THE JEWISH NEWS of Northern California
NOVEMBER 27 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; DECEMBER 10, 2020 | JWEEKLY.COM | $2.00
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Inside J. 37
14 3 ON THE COVER: The Little Shul in San Leandro. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
BAY AREA 3 Jewish preschools respond quickly, keep positive cases of coronavirus contained
4 Jewish Vocational Service in high demand during pandemic
5 S.F. State students approve Israel divestment resolution
13 FBI: California ranks first in hate crimes,
22 END OF YEAR GIVING
14 Learning to speak Hebrew in
HANUKKAH FOOD & GIFTS 35 Safe menorah lightings around the Bay
with Jews a frequent target nationwide
‘Hebrew school’? Not exactly
15 Z3’s shift online brings big names, bigger audience
16 Q&A: A filmmaker who loves
well-trained dogs and Batkid
6 OUR CROWD 7 Bay Area public radio veteran
17 Marin students again targeted
8 COVER STORY Striking gold:
17 Nazi salutes disrupt Solano
Michael Krasny to retire
a road trip through Jewish history in the Mother Lode
12 Jewish American history added to ethnic studies curriculum
with antisemitic posts
County supervisors meeting
18 NorCal Board of Rabbis leaders get their 15-minute close-ups
to brighten your Hanukkah holiday
36 North African Hanukkah ritual honors women
37 Step away from the stove! Local
food purveyors churn out holiday favorites so you don’t have to
40 Meet the Hanukkah llama, Kugel the
dog and others in this year’s inventive crop of kids’ holiday books
42 ‘Fritter away’ Hanukkah with fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls
CULTURE 32 Jewish filmmaker behind ‘White Noise,’ a new documentary on the alt-right
33 JFI celebrating 40th anniversary with Hanukkah film fest
33 Israel’s history through its music 34 Two debut novels reverberate with
experiences of Jewish culture shock
OPINION 28 Letters | Editorial 29 Opinions J. LIFE 43 Torah | Celebrity Jews 44 Lifecycles | Obituaries 48 Before You Go
THE JEWISH NEWS
of Northern California
jweekly.com 415.263.7200 firstname.lastname@example.org Vol. 124, No. 24 | Nov. 27, 2020 – Dec. 10, 2020
PUBLISHED ALTERNATING FRIDAYS NEXT ISSUE DECEMBER 11
PUBLISHER Steven Gellman EDITOR Sue Fishkoff
EDITORIAL MANAGING EDITOR NEWS EDITOR CULTURE EDITOR STAFF WRITERS
Sue Barnett Gabe Stutman Laura Paull Gabriel Greschler, Maya Mirsky, Dan Pine ONLINE EDITOR David A.M. Wilensky EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Rebecca D. Landau CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Andy Altman-Ohr, Alix Wall COLUMNISTS Rita Clancy, Michael Fox, Howard Freedman, Karen Galatz, Drew Himmelstein, Dawn Kepler, Faith Kramer, Esther Kustanowitz, Julie Levine, Dr. Jerry Saliman ADVERTISING & CIRCULATION ACCOUNT EXECS Nancy Beth Cohen, Meryl Sokoler OFFICE MANAGER/CLASSIFIEDS Diane Spagnoli ART & PRODUCTION DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR Antonio R. Marquez GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Michelle Palmer, Steve Romero BUSINESS SENIOR ACCOUNTANT ACCOUNTING ASSISTANT DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANT
Jackie Deng Linda Uong Allison Green Shauna Satnick
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BOARD OF DIRECTORS PRESIDENTS Mark W. Bernstein, Lory Pilchik VP/TREASURER Harmon Shragge SECRETARY Carol Weitz MEMBERS Fraidy Aber, Rabbi Dan Ain, David Cornfield, Alexandra Corvin, Alia Wechsler Gorkin, Nadine Joseph, Steve Katz, Quentin Kopp, Susan Libitzky, Patricia Rosenberg, Donna Rosenthal, Jane Springwater, Joelle Steefel, Jerry Yanowitz BOARD ADVISOR Steven Dinkelspiel PAST PRESIDENTS Marc Berger, Lou Haas, Jon Kaufman, Dan Leemon, Adam Noily, William I. Schwartz
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Bay Area NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
Jewish preschools respond quickly, keep positive cases of coronavirus contained GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF On the evening of Friday the 13th this month, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen of Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley got a knock on his door. Standing before him was a member of his staff, who had come to report that a parent whose child attended the synagogue’s preschool, Gan Shalom, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Beth Israel is a Modern Orthodox synagogue, and since it was Shabbat, Cohen had to make a decision about whether Sabbath laws could be suspended in accordance with pikuach nefesh — the principle that the preservation of human life overrides almost any religious rule. Cohen chose to break Shabbat, using electronics to convene an emergency meeting with his staff, who determined that they would notify community members on Shabbat morning. “If you wait 24 hours, you are also going to erode trust,” Cohen told J. “By communicating swiftly, we’re affirming values that we stand for. The mitzvah at that moment is the sanctity of life.” In accordance with Alameda County guidelines, Cohen began a two-week quarantine of one of the two learning pods at the preschool. The school’s director, Emma Schnur, had the space deep-cleaned over two days. Although others in the affected family tested positive, the rest of the Gan Shalom community received negative test results. “This was bound to happen,” Cohen said of the positive case. “And there is no blame. It could’ve happened to anyone.” While most high schools remain closed in the Bay Area, preschools, like elementary schools, may open if the administration demonstrates to public health officials that they have a plan to lower the risk of spread among students and staff. Even early in the pandemic, as of May 31, there were more than 33,000 child care facilities open across the state, according to the California Department of Social Services. Many local synagogues and JCCs are running preschools even while in-person events for adults are on hold.
Children can get Covid-19 but are less likely to develop serious symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, and have relatively low hospitalization rates. In total, only about 7 percent of reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. were found in children under 18, according to the CDC. And researchers believe children under 5 are less likely to spread the virus than adolescents or adults.
tested positive. In Oakland, a child at Temple Beth Abraham’s preschool tested positive for coronavirus in mid-October. However, that child hadn’t been at school for a week, so the possibility of an outbreak was low. “The exposure was questionable,” said Rachel Fenyves, the director of Beth Abraham’s Gan Avraham preschool. “But we treated it as an exposure. We quarantined
“I learned more about communication. I learned about what the community needs.” But she also said the situation was “really stressful” for the teachers. “There was lots of anxiety going around,” she said. “If this happens again, what can I do for the community? For the staff?” To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Jewish preschools have adopted tactics similar to those being used by Jewish day schools. Every Jewish preschool is using the “pod” model, in which a dozen or so children are placed with two or more teachers. None of the pods intermingle. Parents drop off their children at the front of the school and
“If you wait 24 hours, you are going to erode trust. The mitzvah at that moment is the sanctity of life.” Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
Preschoolers at the Addison-Penzak JCC summer camp. (Photo/Courtesy APJCC)
Gan Shalom is not the only Jewish preschool that has dealt with a positive coronavirus test. In interviews with seven Jewish preschools in the Bay Area, J. learned that three had at least one confirmed positive coronavirus case in their communities. Two others said they had close calls, where a community member tested negative after coming into contact with someone who had
their class for 14 days.” Like at Beth Israel, Fenyves had the school deep-cleaned for two days and required that everyone get tested, including the families of the children who attend the preschool. Luckily, the virus did not spread beyond the one child and their family. “If or when we have another case, I feel more prepared to handle it,” Fenyves said.
aren’t allowed inside. Children’s temperatures are taken and they are escorted to classrooms where the windows are kept open for ventilation. However, the pandemic is creating hurdles for preschools that day schools aren’t facing. The most apparent is a precipitous drop in enrollment reported by four of the Jewish preschools, a phenomenon that is being experienced nationwide, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Right before the pandemic hit, South Peninsula Hebrew Day School had 91 children attending its early childhood program in Sunnyvale, according to head of school Rabbi Perry Tirschwell. That number has dropped by roughly a third, he said. “People made a cost-benefit analysis,” Tirschwell said. Fenyves also reported a similar drop in continues on page 12
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BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
Jewish Vocational Service in high demand during pandemic GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF Directly downstream of the public health crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic is an employment crisis — in the Bay Area, and around the country — that has resulted in layoffs and hiring freezes. JVS, the San Francisco-based job training and placement nonprofit also known as Jewish Vocational Service, is feeling the effects. In a recent Zoom call with J., CEO Lisa Countryman-Quiroz described huge demand for the agency’s services, coupled with a contracted job market that has curtailed the number of entry-level jobs and paid training opportunities available to clients. Her promotion to head the organization, which receives support from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, came earlier this year after the departure of Abby Snay, who led JVS for close to four decades. When CountrymanQuiroz took over in January, she did so amid historically low unemployment in the region. For more than two years, jobless rates had been hovering at or below 3 percent in the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lisa Countryman-Quiroz At the time, 10 months ago, about 70,000 people were out of work in the Bay Area. By April, that figure would explode to more than 323,000. JVS helps Bay Area job seekers of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. In a normal year, it assists about 2,300 people. This year, JVS has taken on 700 more clients than it anticipated. Many are laid-off workers. “When we first launched remote trainings on how to interview on Zoom, our website crashed,” Countryman-Quiroz said. “Our data analytics training saw over 400 people apply” for only 20 available spots. Like other social-service organizations, from after-school programs to food banks, the pandemic has fundamentally transformed the way JVS does business. For one thing, its San Francisco office in the Financial District, where dozens of job seekers used to gather every day for classroom trainings, is closed. So everything must be done online. Early in the pandemic, JVS launched its first-ever emergency fund, designed in part to make emergency cash grants and purchase technology for clients. It has raised more than $1.1 million and granted around $329,000 in small amounts to pay for things such as utilities, food and shelter. The rest of the money is being used to buy electronic equipment like laptops and Wi-Fi routers, and to implement new, online training programs. Last year, JVS received a well-timed donation of 50 laptops from Twitter, all quickly deployed to clients who needed them for job training and virtual interviews. JVS is appealing to tech companies and other corporate partners, and to the community more broadly, asking for donations of high-quality used laptops. “We have to be responsive to the digital divide,” said Countryman-Quiroz. The agency’s three main programs are a job-search accelerator (a two-week job-hunting seminar), vocational programs
for high school students, and Career Pathways, which trains people for entry-level positions in an array of fields, from automotive technology to health care. JVS does not aim to place clients in service-sector or minimum-wage jobs. Rather, it prioritizes “middle-skill, middlewage” jobs that will reliably pay between $40,000 and $80,000 per year. Increasingly those jobs are found in the technology sector — jobs like data analyst or Salesforce administrator.
“We can train thousands and thousands of people every year,” Countryman-Quiroz said. “But we wouldn’t be serving them if we weren’t making that connection to the employer.” Even before the pandemic, some of the job-seeking programs were as highly selective as top colleges, in terms of admittance rates. For a program to train medical administrators — a partnership with UCSF called Excel — JVS typically received
A JVS Job Search Accelerator training session held on Zoom in April. (Photo/Courtesy JVS)
About 70 percent of JVS clients are people of color, according to the agency, and many have been experiencing tremendous precarity and poverty exacerbated by the pandemic. According to three client surveys conducted between March and August, 70 percent of JVS clients reported food or housing insecurity, and around half who applied for unemployment insurance had not been able to secure it. “I spend more money eating once a day and paying for housing than I make at my job,” one survey respondent said. Another wrote: “Landlord made it clear, no rent control in Daly City, she raised it 20 percent due to pandemic.” In recent months, some job sectors have begun rebounding from April lows, when Bay Area unemployment reached 13 percent. Still, most lag significantly behind 2019 levels and many companies remain stuck in a hiring freeze, according to Countryman-Quiroz. That affects everything JVS does : the skills it teaches, the programs it offers and, perhaps most importantly, the number of people it can help, especially in its Career Pathways program. In normal circumstances, trainees meet in person for classes over six weeks to four months. In nearly all cases, the program culminates in paid work experience via an internship, fellowship or apprenticeship.
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applications from around 200 people, for just 20 slots. A high percentage of graduates of the program go on to secure positions at UCSF. In the face of challenges presented by the pandemic, there have been success stories, too. Monica Rivera lost her job at a Bay Area auto repair shop when the company went out of business. She enrolled in a 14-week JVS training program to become a dental assistant, but just before she was about to begin a paid internship, the pandemic hit. With help from a JVS emergency cash grant, she was able to hold out for a couple more weeks without work. Ultimately she was able to secure an interview, and a job, at SmileSF, a dental office in Cow Hollow. She plans to take the licensing exam to become a registered dental assistant. “This was a turning point for me,” she said. As fully remote, online job-training sessions continue — upcoming workshops include “LinkedIn Basics,” “Rapid Resume Reboot” and “Interviewing in the Zoom Age” — JVS knows that, in today’s economy, it’s going to take longer to place clients in entry-level roles in their chosen careers. The key, Countryman-Quiroz said, is to “continue to support people” while they wait. In other words, to help them “stay focused on their job search, and not get demoralized.” n
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
S.F. State student government approves BDS resolution GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF San Francisco State University’s Associated Students approved a resolution on Nov. 18 that calls for the university to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel by pulling out of investments in companies that do business in Israeli settlements. A majority of the 20-member student government voted to pass the resolution. Seventeen representatives voted yes, one voted no and two abstained. The vote came after a lengthy and contentious public comment period, when nearly two dozen members of the public offered testimonies on both sides of the resolution. All of the speakers who identified themselves as members of student organizations, including the Black Student Union, League of Filipino Students and the International Business Society, spoke in favor of the resolution, as did a handful of student government representatives. “I think this document is very reflective of the culture that we should be striving for at San Francisco State, in terms of supporting our students,” said student representative Ja’Corey Bowens. SFSU President Lynn Mahoney said she would not support the measure. In an email to the Associated Students on Nov. 23, the former professor of history said that the resolution “flattens an incredibly complex historical and current geopolitical issue into misleading binaries.” Mahoney also encouraged students
to “open the door to a rich conversation filled with the complex thinking that I know this University is capable of holding. “While economic pressure is a time-honored approach to precipitate change, a single geopolitical issue cannot serve as a proxy against which to measure an institution’s commitment to human rights,” she wrote. “The University cannot advance a divestment position with no global context or acceptance of the complexities at hand.” The vote does not set university policy. Investments are handled by the S.F. State Foundation, a philanthropic organization governed by a 26-member board of directors that oversees the university’s endowment. American university administrators over the years have rejected numerous BDS resolutions passed by students on their campuses, and in 2016 California legislators passed an anti-BDS law that forbids public entities from contracting with organizations that support discriminatory boycotts against Israel and other countries. Passage of the S.F. State resolution drew condemnations from multiple Jewish groups. “We are disappointed that this Divestment resolution passed,” said Jewish Community Relations Council spokesperson Jeremy Russell in a statement. “It will further exacerbate tensions at SF State, and we call upon the university leaders to ensure Jewish students are welcomed and protected.” “We regret the introduction of BDS to our campus, the ugly
discourse it elevated, and the outcome of this vote,” S.F. Hillel executive director Rachel Nilson Ralston said in a statement. “This resolution has, sadly, had a real and negative impact on our students’ wellness and experience of their campus.” Ralston also suggested that student representatives faced “extreme pressure and bullying tactics from activists from across the country” pressing them to vote yes on the resolution. S.F. Hillel drafted a petition before the vote “in solidarity with Jewish students” at the university that also condemned BDS. As of Nov. 23, the petition had garnered 550 signatures, Ralston said. The BDS resolution does not name specific companies recommended for S.F. State divestment, but instead refers to a national list of more than 100 companies that conduct business within the Palestinian territories. They include American corporations such as Airbnb, General Mills and Expedia, as well as some foreign companies. The list was created by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The measure was spearheaded by the university’s General Union of Palestine Students, a student-led organization dedicated to “increasing awareness of the Palestinian struggle,” according to its Facebook page. GUPS did not respond to requests for comment, but celebrated the resolution’s passage in a Nov. 19 Facebook post. “Our movements are growing stronger for justice for all,” the post said. “The tide is turning across this country.” n
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Our Crowd HONORS
Spotlight on the Community
J. Editor Sue Fishkoff interviewed Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz on Nov. 18.
COMINGS & GOINGS
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Bay Area philanthropist Tad Taube, in his capacity as honorary consul of Poland, will be honored Dec. 14 at the American Jewish Committee’s virtual Hanukkah gala, “Diplomacy at 75: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the United Nations and AJC San Francisco.” Feinstein and Taube will be presented with the Light Unto the Nations Award at the event, which will include a menorah lighting and feature San Francisco Mayor London Breed and AJC CEO David Harris as speakers.
Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco and northern San Mateo County in the California Senate, has been elected vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. “I am honored to assume the role,” Wiener said in a statement. “Growing up as one of the only Jewish kids in my town, I saw first-hand the critical importance of the Jewish community standing together to advocate for our values … The Jewish Caucus is a strong voice for justice, and we’ll work hard to serve the people of California when it comes to facing these massive
J. Editor Sue Fishkoff conducted a livestream interview with David Horovitz, founding editor of the Times of Israel, on Nov. 18. They discussed the U.S. elections and talked about how a Biden administration would affect Israel. Horovitz said that he believes the U.S. rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would be bad for Israel, but sees the possibility of restarting the peace process as good for Israel. Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, more than Americans realize, he said. About 300 people logged on for the interview. which was hosted by The Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies at UC Berkeley where Horovitz was the Morton and Amy Friedkin Scholar-In-Residence. Merl Ross, a native San Franciscan who grew up attending Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco and is currently a member of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, has two of her paintings included in the de Young Open currently on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. More than 850 pieces by 762 Bay Area artists were selected for the exhibition. “A desire to create new forms of expression during the pandemic has been widespread among artists,” Ross told J. “An opportunity to share this work presented itself this past summer when the de Young [held an open call] for a juried exhibition to celebrate the de Young’s 125th anniversary … The show embodies the depth and range of art being created today by Bay Area artists.” Ross has an MFA from UC Berkeley. Her studio is in Berkeley, where she also teaches painting.
challenges.” The caucus was founded in 2012 and focuses on Jewish consensus issues, such as funding to rebuild fire-damaged summer camps, assistance for Holocaust survivors and removing anti-Jewish bias from the state’s proposed high school ethnic studies curriculum. Robin Mencher will replace Avi Rose as executive director of Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay starting Dec. 14. Most recently, Mencher was executive director of KQED Education. “There, she built an educational service around the impact outcomes of equity and access, media literacy and youth civic engagement,” JFCS said in announcing the news. Mencher also served as program director of the San Francisco Education Fund and as a high school teacher in San Lorenzo. “I’m honored to serve as the next Executive Director of JFCS East Bay, building capacity for our community to thrive through transforming trauma into agency and providing the fundamentals of care at every stage of life,” Mencher said. “This organization is a foundation of support to all who live in the East Bay.” Rose, who held the position for 15 years, will be recognized for his years of service at a Dec. 17 virtual celebration. Heather Malcolm is the new office manager at Congregation B’nai Emunah in San Francisco. Most recently, she was the front desk administrator and a sewing and design teacher at San Francisco Waldorf High School. She has also coordinated conferences at the California Institute of Integral Studies and was catalog editor at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur.
Dylan Tatz succeeded David Becker as president of the Bay Area-based Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust on Nov. 1. Tatz has been at BCT since 2016, serving most recently as executive vice president. A press release said that he is “honored to be the first individual outside the Becker family to serve as President.” Before BCT, he was the executive director of a Bay Area music education nonprofit, an associate at McKinsey and Co., and founded and led a Silicon Valley consulting firm. The Becker Charitable Trust is “dedicated to safeguarding democratic values and ensuring the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” The Bay Area-based Jews of Color Initiative has received a grant from UJA-Federation of New York to open a hub in New York “to better serve the city’s Jews of Color and to strengthen and grow their community.” The three-year grant will support mentorship and leadership development programs for Jews of color in the New York area. “New York City has one of the largest and fastest-growing populations of Jews of Color in the U.S., including an up-and-coming generation of young innovators and leaders,” Ilana Kaufman, executive director of the Bay Area-based Jews of Color Initiative, said in a press release. A study by the organization found that as many as 15 percent of New York’s Jewish households are multiracial. n
Merl Ross in front of the de Young with one of her paintings.
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BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
Bay Area public radio veteran Michael Krasny to retire GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF Michael Krasny, the longtime host of KQED’s news and public affairs program “Forum,” announced earlier this month that he will be retiring in February. In 1993, Krasny began hosting “Forum,” a talk show that over the years has welcomed cultural icons, public intellectuals and political figures, including Noam Chomsky, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks. The show is one of the top-ranked regional programs in public radio, according to KQED, with a weekly average of 246,000 listeners. Born to a Conservative Jewish family in Cleveland, Krasny, 76, said he originally aspired to be a cantor. Instead, he studied English, earning a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, and in 1970 he was hired to teach literature at San Francisco State University, where he is currently a professor. Krasny is also the author of four books, including a “scholarly approach” to Jewish humor titled “Let There Be Laughter,” the topic of a 2016 cover story in J. Another book from 2010, “Spiritual Envy,” details Krasny’s journey from devout Jew to “reluctant” agnostic. “I was brought up with a strong sense of Jewish faith and identity,” Krasny said in an interview with J. when the book was published. “When I’m talking about my own beliefs [today], I’m going away from the fold, and I recognize that for some people who still have that strong faith,
it’s not necessarily something they look kindly on.” According to a press release from KQED, Krasny will be hosting his last “Forum” show on Feb. 15, 2021. His plans are to “enjoy his retirement with family, including his first grandchild, to focus on writing and to explore other opportunities,” the press release said.
Born to a Conservative Jewish family in Cleveland, Krasny originally aspired to be a cantor. Instead, he studied English and earned a Ph.D.
Michael Krasny will retire from radio after 28 years.
In the meantime, the public radio station will be searching for a replacement. In July, KQED named news anchor Mina Kim as a “Forum” co-host. “I want to thank all of the listeners, guests and exceptional colleagues I’ve had the great fortune to encounter over the years as host of Forum,” Krasny said in a statement. “I’ve been unusually fortunate to sustain such a long career serving the Bay Area in a role that allows me to participate in such rich and thoughtful conversations about the topics of our times.” n
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Striking gold: a road trip through Jewish history in the Mother Lode GABRIEL GRESCHLER | J. STAFF There is a strip of land about a mile wide and 120 miles long in Northern California, a vein that hugs the western edge of the Sierra Nevada, stretching from tiny Georgetown in the north to tiny Mormon Bar in the south. It is where, once upon a time, fortunes were found — or lost — overnight. This is the Mother Lode, an area that once held some of the richest deposits of gold in the world. During the Gold Rush, a 30-year period that started in 1848, a very lucky miner could uncover a gold nugget as thick as his thumb. Jews were among the thousands who descended on the area, coming to make their mark and make some money, too. Some were escaping the political upheavals in Europe at the time, fearing a possible resurgence of antisemitism after a period of relative calm. They made their way from Germany and other Central European countries to the Golden State, a journey that was far from easy. Some crossed the Atlantic, then trudged over the continental U.S. Others took a boat around Cape Horn in Chile before the Panama Canal was built. Either way, most landed in San Francisco, continuing the trek eastward to Gold Country on horseback. The Gold Rush lasted until the late 1880s, but in their wake Jews left behind cemeteries, buildings and memories. Over two days in late October, a road trip covering 500 miles included stops at some of these historical sites: starting in Stockton, where the proud caretaker of the Jewish cemetery showed how he tends to the gravestones; to the West, deep into Gold Country, where small Jewish cemeteries are present in Sonora and Jackson; up north to a 25-member synagogue in Marysville whose building was once a saloon; and finally to San Leandro to tour the “Little Shul,” the oldest known synagogue in California still standing. (The first synagogue was Sacramento’s Congregation B’nai Israel, built in 1852. Two months after the shul was established, most of it burned in a fire. A plaque commemorates the site.) The tale of the Jews in California Gold Country is largely one of reinvention. Those who came found a society that viewed their contributions to the frontier in a positive light. “It was a real release from the onerous lives that they left behind in Europe,” said Jonathan L. Friedmann, president of the Western States Jewish History Association
and director of the Jewish Museum of the American West. “There was so much more freedom of movement, freedom of self-expression.” While some Jews gravitated toward cities and other populated areas, many embraced the opportunity to establish themselves in burgeoning communities. A few worked in the mines, but most
to come to the Jews’ defense. The Jews in this population weren’t particularly religious. Only two towns in the Mother Lode, Jackson and Placerville, had synagogues. Today, what remains of Gold Rush-era Jewish history resides in cemeteries near the old mining towns. The cemeteries are a fitting representation of the end of the Gold Rush,
Sheldon Barr (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
“No Jew can let a Jewish cemetery go in disrepair.”
