel and Gianna. He will be missed by his many loving nieces and nephews, as well as by his adored companion of many years, Gloria. Also, his devoted caregivers will hold him in their hearts. Hillie grew up in San Francisco and was the youngest son of seven children. His parents immigrated to the United States from Lithuania. At the age of 21, Hillie opened his own jewelry business and worked until he was nearly 99 years old. He was loved and admired by his employees and customers alike. Hillie married Gladys Cohn in 1940. They had a beautiful marriage of 62 years. They were
founding members of Peninsula Temple Beth El. They were members of Lake Merced Country Club and loved playing golf and socializing with their friends. Hillie was a 32nd Degree Mason. Hillie was totally devoted to his family. He was an extremely kind, generous person, and held strong values. He had a wonderful sense of humor. When asked his secret to longevity, he always replied, “determination and a positive attitude” and that is how he lived his life. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Blumenthal Family Philanthropic Fund, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, 121 Steuart St., San Francisco, CA 94105, or the charity of your choice. Private family services were held. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Sinai Memorial Chapel | 415.921.3636
The Obituaries section is supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel, sinaichapel.org
JOAN HENRI CAHEN Dec. 7, 1928–March 13, 2020
Joan Henri Cahen died peacefully at her San Mateo residence, March 13. Raised in Seattle, Washington, she was an only child who adored her parents. When she was in fifth grade, she was chosen to talk on the radio in a program called “Kids of the Week” which led to a career playing all the youth voices on radio dramas. Joan valued education and took great pride in her academic success, graduating from Northwestern University with a BS in speech. She went on to share her love of learning as a teacher in various disciplines from children’s dramatics to high school journalism, and even junior college real estate. Joan’s husband of 63 years, Robert Cahen, was the great love of her life. Together they shared Robert’s passion for culture, particularly opera. They moved from the suburbs of Chicago to the suburbs of San Francisco and raised their two daughters, Gwen and Betsey, in the Bay Area. Joan is remembered as a magnetic, sweet and positive person. Her creative spirit and encouragement inspired each of her four grandchildren, who admired her dearly. Joan was a woman of great style, great personal charm and great warmth. Joan is survived by her daughters and sonsin-law Gwen Kresteller (Daniel), Betsey Kauffman (Richard), and her grandchildren Leland, Elizabeth, Harris and Sylvain. Private family service at Hills of Eternity in Colma. In memory of Joan, be kind to each other. MARJORIE STONE LINDER Jan. 29, 1938–Feb. 28, 2020
Marjorie Stone Linder, a longtime resident of Belmont, passed away peacefully on February 28, 2020, after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. She was 82. Marjorie was born in 1938 in Oakland to Howard and Constance Stone. She attended Oakland High School, University of Colorado in Boulder and graduated from University of California Berkeley. Marjorie was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at both CU and Cal. Marjorie went on to teach high school, became an award-winning professional photographer and retired in 2003 as the executive assistant to the city manager of San Carlos. In retirement, Marjorie split her time between Palm Desert and Belmont with her partner Donald Belway. She enjoyed playing bridge, spending time with friends and family and traveling to Maui. Marjorie is survived by her son Steven Linder and his wife Dawn; and grandsons Harrison and Royce of San Francisco, California; her son Scott
Linder and granddaughter Samantha of Reno, Nevada; her sister Carla Condon of Corte Madera California; and her cat, Misty. Marge will be remembered for her love, loyalty and devotion to her family and many friends. Memorial gifts may be made in her memory to the American Cancer Society or a charity of your choice. EDITH SYLVIA RUBESIN Aug. 1, 1927–March 12, 2020
Edith Sylvia Rubesin passed quietly in her home from complications of cancer on Thursday, March 12, 2020 at the age of 92. Edie was born in Boston, Massachusetts and moved with her parents, Alice and Morris, and her brother Harold to San Francisco before the onset of World War II. She considered herself a native Californian. Edie graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a BA and MA in English. She initially taught school in Santa Cruz and San Francisco. She married Morris W. Rubesin and they moved into a small house in an apricot orchard in Los Altos, California, at a time when Los Altos was a rural free delivery area. Edie and Morris were happily married for over 60 years. Edie was one of the founding members of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. Early on, it was a group of founders who supported young rabbis and a number of families in several locations in Palo Alto. She returned to school and obtained a MA in special education. She taught special education in several elementary schools in the South Bay Area for more than 25 years. Edie came from a family with a strong interest in horticulture. In midlife, Edie returned to the classroom and obtained an associate degree in horticulture. Her