Congregation Beth Shalom in Marysville started out as a saloon in 1905. The small congregation is still active. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
ended up selling clothing and tobacco to cater to the region’s surging population. In fact, Jews dominated those sectors. It was not unusual at the time, writes Robert E. Levinson, author of “The Jews in the California Gold Rush,” to see 10 advertisements for Jewish-owned clothing or tobacco stores in a local newspaper, “and perhaps one from a Gentile.” Organized antisemitism in Gold Country was rare, according to Levinson; this relief for Jews came largely at the expense of their Mexican and Chinese counterparts, who faced extraordinary prejudice and even lynchings. Jews, however, were able to assimilate and become part of the dominant white class. If there ever was an occasional antisemitic incident, newspapers were quick
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when Jews turned to richer opportunities in Bay Area cities. A good place to start this trip through history is Stockton, known during the Gold Rush as one of the “economic appendages” of San Francisco, providing an inland port along the San Joaquin River for the Mother Lode region. Sheldon Barr is caretaker of the oldest continuously operating Jewish cemetery west of the Rockies. Barr loves overseeing the place. He loves it so much he even has a plot reserved for himself and his wife, Arlene. For the last 20 years, Barr has made it his mission to keep the cemetery in tip-top shape. He walks through the 300-square-foot space, noticing everything. At one point, he bends over to prop up a bouquet of flowers that had
fallen over next to a headstone. “I take a lot of pride in it,” said Barr. “Maybe too much pride. It’s important. No Jew can let a Jewish cemetery go in disrepair.” In 1851, a Jewish society was established in Stockton called Ryhim Ahoovim, Hebrew for brotherly love. That same year, a cemetery was built after the death of a Polish Jewish merchant named Solomon Friedman. Since then, about 600 Jews have been buried at the cemetery, Barr said. Tillie Lewis, a successful female entrepreneur who died in 1977, is interred there. Close by is the tomb of Charles Brown, a distinguished Civil War veteran who died in 1911. Barr has even seen his own family and friends buried, including Lillian Friedberg, his mother-in-law, and Joel “Sandy” Senderov, the cemetery’s previous caretaker. In 1855, about 40 members of Ryhim Ahoovim established a synagogue and formed its first congregation. With no sawmill in the city, lumber was shipped around Cape Horn. Congregants helped haul the pieces from the Stockton waterfront to save money on transport. By 1900 the shul had been named Temple Israel, moving from location to location over the years until finding a permanent home in 1972, a 10-minute drive from the cemetery. Barr is a congregant. Stockton’s Jew also built a JCC in 1926, designed by the city’s “architect laureate” Glen Allen. In 1964 it was purchased by the Stockton Civic Theater and repurposed.
Outside the cemetery gates in Stockton (above) and the historic Jewish cemetery in Sonora (left). Below, a headstone in the Sonora cemetery for George Morris, shot and killed in 1895 in a case that has never been solved. (Photos/Gabriel Greschler)
Located on a corner next to an apartment complex, the original JCC building stands out with its imposing, beautiful orange-yellow brick facade and blueish-yellow stained-glass windows above the door. The facility is currently used for housing for low-income residents. Sitting by the front door below the carved-in-stone “Jewish Community Center” sign was one resident who said he likes to take photos of the building at night, when the light inside illuminates the stained-glass windows. As you leave Stockton’s shallow, flat valley and drive toward Sonora, also known as “Queen of the Southern Mines,” you gain close to 2,000 feet of elevation. The town’s Hebrew Cemetery is located near the main street. To enter, you must first go to the sheriff’s office and ask for the key. Then, it’s just a minute-long walk around the corner of the Tuolumne County Jail, coming upon a roughly 50-square-foot plot urrounded by a stone wall and high trees. Sonora’s official city historian, Patricia Perry, knows a thing or two about the place. Soft-spoken and curious, she comes ready with a 3-inch-thick binder full of stories and pictures of those who are buried here. “It’s just a real treasure,” she said. Perry moved to Sonora in 1984, and after retiring became the city’s historian in 2002. Even though she is not Jewish, she’s always been fascinated with the history. Growing up in a neighborhood in Burbank, she said the sole Jewish family there was ignored by the rest of the community. “They seemed like really nice people to me, but nobody would talk to them,” Perry recalls. “And I just thought that was very weird. And so when I was at San Jose State, I took a few classes in Jewish history. I think these people have a lot to be admired.” Sonora’s first Jewish congregation formed in 1851. Members of the Hebrew
Congregation of Sonora did not build a synagogue but instead met at the local Odd Fellows building for services. The cemetery was built in 1853 and was in use during the Gold Rush years. Each of the 70 or so graves comes with a story. Perry shared one, that of George Morris, whose family owned a store at Chinese Camp, about 20 miles from Sonora. In 1895, an unknown assailant shot and killed Morris during a robbery of the store. The Morris family hired a detective, who pinned it on the McReynolds brothers. The
“It was a real release from the onerous lives that they left behind in Europe. There was so much more freedom of movement, freedom of self-expression.” Jonathan L. Friedmann
detective convinced Ada McReynolds to write a false confession blaming her brothers for the murder, with the false promise of a $5,000 insurance policy payout. Ada wrote the confession but then recanted. One of her brothers committed suicide at the jail, while the other was later let go. “It’s just one of these big unknowns,” Perry said. “It’s one of these stories that keeps on giving.” Perhaps the most prominent Jews of Sonora were the Baers, who have a family plot at the cemetery. Meyer Baer started a clothing business in 1851 on the city’s main drag on South Washington Street. It stayed open until 1995, a nearly 150-year run. Meyer’s son Julius took care of the Sonora
cemetery until he was in his 90s. In the 1960s, he was interviewed by Robert E. Levinson, who undertook a vast study of Jewish Gold Rush history in the 1960s. In 1962, Levinson helped establish the Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks, along with Seymour Fromer, co-founder of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley. The commission, now part of the Magnes, oversees seven Jewish cemeteries in the Mother Lode region: in Sonora, Placerville, Nevada City, Mokelumne Hill, Marysville, Jackson and Grass Valley. They vary in size and upkeep needs. The Jackson Pioneer Jewish Cemetery, for example, is located in Amador County, considered the heart of the Mother Lode. Also known as Givoth Olam, Hebrew for Hills of Eternity, the cemetery is a quick drive from the center of Jackson yet somewhat hard to find. Surrounded by cypress trees and a wrought-iron fence, the cemetery has 32 gravestones on a plot of land about the size of a tennis court. It was established in 1857 by Congregation B’nai Israel, the first synagogue in the Mother Lode. The building became a private home in 1888 and was razed exactly 100 years later. Two hours north of San Francisco is Marysville, an important transit stop during the era that lies along the Yuba River, also known as the “Gateway to the Gold Fields.” The Hebrew Cemetery takes up a corner of the city cemetery, located right off Highway 70. Four large brick pillars hold a gate with two Stars of David (the gate is originally from a Jewish cemetery in San Francisco). The cemetery was built in 1855 by the Marysville Hebrew Benevolent Society and used until 1945. It was abandoned and fell into a state of disrepair until 1995, when the commission took it over. The site has about 50 graves. continued on page 10 JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 11.27.2020 9
Nuggets of Jewish history on a road trip to the Mother Lode
Photos from 1940 of the interior of the Little Shul in San Leandro before its pews were burned(above left) and of the 1,000-square-foot building. (Photos/Gabriel Greschler)
continued from page 9 “We’ve always kind of felt like we are the caretakers,” said Miriam Root, co-president of Congregation Beth Shalom. Some of the members of the synagogue, with help from the city, periodically visit the cemetery to keep it free of weeds and the headstones clean. Root continues the legacy of Jewish practice in Marysville. Beth Shalom is a Reform shul of about 25 older members and is located near the town center and the Yuba River. From the outside, the synagogue looks more like a place where you would ask for a beer rather than a brachah. In fact, Ed Walls built it in 1905 as a saloon and called it Ed’s Place, according to Root’s son Garret, a senior architectural historian in Sacramento. Walls advertised the saloon’s all-night hours and cold beer, but he only employed white labor, suggesting an anti-immigrant sentiment, said Garret Root. “I’m guessing he didn’t care for Jews either, so there is some irony in that,” he said later by email. The upstairs rooms were rented out to newly arrived immigrants and laborers. (There is a possibility it was used as a brothel, but that appears unlikely based on Root’s research.) In 1921, the saloon became a boarding house for laborers, including Japanese, Indians and Mexicans. It changed again in 1940 when the nonprofit Twin Cities Rescue Mission took over the building. It was unused from 1982 until 2003, when Root’s congregation established itself there. The Jewish story of the Mother Lode is a brief one, ending in the late 1890s. By
“Everybody who walks in [the Little Shul] is like, ‘Oh, this feels so good.’ It’s so cozy. It has a funny smell to it. Just smells like old books and weird paneling.” Julie Rubenstein
The historic JCC in Stockton now houses low-income residents. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
then, most Jews had left the region. Much of the surface gold had been snatched up, and prospectors looked to other states for mining ventures. Jewish merchants found it much harder to run their businesses. Their clientele shrunk considerably, and with the growth of agriculture in the region, their goods became useless to the self-sufficient farming communities. So they turned their sights on the cities, especially San Francisco, which had become an economic juggernaut following the Gold Rush. They were looking for better business opportunities, education for their children and a place to practice their Judaism more freely. In San Leandro, that came in the form of the Little Shul, a hidden gem in the backyard of Temple Beth Sholom.
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Just over 1,000 square feet in size, the Little Shul was built in 1889 by members of the San Leandro Hebrew Congregation, which had been established just a year prior. They paid a single dollar for the land. In 1952, the building was purchased by First Baptist Church, which burned the original pews for firewood. That same decade, the Magnes museum bought the building, later selling it back to Temple Beth Sholom for, you guessed it, a single dollar. “Everybody who walks in there is like, ‘Oh, this feels so good,’” said congregational president Julie Rubenstein. “It’s so cozy. It has a funny smell to it. I know that smell every time I walk in there. Just smells like old books and weird paneling.” The entrance to the Little Shul is through a set of golden-brown wooden arched doors,
which lead to a small anteroom, where a list of the synagogue’s founding members hangs on the wall. The main room is basked in natural light, with large latticed windows on both sides and a replica ark from the original time period on the far end. The 1970s-style wood paneling from a renovation during that decade encompasses the space. Beth Zygielbaum, the director of operations, said that when she first joined the temple five years ago, she and others wondered what they should do with the Little Shul. “Should we be using this?” Zygielbaum recalled. “Should we be saving this thing for services?” The congregation soon decided that the space would work well for a preschool classroom, Saturday services and special occasions. On this Friday it was vacant, with a box of markers and crayons sitting idly along with a used milk crate full of children’s books. “Those founders are smiling when there’s a bunch of kids in there,” said Zygielbaum. n
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER. We are grateful for all the support we received this year and as we approach Hanukkah, we’re inspired to stay strong and bring more light into the world. The JCCSF Resilience Campaign enables us to continue to serve our community, invest in staff and bolster programming. Your end-of-year gift will directly impact these critical areas: Financial assistance for preschool, youth programs, camps and adult classes Critical early childhood education programs to serve young families Class Connection program to provide onsite academic support and inspiring enrichment for K – 5 students Digital cultural content and online events to keep us connected – including upcoming Hanukkah events!
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Two new lessons on the Jewish American experience added to controversial state ethnic studies curriculum GABE STUTMAN | J. STAFF Following a bruising political struggle lasting more than a year, Jewish organizations marked a modest victory last week after California education commissioners approved a statewide model curriculum in ethnic studies for high school that includes two lessons on Jewish Americans. In the latest draft of the more than 400-page curriculum, the Jewish lessons are preceded by “framing language,” which reiterates ethnic studies’ central focus on four core groups: African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. A lesson on Sikh Americans and another on Armenians also receives framing language. “The model curriculum focuses on the four ethnic groups that are at the core of the ethnic studies field,” an appendix introducing the added lessons reads. “At the same time, this course … is relevant and important for students of all backgrounds.” The decision to include the lessons came on Nov. 19, the second and final day of a meeting of the state Instructional Quality Commission. The 18-member commission is responsible for overseeing the development of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum and recommending a final draft to the State Board of Education. The IQC approved a host of revisions to the model curriculum draft, including adding a total of 29 lessons submitted by members of the public during the most recent public comment phase. The proposed lessons were edited by staff inside the California Department of Education. While steps remain before approval of the curriculum — the first of its kind for high schools in the country — Jewish stakeholders were heartened about the prospect of representation in the final draft, which looked more certain after the IQC vote. “This week’s IQC meeting proved encouraging,” a statement from the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council read. “Most of the CDE’s salutary recommendations
Assembly member Marc Berman discusses the ethnic studies curriculum at the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco, Sept. 16, 2019. (Photo/Gabe Stutman)
were approved, including important protections for all students and the addition of lessons on the Jewish American experience.” CDE staff members are now assembling the draft based on the IQC’s decisions. The final version will be posted in December for a one-month public comment phase, before review and approval by the State Board of Education. March 31 is the deadline for final approval, which already was postponed one year because of controversy surrounding the model. Both of the lessons, submitted by California Jewish organizations, sought to tie the experience of Jewish Americans
directly to themes relevant to the field of ethnic studies, the interdisciplinary study of race and ethnicity with a focus on people of color. The first lesson, introduced by JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), examines antisemitism “and its manifestations through the lens of Jewish Middle Eastern Americans, also known as Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews.” The second, “Jewish Americans: Identity, Intersectionality, and Complicating Ideas of Race,” was submitted by the Institute for Curriculum Services, an organization dedicated to “improving the quality of K-12 education on Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the United States,” according to its website. The lesson explores “how Jews have been stigmatized as outsiders, sometimes seen as a racialized other, and sometimes have experienced conditional whiteness and privilege.” It asks, among other questions, “how do conceptions of race change over time and place?” Gina Waldman, president of JIMENA, was buoyant about the IQC decision. “This is a really exciting development in the Ethnic Studies process,” she wrote in a statement to J. “Imagine if high schoolers all over California will have to learn the Mizrahi story? Inshallah and mashallah we shall win for the entire Jewish community.” State Sen. Ben Allen, Democrat of Santa Monica and chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, sits on the IQC and participated in the two-day meeting. He said he was encouraged by the process and by the result for Jewish Americans and other ethnic groups. “I’m glad the decision was made to include two different lesson plans that relate to Jewish people,” he said. “There was discussion about whether it fully belonged in the ethnic studies conversation. Ultimately the commission felt that it did.” n
Local preschools face positive cases, respond quickly to keep spaces safe from Covid continued from page 3 preschool enrollment at Beth Abraham in Oakland, from 62 children pre-pandemic to a current count of 46. And Ruth Levitch, director of the Congregation Netivot Shalom preschool in Berkeley, said enrollment fell
“That really taught us, there’s tremendous value in staying ahead of it.” Lael Gray, APJCC
from 30 to 22 children. Lael Gray, CEO of the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos, said enrollment at the JCC’s preschool is down by half, from 160 to 80. Preschools are also limited by each county’s guidelines on the number of children that can be in a classroom, which puts
a strain on the amount of available space. “With the Covid restrictions, we weren’t going to be able to be at full capacity,” said Gray. Her preschool is located in Santa Clara County, which allows up to 14 children in a pod. The Addison-Penzak JCC’s summer camp had a staff member with an asymptomatic case toward the end of the summer. Gray said that all of the campers and staff were immediately tested, and all results came back negative. “That really taught us, there’s tremendous value in staying ahead of it,” she said. Meanwhile, the preschools at Temple Sinai in Oakland and Congregation Beth El in Berkeley reported that either a child or a family member had been exposed to the virus, but immediate testing came back negative. Early childhood education directors Ellen Lefkowitz of Temple Sinai and Jodi
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Gladstone of Beth El said that a sense of trust, transparency and quick communication with the community were deciding factors in mitigating a potential outbreak. “What is keeping us safe is that we’re all working … in this partnership,” Lefkowitz said. “We’ve made this agreement that we’re in this together.” She assumes that a positive case is likely at some point. “I imagine [zero cases] will not last forever,” she said. “We’ve had things happen close enough to us that we feel like it is inevitable.” Aside from lower enrollment, preschools also are reckoning with the fact that parents aren’t able to connect with one another, connections that are the bedrock of a preschool community. “That’s been the biggest challenge,” Fenyves said. “There is so much we can’t do. [The parents] aren’t coming on campus,
they’re dropping off at the gate. [It’s] making it really challenging to do community building.” Gray said she’s been witnessing the same. “This is when parents build relationships that last a lifetime,” she said. “That relationship between families is pivotal.” Rabbi Cohen of Beth Israel said the preschool’s community devised a plan to help minimize the social isolation among its families. When he had to enforce a quarantine for one of the preschool’s two pods, the community also got together and matched up families within each cohort for daily check-ins and to see if anyone needed help with errands, knowing that the kids in the stay-at-home pod would now be in the care of their parents. “These are important moments of community,” Cohen said. “Moments of crises offer opportunities for deeper connections.” n
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FBI: California ranks first in hate crimes, with Jews a frequent target nationwide MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF A threat to kill Jews and a plan to carry it out, posted online in Concord. Antisemitic and homophobic graffiti scrawled outside a Burlingame high school. These hate crimes and more were reported in the Bay Area in 2019, and were among similar incidents included in an FBI report released on Nov. 16 showing an uptick in antisemitic and other kinds of hate crimes nationwide. The FBI reported that anti-Jewish incidents were the second-most common kind of hate crime in 2019, and California was the state with by far the highest number of reported hate crimes. “Once again, race-based hate crime was the most commonly reported, California led the nation in reported hate crime, and the Jewish community was targeted most among religion-based hate crime incidents,” Seth Brysk, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for the Central Pacific, told J. The FBI said 7,314 hate crimes were reported last year to the agency by law enforcement. The report separates incidents into categories by race and ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and other categories; hate crimes against Jews are considered religion-based by the agency. The highest number of hate crimes, 1,930 nationwide,
were directed at African Americans, while the second highest number, 953 incidents, targeted Jews. While racially motivated hate crimes were the most common, religion was the second-most common inciting factor, and 62.6 percent of reported religion-based crimes were directed against Jews and Jewish institutions. California, the most populous state in the country, had the highest number of reported hate crimes, at 1,015. The numbers reflect what the FBI calls “single bias” occurrences (hateful action taken against one group). To compile its report, the FBI collects data from over 15,000 law enforcement agencies that volunteer the information. But reporting isn’t mandatory, and the fact that only 2,172 agencies actually reported any hate crimes means the report is likely undercounting the total number of such incidents, said Brysk. He added that underreporting of hate crimes “is a widely acknowledged phenomenon,” whether it’s because victims are reluctant to come forward or because the crime should have been classified as a hate crime by local law enforcement but wasn’t. “Locally, Jewish institutions or individuals have declined to report the occurrence of a hate crime for a variety of reasons,” he said. “For example, we encountered victims
A swastika found painted at Temple Sinai in Oakland on Oct. 18, 2020. (Photo/Courtesy Temple Sinai)
fearful of retribution or copycat occurrences, others reported being inured by repeat offenses, some believed law enforcement resources should be devoted to a ‘more deserving’ targeted community, or did not understand that their episode constituted a hate crime worth reporting.” The vast majority of hate crimes against people were classified as intimidation or assault, but 51 murders were associated with hate crimes in 2019. Most crimes against property were vandalism or destruction, similar to a recent incident in Oakland where a swastika was painted on a synagogue door. In 2019, Los Angeles and San Francisco reported more hate crimes than any other city in California. Los Angeles had more in absolute numbers at 284, commensurate with its larger population, while San Francisco reported 64. The FBI report did not specify how many were anti-Jewish. ■
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Learning to speak Hebrew in ‘Hebrew school’? Not exactly MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF Rabbi Nicki Greninger thinks part-time religious education is due for a name change. “When we call it ‘Hebrew school,’ people assume you’re going to learn Hebrew, and that means full spoken-language proficiency,” she said in a recent webinar presenting new research on the subject. “And we all I think recognize that that’s not really possible in the limited hours that we have.” Greninger, director of lifelong learning at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, was part of a team that recently conducted research on what it means to “learn Hebrew” at religious school. The report found that most synagogue-based programs focus on “decoding,” or reading Hebrew characters without understanding them, as opposed to teaching conversational Hebrew. Bottom line? There just isn't time for more. Choosing how and what to teach is only one aspect of an educational tradeoff that religious school programs have been struggling with for decades, as families commit less and less of their kids’ afterschool time to Jewish education. “This has become secondary, below sports, or the arts, or music,” said Phil Hankin, director of education at Temple Emanu-El in San Jose. Greninger — along with co-authors Netta Avineri, a language-learning assistant professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, and Sarah Bunin Benor, a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles — surveyed over 500 school directors across the country, interviewed students, observed classes and looked at curricula. The study was funded by the Avi Chai Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation and was done in partnership with the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education. The findings across the board concluded that Rabbi Nicki Greninger at most religious schools, including in the Bay Area, the focus is on teaching kids how to sound out Hebrew letters so they can read from prayerbooks and prepare for their b’nai mitzvahs when they read from the Torah. But reading isn’t the same thing as understanding. “In most communities, Hebrew instruction for comprehension is not the goal,” confirmed Alex Weisz, director of youth education at Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City. For the families who send their kids to Weisz’s program every week, the goal is “can they pick up a haggadah every year and be able to read it,” he said. Where schools expand beyond decoding, the report said, it is usually about infusing Hebrew into the language of the school and synagogue environment, rather than teaching conversational skills. A happy greeting of “boker tov,” Hebrew for “good morning,” encourages kids to think of Hebrew as a language that is culturally relevant to them, even if they are not conversant in it. Teaching phrases, expressions or
vocabulary, the thinking goes, can connect the students to the wider Jewish community. Teaching Hebrew for prayer illuminates another finding from the research: No matter how schools focus their pedagogy, students can learn only so much in the time allotted. According to the researchers, teachers at synagogue schools on average spend 3.9 hours per week instructing sixth-graders (the prime grade for b’nai mitzvah preparation), with less than half of that time, 1.7 hours, spent on Hebrew. Weisz believes that the current state of affairs, where study is scaled back to fit in with a host of other extracurricular activities, does a disservice to kids and families. Sports teams can require training three days a week and travel for games on the weekend, for example. “People would riot in the
“Jewish education works best when it doesn’t look like, sound like, or feel like ‘school.’” Her school uses a Hebrew-language curriculum called Onward Hebrew, which waits until sixth grade before introducing decoding. At Oakland’s Temple Sinai, plenty of time has been spent since the pandemic hit figuring out how to adapt, said director of education Stephanie Ben Simon. “We at Temple Sinai immediately went to: ‘What are our goals?’” she said. For one thing, with kids unable to do their usual extra-
“Jewish education works best when it doesn’t look like, sound like, or feel like school.” JQuest website
Students at Temple Isaiah’s JQuest in 2019. (Courtesy/Temple Isaiah)
parking lot if we asked [for] even a fraction of that,” Weisz said. He’d like to see a robust program with more time in the classroom. Even if some kids inevitably aren’t enthusiastic about spending more time in school, Weisz said, it’s up to the parents to convey to them that Jewish education is a priority over other activities. “Being Jewish is not a hobby,” he said. “It is who we are. But we can’t expect it to be much of who we are if we don’t make time for it.” Synagogues try to make the most of the time they do have — or, as Adam Lowy of San Francisco’s Congregation Beth Sholom said, “less, but more meaningful.” Lowy’s title is moreh derech, or “one who shows the path,” instead of director of education. He started the position during the pandemic, when everyone was making changes in their approaches to teaching. Synagogue leaders already had been planning to phase in a new “emergent curriculum,” and instead decided to dive in right away. Emergent curriculum is a common methodology in early childhood education that is responsive to the interests and questions of students, rather than the more traditional, adultled approach that moves kids through learning modules — on holidays, history or prayer — in a certain order. “Ideally, [learning] emerges from the interests of the students,” Lowy said. “This opportunity came, and we decided to take this as a chance to just go for it.” The Bay Area generally has a culture of openness to innovation in education, according to Greninger. “Things are very different than they probably used to be,” she said. “There are a lot of creative models.” At her synagogue school, students learn about “God, Torah and Israel” through three tracks: art, building and nature. The program is called JQuest because, as the website explains,
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curricular activities, more time is left for learning. “The time crunch is a bit less of a conversation, in some ways,” Ben Simon said. On the other hand, some parents are concerned about adding more screen time to their child’s day, and teachers are missing seeing students in person. “You can’t really feel the energy, you can’t really feel the togetherness when you just see people in these boxes,” said Hankin of San Jose’s Temple Emanu-El. Weisz says switching to screens has been tough, but he also sees a silver lining. He thinks online educational tools — in Hebrew learning, for example — may gain a foothold after the pandemic. “When it comes to certain areas of instruction, it works great,” he said. He’s looking forward to getting kids back in classrooms and hopes he might even see them more often, with the pandemic shifting priorities and perspectives on kids’ overscheduled lives — that the “bubble of extracurriculars has burst.” “Today the kids are so stressed out, or they were,” Weisz said. “I believe that’s going to change.” Greninger’s research found that 67 percent of the 133 students surveyed liked their religious school experience, while 20 percent loved it. That is a contrast with the reputation among some in their parents’ generation, who recall the “gas station” model experience: “Drop your kid off, fill them up with some Judaism, and pick them up,” she said. “That doesn’t work [anymore].” She’s seen it play out at her own school. She worked with a family that she said was resistant to sending their kid to JQuest. But once Greninger convinced them to try it, they made a complete U-turn. “They were like, this is amazing, and our kids love it!” she said. n
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Z3’s shift online brings big names, bigger audience MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF This year’s Z3 event won’t be what people might expect. It definitely won’t be a typical conference, and not just because it’s going virtual. “We’re not calling it a conference, because it’s not,” said Rabbi Amitai Fraiman, director of the Z3 Project, part of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. Instead, he said, it will be an opportunity to forge the kinds of connections only available virtually. Last year’s Z3 saw 1,200 gather in Palo Alto to talk peoplehood, Zionism and the diaspora; this year the project is responding to the shift brought on by the pandemic by making the event both small enough to work in an online format and large enough to encompass content from around the world. Instead of a one-day event, this year’s Z3 will be eight days in December as a cooperative endeavor with “upwards of 30 JCCs” from Seattle to Mexico City participating. “You can really travel the Jewish world in eight days during Hanukkah,” Fraiman said. Starting on Dec. 10, each day of Z3 will begin with a panel, then move on to local programming, an opportunity for other JCCs
Also on the schedule is another largescale participatory event, one that Fraiman is excited about. “We’re going to do the largest Jewish giving circle to date,” he said. Organizers will offer ticket buyers the chance to vote on broadly defined areas related to seven Jewish values or interests, from tikkun olam to safety and security. Each “pillar” will have a project associated with it, and by identifying what is most important to them, Z3 participants will help to decide where a lump sum of charitable giving funds will go. Fraiman said the amount will depend on how many people buy tickets, but might reach five or even six figures. “The way the people vote to allocate this money, the money will be allocated,” Fraiman said. Z3, now in its sixth year, was launched to tackle a wide range of topics, from politics and the peace process to the role of Palestinians within Israeli society. Since then, the event has broadened to include larger questions of Jewish peoplehood while still aiming
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Last year’s Z3 in Palo Alto. (Photo/Courtesy Z3)
to connect a local conversation to a global one, and also a way to bring more eyes — and screens — to this year’s Z3. “The JCC in Tucson, Arizona, for example, they can promote this global event to their people as their own,” Fraiman said. One thing that will be the same is the slate of diverse, high-profile speakers and range of topics. They include former New York Times op-ed staff editor and writer Bari Weiss on media and the public square, novelist Nicole Krauss on Jewish arts during the pandemic, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer on Middle East politics, football player Zach Banner on the role athletes have in fighting bias, speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz on Judaism’s future and Natan Sharansky on Jewish peoplehood.
to create a place for civil discourse. Fraiman is aware that an eight-day, virtual not-a-conference has to offer the goods in order to compete with all of the other virtual Jewish events available these days, not to mention Netflix and Amazon. “We are banking a lot on our local people to trust our brand and our conversations,” he said. But he said the event was going to be a chance for the community to shape a discussion that is just as relevant as ever. “We’re all in this together,” he said. “We all have a stake in where we’re going.” n
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Q&A: A filmmaker who loves well-trained dogs and Batkid TALKING WITH LIZ HARRIS | CORRESPONDENT
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of Northern California
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NAME: Dana Nachman AGE: 48 CITY: Los Altos JOB: Filmmaker
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Happy Hanukkah TE M PLE B E TH HILLE L TO RAH • LIFE • CO M M U N IT Y
801 Park Central (Hilltop exit off I-80) Richmond, CA 94803 510.223.2560 www.tbhrichmond.org The only synagogue in West Contra Costa
Join us for Hanukkah candle lighting via Zoom at 5:30pm, December 13, 2020 Check our vibrant online activities at tbhrichmond.org
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study. I took Hebrew and I really loved Israel; I had gone there the summer of my freshman year. I finished my majors in my senior year and began taking creative-writing courses, but didn’t know what I could do with that. I became a TV producer on kind of a lark: My dad had a friend who worked at CBS News and I went there and was impressed by a producer. But it was very stressful work. I moved into special projects, investigations and documentaries.
Filmmaker Dana Nachman has dived into some heavy topics. The documentaries she Did you grow up in a religious has written, directed and produced since 2008 household? include unflinching accounts of wrongful We lived near Rye, New York, and went to conviction, families ripped apart by terrorism a Reform temple. It was similar to how we and individuals fighting companies that are in my current household. My father was produce harmful chemicals. But she began involved with United Jewish Appeal and the to show a softer side with “Batkid Begins,” an 87-minute, feelgood documentary about a 5-year-old cancer patient who had his wish come true in San Francisco: meeting Batman. Her 2018 film “Pick of the Litter” is the tale of a litter of pups birthed and trained at Guide Dana Nachman on the film set of “Pick of the Litter.” Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, following them on their 20-month-quest to become Anti-Defamation League, doing a lot of work service dogs. The film led to a six-episode with refuseniks. We marched a lot. docuseries currently available on Disney Plus. What temple do you belong to now? J.: What inspired you to make “Pick of We belong to Congregation Beth Am. One the Litter”? of my kids just had a virtual bar mitzvah on Dana Nachman: My mom, a retired jourZoom. It was really lovely. We had a Torah at nalist in New York, had written a newspaper our house; you go and pick it up [from the series on guide dogs. In the back of my mind synagogue]. That was pretty cool. I thought that would make an amazing film. After I made “Batkid Begins,” which is about Your next film is set for streaming and philanthropy and people coming together to release in theaters on Dec. 4. “Dear grant this boy his wish, I realized that these Santa” sounds like a Christmas movie. kinds of family-positive, inspirational movies I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I like it. were much easier to make in every sense. “Dear Santa” is about Operation Santa, run by the U.S. Postal Service. The film is about What do you think makes “Pick of the the letters that get sent to Santa Claus every Litter,” which has won several film fest year and what happens to them. At its heart, awards, so appealing? it delves into poverty in America. I think it’s It is about disabilities, yet packaged in a film relevant for anyone to watch. about cuddly dogs. It is also a competition My movies do have serious underpinfilm: Which dogs will make it? nings. My goal? I feel like if I can make you laugh, cry and get chills in one film, then I’m You majored in Middle East studies and doing the right thing. n international relations in college, and “Talking With” focuses on local Jews who are doing got your master’s degree in broadcast journalism. What led you to filmmaking? things we find interesting. Send suggestions to email@example.com. I just thought they were interesting subjects to
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Marin students again targeted with antisemitic posts MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF The Marin County public school community has been rocked by another wave of antisemitic and menacing social media posts, made public by the principal of Redwood High School in a letter released Nov. 17 after he was alerted by parents and students. The videos, images and text posted online contained Holocaust denial, homophobia and threats of rape directed toward students. They follow similar incidents earlier this year, when the owner of an anonymous Instagram account harassed students for being Jewish. “We do not have clear information on who is behind the most recent occurrence,” Tara Taupier, superintendent of the Tamalpais Union High School District, said in an email to J. The district comprises Redwood, Tamalpais and Drake high schools. “The perpetrator used the same name and profile image so there is a chance that it is the same person. We are still engaged with law enforcement making attempts to positively identify the perpetrator of the earlier social media accounts and posts.” According to the email from Redwood Principal David Sondheim, the most recent social media posts “targeted our Jewish students and families with hateful messages including references to false claims the holocaust never happened, rape and homophobia. The accounts also followed Jewish students and asked Jewish students to follow the accounts.” TikTok videos were utilized as well as Instagram. Sondheim said the incidents were reported to the social media companies and the police, although it is unclear whether the school or parents reported it first. Claire is a parent who asked for her last name not to be used out of concern for her family’s safety. Her three children formerly attended public schools, and she learned of the hateful messages from a WhatsApp group of around 100 Marin families, established after previous incidents of hate speech. Claire said antisemitism had often gone unaddressed over the years, but that this occasion was startling. “I think this incident is different, because they’re threatening to rape students,” she said. In September, Redwood officials said they had identified the student behind social media accounts that
used crude antisemitic drawings as profile pictures and Burke said the county ran a town hall this fall and has targeted at least one Jewish student. One account was worked with the JFCS Holocaust Center and ADL to set called “redwoodhs_soas” (“students organized against up a series of workshops for students, parents, teachers semitism”), with 10 followers and 123 accounts followed; and administrators on topics from Jewish history, such as another was called “Redwood SOAS.” A description of women’s resistance under the Nazis. (The first workshop the former read: “Redwood students organized in anti was held in the fall and three more will be held during the semitism. We Currently compiling a google doc of jews in school year.) The county is also working on its own ethnic the district. Hit us up if you want to help!” Students at the Larkspur school set up a petition to express their disappointment with the district’s response and request more transparency. The petition, which is still active, has garnered more than 7,000 online signatures. Sondheim highlighted in his Nov. 17 email several programs and workshops the school has held since the September incident, including inviting Rabbi Stacy Friedman of Congregation Rodef Sholom to Jewish students at Redwood High School in Larkspur have been harassed with antisemitic meet with a group of messages online. students. The school also will start using an Anti-Defamation League anti-hate studies curriculum, similar to other school districts that curriculum in classes in March. have decided to move ahead while the state is still debatBut for Claire, school-specific measures are not ing what to include in the California-wide curriculum. enough. She said there is no consistency in how antisemiBurke also emphasized that county measures against bias tism or bullying is addressed in the district or the county. were ongoing and she was receptive to feedback. “Every school is doing their own thing,” she said. “We can always do more,” she said. “I’m never going to Mary Jane Burke, the county superintendent of say we did enough.” schools, said her office is attempting to address the probClaire, who said her children had been subjected to lem across K-12 schools in Marin. antisemitic behavior on numerous occasions while attend“What I’m targeting on right now, personally, from my ing Marin public schools, said officials’ efforts were clearly seat, is what we do to ensure it doesn’t matter what is the falling short. school district, who the principal is — there are strucIt’s “not going to interrupt the seeds of hate that are tures in place that are supportive,” she said. spreading, and have been for years,” she said. n
Nazi salutes disrupt Solano County supervisors meeting MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF A group of anti-maskers and pandemic skeptics used Nazi references to protest public health restrictions and disrupt a recent Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting. According to the Daily Republic, the beginning of the Nov. 17 meeting was interrupted by a group of local residents who acted out Nazi salutes and said “sieg heil” to indicate that having to wear masks and protective gear at a public meeting was similar to Hitler’s regime and its systemic attempt to exterminate an entire people. “The murder of 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children, is not a subject for glib analogies, lightheartedness or political exploitation,” Seth Brysk, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, told J. “Rather, it is a cynical and offensive trivialization of the Holocaust.”
The interruption took place before the supervisors’ meeting started and was not captured on the board’s video feed, which broadcasts meetings live to the public. The anti-maskers were recorded, however, as they addressed the board during the public comments section. “Have we all forgotten where this prequel has been seen?” said local resident Andraya Coulter. “For your safety, establish[ing] lists of dissenters, dehumanizing policies, mandated restrictions, tattling on peers for exercising basic human rights, following orders to the excelling tune of crimes against humanity? “Ah yes, the Nazis. The Bolsheviks,” Coulter said. “Every communist and socialist regime has used these same tactics.” Another commenter, who according to local news
reports had made the Nazi gesture, approached the lectern with a mask in his hand. Dennis Allen told the supervisors that he and others had formed a group called the Solano County Committee of Correspondence, because “the Solano County Board of Supervisors consistently and purposefully never reacted to our continuous demands against Gov. Newsom’s illegal usurpation of our rights,” he said. Like 27 other counties in California, Solano County, which includes Fairfield and Suisun City, was moved to the purple tier on Nov. 15. That means gatherings are restricted to a maximum of three households and must be held outside. Gyms, restaurants and museums can operate only outdoors, while indoor retail stores can operate at 25 percent capacity. n
JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 11.27.2020 17
BAY AREA NEWS | EVENTS | PEOPLE
NorCal Board of Rabbis leaders get their 15-minute close-ups DAN PINE | J. STAFF More than 100 people gathered online last week to honor all of the rabbis who serve the Bay Area Jewish community — and, more specifically, the 21 rabbis who have held positions as president or director of the Northern California Board of Rabbis over the years. “It’s a pleasure to be in ‘Hollywood Squares’ with all of you,” said Danny Grossman, CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, joking about the now-familiar look of a Zoom gathering. “Our partnership with the Board of Rabbis is because we recognize the core importance of rabbis to this community. You make our Jewish community and our world a better place.” The 90-minute event on Nov. 15 was sponsored by a cross-section of Bay Area synagogues and organizations, including the Federation, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the S.F.-based Consulate General of Israel and this publication. Nine speakers took turns praising the Northern California Board of Rabbis, whose 300-odd members include a majority of local rabbis.
The multidenominational organization, with roots stretching back some 150 years, has a long history of partnering with Bay Area Jewish institutions to address issues of concern and serve as a bridge to non-Jewish communities. Founded at the time of the Gold Rush, the organization originally was called the Jewish Board of Ministers. The history page at Norcalrabbis.org recalls how the Rabbi Sheldon Lewis Rabbi Marvin Goodman board “responded to the needs of those in cults, Moonies, the Flower Children and other [non-Jewishly-affiliated] prisons and other institutions, it offers young people” in the 1960s and 1970s, information and referrals about Judaism and states emphatically how the board and the Jewish community, and it sponsors exemplified “pluralism” and set “a climate events. It also aims to raise awareness on where cooperation, respect and collegiality many issues, from access for the disabled prevail.” to the laws of kashrut to the death penalty, The Board of Rabbis is the endorsserving “as a Jewish religious voice in the ing agency for Jewish chaplains in state Jewish and general communities,” according to its website. At the event, Shlomi Kofman, the S.F.based consul general for Israel, reminisced about the trips to Israel (some of which he went on) that the board has organized for local rabbis. “I learned more than ever the strong commitment each of the rabbis and congregations have with Israel,” Kofman said. “Not always agreeing with everything, but what’s new? The relationship and connection will continue.” Tye Gregory, JCRC’s executive director since June, cited many examples of collaboration between his organization and the board over time — from successfully fighting a proposed circumcision ban in San Francisco about 10 years ago to the current push to make sure the Jewish American story is included in a proposed ethnic stud“A compelling collection ies curriculum for high school students. “The leadership you displayed, bringing that captures the mystery congregations into [these fights], made all and menace beneath love the difference,” Gregory said. Rabbi Doug Kahn, a former JCRC
All that glitters is not gold in Corie Adjmi’s wonderful short story collection
and family life.” —Kirkus Review
executive director, was one of several speakers to praise Rabbi Malcolm Sparer, who died in April. Sparer, who led the board for several years in the 1980s, played a key role in the fight to save Soviet Jews and in outreach to Christians, Kahn noted. “The work of the Board of Rabbis in the interfaith space was critically important,” Kahn said. “He set the tone of our cooperation for many years to come.” Sparer also turned the board into a more serious body than it had ever been, said Rabbi Jacob Traub, who led Adath Israel in San Francisco for 38 years. Before Sparer, he said, the board would meet once a month to talk “about this or that. Nothing at all heavy.” After Sparer, each board president had to step up as “an activist.” Sam Salkin, executive director of Sinai Memorial Chapel, praised what he sees as the Board of Rabbis’ strong interdenominational cooperation. “Your ability to be different from each other and at the same time be collaborators is a very unusual thing,” he said. “It’s important to recognize the collective leadership of the board. [It] has provided an essential part of the infrastructure of our community.” Former board executive director Rabbi Marv Goodman used his time to praise Lisa Finkelstein, who serves as the board’s administrator. “She’s honest,” he said, “overly honest sometimes. She has helped hold us together these past several years. Where would we be without her? I guarantee our presidents don’t want to think about it.” Rabbi Pam Frydman, a past president of the board, organized the event and co-hosted it with the current president, Rabbi Andrew Straus. A list of 20 of the rabbis honored can be viewed at tinyurl. com/ncbr-honorees. Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, a former board president and rabbi emeritus of Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, was also an honoree. The event ended with some shmoozing time among the participants and the rabbis, a welcome respite from months of pandemic-induced isolation. n
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of Northern California
Jewish backstory on Biden’s choice for secretary of state GABE FRIEDMAN | JTA Tony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state, is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor whose stories shaped his worldview and subsequently his policy decisions. Biden named Blinken, who is Jewish, to the post on Nov. 23. The former high-ranking official in the Obama administration has been one of Biden’s closest policy advisers for more than a decade and espouses the opposite of Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda. Multiple reports said that Blinken, 58, will seek to rejoin many of the international agreements that Trump left, notably the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. Under Blinken, the State Department will usher in a much different foreign policy era, including on Israel. Blinken was born in New York City, where he spent most of his early years. His father, Donald, co-founded the hefty E.M. Warburg Pincus and Co. (now Warburg Pincus) investment firm and served as the U.S. ambassador to Hungary for four years in the Clinton administration.
campaign, and when Biden was chosen as Barack Obama’s vice president, Blinken became one of his national security advisers. In 2014, Obama elevated Blinken to deputy secretary of state under John Kerry. During those years, Blinken was heavily involved in the crafting of Middle East policy, including the landmark Iran deal. Blinken has been described as a centrist and an interventionist, and he’s said to have a “mind meld” with Biden on foreign policy. Blinken is more hawkish on issues such as Russia, whom he considers a foe (he helped Obama’s team respond stiffly to Vladimir Putin’s encroachments into Crimea). As for Israel, Blinken’s views reflect the Democratic mainstream. Within the party, a minority of lawmakers and advocates have been
intelligence and warmth” in his 2015 book “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.” On Twitter, Oren said he could think of “no finer choice” for the post, and news of Biden tapping Blinken drew praise from a cross-section of Israelis who have encountered him in the course of diplomacy. If there’s ever tension between Israeli and American leadership, don’t expect to know about it. A big part of keeping things copacetic, as Biden and Blinken see it, is leaving policy disputes behind closed doors — something Blinken
Blinken has been described as a centrist, and he’s said to have a “mind meld” with Biden on foreign policy. There is an archive at George Soros’ Central European University in Hungary named for Donald Blinken, 95, and his second wife, Vera, who survived the Holocaust. Donald Blinken’s grandfather Meir Blinken was a noted Yiddish author whose stories were published in a 1980s book that features an introduction by scholar Ruth Wisse. Tony’s mother, Judith, remarried Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor and attorney who advised President John F. Kennedy and multiple French presidents. Pisar survived three concentration camps, worked for the United Nations, wrote a libretto titled “Kaddish: A Dialogue With God” (at the behest of Leonard Bernstein) and penned an award-winning memoir about his Holocaust experiences. There is a Yad Vashem program named after him. Tony Blinken has said that Pisar’s experiences have informed his vision for the “engaged” role that the United States should play on the global stage. Here’s one story he tells frequently, via Jewish Insider: “One day as they were hiding out, they heard this deep rumbling sound, and as my stepfather looked out, he saw a sight that he had never seen before — not the dreaded Iron Cross, not a swastika, but on a tank a five-pointed white star. And, maybe in a foolhardy way, he rushed out toward it. He knew what it was. And he got to the tank, the hatch opened up, and a large African American G.I. stared down at him. And he got down on his knees and he said the only three words that he knew in English, that his mother had taught him before the war: ‘God bless America.’ And at that point, the G.I. lifted him into the tank, into freedom, into America. That’s the story that I grew up with — about what our country is and what it represents, and what it means when the United States is engaged and leading.” Blinken’s diplomatic career began on the National Security Council under Clinton, and he was appointed staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was headed by Biden during the George W. Bush years. In 2008, Biden tapped Blinken to help his presidential
trying to shift the party to the left on Israel issues. Progressives, such as Bernie Sanders, have suggested that aid to Israel ought to be conditioned on certain policy choices. Meanwhile, the Trump Then-Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken at a State Department press conference administration shifted U.S. in August 2016. (Photo/Brendan Smialowski-AFP via Getty Images) policy to the right, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and recently saying that the U.S. would pushed for during the Obama years, sometimes to no avail. consider the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement Blinken is compassionate toward refugees, as he told against Israel officially antisemitic. the character Grover when Blinken made a “Sesame Street” Blinken is a centrist here, too. He has said that a Biden video appearance in 2016. That’s opposed to Trump, who administration will not condition aid to Israel on policy prioritized closing off U.S. borders and punishing immichoices, will keep the embassy in Jerusalem and will grants who sought asylum in a policy set by a Jewish staunchly support Israel at the United Nations — a body adviser, Stephen Miller. that often singles out the Jewish state for human rights Biden has said his approach to immigration — an issue abuses without condemning offenders such as Syria and important to many American Jews — will be much differChina. In May, Biden wrote that he “firmly” rejects the BDS ent. In speaking to Grover, Blinken explained that refugees movement, and Blinken has backed up that stance. should be treated the same as “you and me.” Blinken’s appointment drew early praise from centrist “We all have something to learn and gain from one Democrats, but also from Sanders’ foreign policy adviser, another, even when it doesn’t seem at first like we have Matt Duss, who tweeted that it would be “a new and great much in common,” Blinken said after asking Grover to thing to have a top diplomat who has regularly engaged imagine how challenging it must be for someone to feel so with progressive grassroots.” unsafe that they decide to leave their home. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, Blinken is a Harvard graduate who married Evan Ryan responded that she would be happy as long as “he doesn’t in a 2002 ceremony that involved both a rabbi and a priest. try to silence me and suppress my First Amendment right She was an assistant secretary of state from 2013 to 2017, to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane poli- and before that served as the assistant for intergoverncies.” Tlaib is a progressive known for her harsh criticism mental affairs and public liaison for Biden when he was of Israel and support for boycotting Israel. vice president. Blinken’s record has earned him respect from Israeli Blinken used to want to be a filmmaker, and he also has officials, even when he hasn’t always agreed with them. a ’70s-inspired band called Ablinken — wordplay on several Michael Oren, a conservative former Israeli ambassador levels — that has two tracks on Spotify and was making to the United States, called Blinken a man of “singular headlines this week. n JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 11.27.2020 19
HOLIDAYS & SPIRITUAL
FRIDAY | December 4 “RITUAL TEXTILES FOR JEWISH LIFE CYCLE”—In another session
examining UC Berkeley’s Magnes Collection, curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi talk about an artistic 19th-century German wimpel, a Torah binder made from circumcision cloth. 12-12:30 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl. com/ritual-textiles
FRIDAY | December 11 “THE SHAPE OF HANUKKAH LAMPS”—Magnes Collection cura-
tors Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi talk about an 18th-century Italian menorah and what we can learn from how menorahs are shaped. 12-12:30 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/Hanukkah-Lamps
FRIDAY | December 18 “HANUKKAH AND SURVIVAL”—
Magnes Collection curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir
Kochavi present a 1940s menorah in a talk subtitled “A Workshop for ‘Displaced Persons’ in Germany, 1945.” 12-12:30 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/Magnes-Collection
ONGOING CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSEUM
736 Mission St., S.F. “Levi Strauss: A History of American Style”—Story and impact of the Jewish merchant who helped invent blue jeans. Through Jan. 10, 2021. “Threads of Jewish Life”—S.F. Jewish community of 100-150 years ago shown via clothing and ritual textile items from Magnes Collection. Through Feb. 28, 2021. “Zohar Studios, The Lost Years”—30 images depicting N.Y. Jewish life by 19th-century immigrant photographer Shimmel Zohar. Through Feb. 28, 2021. Covid-19 health protocols in place. Reserve admission time in advance. thecjm.org/exhibitions
BENEFITS & SOCIAL EVENTS SUNDAY | December 6
MONDAY | December 14
B’NAI SHALOM GALA—Walnut Creek
“AJC: DIPLOMACY AT 75”—S.F.