garden in Menlo Park was beautiful, filled with specimen trees and plantings. She became an ikebana master, travelling several times to Japan. Edie’s retirement work was as a volunteer flower arranger at Gamble House in Palo Alto. She also volunteered at Filoli in Woodside. She was a member of the Camellia Society and many other horticulture groups. Edie had a strong intellectual bent, was a regular attendee at the San Francisco Opera, Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, and loved going to various small theater companies throughout the Bay Area. She was a voracious reader and collector of hundreds of books. She was a lifelong learner, taking continuing education courses at Stanford until her death. Edie had a firm, expressive personality. You knew where Edie stood on all issues. Edie, however, also reveled in the beauty of life, gardens, flowers, art and of her adopted home state of California. She focused on the positive. She is survived by her children Stephen (Ellen), Roslyn Rubesin-Eigler (Donald) and Philip; her grandchildren Hillary (Eric Shapiro) and Jeffrey (Lauren Saul); and her brother Harold (Lois). Private memorial service. Donations in memory of Edith can be made to the donor’s charity of choice.
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BEFORE YOU GO…
Trading a frazzled Shabbat for one that makes me grateful PARENTING JULIE LEVINE
Julie Levine is a Bay Area writer. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.
Every Friday night, when our kids were younger, I’d make Shabbat dinner special. We’d eat in the dining room, and use my fancy dishes. I’d up my game in the cooking department — a departure from what I cooked during the week, which was a little simpler and had fewer dishes. Celebrating this weekly holiday with my family was important to me — the springboard and the starting point for a Jewish home. I wanted to be good at it. But it wasn’t always easy. Preparing Shabbat dinner meant more time cooking — and more cleanup. The kids were little, and I’d want them to sit for longer than they’d sit for a regular meal during the week. Often I’d end up nagging them. We’d go around the table and talk about a highlight of our week, but our kids were probably too young, and they’d answer with something goofy and then break out in giggles. I would compare myself to other Jewish mothers, imagining that their kids (at our kids’ ages) were perfectly well-mannered during their Shabbat dinners, never fidgeting at the table, never whining, or accidentally spilling their soup or juice all over the floor. I envisioned their kids volunteering to recite the blessings without being nudged, that they were insightful when called on to talk about a highlight of their week. I imagined these women, come Friday, weren’t tired at all (like I was), their kitchens were always clean (unlike mine), the food they made was always delicious. I wondered: Would I still have a good Jewish home if I couldn’t get this right? It did get easier as the kids got older. I learned how to streamline my cooking and spend less time in the kitchen. The kids sat for longer, too. Sometimes we’d invite another family over, and that was nice. But eventually I realized that after a full week of cooking dinners, making lunches, preparing snacks, schlepping my kids here and there, on Friday I
wanted a break. It felt like Shabbat was for everyone in my family but me. Once the kids were in upper middle school, I took the pressure off, scrapped cooking dinner many, but not all Friday nights, and never really looked back. We then created a new Shabbat tradition. I’d pick up the kids from school and come straight home. A couple of hours after some downtime, we’d get in our pajamas and order take-out, eating dinner on paper plates in the kitchen, lighting the candles, singing the blessings beforehand. I let the conversation flow naturally, wouldn’t push the kids to talk about their day at school, nor try to pull out of them a highlight of their week if they didn’t feel like talking. It felt special and separate from the week. And though there’s been a lot of talk about “unplugging,” I decided to give myself permission to not feel pressured to get that right, either. Most Friday nights, after our casual dinner, we’d flop onto the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and watch a movie. Technology, including the TV, was sometimes present. The kids weren’t off in their rooms texting their friends, or checking Instagram, or playing Minecraft. We were together and we were all loving our new Shabbat tradition. And this year, with one kid at college and one still at home, our Shabbat routine has evolved yet again. My hubby and I have started to occasionally attend services on Friday nights, and we then eat dinner with our son afterward. After years of raising children, I love this time in synagogue just for me and also with my hubby. Here’s what I’ve learned: Shabbat is about giving myself a break from expectation, from trying to think I have to do it all. It’s about being kind to myself, clearing away the noise and being fully present, embracing all that I am grateful and thankful for. n
Is it OK for my daughter to visit a Christian Sunday school? MIXED & MATCHED DAWN KEPLER
Dawn Kepler leads Building Jewish Bridges, a program of Hamaqom I The Place that embraces Bay Area interfaith families. “Mixed & Matched” offers advice for Jews in interfaith relationships and families. Send letters to dawn@ buildingjewishbridges.org.