synagogue presents online gala, with live and silent auctions, honoring Howard and Susan Geifman. Optional dinner from Oakland Kosher, for a charge, delivered to your home with RSVP by Nov. 24. 5 p.m. Free, donations encouraged, with registration. bshalom.org/ gala
chapter of American Jewish Committee celebrates the 75th anniversaries of both itself and the United Nations, honoring U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Poland’s honorary consul Tad Taube. With a Hanukkah candlelighting and invited Bay Area leaders. 6-7 p.m. Free, with suggested donation, with registration. tinyurl.com/ Diplomacy-75
WEDNESDAY | December 2 “COOKING DEMO WITH MICHAEL SOLMONOV”—The famous chef
shares Hanukkah recipes for apple shrub, latkes, artichokes, poached salmon, and sfenj with cinnamon and sugar. For novices and experienced cooks. Presented by S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and other Federations. 5-6:30 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/federation-cook
SUNDAY | December 6 “SUNDAY STORIES: THE ROCK ’N’ ROLL MENORAH”—Contemporary
Jewish Museum presents a talk about the first large-scale public menorah lighting in the U.S., in 1975 in San Francisco spearheaded by rock promoter Bill Graham. 10-10:30 a.m. Free. thecjm.org/ programs/802
THURSDAY | December 10 “BEE BRIGHT: HANUKKAH CANDLE MAKING”—Herbalist Chelsea
Taxman leads a workshop on honeybee hives, pollinators and how to make your own Hanukkah candles. Presented by Urban Adamah. 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/bee-bright
bloggers Gabi Moskowitz and Kristin Posner share new twists on potato pancakes, including Japanese latkes. Have on hand: potatoes, onions and a grater. Presented by the Contemporary Jewish Museum. 4:30-5:30 p.m. Free, advance registration required. tinyurl.com/ Virtual-Latkes
FRIDAY | December 11 TRI-VALLEY CULTURAL JEWS HANUKKAH—Humanistic Jewish
community based in Pleasanton
presents a secular lighting, naming ceremony and virtual dreidel games. Have your own menorah, candles and dreidel on hand. 7-8 p.m. $10 suggested for nonmember adults, with registration. tinyurl.com/cultural-hanukkah
SUNDAY | December 13 “HANUKKAH MEDITATION RETREAT”—Urban Adamah and
the Jewish meditation center Makor Or present a day of Hanukkah-themed meditation, practice and prayer. With candlelighting and singing. Led by Jewish meditation icon Norman Fischer and Rabbi Dorothy Richman. 10 a.m.5 p.m. $36-$72, with registration. tinyurl.com/Meditation-Hanukkah
“DIZZY DREIDEL COOKIE WORKSHOP”—Cooks from Culinary
Artistas lead a cookie-baking class for all ages. Parental supervision requested for younger bakers. Presented by the JCCSF and Ghirardelli Square. 10-11:30 a.m. Free, advance registration required. tinyurl.com/dreidel-cookie
“THE MYSTERIES OF HANUKKAH”—
Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati presents a synagogue benefit, an online mini-retreat with text study, contemplation, movement, music and mysticism. Led by Reb Irwin Keller. Have Hanukkah candles on hand for night session. 12-3 p.m., 6:30-7:30 p.m. $118, with registration. tinyurl.com/Mysteries-Hanukkah
“THE KVETCH WHO STOLE HANUKKAH”—Chochmat HaLev in Berke-
ley presents dramatic readings of that story and “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel.” With a Hanukkah haiku and limerick contest, music and dancing. 5-6 p.m. $5, free for members, with registration. tinyurl.com/Stole-Hanukkah
WEDNESDAY | December 2
THURSDAY | December 3
CHEF INA GARTEN—The Barefoot
“NOT NORMAL”—LABA East Bay’s
WEDNESDAY | December 9
SUNDAY | December 6
“A TREASURY OF YIDDISH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE”—Edi-
WORKER’S CIRCLE/ARBETER RING ANNIVERSARY—Celebration of 120
Contessa talks about her book “Modern Comfort Food” in conversation with comedian-author Michael Ian Black. Part of “JCC Book Fest in Your Living Room” series. Presented by JCC Literary Consortium and JCCs across the nation. 4:30 p.m. $45 includes book. Registration required. tinyurl.com/book-jcc
tor-translator Miriam Udel talks about “Honey on the Page,” her anthology of nearly lost, early 20th-century Yiddish children’s literature she collected from around the world. Jewish LearningWorks event for 11 and up. 6:30-7:30 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl. com/Yiddish-Literature
cultural lab presents a dance, poetry and ancient text teaching on the themes of standing out or fitting in. Led by LABA East Bay fellows choreographer Marika Brussel and poet Caroline Kessler, and a guest teacher from LABA New York. 7:30 p.m. Sliding scale, with registration. tinyurl.com/ cultural-lab
years nationally and 72 years in Northern California. Featuring three musical works in progress by klezmer trio Baymele, klezmer accordionist Jeanette Lewicki and Cantor Sharon Bernstein. 4-5:15 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/workers-circle
KIDS & FAMILY SUNDAY | December 6
SUNDAY | December 13
WORNICK HANUKKAH PARTY—For
“ARTBASH LIVE: HANUKKAH”—
ages 3 to 5 and their families, presented by Wornick Jewish Day School. With activities and music by songleader Isaac Zones. Bag pickup 4-5 p.m. Dec. 3, along Balclutha Drive near the school in Foster City. 10-10:45 a.m. Free, advance registration required. tinyurl.com/wornick-party
Contemporary Jewish Museum conducts an online, hands-on art project for families. Pick up free supply kits at CJM, Beth Sholom (S.F.), Netivot Shalom (Berkeley), Contra Costa Jewish Day School (Lafayette) and Marin JCC (San Rafael) 2-5 p.m. Dec. 11, and Peninsula JCC (Foster City) 3-6 p.m. Dec. 10. Zoom class 4:30-5:30 p.m. Dec. 13. Free, with registration. thecjm.org/programs/801
Note to readers: All events virtual unless otherwise indicated.
Calendar November 27–December 17
For more listings see jweekly.com/calendar
Candlelighting Nov. 27 | Kislev 11, 5781 Light candles at 4:34 p.m. Shabbat ends at 5:34 p.m.
Dec. 4 | Kislev 18, 5781 Light candles at 4:33 p.m. Shabbat ends at 5:33 p.m.
20 11.27.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
Hanukkah scavenger hunt Uncover the message of Hanukkah! Embark on a journey to spread light around town! Build your own dreidel sculpture! An in-person scavenger hunt, with appropriate health protocols, gets kids ages 8-12 out of the house for one brief hour of fun. Includes lunch.
At Chabad of Contra Costa, 1671 Newell Ave. 12:301:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. $10 per child, $25 per family, with registration. tinyurl.com/chabad-hunt
Dec. 10 | Kislev 24, 5781 First night of Hanukkah Light candles after nightfall
Dec. 11 | Kislev 25, 5781 Light menorah 18 minutes before sunset Light Shabbat candles at 4:33 p.m. Shabbat ends at 5:34 p.m.
TALKS & WORKSHOPS TUESDAY | December 1 “AMERICAN JEWS AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT”—SFSU Jewish
studies professor Marc Dollinger talks about a new understanding of American Jewish participation in racial justice work. Co-presented by S.F. Jewish Community Library. 5-6:15 p.m. Free with registration. tinyurl.com/dollinger-marc
FRIDAY | December 4 “THE NEW SACRED”—Poet-edu-
cator Jake Marmer and musician-teacher Alicia Jo Rabins lead a text study on the theme of invocations and how to personally create new Jewish sacred texts. Presented by Oshman Family JCC. 11-11:45 a.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/new-sacred
SUNDAY | December 6 “COMBATING RACISM + ANTI-SEMITISM”—Four panelists will be in
discussion about their experiences as Jews of color, sharing strategies to combat prejudice and how to move from being welcomed to belonging. Presented by Oshman Family JCC. 9:30-10:30 a.m. $12-18, with registration. tinyurl.com/ combating-antisemitism
“THE GREAT KOSHER MEAT WAR OF 1902”—Author Scott Seligman
talks about his soon-to-be-published book, subtitled “Immigrant Housewives and the Riots That Shook New York City.” Presented by Jewish Community Library. 2-3 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/Kosher-War
WEDNESDAY | December 9
about the Israeli farm sabbatical shmita and the deep ecology in Judaism that involves text exploration and art-making. 6-7:30 p.m. Sliding scale, with registration. tinyurl.com/regen-living
THURSDAY | December 10 “Z3”—Oshman Family JCC in Palo
Alto presents its reimagined conference on Israel-related issues over the eight days of Hanukkah, online this year. With video panels, talks and interviews with leaders from across the Jewish world. Through Dec. 17. $18-$36, with registration. z3project.virtualjcc.com
SUNDAY | December 13 “CONCEPTS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ISRAEL, ZIONISM AND JEWS”—A talk by StandWithUs’ Charlotte Korchak, who teaches students about Israel and how to be effective activists. Sponsored by Beth Ami, StandWithUs, ClubZ and Sonoma County Israel Committee. 10 a.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/IsraelMisconceptions
THURSDAY | December 17 “YIDDISH POETRY OF STRUGGLE”—UC San Diego professor
Amelia Glaser talks about her book “Songs in Dark Times,” about Jewish leftist poets who wrote about other oppressed peoples, such as Palestinian Arabs, African Americans and Spanish Republicans. Co-presented by Jewish Community Library and KlezCalifornia. 7-8 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl. com/Yiddish-Poetry
“A MAP TO REGENERATIVE LIVING”—
Urban Adamah fellowship director Rachel Binstock leads a workshop
FILM & TV TUESDAY | December 1 “ANITA”— East Bay Int’l Jewish
Film Festival presents 2011 drama about an Argentinian woman with Down syndrome who is left alone after Buenos Aires’ Jewish community center is bombed. Streaming online Dec. 1-6. In Spanish with English subtitles. 12 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl. com/anita-ebijff
WEDNESDAY | December 2 “ARGENTINA AND THE JEWS”—Historian Fred Rosenbaum talks about the history of Argentina’s Jewish community and provides context for the film “Anita” (see previous listing). 7 p.m. Free, with registration. tinyurl.com/argentina-fred
THURSDAY | December 10 “JFI HANUKKAH FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT”—S.F.-based Jewish Film
Institute presents an eight-night version of the S.F. Jewish Film Festival, in honor of SFJFF’s 40th anniversary. In-person opening film is 2020 documentary “Howie Mandel: But Enough About Me,” a U.S. premiere. At Fort Mason DriveIn, 2 Marina Blvd., S.F. 6 p.m. $50$55 per vehicle, with registration. The festival continues with online film screenings through Dec. 17, including online talks. $10-$15 per film, $60-$90 pass for all online films, with registration. Some events are free. jfi.org/jfi40
MUSIC SATURDAY | December 5 SAN FRANCISCO YIDDISH COMBO—
Streaming concert by a group that blends klezmer, jazz, blues, folk and hip-hop. 7 p.m. Free, donations encouraged, with registration. tinyurl.com/combo-yiddish
‘Latkes and Laughs’ Get your Hanukkah laughs on with this stand-up show featuring comedians Wendy Liebman, Jeff Applebaum and Mark Maier. This year, it’s “MYOL” (make your own latkes), but the jokes will, of course, be provided. Presented by Temple Emanu-El in San Jose.
Virtual lobby opens at 5:30 p.m., show from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. $18-54, with registration. tinyurl.com/Laughs-Latkes
Thank you to our supporters who recently donated to J.! Eileen and Rob z”l Ruby Philanthropic Fund* Ingrid D. Tauber Philanthropic Fund* Irene Z. Abrams* Betty Denenberg Adler and Jacques Adler Liz Alpert Martin Aufhauser Brett Borah Jerome I. Braun June Brott Sally Brown Yonina and Barry B. Bushell Etoile Campbell Helen Davis Andrea and Steven DeGraff Edith Deutsch Davina and Ron Drabkin Linda Dubins and David Baer Linda Greiff Ehrlich Valentina and Jack Eisenberg Andrea Faber Tamara Faggen Francine Feder Robert S. Frankle Rabbi Pam Frydman Solange Gabany Ann Gershanov Mitchell Gevelber Heinz Gewing Barry Gilbert Millie and Henry Goltz Avrum Gratch Nancy Greenberg and Martin Segol Rochelle and Bernard Greenfield Alice and Dr. Howard Gruber
Sandra and Ben Hamburg Cathy Hilliard Zelda R. Holland Laurie Kahn Vicki Keyak Stephen Klaber Candee and Jack Klein The Klion Springwater Coven Family Foundation, Inc. Karen Koenig and David Knepler Naphtali Knox Larisa Kopylovsky Suzanne Krasna Deborah and Fred Kurland Deborah and David Kurzrock Sherrill and Janos Laszlo Leora Lawton Eve and Jerome Lerman Andrea Linder Helene and Charles Linker* Mark S. Litwin Marlene and Ira Lowenthal Paul Melmon Barbara Miller Michael Milstein Russell Morris Deborah Newbrun and Sue Reinhold* Walter Oppenheimer Cynthia Perlis Randy Pike Wendy and Jeffrey Polonsky
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THE JEWISH NEWS
of Northern California
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END OF YEAR GIVING Jewish Study Network’s fund drive at the drive-in LAURA PAULL | J. STAFF As the time for year-end fundraisers rolls around, Jewish organizations everywhere are being challenged by pandemic restrictions. Clearly, in-person galas are off the table. What to do? “Many have gone with virtual events, but we felt that the community is Zoomed out,” said Rabbi Joey Felsen, founder and executive director of the Jewish Study Network, which aims to increase adult Jewish learning in the Bay Area. “We were racking our brains. Then it hit me — that we should take everyone to a drive-in movie theater. That way, people would be totally safe, yet feel like they got to go out.” On Nov. 15, that is exactly what happened, as more than 80 cars crammed in front of a screen at the West Wind Capitol Drive-In in San Jose for the JSN Annual Experience. The JSN fundraiser normally is a catered affair at a hotel. This time, those driving in were handed bottles of water and boxes with deli sandwiches by Abba’s Hummus (a new deli and hummus bar at Oakland Kosher Foods). Wendy Kleckner of Palo Alto, who had catered the Annual Experience for the previous decade or so, attended as a regular ticket holder this time around and got the box dinner like everyone else. “I was impressed,” she said. “It was a different vibe, but
you still felt you were coming to support an organization you believed in and could be part of something.” Each car received a copy of “Genesis: A Parsha Companion,” by Rabbi David Fohrman, and the program got going with short talks by Felsen and Rabbi Avi Lebowitz, JSN’s educational director. Then came the screening of three short films, including “Mekonen,” the true story of an Ethiopian Jew who immigrated to Israel and became a paratrooper commander in the Israeli army. The other two films were a humorous short about a German Jewish grandmother and a previously recorded talk by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the UK, who died Nov. 7. Kleckner, for one, said she felt rewarded by the event and that she learned something. “At all good Jewish gatherings, you should learn something,” she said. She and her husband, Howard, are members of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto who have been supporters of JSN almost since its inception in 2001. “If you want to learn more about being a Jew, whatever level you’re at, they take you in a loving, nonjudgmental manner,” Kleckner said. “There was a certain void in the Bay
Area for unaffiliated Jews, and I have seen the organization grow with a great sense of pride.” During the pandemic, JSN has pivoted to Zoom and audio-based classes, with Attendees Rabbi Dovy and offerings such as “Torah for Laeya Grossman in front of Millenials” and “A Jewish drive-in marquee. (Photo/ Lens on Masculine and Deborah Melnick Hadjes) Feminine” taught by Felsen’s wife, Sarah. The Annual Experience raises funds to help JSN provide options for people seeking varying levels of Jewish education. The 2020 edition raised nearly $300,000, said Felsen, who got the drive-in idea from local Jewish film festivals that used the drive-in concept in recent months. For Kleckner and others, the format worked. “Though we felt both far apart and close together at the same time, watching the screen, I have to say, it permitted us to feel connected,” she said. “Because we were all there, even though we were at the drive-in.” n
HOST A YOUNG ADULT IN YOUR HOME TODAY! To help end the youth housing crisis To learn more, contact us at 415-852-2059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund
Donor-Advised Funds: Giving with Both the Head and the Heart
As the year-end approaches, giving is likely one of the items you have on your to-do list. Before you respond to all of those solicitations from charitable organizations, it’s helpful to step back and approach your giving in a way that combines impact and meaning, and a Federation donor-advised fund can help achieve both.
Why a Donor-Advised Fund? A donor-advised fund is a simple, flexible solution for your giving. Set up an account by contributing appreciated assets (such as securities) or cash. You can recommend grants to qualified Jewish and nonJewish organizations whenever you wish, and the remaining donated assets are invested for potential growth, helping you give even more over time. Unlike donating by credit card or check, you can keep track of all of your contributions and grants via a secure, online portal.
Giving Can Be an Effective Tax Planning Strategy In addition to being flexible and easy to manage, a donor-advised fund can help you give more through the following tax benefits*: 1. Receive an immediate tax deduction. When you make a gift to a new or existing donor-advised fund, you may be eligible for an immediate income tax deduction in the year in which you made the contribution. Your gift immediately qualifies for maximum income tax benefits because the Federation is a public charity. 2. Avoid capital gains tax. There are no capital gains taxes on gifts of appreciated assets held more than a year, such as securities or real estate. 3. Avoid estate tax. Donor-advised funds are not subject to estate taxes. 4. Tax-Free Growth. Your gift to a donor-advised fund can appreciate tax-free. The Federation offers several investment options. If you have more than $500,000 in the fund, investments may be managed by your own professional advisor. 5. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). A contribution to a donoradvised fund will likely reduce the tax impact if you are subject to the alternative minimum tax. *As tax circumstances vary, please consult with your personal tax advisor.
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Gifting Appreciated Assets Can Help You Give More Example: A donor owns publicly-traded stock with a current value of $75,000, which was purchased years ago for $5,000. Since then, the stock has increased in value by $70,000, which is treated as long-term capital gains. Sell stock and donate net proceeds (cash) to charity Current fair market value of securities Capital gains tax paid** (20%)
Assumes a cost basis of $5,000 and long-term capital gains tax of $70,000
Donate stock to a donor-advised fund at the Federation
1,000 shares @ $75 per share* = $75,000
1,000 shares @ $75 per share* = $75,000
Charitable contribution/ deduction
Value of itemized charitable deduction for donor in the 37% federal income tax bracket
Total donor tax savings (value of deduction minus capital gains tax paid)
*This is a hypothetical example, for illustrative purposes only, and should not be used to consider whether to buy, sell, or hold appreciated securities. Assumes that investment has been helpful for more than a year. Consult with your tax advisor to determine personal tax benefits. **Assumes cost basis of $5,000, that the investment has been held for more than a year and that all gains are subject to the 20% federal long-term capital gains tax rate for a taxpayer with income of $518,401 or more.
Leave a Legacy Driven by Jewish Values At Federation Philanthropy Partners, the Federation’s philanthropy advisory practice, giving Jewishly means that we help others give through the perspective of four Jewish values: Giving with Just Intention (Tzedakah), Healing the World (Tikkun Olam), Pursuing Justice (Tzedek), and Building Community (Kehillah). Our point of view is that you can give Jewishly to a very broad set of priorities, whether to specific Jewish causes or to issues in the community at large. Giving is a great opportunity to involve your family around shared values. You can name family members as donoradvisors on a donor-advised fund so that they can be directly involved in recommending grants to organizations and their causes that are aligned with those values. And you can name successors to your donor-advised fund, ensuring that your legacy will continue on after your lifetime.
Collaborating Together for More and Better Jewish Philanthropy Our community has come together to respond to the overwhelming need caused by the COVID-19 crisis. When Hebrew Free Loan saw a spike in demand for its zero-interest loans, fundholders quickly pooled $4.6 million into a recoverable grant, providing over 300 borrowers to date with loans to help with income loss, food and housing insecurity, and increased childcare needs. To continue accelerating COVID-19 recovery, we are offering more new ways for donors to pool their funds together to help those most in need.
We can help you craft your giving to achieve your vision for a better world. Learn more at jewishfed.org/PhilanthropyPartners Contact us at email@example.com or 415.512.6225
The Federation Philanthropy Partners Team: Debbie Berkowitz, Ruth Bender, Steve Brown, Camille Menke, Michael Chertok, and Lisa Tabak.
1 2 1 S t e u a r t S tre e t , S a n F r a ncisco, CA 94105 | 415.777.0411 JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 11.27.2020 25
INSPIRED HOPEFUL WELCOMED SUPPORTED ENCOURAGED TRANSFORMED That’s the effect of tikkun olam. Turns out, generosity not only makes us feel good, it also instills a sense of purpose. And, while it is important for each of us to do what we can as individuals, the Jewish community is at its very best when we act together to repair the world. It’s a big job. We’re ready when you are.
Learn more at jewishfed.org
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END OF YEAR GIVING
Celebrities to help turn Tree of Life synagogue into anti-racism center CNAAN LIPHSHIZ | JTA If a new national fundraising campaign reaches its goal, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh will achieve an enhanced purpose as a center to fight racism in all its manifestations. Actor Tom Hanks and actor-singer Billy Porter have stepped up to help lead the
campaign to develop the new center at the synagogue where a gunman killed 11 Jews on Oct. 27, 2018. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Joanne Rogers, wife of the late television show host Fred Rogers, will also be members of a “cabinet” to support the renovation of the Tree of
Life building, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said in a statement on Nov.18. “Through this effort and with the support of people of all backgrounds, we will transform a site of hate and tragedy into a site of hope, remembrance and education,” the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle quoted Myers as saying. “I will forever be grateful for the wellspring of love that continues to flow over and through our synagogue from all parts of the world, including the support of the individuals who have agreed to join the honorary cabinet to take the horror of October 27 and create something beautiful that changes our country and our world.” The community is raising funds for the project in a campaign titled “Remember. Rebuild. Renew,” which is planning community partnerships, educational programs and national outreach to combat prejudice and hate. Reports about the campaign did not specify its fundraising goal. n
Nominees sought for Jewish Funders Network award for young professionals The Jewish Funders Network has announced that nominations are open for the 2021 J.J. Greenberg Memorial Award, which honors a foundation professional age 40 and under who is engaged in grantmaking and has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in Jewish philanthropy. According to a recent notice on eJewishPhilanthropy.com written by JFN, employees at Jewish foundations “have really stepped up to respond to the enormous increase in need” during the pandemic. “If you know someone who has gone above and beyond in their service to grantees, help us give some much-needed recognition.” Founded in 1990, the Jewish Funders Network is an international community of private foundations and philanthropists with more than 2,500 members in 11 countries. It enables Jewish and Israeli funders to exchange ideas about their philanthropic involvement and expand their giving circles. JFN is based in New York City, and there is a JFN Israel office north of Tel Aviv. The J.J. Greenberg Memorial Award was created and endowed by Greenberg’s family, friends and colleagues following his
death at age 36 in a 2002 traffic accident. Greenberg was the executive director of the Steinhardt Foundation/Jewish Life Network, and he worked closely with his father, Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, the foundation’s president, and Michael Steinhardt, its chairman. Presented annually to a creative individual who exemplifies Jewish values, has strong leadership skills and is committed to Jewish causes and tikkun olam, the award includes $5,000 (for professional development or tzedakah) and an item of Judaica. The 2021 award will be presented in March at the JFN International Conference, which will be held online. Past winners include Adene Sacks (2011) and Josh Miller (2014) of the S.F.based Jim Joseph Foundation, and a host of others from organizations such as the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Schusterman Family Foundation and Bronfman Philanthropies. For a full list of winners, visit jfunders.org/jj#past. The deadline for 2021 nominations is 2 p.m. Dec. 21. For more details, or to nominate someone, visit tinyurl.com/jfn-2021nom. — J. Staff n
WHAT'S NEXT? As COVID challenges our community to rethink its central structures and modes for Jewish life, Hartman is working with Bay Area leaders to think in new ways about transmitting values, shaping identity, engaging community, and gathering together.
When leaders understand today’s big Jewish ideas, our community flourishes and Judaism is a force for good. Your support of the Shalom Hartman Institute equips today’s leaders with the tools to face tomorrow’s challenges. Please consider making a gift today at shalomhartman.org/support The Shalom Hartman Institute is a leading center of Jewish thought and education serving Israel and North America. Our mission is to strengthen Jewish peoplehood, identity and pluralism and ensure that Judaism is a compelling force for good in the 21st century. Our work in the Bay Area is generously funded by For more information on our work in the Bay Area, please contact Joshua Ladon, West Coast Director of Education firstname.lastname@example.org | 415.905.0142
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Opinion Learning Hebrew in an hour a week? It’s complicated EDITORIAL When it comes to learning modern Hebrew, ktsat is better than klum. However, given that Hebrew is the universal language of the Jewish people, “a little is better than nothing” doesn’t help American Jews communicate with the rest of our family. Very few of us speak Hebrew well enough to do so. Our story this week details in depth the shaky reality of Hebrew-language instruction in after-school religious education — what used to be called, ironically, “Hebrew school.” As a recently concluded national study has revealed, Hebrew instruction in those settings for the most part aims to help children “decode” the language more than actually acquire fluency. The objective is for students to be able to sound out the words, follow along in the siddur, and prepare for their bar or bat mitzvah — not to be able to maintain a conversation with their Israeli friends. It’s not that Jewish educators prefer teaching Hebrew this way. No doubt they would love to see their students master the language. The problem is, of course, that synagogue-based Hebrew schools have students for three or four hours a week, at most, and Hebrew-language instruction is only part of the curriculum. Even with native Hebrew speakers as teachers, these school environments are not set up for teaching more than a smattering of the language. As one of the educators interviewed in our story lamented, “Being Jewish is not a hobby. It is who we are. But we can’t expect it to be much of who we are if we can’t make time for it.” Even parents who are determined to give their children a deep and meaningful Jewish education can rarely provide what it takes to have them master a second language: immersion classes, living in Israel for a time or growing up in a household in which Hebrew is spoken regularly. Sending children to Jewish day schools is another option. They learn plenty of Hebrew there, along with other Jewish studies. But that’s an all-encompassing decision, not one every family wants to make. In times as turbulent as these, parents want to see their kids thrive as best they can, even if that means going to school on Zoom and visiting with friends on FaceTime. As important as cementing Jewish identity may be for those parents, making sure their kids learn conversational Hebrew probably isn’t a priority at this time. This is nothing new. Jewish educators have been bemoaning the state of Hebrew-language acquisition for decades or longer. But that doesn’t mean they should give up. Our story this week also describes new initiatives, such as emergent curriculum and JQuest, which push back against the inertia that impedes much Hebrew-language instruction in afterschool programs. We applaud and encourage these efforts. n
PICTURE THIS: Public menorahs in glass cases light up the streets of Jerusalem during Hanukkah. The holiday begins at sundown on Dec. 10 this year. (Photo/Israel21C-GPO)
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Jewish Dems are still MOTs
This is in response to Scott Abramson’s letter (“Len was a true Trump fan,” Nov. 12) about the obituary for Leonard Greendorfer. I read Mr. Greendorfer’s obituary in J. and was rather appalled by how his allegiance to Donald Trump was characterized, but I felt that each individual has the right to an obituary that describes who they were and what they stood for. For Mr. Abramson to highlight the sentence ending “progressives who abandoned the Jewish faith for the religion of the Democratic Party” was truly appalling. Americans who belong to the Democratic Party have not abandoned their Jewish faith in any way! Nor have Republicans. And to characterize the Democratic Party as a religion comparable to the Jewish faith is reprehensible. I take great exception to characterizing a political party as a religion, and especially comparing a political party to the Jewish religion. I am a proud American Jew; Judaism
is my religion. An American’s political affiliation has nothing to do with his/her religion. I am disturbed by Mr. Abramson’s letter.
HARRIET FERNANDEZ | SAN JOSE
Letters of ’no useful purpose’
Enough already! Nearly half the voters voted for Trump. A little over 50 percent voted for Biden. Many voters detested Trump. Many (probably less vocal) strongly did not think much of Biden. Each voter had his or her reasons. In politics and in religion, “logical” arguments are really not accepted by either side. Therefore many of your readers would appreciate your not publishing letters/diatribes against any candidate (“Why did Jews vote for Trump?” Nov. 12), whether it be Trump, Biden or even Mickey Mouse. In this era of a divided nation, these letters serve no useful purpose. Do they?
MARVIN ENGEL | PIEDMONT
Zionism 3.0: reimagining diaspora-Israel relations ZACK BODNER | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR Think about the Jews you know — both in the diaspora and in Israel. Now, among them, do you know a diaspora Jew whose relationship with Israel has become tainted by Israel’s politics or policy decisions — specifically Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians or non-Orthodox Jews? What about an Israeli who couldn’t care less about what diaspora Jews think, since they are certain diaspora Jews will be gone in a generation due to intermarriage and assimilation? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you know someone who fits each description. And that’s the problem. Today, Jews in Israel and the diaspora are speaking past each other. We are focused on the areas of disagreement, misalignment and frustration. Each of us is unwilling to accept the other if they don’t share our opinions on politics or identity. We are willing to disassociate ourselves from the entire body politic of the other simply because we don’t see eye-to-eye. But when have the Jews ever agreed with each other? Did Joseph and his brothers get along? Did the Sadducees and Pharisees agree? Did the Maccabees embrace the Hellenized Jews? Did the students of Hillel and Shammai light Hanukkah candles together? Did the soldiers of the Haganah lay down their guns when facing Irgun soldiers? In case you were wondering, the answer is “NO!” Jews have always had deep disagreements, yet we have not only managed to survive as a people, but woven those divergent strands deep into our shared identity. That’s why it’s time to reimagine diaspora-Israel
For the first time ever in Jewish history, we have two strong, thriving centers of Jewish life: in Israel and in North America.
Last word on Prop. 15
My letter last month (“Looking closer at three props,” Oct. 15) did not state, as Ms. Ochs’ responding letter (“Wrong claims about Prop. 15,” Oct. 30) implied, that Proposition 15 would “raise property taxes” on residences and small businesses. Instead, I said it would “destroy Prop. 13’s property tax protections” for homeowners, small businesses and farms, raise costs of living, and has no accountability — all accurate. Proposition 15 would have done this indirectly by passing the increased taxes gained from large corporations onto smaller businesses, thereby increasing rents and the costs of everything from food to products and services. This would affect everyone’s property tax, and in effect, bypass Prop. 13’s protections. Speaking of “opulent corporations,” a Nov. 6 article in Forbes stated that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, through their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, “spent $10.8 million to advance Prop. 15,” and that
relations. It’s time for Jewish peoplehood to grow up. It’s time for Zionism to evolve to its next phase: Zionism 3.0. Why 3.0? Because Zionism 1.0 was the pre-1948 Zionism of theory, of the pioneers, of Theodor Herzl, Ahad Ha’am and Rav Kook. It was the Zionism of creating a sovereign Jewish state where Jews could be safe and live without fear of pogroms or Nazis. Then in 1948, Zionism evolved to its next phase. Zionism 2.0 was the Zionism of reality, of the builders like David Ben-Gurion, and A. D. Gordon. Israel’s existence was threatened by its neighbors and a vital piece of its survival was diaspora support. Zionism 2.0 was defined by the “rich American uncle” — the notion that those in the diaspora who didn’t make aliyah were obligated to support those who did. It was the Zionism of diaspora negation; the thinking that the Jewish future lies only in Israel, and those in the diaspora were somehow lesser Jews. But now, for the first time ever in Jewish history, we have two strong, independent, thriving centers of Jewish life: in Israel and in the West, primarily in North America. We have different characteristics, but we are both flourishing. And now we depend on each other in new ways, and can enrich each other in new ways. So the model must evolve to Zionism 3.0, the next phase of Zionist ideology. We must recognize that Jews in both places add to the other — not just for security, but with each other’s spiritual and cultural contributions, as well. We can’t let political frameworks dictate the nature of our relationship, but must use our shared sense of peoplehood and our common destiny to frame our relationship. The Z3 Project strives to do just that by embracing three central principles: 1. Unity not uniformity. We aim to honor our differences while working for the oneness of the Jewish people. 2. Engaging as equal partners. We bring together Israelis and diaspora Jews to build our common future.
(Facebook) would have owed “additional taxes as a result.” The Zuckerbergs might easily afford such extra taxes, but almost all of the rest of us can’t. I’m thankful that more Californians saw through the ruse and voted it down.
DAVE HARRIS | RICHMOND
JCRC was wrong on Prop. 16
A recent edition of J. featured a recordation of Jewish Community Relations Council support of the late, but unlamented, Proposition 16 (“Jewish orgs back Prop. 16 despite complicated history with affirmative action,” Oct. 26), which would have reinstated discrimination on account of race, sex or national origin in California. That’s been prohibited by a California constitutional amendment adapted by voters in 1996. California voters banned preferential treatment of any individual or group on the basis of race, sex or national origin in public education, public contracting and public employment. That ended quotas at
3. Diversity of voices. We convene Zionists of differing backgrounds Zack Bodner is chief and perspectives across executive officer of the the political and religious Oshman Family JCC in spectrums. Palo Alto. For the last five years, we’ve hosted a full-day conference at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto that’s attracted more than 1,000 people at a time to engage in this conversation. This year, we are making the experience available to people all over the world by moving to a 100 percent virtual experience over the week of Hanukkah, from Dec. 10 to 17, and inviting JCCs around the globe to participate. This innovative online experiment is so much more than just a web conference. Thanks to the partnership of JCCA and JCC Global, more than 30 JCCs will bring Z3 to their own communities. Each day during Hanukkah, we will have a couple hours of programming that starts with a marquee speaker followed by a panel of experts. Throughout the program, we will stream articles and videos full of rich information about the panel topic and ask participants to delve into their thoughts. Then each community will break out and host its own localized discussion. Most exciting of all, the week will culminate with every attendee casting a vote on which deserving nonprofits will receive support from the pool fund created by registration fees. It will be the world’s largest Jewish giving circle! This is an exercise in active participation. We are done with passive teleconference calls where we just watch interesting speakers. Help us reimagine diaspora-Israel relations together by taking the first step and joining us at Z3Project.org. The Z3 Project and all who participate this year are putting our money where our mouths are, working collectively to move Zionism and peoplehood to the next level. n
UC campuses, in the California State University system, and in civil service positions, construction contracts and the like. Jews, of all people, should remember quotas in higher education through the first half of the 20th century. JCRC lent itself to a misleading campaign urging Prop. 16 adoption purportedly to combat systemic racism and sexism by levelling the “playing field for every Californian.” Instead of ignoring history by bolstering historic discrimination adversely affecting Jews and others, JCRC suppressed the ability and right of Jews to succeed intellectually, economically and socially. JCRC does not represent this Jew or voters who protected equal opportunity by even a higher percentage than 24 years ago.
JUDGE QUENTIN L. KOPP (RET.) SAN FRANCISCO
A great ‘Chicago 8’ movie
Frances Dinkelspiel wrote a good piece on Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
(“Abbie Hoffman’s Bay Area son, activists recall real ’Chicago 7’ trial,” Oct. 30), but she should have mentioned the movie about what really happened: “Conspiracy: the Trial of the Chicago 8.” Jeremy Kagan made that one in 1987. That movie is not “awfully quiet,” as Andrew Hoffman described the new one. And it doesn’t make the eight defendants (yes, it can count to eight) Oedipal cases. I hope Andrew Hoffman does write his own book or make his own movie. Meanwhile, I think Kagan’s made-for-HBO movie is a good history lesson and a wonderful drama. I love Sorkin’s dialogue when he’s writing fiction, but Kagan used the real words of the real people.
DIANE MOORE | DAVIS
No in-person Turkey Day
While Daniel Treiman’s opinion piece on Thanksgiving (“We need Thanksgiving more than ever this year,” Nov. 16) was very continued on page 30
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Yes, some Jews of color are Trump voters, and other truths about political ‘diversity’ MIJAL BITTON | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR After Joe Biden won the presidency, my liberal friends — mostly Ashkenazi Jews with deep roots in America — were aghast that more than 70 million Americans voted for Trump. My Syrian, Persian, Bukharian and Hispanic friends and family members — Jews with immigrant identities — were shocked, too. But most mourned the president’s defeat. Being a scholar in liberal settings and a traditional Jew with deep ties to conservative immigrant Jewish communities have afforded me a dual vantage point to a political division that is not understood nor acknowledged by the liberal Jewish establishment: that entire populations of diverse Jews (or Jews of color, depending on one’s definition) lean Republican, and many of them voted for Donald Trump. Demographic data is scarce about the voting patterns of these Jewish communities. But as an Argentine immigrant Jew of Middle Eastern background and a scholar of Sephardic Jews, I see that much of the American Jewish political fracture stems from precisely these divergent identities. Our current Jewish communal efforts toward understanding our diverse community overlook conservative-leaning Jews from minority groups. These challenges are not unique to Jews, as Trump’s share of ethnic and racial minority votes increased in 2020 compared with 2016. It is clear that there is no monolithic category of American “people of color” who universally vote for Democrats. The now-obvious gap — between how minorities identify and how “mainstream” institutional leaders speak of them — is also present in the Jewish community. This gap interferes with our understanding of diversity and ability to perform critical political work in our own communities. In my work, I have found three prevalent fallacies that impair Jewish diversity projects: the idea that all diverse Jews are the same, that nonwhite or diverse Jews are all progressive, and rampant tokenism.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR educational, I am appalled that it was only at the very end that he mentioned anything about the need for not gathering in person for Thanksgiving this year. This information was too little and too late. Our Covid numbers are increasing exponentially, and the last thing we need is for in-person gatherings for this holiday. I hope J. will take on responsible journalism in this regard.
TISH LEVEE | SANTA ROSA
Hooray for originalists
A letter writer in J. argued we should not read the Constitution looking for the original meaning (“Originalists want the impossible,” Nov. 12), nor should we read the Torah to understand its original meaning. I disagree. That is exactly what we should do when reading any teaching, old or new.
Many have a well-meaning but mistaken impulse to flatten the differences within and between diverse Jewish populations. They assume that all Syrian Jews, for instance, have the same political orientations or that all Black Jews would feel uncomfortable with security details at synagogues. Others commit this flattening between groups, lumping together Black, Asian and nonwhite Middle Eastern Jews as if they all see themselves as parts of the same communities with shared goals and interests. One example is the way some use “Jews of color” as a catchall phrase for Black Jews, Middle Eastern Jews, sometimes even all Sephardic Jews and Hispanic Jews. Yet we have no indication that these diverse populations identify as part of the same group. In fact, the data suggest otherwise. For example, most Hispanic Jews in the U.S. (mainly from Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina) are likely to identify both as Hispanic and white, despite being labeled as “Jews of color.” A consequence of between-groups flattening is that it obscures needed anti-racist work. When we group together all diverse/nonwhite Jews, it undermines what we are trying to achieve. Black Jews, for instance, face different challenges than, say, white-identifying Hispanic Jews. In several recent roundtables, diverse Jews were described as fully aligned with progressive ideologies. This is demonstrably untrue. While liberals in my newsfeed argued that the best way to honor Jews of color would be to march with Black Lives Matter, many of my Hispanic friends were anxious about BLM’s anti-capitalist discourse, and my Middle Eastern Jewish friends were more likely to be dropping off cookies at police precincts than supporting anti-racist demonstrations. As Laura Limonic says in “Kugel and Frijoles,” “Latino Jews are not, on the whole, politically conservative,” but there are electorally significant populations of Hispanic Jews who defy this mold. According to the 2019 American Jewish Yearbook,
Mijal Bitton is a scholar-inFlorida contains the third residence at the Shalom largest population of Jews Hartman Institute of North in the U.S. Since Jews tend America and the communal to vote at higher rates than other Americans, and Jews in leader and co-founder of the Downtown Minyan Florida at higher rates than other Jews, the Jewish vote is at NYU. This piece was distributed by JTA. particularly important there. While we don’t have data on how Jewish Hispanics voted in Florida, my own anecdotal interactions with Latino Jews there indicate that many have immigrant identities that contribute to their support of Republicans. In particular, Cuban Jews oppose what they perceive as the Democrats’ affinity toward communism or socialism. Among Middle Eastern Sephardic Jews in the U.S., many share family histories of having escaped Arab nationalism and antisemitism in the Middle East. Their experiences of Jewish displacement have led many to identify with a realpolitik approach in which a “strongman” politician can best compete in the international arena to protect both Israel and U.S. interests. Moreover, many are socially conservative and identify with Trump’s economic policies. When underrepresented populations are mainly portrayed through monolithic single stories, one danger is that we only “hear from” minorities when they fit the majority culture’s narrative. 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.
continued from page 29 How can we learn from Plato, Shakespeare or Lincoln unless we understand what they intended to say? Same for the Torah. Sure, meanings become obscured over time as language evolves. But if we simply read old works and give them the meaning we want them to have, we are not learning from them and not being honest. Rather, we are just using them and their authority to justify our own opinions. It is a cop-out to say that finding the original meaning is impossible. We can go a long way down the road to discover original meaning. The same principles apply to reading the Constitution. Judges need to understand it as it was intended. If the old law is no longer satisfactory, amend it. When judges simply read into it what they want it to say, that usurps the role of Congress and the people and is not honest.
ALAN TITUS | SAN FRANCISCO
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Does America owe anyone?
there is a group of individuals within a society “toward whom obligations are owed.” California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum This is in direct contrast to JFK’s “Ask not stands in stark contrast to the famous John F. what your country can do for you.” Kennedy quote: “Ask not what your country can I have witnessed the effects of the Holodo for you; ask what you can do for your country.” caust. My wife’s grandparents, aunt and Since the first ESMC draft was presented cousins were murdered in the Minsk ghetto, to the public in August 2019, it has garnered in Belarus. In 1978, we immigrated to the criticism for its divisiveness and its pro-Marxist United States from the downtrodden socialist ideological leanings, including the notion of “systems of power,” rooted in critical race theory. “paradise,” the Soviet Union. We never expected that America owes us any obligation or special The latest edits recommended by the favors. We were in debt to America for the state Department of Education do nothing to freedoms and opportunities granted to us and move away from this detrimental model of all citizens by her unique “systems of power” ethnic studies. Although the new Appendix E outlined in the Constitution. attempts to mitigate the dogmatic, bellicose “What we can do for our country” is to share (and antisemitic) nature of the ESMC, even our experience of living through the hell of this section, right after briefly describing the hate and racism in the past, in order to avoid horrors of Holocaust, refers to the “universe repeating it in the future. of obligation.” According to this construct,
VLADIMIR KAPLAN | SAN MATEO
A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED HERE It didn’t seem possible. Last March, the coronavirus pandemic forced J. into lockdown, along with everyone else. Overnight, our staff had to find a way to publish a newspaper while sheltering at home. At the same time, the pandemic forced many of J.’s advertisers to stop buying ads, depriving the newspaper of vital income. And yet, we remained dutybound to cover the impact of the virus on the Northern California Jewish community. Then, a great miracle happened. Readers and supporters of J. decided this newspaper was worth going all in for. Donors gave generously, subscribers renewed, and advertisers returned so that J. could help them get their message out. This remarkable support sustained J., allowing us to continue our in-depth local coverage. In July, we were honored with the largest number of American Jewish Press Association awards in our 125-year history. This ever-increasing grassroots support demonstrates that our readers understand and appreciate J. as a vital community asset, now more than ever. Please donate to J. today to keep us thriving. In an era of great challenge for news organizations, J. is committed to maintaining its vision and values—to unite our Jewish community in more inclusive ways, to report the news while grappling with questions of Jewish identity, values, and community-building. As we celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah this year, we look back on eight months (and counting) of unwavering support you showed this community newspaper, at a time when we really needed it. We could not be more grateful, especially as we brace for the uncertainties of 2021.
Help us reach our end-of-year goal. Donate to J. by December 31! Online donations are preferred and appreciated at this time. Make your tax-deductible gift securely online at jweekly.com/donate or phone 415.796.0227. Thank you for your support. 1 10.19.2018 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
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Culture Jewish filmmaker behind ‘White Noise,’ a new documentary on the alt-right FILM | BEN SALES | JTA Soon after Donald Trump’s election win in 2016, raw footage emerged of a rally where white supremacist Richard Spencer called out “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” and was greeted with Nazi salutes. The filmmaker who caught that scene on tape was Daniel Lombroso, whose Holocaust-survivor grandmother cautioned him, when he started the project, against putting himself in proximity to antisemites. As far-right activity burgeoned in the Trump era, Lombroso kept his cameras rolling, and he zoomed in on the alt-right movement, white nationalists like Spencer who wanted to remake the right wing and the country. Lombroso’s resulting documentary, “White Noise,” released earlier this month by the Atlantic (the magazine’s first feature documentary), follows three prominent alt-right
— which is basically white nationalism, antisemitism — so appealing to so many people. I wanted to get to the core of the ideology and understand at a more psychological level: What do these people believe? How do they work? … You come to see how empty they are, how narcissistic they are, how vacuous the whole ideology is in the end. You don’t use other voices or provide much historical background. It’s 90 minutes of interviews with them and footage of them. Why? The best and most effective way to dismantle their ideology is to really expose the contradictions at the core of their worldview. So Mike [Cernovich] tweets things like “diversity is a code word for white genocide,” and then you see he has a Persian spouse and a biracial kid who speaks Farsi.
How did you deal emotionally with being immersed in these people’s world? It was very hard. I think I suppressed a lot. I mostly work alone. I would say it’s made me much more proudly Jewish. I’m much more aware and vocal about the level of antisemitism in [the U.S. and Europe]. It’s had an interesting effect on my political views and my psychology and identity after the making of the film, just encountering so much hate. And a lot of it was directed at me … now every day I’m getting really gross antisemitic hate mail and Twitter DMs filled with the most disgusting Nazi cartoons. How much antisemitism did you face while filming? All of [the subjects utter] dog whistles like “the Rothschilds” and “global cabal” and “new world order” and “Soros,” and all that stuff is just so part of the vernacular. But there were also some pretty aggressive antisemitic incidents. I was left on a ranch in Florida in pitch black with a bunch of Richard Spencer’s followers … there’s all these kids dressed in white … and Spencer went out to dinner and left me with all of them, and they had just discovered recently that I was Jewish. It turned south pretty quickly. A lot of “kike” and Hitler salutes and just really gross stuff. [There was also] a lot of really aggressive taunting for being a reporter, that you’re fake news, you’re starting a race war.
“The best and most effective way to dismantle their ideology is to expose the contradictions at the core of their worldview.” Daniel Lombroso
doubt, in all of the focus groups, all of the people I’ve spoken to, that anyone comes out of this film feeling empowered or emboldened or wanting to gravitate toward these ideas, because they really expose themselves as being so empty.
Daniel Lombroso (right), who shot “White Noise,” interviews far-right YouTuber Lauren Southern in France. (Photo/JTA-Michael Miroshnik)
figures through the first three years of the Trump administration, as their careers ascend and then fade: Spencer, a leading ideologue; Mike Cernovich, a vocal misogynist and conspiracy theorist; and Lauren Southern, a far-right antifeminist and anti-immigrant activist. Lombroso sat down for a long interview with JTA, the full version of which can be read at tinyurl.com/jta-wn1. This has been shortened for space considerations. JTA: What drew you to this topic? Daniel Lombroso: I started covering the alt-right as a reporter at the Atlantic in 2016. A week after Trump’s election, I caught a room full of people breaking out into Nazi salutes. It was this really pivotal viral moment … it really solidified that the alt-right is fundamentally a racist movement. It’s fundamentally an antisemitic movement. It wasn’t a cool, conservative rebrand like they claimed. I think I wanted to understand what made the ideology
Ultimately that unvarnished approach, it has to be done really responsibly. It shouldn’t glamorize them. It shouldn’t make them look like rock stars. Every single day, I promise you, for four years, that was on my mind — to take them seriously. If done responsibly, that’s the most clarifying approach you can take. A potential criticism is that we’re helping them recruit, that it’s a platform. I think it’s actually the opposite. No one comes out of the film wanting to join that movement. The three subjects despise the film and want nothing to do with it. Because some people don’t know that being a white nationalist is bad, did you ever want to give more context to what your subjects were saying? When someone is saying “lugenpresse” [a Nazi term that means the “lying press”] and talking about extermination, that’s self-evidently bad enough to the 90 percent of us who care that it’s worth raising the awareness. I really strongly
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Support for Trump is a major throughline in the movie. How much do you connect Trump with what you saw? There’s no alt-right without Trump and I actually believe that there’s no Trump without the alt-right. The alt-right as it appears in the movie is essentially dead. [But] the far-right antisemitic racist movement, that’s Trump’s most passionate base. Your grandmother, who is still living, is a Holocaust survivor. What did she think of the movie? She right away gravitated toward the opportunism: “These guys are just frauds and snake oil salesmen,” she said. At the top of the project, she told me not to do it. She didn’t want me to be subjected to all the abuse that I’ve dealt with. She’s been very supportive and it’s been her view that people need to know what’s going on. n
“White Noise” (94 minutes, not rated) is available for rent or purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Vimeo On Demand. For details, visit theatlantic.com/white-noise-movie.