Dear Dawn: My daughter is 4 and we are raising her Jewish. My husband’s Christian parents attend a very progressive Presbyterian church. We have all attended services with them on occasion. However, our daughter is getting to the age where we need to explain the difference between Grandma and Grandpa’s church and Christianity and our synagogue and that we are Jewish. We are planning for Leah to attend a day of Sunday school at their church, because her dad is doing a small teacher presentation. The class has a candle lighting and prayer, and the topic will be the Ten Commandments (I think there will be a story and maybe a song). How do we prepare her for what she will experience? Am I doing the wrong thing by even letting her attend the class? I am nervous about it, but I think it will be OK if we use the right language to explain things to her. I just don’t know what words to use. How do we explain the difference between her grandparents’ church and our synagogue? — Worried Mom Dear Worried: It is extremely normal to be confused about what to say and how to explain the different religions in your family. At 4, your daughter can understand a lot; she thinks concretely and cares deeply about her family members, including her grandparents. She learns readily from stories. With this in mind, I suggest that you explain to Leah that your immediate family goes to the synagogue and learns the Jewish stories about the Jewish people. Mention some of the stories that she will remember. Maybe she just learned about Purim, or can recall stories about Hanukkah. These are Jewish stories, her stories. Grandpa and Grandma have different stories. As Christians, they love some of the Jewish stories, too, but their main story is about Jesus. If she asks who Jesus is, you can explain that he was a nice Jewish man who lived a long time ago. After he died, Christians decided that he was God and they have a lot of stories about him. Jews don’t believe that a person
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can also be God, not even a nice Jewish person. But it’s OK that other people have these stories. Just like her favorite Disney movie might be “Frozen” and a friend’s favorite might be “Cinderella.” You can have different ideas and accept that you don’t totally agree with people you love. Tell her that when she goes to church she may hear stories, including about the Ten Commandments, that sound sort of like ones she hears at synagogue. Encourage her to ask questions about whatever she finds different or confusing. If it is permissible, she can ask there. Or she can whisper her questions to Dad and he can help her remember to talk about them at home. Observing your religion is similar to how you celebrate your birthday. Leah may like to have a lemon cake for her birthday, but at her friend’s party, she’ll eat whatever kind of cake is served. Her friend might want a doll for a present, while Leah prefers a fire truck. Both things are presents but they are different because different people like different things. We don’t make unkind remarks just because something isn’t our preference. As for membership at your shul, you can tell her that you are members and that her grandparents are members of their church. She’ll probably understand. You can compare it to going to a particular preschool — that one is “yours.” Additionally, you may want to tell her that she is part of all the Jewish people, so any synagogue she ever wants to go to, she can. You could tell her the story you told me: When you were hiking around Europe, you looked for a shul so that someone would help you find a place to stay. You can describe this as one big family. So if someone came to your house and said, “I’m Cousin Joan,” you’d bring her in and make her welcome. That’s what you do with family. Don’t worry about her visiting the Christian Sunday school. As she grows up, she will learn about many Christian sites. This one is special because it “belongs” to her grandparents. n
T he b oa rd a n d staff o f J. ex te nd our hear tfe lt c ongratulations to CAR OL WEI T Z as she is honore d by SF Hille l. Ca ro l, yo u are a n inspiration to all o f us .
T ha n k yo u for a ll you d o to stre ngthe n our Jew ish c ommunit y.
Thank you for your years of service to J. as board officer and strategic leader.
THE JEWISH NEWS
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of Northern California
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