JFI celebrating 40th anniversary with Hanukkah film fest FILM | LAURA PAULL | J. STAFF The Jewish Film Institute, the S.F.-based entity that wasn’t able to present its annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival this past summer due to the pandemic, has devised a special program to mark its 40th anniversary and light up your personal screen with Jewish films for Hanukkah. From Dec. 10 to 17, JFI will present what it has deemed “eight days of illuminating programs” — including a drive-in movie in San Francisco on opening night, online screenings, a panel and an event to honor SFJFF’s anniversary. Things will kick off Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Fort Mason Flix pop-up drive-in with the U.S. premiere of “Howie Mandel: But, Enough About Me,” about the Canadian comedian and actor. The 88-minute film examines Mandel’s life and career, as well as his painful struggles with mental illness. A special JFI interview with Mandel and director Barry Avrich will follow the film. Tickets are $40 per vehicle for JFI members and $45 for the public, and many Covid-19 protocols will be in effect. Off the Grid will provide food truck options, JFI said, with details to come. The other films in the 40th anniversary Hanukkah celebration will be available for streaming throughout the festival, most of them followed by a recorded interview with the director and/or principal actor. All of them are either 2019 or 2020 releases. Here’s a look at the lineup: “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” is a sweeping, two-hour German drama about the rise of Nazism as seen through the eyes of a 9-year-old-girl in Europe. It’s the latest from Caroline Link, director of “Nowhere in Africa,” winner of the best international feature Oscar in 2003. “Born in Jerusalem and Still Alive” is the festival’s Next Wave Spotlight film, an Israeli comedy selected for its appeal to young adults. Co-directors David Ofek and Yossi Atia, who also stars, find an absurdist angle on the social
tensions and political violence of Israel 20-30 years ago. “Sublet” is a romantic drama from Israel that’s been an audience favorite at other Jewish film festivals this year. Directed by Eytan Fox, it tells the story of an American travel writer who goes to Tel Aviv and is drawn into a relationship with a young film student. But Tel Aviv itself is the true star.
bon vivant father, Ira Sachs Sr., over a period of 35 years. “A Crime on the Bayou” is a gripping documentary by Nancy Buirski that recounts the true story of a Jewish lawyer who, in 1966 New Orleans, tirelessly pursued justice for a Black teenager wrongfully accused of assault. Also in the lineup is “Jews in Shorts,” a program of four shorter documentaries from the U.S. and Israel. Another free event that can be accessed online at any time during the festival is a panel called “Engines of Truth.” Jewish filmmakers Amy Ziering, Bonni Cohen, Judith Helfand and Roberta Grossman will converse about how various factors — such as Jewish values, identity, culture and feminism — have figured into their groundbreaking documentaries. The event to celebrate the SFJFF’s 40th anniversary will take place online at 6 p.m. Dec. 12, with guests and remembrances from four decades of Jewish cinema and culture, plus film clips and trailers. This event is free, with a suggested donation. “This year has made crystal clear to us From “Howie Mandel: But, Enough About Me,” a documentary by Barry that community, art and film have the abilAvrish. (Photo/Courtesy JFI) ity to bring light and hope in challenging times,” Lexi Leban, JFI’s executive director, “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life,” directed by Ric Burns, said in a release. “We are not going anywhere and we plan to explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and be around for the next 40 years.” n storyteller who had battles with drug addiction, homophobia and the medical establishment. “JFI 40th Anniversary Hanukkah Celebration,” Dec. 10-17. “Film About a Father Who” is a documentary by Lynne $10-$15 per online film, $40-$70 for festival passes. All Sachs, who attempts to understand child-to-parent and proceeds support the ongoing work of JFI. For more sibling-to-sibling connections through interviews, home information, visit jfi.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call movies and archival images, probing the personality of her (415) 621-0568 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Web class to explore Israel’s history through its music MAYA MIRSKY | J. STAFF Noa Levy is steeped in song. “I have been singing my whole life,” said the Israeli artist, who moved to the Bay Area five years ago. Now she’s combining her knowledge of music and her home country in a multipart lecture series on the history of Israeli music, offered virtually over four Mondays starting Dec. 7 by Congregation Ner Tamid in San Francisco. Levy wants to take American Jews past their usual nostalgic Israeli favorites for a deeper look at how events and culture have informed song throughout the country’s history. “There’s room for expanding the horizons,” Levy said. Using rare videos, photographs and a lot of recorded music, she will walk people through Israeli history — no Hebrew required. Levy uses 1880 as a starting year, exploring music from the early days of immigration from Eastern Europe and how the romantic ideals of pioneers reclaiming the land of their forefathers were expressed in song. “The music was an indicator of what was going on,” Levy said. The next lecture will cover the struggle to establish the State of Israel and the ethos expressed in the music of that period, followed by a period (post-independence through
the 1980s) during which Israeli music underwent major changes. “My personal favorite is the ’60s/’70s,” she said. “There was really a boom of interesting music that is significantly different than what was before it.” As is common everywhere, the music tells stories about place and time and reflects changes in Noa Levy Israeli culture. “That was the beginning of separating a little bit from the big Zionist ideas,” Levy said. “And where it gets really interesting is in the ’80s, when societal divisions really began to bubble and surface.” The last lecture will focus on the music of today and the individualistic and multiethnic ideas that are pervading the current scene, with its global stars and mix of languages and cultures.
Levy is a professional jazz singer who got her start in high school. Her Israeli military service was with the prominent Navy Ensemble, which performed throughout Israel and toured the United States. All of that makes her well-suited for the task of guiding people through the music and the history — topics she loves so much that it’s hard for her to prune the series down to four parts. “Every time I run this series, I tweak it more and more,” she said. “I always run out of time!” Because many aspects of Israeli history touch on difficult subjects, she knows that the conversations, at times, may get political, but she encourages people, no matter what their feelings, to come for a deeper understanding of Israeli culture. “Generally we’re talking about music, but we’re talking about music as a representation of history,” she said. “Just keep an open mind.” “Israel’s Music History” gets underway at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 and will continue on Dec. 21, Dec. 28 and Jan. 4. Each session is 90 minutes, and the cost for the series is $20. For more details, call (415) 661-3383 or visit nertamidsf.org. n
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The Books section is supported by a generous grant from The Milton and Sophie Meyer Fund
Engaging, inventive debut novels reverberate with Jewish culture shock OFF THE SHELF HOWARD FREEDMAN Howard Freedman is the director of the Jewish Community Library, a project of Jewish LearningWorks, in San Francisco. All books mentioned in this column may be borrowed from the library.
For those attuned to the Torah reading cycle, one of the striking aspects of the Genesis narratives is that the characters are often moving to foreign places. From Adam and Eve to Joseph, nobody stays where they started. As I read two ambitious new debut novels exploring, among other things, the experiences of protagonists thrust into new environments, I was reminded that culture shock is a deeply Jewish theme.
Max Gross’ “The Lost Shtetl” begins with a scandal that rattles the small, entirely Jewish Polish town of Kreskol. Pesha Lindauer has disappeared, and her rage-filled ex-husband has apparently gone after her. Fearing that there may be a violent crime in the works, the town’s elders send one of the town’s misfits, Yankel Lewinkopf, to go to the nearest city to engage the authorities. There is a detail I didn’t mention: This story takes place in the 21st century. By a historical accident, this fictional town hidden in the woods escaped the attention of both the Nazis and the Polish authorities, and has been functioning self-sufficiently in total isolation for decades. Thus, when Yankel, who cannot speak Polish and is dressed like a relic from the 19th century, ultimately shows up in the larger city of Smolskie, he is whisked to a hospital for observation. As he is assessed
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by doctors, he expresses absolute ignorance of the modern world. In one of the book’s poignant moments, when he is informed that nearly all Polish Jews were murdered during World War II, he responds, “Just how dumb do you think I am?” Some think he is crazy, and some think he is lying. But when he is ultimately believed, the Polish government and the media descend on Kreskol, and nothing will ever be the same for the Jewish town that time forgot. The novel portrays two arenas of radical change. One is the transformation of Kreskol itself. Once its existence is known, the town sees an influx of bureaucrats, bargain hunters, Jewish tourists and non-Jewish apartment hunters, as well as paved roads, electricity, a new currency and a sewer system (accompanied by tax collection). Some townspeople welcome the changes and others resist them, and as bitter rivalries emerge among the Jewish residents, the initial promise of a better life gives way to a less rosy scenario. Equally interesting are the changes within Lewinkopf himself, who, upon returning to Kreskol, takes the opportunity to leave again, sneaking onto a helicopter with a news crew headed for Warsaw. With few prospects in Kreskol (he had been sent on his mission largely because, as the son of a deceased prostitute, he was seen as expendable), he is energized by his encounter with the modern world, particularly after he finds, and falls in love with, the disappeared Pesha. Gross manages to create an unbelievable situation that feels quite real. And he does it with doses of humor that do not diminish the serious issues at hand, including the evocation of antisemitism in both the past and present. Another novel published this fall, “The Orchard” by David Hopen, presents a very different sort of culture shock. Aryeh “Ari” Eden is a teenager in a strictly Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn whose life is consumed by study and ritual observance. When his father is offered a new job, the family relocates to Florida. Now living in an affluent Jewish suburb of Miami, Ari spends his senior year in a high school that could hardly contrast more with his rundown and insular Brooklyn yeshiva. The new school is ostensibly Modern Orthodox, but religion is a secondary concern for its wealthy and ambitious
college-bound students. Ari’s next door neighbor is the school’s star athlete, and Ari is brought into a social group that introduces him to the world of parties, boats, luxury cars, teen romance, drugs and alcohol. But this is not a vapid group of kids, and one of the unexpected dimensions of the book is the large portion of it devoted to philosophical and religious discussion. Much of it transpires in heady and challenging sessions led by the school’s principal, Rabbi Bloom — with some sections
This fictional town hidden in the woods escaped the attention of both the Nazis and the Polish authorities, and has been functioning selfsufficiently in total isolation for decades. potentially difficult for readers without a background in Judaism, particularly as there is a fair amount of Hebrew terminology used. The orchard of the title hearkens to a haunting Talmudic tale in which four great rabbis enter pardes, which can be translated as an orchard. Only Rabbi Akiba emerges whole from this mysterious venture. Without engaging in spoilers, the boys with whom Ari is closest increasingly take on their own sets of serious risks, partly as a challenge to the ideas they are encountering. It has been quite a while since I’ve read a book focused on the lives of teenagers. I appreciated Hopen’s skill in conveying the powerful experience of attempting to find one’s own identity during those tumultuous years — which, in Ari’s case, is only intensified by the displacement and revelation that he experiences. n
“The Lost Shtetl” by Max Gross (416 pages, HarperVia) “The Orchard” by David Hopen (480 pages, Ecco)
HANUKKAH FOOD & GIFTS Safe menorah lightings around the Bay to brighten your Hanukkah holidays A drive-through Hanukkah wonderland. Individually wrapped latkes. Socially distanced public menorah lightings. Yes, local Jewish organizations have had to take some precautions this year to ensure safe community gatherings for the Festival of Lights. But nothing will stop the annual lighting of the menorahs. Most events in these listings are outdoors and in-person, unless otherwise noted, and include some sort of menorah lighting. All are free unless noted. Information about Hanukkah parties and events (aside from menorah lightings) can be found in our regular events calendar. The first night of Hanukkah this year is after sundown on Dec. 10, and the eighth night will be on Dec. 17. Please, enjoy! —R.D. Landau
Outdoor or virtual menorah lightings are favored this year. Left, Union Square lightings in happier times. (Photos/ Natalie Schrik) Above, a Hanukkiah. (Wikimedia Commons)
Bill Graham Menorah Project. On the 45th anniversary of the first Union Square lighting in 1975, the giant, 25-foot-tall menorah will be aglow every night of Hanukkah, and the public is invited to participate virtually each evening. The lightings will be from 5 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 10, 12 and 14-17; from 3 to 4 p.m. Dec. 11 (Shabbat) and 3 to 6 p.m. Dec. 13 for Bill Graham Menorah Day. Zoom livestreaming nightly. tinyurl.com/y26jauh4. Ghirardelli Square Hanukkah Glow and Go. Presented by the JCC of San Francisco, this event will feature a giant menorah, music coming from an LED grand piano, free party kits for pickup (advance registration required), and fried foods for take-home or outdoor dining. 3-6 p.m. Dec. 12. At Ghirardelli Square. Advance registration requested. tinyurl.com/Ghirardellilighting. Healing Light of Hanukkah. In this virtual event, S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services invites the community to “explore how the light of Hanukkah brightens up even the darkest of times.” There will be stories, teachings, songs, humor and a ritual lighting — all on Zoom. 2-3 p.m. Dec. 16. hanukkah.eventbrite.com.
Hanukkah On the Lake. Chabad of Oakland’s 14th annual crowd-pleaser will include a fire show, latkes, sufganiyot, gelt, games and a menorah lighting. 4:30 p.m. Dec. 10. At Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Lake Merritt Boulevard between 12th Street and 1st Avenue, Oakland. Registration requested. jewishoakland.org. Celebration for Young Children. A virtual Hanukkah party aimed at kids ages 1 to 5, this event is organized by Jewish Gateways, an open community that promotes Jewish exploration and connection. No Jewish knowledge
or experience necessary. There will be a menorah lighting, singing, dancing, storytelling and an art project (supplies available for pickup at several East Bay locations). 10-11 a.m. Dec. 13. $20 per family. Advance registration requested. tinyurl.com/gateway-light. Lighting and Concert. Chabad of Fremont’s seventh annual giant-menorah lighting will feature a drive-in concert with rock band Moshav, plus jelly doughnuts and other Hanukkah treats. 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14. At Chabad of Fremont, 220 Yerba Buena Place, Fremont. Limited space, registration requested. chabadfremont.com.
Montgomery Village. Chabad of Sonoma County presents singer-songwriter Achi Ben Shalom playing music for all ages, with a large menorah lighting and individually wrapped Hanukkah treats. 4 p.m. Dec. 13. At Montgomery Village, 911 Village Court, Santa Rosa. tinyurl.com/ chabad-sonoma. Hanukkah Drive-Through Experience. Drive through Chabad of Petaluma’s “marvelous Hanukkah wonderland” and see a 9-foot menorah, a dancing dreidel,
magic, fire-juggling, a balloon artist and circus entertainers. Plus individually wrapped latkes, doughnuts and gelt. Open 4:30 to 6 p.m. Dec. 13, last entry at 5:30 p.m. Free with RSVP. At Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, 175 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma. tinyurl.com/chabad-petaluma. Drive-In Menorah Lighting. Chabad of Novato presents a menorah lighting you can enjoy from your car. Featuring music, latkes, doughnuts and a video. 4 p.m. Dec. 13. At Hamilton Community Center parking lot, 503 Palm Drive, Novato. tinyurl.com/novato-lit.
PENINSULA & SOUTH BAY
Drive-In Hanukkah. Chabad of North Peninsula is presenting a fifth-night gala with live music by Saul Kaye, a juggling and light show, a dreidel mascot, jelly doughnuts and two menorah lightings. 5-5:45 p.m. and 6:45-7:30 p.m. Dec. 14. Location given with required RSVP. tinyurl.com/ chabad-np. IllumiNation: National Virtual Hanukkah Celebration. Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto has organized this online event and invited Conservative synagogues across the nation to “make the eighth night bright.” In addition to a menorah lighting, local singer-songwriter Neshama Carlebach will perform and author A.J. Jacobs (“The Year of Living Biblically”) will speak. 5:30-6:30 p.m. Dec. 17. Zoom registration required. tinyurl.com/kol-light. Do you know of a community menorah lighting event not listed here? Send your event information to events@ jweekly.com to be included in our Dec. 11 issue. n
NOTHING WILL STOP THE ANNUAL LIGHTING OF THE MENORAHS. JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 11.27.2020 35
HANUKKAH FOOD & GIFTS
North African Hanukkah ritual honors women RISHE GRONER | ALMA VIA JTA Did you know that there’s a Hanukkah tradition — Eid Al Bnat (Festival of Daughters, in Judeo-Arabic) or Chag HaBanot (in Hebrew) — that women and girls from North Africa’s Jewish communities have been celebrating for centuries? In Jerusalem last year, I joined a group of women of Middle Eastern and North African backgrounds who gather regularly to study their heritage with an organization called Arevot, and we held an inspiring Eid Al Bnat celebration, with a focus on how to bring it back into our own communities. Celebrated on Rosh Hodesh (new moon) of Tevet in communities in North Africa and elsewhere, this day is filled with historic
daughter of the Hasmonean, Yohanan the High Priest,” who lived in Judea during the time of the Maccabees. Among the anti-Jewish edicts of the time, the invading governor insisted on sleeping with every virgin bride the night before her marriage, and this carried on for almost four years. On the night of the high priest’s daughter’s marriage, as she was about to be carted off to the governor’s chamber, she uncovered her hair, opened her clothes and exposed herself to all. Amid cries of “send her off to be burned,” she turned to the crowd and said something like, “Are you kidding? Doesn’t it bother you that I’m about to be exposed before this
The key components always include lighting the Hanukkah candles, lots of music and dancing, and the opportunity to create intimacy and community among women. connections to powerful Jewish women. The festival takes the form of ceremonial gatherings featuring symbolic rituals, delicious treats and traditional songs, all focusing on bringing together generations of mothers, daughters, aunts and sisters. The stories of Hanukkah are often retold only as the story of Judith, the brave widow who fake-seduced the Greek-Syrian general Holofernes, got him drunk on wine, then calmly beheaded him. The Maccabees won the battle and the rest is history. But there’s another, lesser known story of a brave woman not named except as “the
foreign invading governor?” Her brothers, the Maccabees, realized it was time to kill him. She got herself fancy and had herself escorted with dancers and musicians straight to the governor’s palace. Seeing the priestly family all caught up in this pseudo-wedding, the egomaniacal governor let them right in. They utilized the opportunity to behead him and all his servants, which helped bring the Maccabees to victory. The power of this woman’s vulnerability and honesty — and using her voice at just the right time — is a fascinating tradition that we celebrate on this night.
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In some communities, women visit the synagogue, kiss the Torah scrolls and are blessed by the rabbi; in others, they prepare a festive meal together, then celebrate all night. Sweet foods are prepared, prayers shared and songs sung. The key components always include lighting the Hanukkah candles, lots of music and dancing, and the opportunity to create intimacy and community among women. A song or piyyut often begins the night, followed by lighting the Hanukkah candles. Piyyutim are liturgical poems written in Hebrew. For those of us without the ability to improvise with epic Hebrew poetry, you can pick out a song that is meaningful to you and that women can sing together. After that, the women traditionally recite a blessing of “Mi Shebeirach Imoteinu” (“May the One who blessed our mothers bless us”). It’s a refreshing change from male-gendered liturgy, and an opportunity to improvise the prayer and show gratitude for the women who came before us. Next comes the chance to go around and get to know everyone. It’s beautiful to encourage every woman to name her mother and grandmothers as well, lighting a candle for each one in the center of the table, bringing our personal histories into the circle. One tradition is the presentation of the bat mitzvah girls of the year. It’s up to the moms and aunts to cheer, bless and love up these girls as newcomers to the women’s circle.
North African sfenj (Photo/JTA-Getty Images)
It’s also traditional to prepare foods together, like the North African favorite sfenj (doughnuts), honey cakes and cookies, or hold a potluck dinner. Since this festival is based on the stories of Judith and the daughter of Yohanan the Hasmonean, it’s important to tell, read or act out their stories, reflecting on the power of women. It’s a good time to share the history of the holiday, passing on wisdom and sharing the customs across different cultures. In Jerusalem, we played a game that asked each woman to share a tip or a gift, which included everything from womb meditations to honeybee secrets to how to cope with mourning a loved one. You can share poetry, songs or just the best thing your mother ever taught you. Whether you share stories, get vulnerable, cook up a storm or dance the night away, this night is for us all to celebrate the power of the women in our lives, and the bonds that keep us strong in the face of struggle. ■
This piece originally appeared in Alma.
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The Food section is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky
Step away from the stove! Local food purveyors churn out holiday favorites so you don’t have to THE ORGANIC EPICURE ALIX WALL Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals. As has been true for every Jewish holiday since the start of the pandemic, Hanukkah will look different this year. To help maintain some holiday traditions and satisfy the seasonal cravings for latkes, sufganiyot and other holiday foods, leave the cooking to others and do a mitzvah by supporting local food businesses at the same time. Here is a list of Bay Area restaurants and caterers offering Hanukkah eats. We’ve included as many as we could find, but there surely are more; check individual websites for updates.
East Bay-based kosher caterer Epic Bites has a Hanukkah menu and can deliver to the South Bay as well. epicbitescatering. com When Frena was just a pop-up, it began by making sufganiyot. The Israeli kosher bakery has the Hanukkah doughnuts in multiple flavors including caramel, chocolate and more, as well as potato-apple latkes. They can be delivered by Frena’s own van delivery or through a number of apps. frenabakery.com Hugh Groman, a popular Bay Area caterer, is offering a Hanukkah meal with his barbecue brisket, ultra-crisp latkes, other sides and desserts, with delivery throughout the Bay Area. tinyurl.com/ greenleafprovisions Kosher newcomer Hummus Bodega, which specializes in hummus, will be offering “signature Tel Aviv latkes” on the same delivery route as Frena throughout the Bay Area, as well as on delivery apps. hummusbodega.com La Cocina, the incubator for food entrepreneurs, mostly women of color, has been selling holiday-themed boxes of prepared foods — Juneteenth and Latinex History Month were two recent offerings — since May. With input from the Jewish support staff, they’re offering a Hanukkah-appropriate box with items such as Indian
a must; to find out more, visit wisesonsdeli. com/hanukkah.
Hanukkah dinner box from Wise Sons is available for delivery; preordering is a must.
spinach latkes, sweet potato latke/hushpuppies and ube (purple yam) jelly coconut doughnuts. They also offer a sweets box with rugelach, menorah sugar cookies and dreidel cake pops that can be shipped. Boxes are available now until they sell out, and can be delivered in S.F., the East Bay and North Bay. lacocinasf.org/foodbox Johnny Doughnuts, with locations in S.F.’s Hayes Valley, San Rafael and Larkspur, has brought back two filled doughnuts for Hanukkah that make for excellent sufganiyot: wildberry and apple bismark. They’re also available for delivery with DoorDash, and large orders are handled by the catering department. johnnydoughnuts.com Neshama Foods is a newish, kosher, modern Israeli caterer in the South Bay. While they took a break in the earlier part of the shutdown, for Hanukkah they’re offering latkes and multiple flavors of sufganiyot, such as halvah, Nutella and dulce de leche. They deliver to most locations in the Bay Area. neshamafoods.com Olive Caters is based in the East Bay and run by an Israeli couple. They deliver to most locations in the Bay Area, and will have latkes as part of their Hanukkah offerings. olivesf.com Shuk Shuka is an online marketplace featuring Middle Eastern dips and spreads, as well as babka and challah. They’re delivering Syrian herb latkes for Hanukkah, too. shukshuka.com
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, which has several locations in San Francisco and recently expanded to the East Bay, has a full Hanukkah menu package that can be ordered and delivered. Wise Sons is also doing pop-ups all over the Bay Area, in Sonoma, Berkeley, Los Gatos, Danville, Fremont, Palo Alto, Santa Rosa, San Mateo, Pleasanton and San Rafael. Preordering is
Bi-Rite Market has latkes and other Hanukkah-themed items, like Star of David cookies. biritemarket.com Canela chef Mat Schuster always offers Jewish holiday menus with Spanish influences, and this year is no exception. He’s doing matzah ball soup, latkes and a rolled, stuffed chicken breast or brisket, and pear and apple dessert blintzes for dessert. He also offers wine pairings. Delivery available. canelasf.square.site/ holiday Che Fico will have a roasted chicken Hanukkah dinner that comes with salad, wood-fired beets, sesame challah, latkes with heirloom applesauce and housemade sour cream and sufganiyot with market jam. Delivery available. chefico. com Delfina, the restaurant that put duckfat latkes on the map, will have latkes fresh and frozen by the dozen with “everything” seasoning, plus creme fraiche and pearquince conserva, available at all four locations. Delivery available through most of the apps. delfinasf.com The Jewish brothers behind Hometown Creamery are known for their continued on page 38
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Local restaurants, caterers offering holiday foods for pickup or delivery continued from page 37 Jewish seasonal ice creams; for Hanukkah, the flavor is sufganiyot. If you haven’t tried it yet, you can now get their ice cream delivered through most of the apps. sfhometowncreamery.com One Market/Mark & Mike’s will have a three-course Hanukkah dinner with latkes as an add-on, featuring brisket, matzah ball soup and an apple cider honey cake, and also willYELLOW offer the full Jewish deli menu from Mark & BACKGROUND Mike’s pop-up. Delivery available. onemarket.com
Wildberry sufganiyot by Johnny Doughnuts, which is also offering apple bismark flavor.
Oakland’s Grand Bakery has your sufganiyot and Hanukkah needs covered. Delivery available. grandbakeryoakland.com Chef Mihaela Schiffer at Julia’s Kosher Kitchen will be making kosher latkes, both regular and sweet potato. She’s in Walnut Creek and will deliver throughout the East Bay. Contact her at email@example.com. Market Hall has been a perennial go-to for many East Bay Jews. The specialty food store in Oakland and Berkeley will have latkes and “Scott’s Famous Chopped Liver,” plus entrées such as chicken with preserved lemon
and olives, chickpea and butternut tagine or salmon with za’atar. Delivery available. rockridgemarkethall.com The upscale Oakland restaurant Mägo will be offering family Hanukkah meals throughout the holiday, with a Hanukkah-themed cocktail for the grownups. While the
As has been true for every Jewish holiday since the start of the pandemic, Hanukkah will look different this year. menu wasn’t ready at press time, chef Mark Liberman said there would definitely be latkes and doughnuts. Delivery available. magorestaurant.com Oakland Kosher Foods has two sizes of latkes, sufganiyot and more. oaklandkosherfoods.com Pomella, serving California-Israeli cuisine in Oakland, will have latkes, matzah ball soup and brisket tagine or a kabocha squash, and sprouted-oats casserole with dry
HAPPY HANUKKAH Serving our signature Tel Aviv Latkes: Latkes Tel Aviv Plate Latkes Tel Aviv Pita
Latkes Tel Aviv by the dozen/half dozen Order online or phone Walk ins are welcome Open Sunday - Friday hummusbodega.com 415-874-1148 5549 Geary Blvd, San Francisco KOSHER 38 11.27.2020 | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | JWEEKLY.COM
HANUKKAH FOOD & GIFTS
figs and preserved lemons. For dessert, there are ricotta fritters with cranberry quince, chocolate or caramel sauce. Delivery available. pomellaoakland.com Saul’s Restaurant and Deli has been a longtime Berkeley go-to for latkes during Hanukkah, and this year is no different. They’ll have other offerings, too, like brisket, for pickup. Delivery also available. saulsdeli.com
Chosen Ones Catering is the project of chef Scott Youkilis, formerly of the S.F. restaurant Hog & Rocks. He’s offering latkes and traditional toppings, chopped liver and smoked trout salad for delivery in the North Bay. Ordering by Dec. 4 is highly recommended. sbyhospitality.com/ the-chosen-ones Delicious Catering is offering latkes à la carte or full Hanukkah dinners that come with either chicken or brisket. Pickup and delivery are available in Marin County. deliciouscatering.com Floodwater in Mill Valley is a newish gastropub where chef Michael Siegel of Shorty Goldstein’s landed after closing his S.F. Financial District deli. He’ll be offering sufganiyot and a Hanukkah dinner special with brisket, and latkes can be bought by the dozen. All can be delivered with the apps. floodwatermv.com Robert Meyer’s catering company, Mangia Nosh, is offering latkes along with full Hanukkah dinners and traditional Jewish staples such as chopped liver for both delivery and pickup. mangianosh.com
One Market’s three-course dinner includes brisket, matzah ball soup and apple cider honey cake. plus latkes as an add-on.
Déjà Vu Bakery & Catering, a kosher bakery operating out of the Palo Alto JCC (which we were all set to write about before the shutdown), is offering sufganiyot and other baked goods. Delivery is available. dejavufood.com
Solomon’s Delicatessen will have some entrées for Hanukkah, but in a unique twist, apple cardamom empañadas will be available as a Hanukkah dessert. solomonsdelicatessen.com n
JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 11.27.2020 39
HANUKKAH FOOD & GIFTS
Meet the Hanukkah llama, in this year’s inventive crop BOOKS | PENNY SCHWARTZ | JTA
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Move over, Maccabees. This season’s crop of Hanukkah books for kids puts the spotlight on new heroes, from playful llamas to brave and kind knights on horseback. Among this year’s highlights is Arthur A. Levine’s “The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol,” a superhero story that comes to life with Kevin Hawkes’ sparkling illustrations. Over the years, as a children’s book editor, scores of Hanukkah books crossed Levine’s desk, but many were retellings of the same story. “Only a few writers,” he wrote in an email, “were telling imaginary tales that took Hanukkah as a jumping-off point.” “Nate Gadol” is the kind of story he longed for, one that enhances the cherished Hanukkah traditions with an aura of magic. This year, as the Covid-19 pandemic prevents families from celebrating Hanukkah with large, festive gatherings, round up the cousins on Zoom, light the menorah, nibble on sufganiyot and share in the joy of a new book. “The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol.” Just when the world needs a dose of magic, along comes Nate Gadol, a Jewish mythical superhero who sparks joy for those in need. In Levine’s warmhearted tale for 5- to 8-year-olds, the larger-than-life Nate Gadol swoops in to brighten the lives of the Glaser family, poor but kind new immigrants. In the cold winter of 1881 in their urban American apartment, the Glasers stretch what they have to help their neighbors, the O’Malleys. When Hanukkah and Christmas coincide, Nate and Santa help each other out and surprise both families with gifts. The hero’s name is a play on the phrase represented with the four letters on the dreidel, Nes Gadol Haya Sham (A great miracle happened there). “Happy Llamakkah!” How does a family of llamas celebrate Hanukkah? With Lllamakah, of course! Laura Gehl’s tender rhyming verse is perfect for 3- to 5-year-olds who will enjoy cozying up with endearing little llamas as they light the Hanukkah menorah, play dreidel and build a snow-llama. Lydia Nichols’ cheerful illustrations brighten the pages. “Kayla and Kugel’s Happy Hanukkah.” The happy pair of Kayla and her rambunctious dog Kugel are back in Ann D. Koffsky’s latest title in the delightful series for 3- to 8-year-olds. As Kayla gets ready to celebrate Hanukkah, she and Kugel are searching for the family’s Hanukkah box. The spunky Kayla explains the origins and traditions of the holiday to Kugel. Koffsky’s color-rich, lively illustrations, including many of the mischievous Kugel, are sure to spark smiles. “The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story.” On the eve of Hanukkah, a box of colorful candles tucked away in a drawer comes to life in this sweet story. While the big candles bicker about who will be chosen to light the first candle on the menorah, the wise candle notices that it’s the littlest, Flicker, who is always helping others. When Flicker is chosen as the shamash (helper), the small purplish candle humbly shines in the highest place on the menorah. The book, for 4- to 8-year-olds, is written by Jewish educator Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and his son, Rabbi Jesse Olitzky. Jen Kostman’s cartoon-style illustrations are bright and colorful. “The Eight Knights of Hanukkah.” Hark! In this playful tale for 3- to 8-year-olds, Lady Sadie challenges her eight young knights to save their kingdom’s Hanukkah celebration from a scary dragon. She sends them out trotting on horseback to make things right with kind deeds and bravery. Kids will giggle when Sir Isabella and Sir Rugelach discover that behind the dragon’s plume of smoke is a young creature who joins them in the grand Hanukkah celebration. Writer Leslie Kimmelman and illustrator Galia Bernstein have created a lively, off-beat story of diverse characters that tickles the funny bone. “There Was a Young Rabbi: A Hanukkah Tale.” In this playful, rhyming story for 4- to 8-year-olds, Hanukkah meets “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” On the first night of Hanukkah, a rabbi reads from the Torah and lights the menorah. Each
HANUKKAH FOOD & GIFTS
Kugel the dog and others p of kids’ holiday books night, she adds something new — cooking applesauce, playing dreidel with her family and enjoying chocolate coins. Young kids will join the chorus in this rollicking readaloud by Suzanne Wolf. “The Ninth Night of Hanukkah.” When Max and Rachel move into a new apartment, their special Hanukkah box is nowhere to be found. The inventive siblings craft their own menorah and knock on the door of a neighbor who comes to the rescue with birthday candles. For eight nights, a multicultural array of neighbors helps the kids improvise — a hula hoop transforms into a perfect dreidel, for instance. As the holiday ends, Max and
Rachel invite their new friends to a Hanukkah celebration. Aimed at 3- to 8-year-olds, the book benefits from writer Erica S. Perl’s humor and Israeli Shahar Kober’s illustrations. “Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children’s Literature.” This 352-page anthology doesn’t incorporate a Hanukkah theme, but it will make a good holiday gift for children 10 and up. Miriam Udel, a scholar of German and Jewish studies at Emory University, has put together a treasure that introduces readers to a wealth of littleknown Jewish children’s stories by early 20th-century Yiddish writers. Udel, who was ordained in 2019 at Yeshivat Maharat in a program that brings women into the Orthodox rabbinate, will participate in a free Zoom talk about the book at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9 presented by S.F.-based Jewish LearningWorks. For details, visit tinyurl.com/j-cal-udel. n
Happy Hanukkah from Frena Bakery
Jelly/Bavarian Sufganiyot Latkes Speciality Sufganiyot Decorated Sufganiyot
“The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol” by Arthur A. Levine (40 pages, Candlewick Press) “Happy Llamakkah!” by Laura Gehl (24 pages, Abrams Appleseed) “Kayla and Kugel’s Happy Hanukkah” by Ann D. Koffsky (24 pages, Apples & Honey Press) “The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story” by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Rabbi Jesse Olitzky (32 pages, Kalaniot Books) “The Eight Knights of Hanukkah” by Leslie Kimmelman (48 pages, Holiday House) “There Was a Young Rabbi: A Hanukkah Tale” by Suzanne Wolf (24 pages, Kar-Ben) “The Ninth Night of Hanukkah” by Erica S. Perl (40 pages, Sterling Children’s Books) “Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children’s Literature,” edited and translated by Miriam Udel (352 pages, New York University Press)
For van delivery and online orders: frenabakery.com or phone 628.444.3666 Sun-Thurs: 8am–7pm, Fri: 8am–3pm
JWEEKLY.COM | J. THE JEWISH NEWS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA | 11.27.2020 41
HANUKKAH FOOD & GIFTS
‘Fritter away’ Hanukkah with fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls COOKING FAITH KRAMER
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer who blogs at clickblogappetit. com. Contact her at clickblogappetit@ gmail.com.
Full Hanukkah meal or a nosh. What’s not to like? 3 COURSE DINNER: $49
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These mac and cheese balls combine two Hanukkah traditions — fried foods and dairy foods — for a fun holiday appetizer or snack. Give them a kick by using pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheeses, or customize them to your taste with a mixture of Monterey Jack, Colby, and/or cheddar cheeses. These macaroni and cheese fritters are best served warm and can be made a day ahead and reheated. Eat them plain, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, or with a dip of marinara or pizza sauce. For best results, use a deep-fry/candy thermometer. If not available, drop a small cube of white bread in hot oil. If it browns in about 45 seconds and the oil around the bread bubbles immediately and continuously, the oil is ready. Repeat the test between batches and after adding extra oil.
MAC AND CHEESE BALLS Makes about 30-32 fritters 8 oz. uncooked elbow, fusilli or other “short” pasta
2½ cups total shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, pepper jack and/or Colby cheese
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
¼ cup flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk ½ tsp. salt
1 cup (approx.) store-bought dried, unseasoned fine breadcrumbs
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
Neutral oil for frying
¼ tsp. powdered mustard
Make pasta according to package directions. Cook until tender but with a bit of resistance in the center. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in a 4-qt. saucepan or pot over low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly, until smooth. Adjust heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer, whisking often. Simmer uncovered (lower heat if necessary), whisking occasionally, until very thick and smooth, about 5-10 minutes, but timing will vary. (Volume should be reduced by half.) Turn off heat, but leave pan on burner. Use a spoon to stir in salt, pepper, mustard and cheese until incorporated in the sauce. Stir in the pasta and green onions until fully coated. Take pan off burner. Let rest for 20 minutes. Add eggs. Mix until well combined. Wet hands. Squeeze, press, and roll 2 Tbs. of mixture between your hands to make a compact, dense, 1-inch-diameter ball with no bits of pasta or green onion sticking out. Roll ball in crumbs, making sure ball stays compacted. (If it doesn’t, recompact and roll in crumbs again.) Make 5 or 6 balls while oil gets up to temperature. Cover the bottom of a wide, deep, 6- to 8-qt. pot with 1 inch of oil. Clip on deep-fry/ candy thermometer. Heat over high heat until the thermometer reads between 340 and 375 degrees. Adjust heat to maintain temperature, or you can remove pot from the burner (turning off heat first) for a few minutes if oil gets too hot. Add balls to pot. After a minute, turn fritters with metal tongs or long-handled metal slotted spoon. Fry about 2 minutes total, adjusting heat as needed to maintain temperature, until browned all over. Remove to paper towel-covered plate to drain. Roll the next batch. Add to oil when it reaches between 340 and 375 degrees. Add oil if needed, but return to temperature before frying. Repeat until done. If serving soon, keep fritters warm on an ungreased baking sheet in 250-degree oven between batches. To make ahead, arrange between waxed paper layers and store airtight overnight at room temperature. Reheat in 350-degree oven on ungreased baking sheet until warm, about 10 minutes. Serve warm as is, garnished with Parmesan cheese and/ or chopped parsley, or with a dip such as purchased marinara or pizza sauce. Warm sauce if desired. Notes: To avoid fritter fail, be sure balls are to size (1 inch) and very compact. Only fry when oil is between 340 and 375 degrees. Cool used oil, strain, and store airtight in jar for future use. n
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Why Leah’s ability to give thanks should be our model for today
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TORAH MAHARAT VICTORIAL SUTTON And how much more so the matter between a person and the Omnipresent … In the wild nature of every person is hidden the presumption that ‘kochi v’otzem yadi asah li at hachayil hazeh’ (my strength and the might of my hands made me all We learn how to give thanks from our of this). And the moment the person sacrifices their Todah mother Leah. (thanksgiving offering) to the Omnipresent this is an admisOn the birth of her fourth child, sion that they have no agency at all.” Leah exclaimed, “This time I will give Leah is most often remembered as the slighted wife thanks [odeh] to God. Therefore, she who didn’t receive her due from Jacob as compared with her named him Yehuda” (Genesis 29:35). beloved sister, Rachel. Yet Leah’s enduring legacy is not a Citing this verse, the Talmud makes litany of “would’ve, should’ve, could’ve.” the following claim: “From the day Maharat Victoria Rather, Leah’s enduring legacy is her thankfulness, for the Holy One Blessed be created Sutton is the which the Jewish people become later known. the world, no one thanked the Holy director of Leah’s recognition and concession that everything stems One, Blessed be, until Leah came and education and from the kindness of God at the birth of the fourth child — thanked God” (Talmud Bavli, Berakcommunity more children than she had anticipated based on the Sages hot 7b). engagement at — freed Leah from keeping “score” to establish her rights in this Leah’s expression of thanksgiving Congregation Beth marriage triangle and thereby freed her to be filled with thanks. has become a trademark identity Israel in Berkeley. How do we manifest thanksgiving during these times of the Jewish people, known as in which so much is beyond our control? What are the Yehudim, from Yehudah (Judah). R. Yitzchok Hutner explores kindnesses, small and large, human and Divine, that sustain the root of this trademarked hodaah, giving thanks, in his us and for which we are grateful? How might giving in and writings on Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday of hodaah, or recognizing that we cannot do it all on our own, that we rely thanksgiving: on the hands of so many in our daily lives and the hand of the “… The name Yehudim with which the entire nation is Creator, shift our perspective toward thankfulness for all that called is in essence that they are constantly modim (thankful) we do receive? to God for God’s kindness … For the mother who merited Particularly in these times, when so much comes to us by to create this name recognized that she got more than her a click of a finger, the concession of indebtedness and gratishare … the matter of the Todah due to the birth of Yehudah tude to those who get us through each day is essential. includes within it also the concession that this was not Giving thanks is relevant every day, of course, not only on coming to her by right …” days in the Jewish or secular calendar in which we are encourAccording to Rav Hutner, the concept of hodaah combines aged to be particularly grateful. both thankfulness and the recognition and concession of God’s The liturgy presents a helpful ongoing kindness, as well as reliance on model of daily thanksgiving, following the kindness of others. Leah’s precedent in the Bible. It is “In Hebrew, there are two concepts the first thing recited upon waking. built into one word: [gratitude for] the Modah Ani (“I am Thankful”) and good (danken in Yiddish) and agreehodaah is the concluding piece of ment with the opinion of the other side the amidah prayer. The daily liturgy (nachgeben, ‘to concede’ in Yiddish). reminds us of the importance of For both of these concepts, one joint acknowledging that each and every expression exists in Hebrew: hodaah … day is something for which to be The explanation for this is that within grateful, and is not to be taken for the soul of a person is deeply buried an granted. aspiration to rely only on themselves, Conceding this gratitude to others, and not to need any help at all. And the and ourselves, particularly amidst moment a person expresses hakarat difficult times, can be challenging. tovato (recognition of the good) of their Following Leah’s precedent, what are fellow, and gives them todah (thanks), the ways in which we can be better at that very moment there is also an about conceding our indebtedness admission that this time they were to others and in giving thanks every not able on their own and they needed Michelangelo’s Leah in the tomb of Pope Julius. to make use of their fellow’s kindness. day? n
Vayetzei Genesis 28:10–32:3
A newcomer on the scene — and one who’s tipped to be a solid heartthrob — is Kingsley Ben-Adir, who played Zoë Kravitz’s love interest in the Hulu series “High Fidelity.” The actor, in his mid30s, has roles coming up playing Barack Obama and Malcolm X, despite the fact that he’s British. But he’s not shy with his criticism about the lack of good roles as a Black man in the U.K. “The opportunities here for me don’t really exist,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Got $5 million to spare? Winona Ryder is selling her San Francisco home, which the actor bought in 1995 for $1.3 million, Variety reports. Located in Cow Hollow, it has three bedrooms and two full bathrooms over three stories, as well as a garden, views and — perhaps most important — private parking. It’s not Ryder’s main home, though. She’s rumored to own Winona Ryder homes in New York City and L.A., as well.
Count every vote Filmmakers Jay Roach and Danny Strong understand ballot controversy. The director-writer duo made the film “Recount,” about Florida’s vote chaos during the 2000 presidential election, as well as “Game Change,” about the 2008 campaign of John McCain. In a recent interview with Deadline, they talk about what they learned making those films and how they felt watching the 2020 results come in. “I thought we were telling a cautionary tale and these were films that were supposed to have taught us how to avoid this in the future,” Roach said.
A family secret Maria Feldman, creator of the Hulu show “No Man’s Land,” opens up to the Hollywood Reporter about how the mystery of her father’s death in Russia haunted her and led her to create the new show. In it, Félix Moati plays a young man whose search for the truth about what happened to his sister takes him to Syria Félix Moati and the Kurdish fight with the Islamic State.
Back to school Tiffany Haddish will join Ilana Glazer in a new comedy series for Apple TV+ called “The Afterparty.” Haddish plays a detective solving a murder that happens at a high school reunion, while Glazer will play Chelsea, the former high Tiffany Haddish school valedictorian and class president.
Silverman minces no words In a recent interview with Howard Stern, comedian Sarah Silverman opened up about being typecast. She said that as a Jewish actress she’s offered parts as the awful girlfriend or sleazy agent, and that if it’s a female Jewish character who is “courageous, or she deserves love, or is altruistic in any way, she’s played by a non-Jew.” Silverman also said people in the entertainment industry are tired Sarah Silverman of Jews talking about the issue. “People really roll their eyes at Jews pointing out antisemitism at all, because they’re just over it,” she said. “They saw the Holocaust movies, [they’re] like, ‘Next.’” n This week’s column is by J. staff writer Maya Mirsky.
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CARMEN LOPEZ Daughter of Naomi Lempert Lopez and Fernando Lopez, Thursday, Nov. 26 at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco. TALULAH FINKELSTEIN Daughter of Holly and Judd Finkelstein, Saturday, Oct. 24 (virtual) at Congregation Beth Shalom in Napa. SAMUEL GRAVES Son of Jennifer and Ross Graves, Saturday, Nov. 28 at Chabad of North Peninsula in San Mateo. PAIGE TALIA MURPHY Daughter of Marla and Neil Murphy, Saturday, Nov. 28 at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael.
Beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather; a loving man, loyal friend, and great fisherman. Elliott Kapchan passed away in Napa on Nov. 2 at the age of 94. A native of Long Beach, Long Island, N.Y., he moved to San Francisco at age 15 to live with relatives so he could become a state resident, and then a UC Berkeley graduate. While attending Lowell High School, he met Rhoda Greendorfer at a JCC dance in 1943; they were dance partners until she passed away in 1977. Elliott served in the Navy during World War II in the Aleutian islands and graduated from Cal. After Rhoda also graduated from Cal in 1949, they married and moved to Chicago, where Elliott attended the Illinois College of Optometry and Rhoda worked as a social worker. It was there that their first daughter, Sydney, was born. Upon Elliott’s graduation, the threesome moved back to San Francisco and then to Richmond, where he was an industrial optometrist. The family then settled in Alameda where Elliott established his practice and Rhoda worked alongside him. Their daughters Wendy and Allison were born in Alameda. They all enjoyed camping, the Lair, outings, and visits with family and longtime friends. The couple was integral to life in the island city. Over nearly 50 years, Elliott served hundreds of Alamedans as their optometrist, volunteering annually to give free exams to the needy. He was a community leader with Kiwanis, the Elks and Temple Israel. He was an active Cal Bears supporter, holding season tickets in his mid-’80s. A first-generation American, son of Zalman and Fanny, who worked at their kosher butcher shop every day but Shabbat, Elliott valued hard work and self-determination. He was a cherished big brother to his late sister, Hilda, a friend to many, and to the end, kept in touch with family and friends around the country. An avid student of history, Elliott had a sharp mind and vocal perspective about America’s democratic and ethical values that his generation fought to preserve. He was an accomplished sports fisherman, an outdoorsman who taught his daughters and his grandchildren to care for the environment and to stand up for the rights of the less fortunate, to love Israel and to treat all people with respect. He had a delightful sense of humor and a profound generosity. After Rhoda’s early death, Elliott moved to Moraga and married Patricia Polse, who passed away in 2018. In 2019, he moved to the Meadows in Napa to be near his daughter Allison. He’d made new friends, joined the garden club and grown delicious tomatoes before Covid-19 hit. He lived his last couple of years with peace of mind, knowing he was truly loved by his entire family. His final hours were spent with Allison and her family, and he passed away peacefully with Allison at his side. His family extends special appreciation to Mark Vergara, health care aide, for the care and comfort he provided to Elliott. Elliott is survived by his daughters and sons-in-law: Sydney Kapchan (Dr. Steven Tulkin), Wendy Avraham (Chaim) and Allison Frost (Norbert), and by his grandchildren: Rabbi Joel Nickerson (Julia), Raphael Avraham (Hadar), Dafna Avraham, Gabriel Avraham (Lauren), Lindsay Frost and Eric Frost; and step-grandchildren David Tulkin, Joshua Tulkin (Annie), and 11 great-grandchildren. A private funeral service was held. Donations in Elliott’s memory will be appreciated to the Jewish Community Federation (jewishfed.org), StandWithUs (standwithus.com), or the Jewish National Fund (jnf.org).
ARLENE JOY LEVIN
JOEL NORMAN ROSSEN
Born Morris Barnett in Cleveland in 1927, he officially adopted his childhood nickname, Moysha, when he was in his 50s. For all of his 93 years, people agreed he was a “real character,” unconventional and one-of-a-kind. It was an image he willingly embraced and nurtured. Moysha was loving, big-hearted, colorful, nonjudgmental, generous and talented. He was also immodest and often self-absorbed, at times to a fault. He was a gifted artist and a masterful calligrapher, his greatest passion. He wrote poetry, kept journals, and smoked pot well into his 80s. He had friends of all ages and backgrounds who were drawn to his quirkiness and intellect. Many met him simply by walking past his house, where he sat on the porch greeting people as they passed by. He loved talking to strangers and flirting with women. He never hesitated to ask for help, and therefore he always got what he needed. He expressed his gratitude and doled out compliments and love freely, flattering his way into people’s lives and hearts. Once you met Moysha, you never forgot him. Moysha spent his first 20 years in Cleveland, where his immigrant parents tried to keep him on the straight and narrow. As a young boy he sat on his violin and crushed it in protest. As a teen he had a job setting up bowling pins and ran with a crowd that included Jewish mobster Jackie Presser. He was a dancer and a charmer. After graduating from Ohio State, Moysha and his wife, Miriam, married in Cleveland in 1949 and drove across the country to San Francisco, where they bought a house in the Sunset and raised three daughters. Moysha had his own industrial design business on Sacramento Street and taught at California College of Arts and Crafts. In the 1980s he moved to Tillamook, Oregon, and then north to Astoria. He was enamored with the town, set on a hill overlooking the Columbia River, and made it his home for 15 years. His daughters moved him back to San Francisco in June 2019. He was not easy, but he knew it, and was effusive with his appreciation. And he always, always told them (and his many lifelong friends) how much he loved them. Moysha is predeceased by his parents, Esther and Louis Barnett, his sister Annie Simon, his former wife Miriam Saltzman Barnett and his daughter Michelle Barnett Kern. He is survived by his daughters, Dee-Dee Sberlo and Sue Barnett, sonin-law Yoel Sberlo, seven grandchildren (Jason Kern, Ronen, Tamar, Amir and Edan Sberlo, and Noah and Maya Winshell) and a new great-granddaughter, Arya Kashima Sabin-Sberlo. Donations to SF-Marin Food Bank or Intersection for the Arts (tinyurl.com/intersect-arts) appreciated.
Passed away in San Francisco following a courageous battle with many health issues at the age of 87. Loving wife of Wallace Levin for 68 years, wonderful mother of Michael Levin and Debbie Levin, adored grandmother of Matthew Levin, dear sister of the late Dianne Shemano, dedicated daughter of the late Sy Owens and the late Bertha Owens. Arlene dedicated her life to her family. Her mission in life was to focus her love and concern on her father, mother, sister, husband, children and grandson. To her this was her world. Arlene met Wallace when she was just entering Lowell High School and Wallace was graduating. Four years later, after he graduated from College of the Pacific, he joined the Army Security Agency because of the Korean War. They were married just prior to him going overseas. They then had their first and second Wedding Anniversary apart. But after that they were never apart for the next 66 years. And they have lived in the same San Francisco house for the past 52 years. When her children went off to college, she went to work for Seymour Zoger, M.D. His practice was to care for Infants, Children and Adolescents. She worked for the doctor for two and a half decades and she enjoyed every minute working with the children. As Office Manager she was able to develop a loving relationship with the children. Prior to the doctor retiring she did have a health problem that was resolved. She was then able to go on 12 ocean cruises during the next decade, which was her favorite mode of travel. The family thanks the doctors, nurses and staff at UCSF Hospital for the great health care that they gave Arlene during her final days. And special thanks to Gerald Roberts, M.D. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, a private family funeral was held at Home of Peace Cemetery in Colma. A celebration in honor of Arlene is planned, when the Covid-19 pandemic is resolved. Sinai Memorial Chapel | 650.369.3636
Joel Norman (“Norm”) Rossen, 93, of Palo Alto, CA, beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away at his residence on November 19, 2020, after a long illness. Norm was born in Detroit, MI, on June 22, 1927, the son of Louis and Bessie Rossen. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Weeks Rossen, his sons, Jonathan and David (Joyce), and his daughter, Rebecca (Chris). He is also survived by his five grandchildren, Shaina, Audrey, Aaron and Ethan Davis and Sarah Rossen. He was predeceased by his first wife, Barbara C. Rossen, in 2000. After graduating from George Washington High School in Alexandria, VA, at the age of 16, Norm attended Georgetown University, where he discovered that he didn’t want to be a dentist after all. After a short stint in the Navy, he returned to college and received chemical engineering degrees from M.I.T. (B.S., 1947, M.S., 1948). While at M.I.T., Norm met a young Lasell Junior College student named Barbara (“Bunny”) Cohan, eventually convincing her to marry him and move to Virginia, where he would begin his first job at the Atlantic Research Corp. When Norm traveled to San Francisco on business, he was enthralled by the beauty of the Bay Area, and soon after, the couple and their three young children moved out West. There, Norm spent a successful 25-year career as a project manager with United Technologies’ Chemical Systems Division, where he oversaw numerous contracts for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, and received NASA’s Public
May 18, 1927–Nov. 9, 2020
April 2, 1933–Oct. 30, 2020
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June 22, 1927–Nov. 19, 2020
Service Group Achievement Award. Retiring just before his 60th birthday, Norm and Bunny were free to pursue their love of travel, both domestic and overseas, and enjoyed participating and meeting new friends in the Elderhostel programs. They also shared many wonderful trips to Morrison’s Lodge on the Rogue River, even though the salmon were often elusive. Music was a huge part of Norm’s life, with baroque and swing/jazz his favorite music genres. He played the saxophone and clarinet in high school and college, and later became a proficient blockflute (recorder) player, participating in several local chamber groups. Norm and Nancy were fortunate to have found each other, as they shared this love of music as well as theatre, attending many seasons of the San Francisco Symphony, the Music @ Menlo program, and TheatreWorks. Norm also enjoyed being a community volunteer. He was an enthusiastic computer tutor for many Russian immigrants who came to the Bay Area in the mid-1980s, and he volunteered as a driver for the Avenidas organization. He had so many wonderful traits that will be remembered fondly by his family — puns and wordplay, whistling tunes and tapping a beat, a crushingly strong handshake, tinkering and Rube Goldberg-esque designs, and reading all road signs and license plates while driving. Vitality, charm, and a warm, welcoming smile are his legacy. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of J. Norman Rossen to any of the following organizations: Oshman Family JCC, Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco, Alzheimer’s Association, Music @ Menlo. Sinai Memorial Chapel | 415.921.3636 continued on page 46
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Lifecycles OBITUARIES continued from page 45 ELEANORE RUBINSTEIN
Beloved family matriarch Eleanore Rubinstein peacefully left this world on Nov. 8, 2020, at 107½ years young surrounded by her children and grandchildren. A role model and inspiration to all, Eleanore counted every blessing, living each day with gratitude, unwavering positivity and a vitality that was ageless. Born April 23, 1913, to Richard and Carolyn See in New York City, Eleanore moved to Portland, Oregon, when she was 7. After graduating from Grant High School in 1931, she attended the University of Washington. Eleanore married Paul Rubinstein in 1933, and together they raised their four children in Aberdeen, Washington, before relocating to Portland in 1960. A phenomenal mother and grandmother and the nucleus of her family, she volunteered for the Red Cross, PTA, Girl Scouts, National Council for Jewish Women and Store to Door. Known for her vanity license plate “ABZGAL,” Eleanore excelled at bowling and golf and was a national USTA tennis champion in her 90s. Along with being a prolific letter writer and voracious reader, she loved knitting, playing bridge, working puzzles and playing the piano. Eleanore is survived by her four children, seven grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, including her daughter Carolyn Gevurtz (Ron) of Foster City and granddaughters Lisa Levin (Bart and great-grandchildren Sarah and Zachary) of San Carlos and Sheri Baer (Doug and great-grandchildren Naomi and Ilana) of Menlo Park. Donations may be made to a charity of your choice.
Marvin Spielman passed away on Nov. 6, 2020, at age 86, after courageously battling multiple illnesses over the past 10 months. Marvin, the youngest of three sons, was born to Bertha and Samuel Spielman on Feb. 21, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. As his parents had immigrated to the United States from Poland and Ukraine, respectively, Yiddish was the predominant language spoken in their home. Marvin was raised in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn alongside many other first-generation Jewish families. He and his childhood friends spent hours each day playing stickball, punchball, handball, and stoopball in the schoolyard while creating memories and relationships that would last a lifetime. Marvin became an avid sports fan at a young age, and despite living in Brooklyn, always rooted for the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers. He attended PS 230 and graduated from his cherished Erasmus Hall High School in 1952, where he was a standout basketball player. Marvin enlisted in the Army and spent three years of service in Germany. He then attended NYU on the GI Bill and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He met Barbara Siegal on a blind date on New Year’s Eve 1958, and they married at the Yeshiva of Flatbush on Oct. 29, 1960. For their honeymoon, Barbara and Marvin
April 23, 1913–Nov. 8, 2020
Feb. 21, 1934–Nov. 6, 2020
drove cross-country to Palo Alto so Marvin could join his brother, Stanley, in a furniture business. In search of another professional opportunity, Marvin left the furniture business, and worked for 30 years in the temporary employment business, where he prioritized the hiring of women. After retirement, he became a substitute teacher in the Fremont Union High School District, where he was able to express his love of history to a younger generation. Marvin and Barbara’s family life centered around Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, where he served as treasurer, second vice-president and president of the synagogue in the mid-1970s. Their close circle of friends at Kol Emeth became their West Coast family — raising children together, celebrating holidays and supporting each other through numerous lifecycle events. Marvin will be remembered by his family and friends for his unwavering devotion to Barbara and his integrity, kindness, and sense of humor. He embraced his life in the Bay Area, but never forgot the impact of Brooklyn and the impression those formative years had on his life. Marvin is predeceased by his brother Stanley Spielman. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, of 60 years, his eldest brother, Carl Spielman, his three children, Chuck Spielman (Susie), Lisa Polston (Joshua) and Samantha Spielman (Barry Barnes), and his seven grandchildren: Jason Spielman, Adam Spielman, Abraham Barnes, Sid Polston, Benjamin Barnes, Bayla Polston and Jorja Polston. Donations in his honor may be made to Congregation Kol Emeth. Sinai Memorial Chapel | 415.921.3636
JOEL KEITH STRAUS Oct. 25, 1947–Nov. 17, 2020
Joel Keith Straus was born to Mollie and Jack Straus in Chicago, Illinois, and moved to Southern California at the age of 2. He was a history major at UCLA, where he met his future wife at Sproul Hall. He graduated from Hastings College of the Law and practiced family law for 40 years. Joel served as President of the San Mateo County Bar Association and was a law professor at San Francisco State University. Joel raised his family in Foster City and moved to Mountain View in 2013 to be closer to his children and grandchildren. Family was always Joel’s first priority, and he was a doting and hands-on father and grandfather; he attended every soccer game, musical production, and school concert. Joel was an avid Dodgers and UCLA sports fan, a crossword puzzle whiz, a master on his Weber grill. He enjoyed playing bridge with his friends, reading, and spending time with his grandchildren. He proudly watched his eldest grandchild become a Bar Mitzvah last year. Joel was a longtime member of Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City. He passed away on November 17, 2020 from complications of an aortic aneurysm. He is survived by his devoted wife of 50 years, Linda Straus, son Jonathan Straus (Ashley), daughter Erica Rosen (David), and grandchildren Ben and Sam Straus and Elliott and Amalia Rosen. He is also survived by his sister Vivian Yahiro, sisterin-law Joyce Robbins, and mother-in-law Sybil Kuby, as well as many nieces and nephews. Joel will be remembered as a loving, affectionate, doting, often sarcastic, quick-witted, caring person, always ready with a play on words, a hug, and a smile. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be sent to Peninsula Sinai at 499 Boothbay Ave., Foster City, CA 94404 or a charity of your choice. Donations of blood at your local bank (after a coronavirus vaccine has made it safe) would be welcomed to help offset the heroic measures that were made on his behalf. Sinai Memorial Chapel | 650.369.3636
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DONALD SCOTT WILLIAMS
Aug. 20, 1946–Oct. 19, 2020
On Monday, October 19, 2020, Donald Scott Williams, loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend, passed away at age 74 surrounded by his family. Don was born on August 20, 1946, in San Francisco, California, to Peter E. Williams and Nadine Rose Williams (nee Schneider). He took pride in being a 4th-generation San Franciscan. Don was raised in San Francisco and attended Alamo Elementary and Lowell High School and graduated from George Washington High School, class of 1964. He then went on to attend and graduate from San Jose State University. At San Jose State, he met the love of his life, Kathy Roberts Williams. This was the beginning of a true love affair. On February 16, 1969, two weeks after Kathy graduated from college, they were married at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco. Kathy and Don were blessed with 51 years of marriage. In 1973, Don and Kathy moved to “the country” and settled in their home in Hillsborough, California. In 1976, their daughter Tracy was born, followed by the birth of their son Mike in 1979. They raised their family in this home and still enjoy living there today. After graduating from college, Don became an insurance broker and joined his father and grandfather at Peter E. Williams Insurance Company. Don worked diligently to grow the insurance company, first purchasing it from his father, next merging in 1988 with Joe Picetti forming Picetti & Williams Insurance. In 1997, Don merged Picetti & Willliams into Heffernan Insurance Brokers. Don took great pride in working for Heffernan including serving on the Board of Directors. Many of those he worked with referred to him as “Uncle Don” and looked to him as a mentor. Don, having an entrepreneurial mind, also had projects going on including investing in diverse areas like real estate, Burger King properties, and developing unique earthquake insurance programs for CA homeowners. Don was an involved philanthropist. He took great pride in and spent a lot of time dedicated to building and growing the Peninsula Jewish Community Center in Foster City, CA. He was passionate about helping other organizations and families in need, including a family Don and Kathy “adopted” in Rwanda. They continue to help this family by providing them with basic necessities and the opportunity to attend university. Don’s passions were spending time with his family and friends, enjoying golf at Lake Merced Golf and Country Club, and his weekly
Gin night with the same group for over 35 years. He also loved spending time with his in-laws, Geede and Acky Roberts, including their special times boating on the Delta. He had a love of adventure exploring the world with Kathy. Together they traveled to all 7 continents and over 86 countries. Don was known for always having the biggest smile on his face especially when enjoying time with his family and friends. He was always a big jokester and often kept his friends on their toes. We know Don is sitting on a beach in paradise sipping his vodka and lime (shaken not stirred) waiting for his Gin game or tee time, watching over all of us with a smile on his face. Friends will always remember Don as being both a titan and a Mensch. Don is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Kathy, his adored children Tracy Stettner (Aaron) & Mike Parker (Finn), and his beloved grandchildren Alex & Jordan Stettner. He also leaves behind his brother Peter Williams (Lynne), his sister-in-law Judy Williams and many beloved nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Robert Williams (z”l). LILLIAN VOLANSKY Nov. 3, 1928–Nov. 18, 2020
Lillian Volansky passed away peacefully at her home on November 18 with her children by her side. She is survived by her son David and daughter Paula, along with Paula’s husband Dan Melinger and her grandson Aaron, whom Lillian adored. Born and raised in New Jersey, in addition to her studies, she was an artist and president of her Jewish youth group. Not always common for the time, her father thought that girls should be college educated, so she graduated from NYU with a Foreign Trade major and minors in Spanish and Psychology. After marrying her beloved husband Stanley, z”l, they settled in San Francisco. She spent her adult life caring for her children and family, volunteering at her children’s schools and their synagogue, Congregation Ner Tamid. Her children are in touch with some classmates from 45 years ago that still fondly remember Lillian and recall aspiring to grow up to be like her. After losing her husband in 1980, Lillian began working at the San Francisco office of Hadassah. If you called the office between 1981 and 1999, you spoke with Lillian. She was devoted to her friends and family and was always finding ways she could help the people in her life. Since she didn’t work on Fridays, most of them included a trip to the
South Bay to spend time with her grandson. Always a lover of film, she would host Academy Awards watch parties for her friends and would create scoresheets with lists of nominees so they could all play along. Whether sitting on a camel in Israel or exploring Paris, she had a love of travel and would take cruises with both friends and family. Battling dementia in her later years, Lillian retreated to quality time with family and a small group of very close friends. She was blessed to be able to remain in her home of 62 years, supported by loving caregivers and her children, where she could still enjoy some of her favorite entertainment including Robin Williams films and anything sung by Luciano Pavarotti or Andrea Bocelli. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Congregation Ner Tamid of San Francisco (nertamidsf.org) or the JFCS Holocaust Center (holocaustcenter.jfcs.org – husband Stanley was on the founding committee). Sinai Memorial Chapel | 415.921.3636 JEROME WEISS
Feb. 27, 1926–Nov. 14, 2020
Jerome Weiss, a longtime Los Altos resident, passed away on Nov. 14. He was born in New York in 1926 to Eugene and Bella Weiss, who were recent immigrants from Hungary. He grew up in New York City, where his first languages were Yiddish and Hungarian. Growing up, he attended the prestigious Townsend Harris High School, then City College
of New York, graduating in the class of 1946 with a degree in physics. With his wife, Norma, and young family, he followed his parents west to Los Angeles in 1957, to work for the Rand Corporation, then moved north in 1963 to Sunnyvale and a new job at Lockheed. He later attended Stanford University, receiving a master’s degree in statistics, and became an adjunct professor there teaching courses in the field of industrial engineering. In 1976 he joined EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) in Palo Alto working in the Integrated Energy Systems Division and he remained there until he retired in 1993. His work at EPRI took him all over the U.S. and world, and made him a fan of travel. He enjoyed gardening, raising rhododendrons, music (especially violin), theater and tennis. He was also an active bridge player, achieving the level of Bronze Life Master. In addition, he was always active in the Jewish community in Palo Alto, and one of the founders of Congregation Kol Emeth, where he also served as president and enjoyed attending Talmud study for many years. Together with his wife, they created a warm and comfortable home for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and were excellent role models. He is survived by Norma, his wife of 73 years, and their three children, Deborah, David and Elisa (and her husband Rabbi Rubenstein), two grandchildren, Nicole and Jason (and his wife Sharona), and three great-grandchildren, Ariella, Shir and Daniel. He is also survived by his brother Howard, as well as nieces, nephews and their children, and many cousins and their children and grandchildren scattered around the world.
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BEFORE YOU GO…
My much-needed, spontaneous, pandemic chill-out PARENTING JULIE LEVINE
Julie Levine is a Bay Area writer. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.
I was never a fan of giving the kids timeouts when they were little. I didn’t think putting them in a room by themselves taught them anything about their bad behavior. Instead, I reserved the timeouts for myself. And I still do. I remember the days when I’d spend a fair amount of time cooking dinner, only for one child to drop their entire plate of food on the floor (by accident perhaps, but who knows). As soon as I’d clean up that mess, the other child would have a tantrum over something inconsequential. There’d be times when one kid would torment the other relentlessly for what felt like hours. Then there’d be those afternoons when they’d gang up together, pull all the sheets and covers off their beds, dump all their toys on the floor, and take all their books off the bookshelves. This made them laugh uncontrollably and made me absolutely crazy. Most of the time, though, they were lovely, but they had their moments. And in these moments, I was exasperated and annoyed. I’d be on the edge of losing it, so I’d give myself a timeout instead of the kids. I’d head to the bedroom, shut the door and cool down for a few minutes. The sheets and covers, toys and books might still be all over the floor after I returned from my mini-break, but (usually) the squabbling was over, and the tantrum ended. I was calmer, and that helped me be a better mother. Fast-forward to parenting teenagers in a pandemic, and I’m finding I need these timeouts again — more than ever. The kids are not fighting, nor are they throwing their dinner plates on the floor. They are not having tantrums. It’s nothing like that. I know the pandemic has affected all of us, but there are times when I think it’s hardest for our older kids who, on the brink of adulthood, aren’t yet
wired at their age to be so isolated and confined. Our son is spending most of his senior year of high school at home. Our daughter is at college but living with considerable restrictions. I’m trying to do my best to support my family emotionally, but I have my good days and so-so days just like everyone else. Bringing back those timeouts of long ago helps rejuvenate me, especially when I’m feeling anxious and worried. Sometimes it’s just a room in our house where I turn off my phone for 15 minutes and do nothing. It’s not so much a prescribed meditative practice as it is a much-needed spontaneous chill-out when I’m feeling overwhelmed. There’s also a lovely park a few blocks from where we live. I try to walk there every day, at the end of my day. I have a favorite bench where I like to sit. Seeing the little kids smiling and playing, and the toddlers ambling along, restores me. Sometimes there’s a group of elementary school kids sitting in a wide circle, socially distanced, chatting and laughing with their masks on their chins. They must be happy, I think, to be outside together. Virtual Shabbat has also become a sacred space for me to take a breath. On Fridays, after another week of rising Covid cases, another week of parenting in a pandemic, I’m fried. I log on to services, and as soon as I hear the rabbi and the cantor, my spirits are lifted. It helps me to connect with my community and know I’m not alone. It’s an old cliché, but it’s true: We moms have to put our oxygen mask on first before putting it on our kids. While there’s nothing I can do about the pandemic, remembering to take time out for myself each day — even if it’s for 15 minutes — helps me reset and gives me what I need to take care of the people in my life that I love the most. n
Is it reasonable to expect to marry my Orthodox boyfriend? MIXED & MATCHED DAWN KEPLER
Dawn Kepler leads Building Jewish Bridges, a program 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: Can I first say how impactful and helpful I have found your writing? I am a non-Jew in a relationship with a Jewish man. I love him, and his Orthodox identity is a big part of who he is. I have been researching as much as I can, but I notice that it is quite difficult to find information on Judaism for non-Jews. I haven’t found accessible information on conversion. Although we are not ready to discuss marriage and children, I think it is important that we do so, as faith is such an important part of a relationship and building a life together, and as an interfaith couple, I don’t think it is possible for us to have this conversation too soon! I am aware that if we were to marry, our marriage would not be recognized by Orthodox Judaism. But the issue that has really been bothering me is the thought of future children. I know that my partner wants to share his Jewish identity with his kids, and I am fully on board. I am completely committed to the idea of raising children in a kosher household and abiding by the halachah. I understand this would be enough for Reform Judaism to consider our children to be Jewish, but not Orthodoxy. I know that if I wanted our children to be accepted as Orthodox Jews, then the obvious solution is to convert. But I don’t see marriage and children as a valid reason and, as an atheist, I see it as personally inappropriate to do so. I’m wondering what you think and whether you think that were my partner and I to raise children in an observant household, engage with the community and send them to Jewish schools, would it be possible for them to convert to Orthodox Judaism as children? — Planning Ahead Dear Planning: Thank you for your kind words. You have raised a number of issues. First, a good place to start learning about Judaism would be a basic Judaism class. You would learn in a structured way and have a teacher as a resource. Your partner’s rabbi should be able to assist you in this. I think it is much too early to consider converting. As for discussing marriage, honestly, your partner can’t be too attached
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to Orthodox practice or he wouldn’t be dating a non-Jew. I don’t mean this as an insult but as an observation. He owes you an explanation as to why he is dating you. Is he serious? Has he thought about the complications? Has he introduced you to his family or taken you to services at his synagogue? Does he see this relationship as serious? If you are sleeping together, that should be a red flag. He’s lying to someone, perhaps himself. Yes, the big can of worms is children. This is always the toughest part. It is true that Reform Judaism would accept children raised as Jews as sufficient to view your children as Jewish. But that leaves the rest of the world’s Jewish population not thinking your kids are Jewish. Is your partner ready to face that? Indeed, you could change everything by having an Orthodox conversion. But that would be artificial on your part. Being an atheist would prevent you from having an Orthodox conversion anyway. Does your partner believe in God? How does he view your beliefs? Are you planning to pretend to believe in order to have a traditional home? I’m not a fan of pretense. You ask if your children could convert to Orthodox Jewry. There are occasions when a child can have an Orthodox conversion when the mother is not Jewish: if the child is raised in an observant home, going to an Orthodox day school, etc. But your situation is significantly more complex than others I’ve worked with. Is your partner open to talking to me? Let me be totally frank with you. In the past, when a woman in your position is the one who contacts me, and her Jewish boyfriend doesn’t want to talk/meet with me, it is because he is ambivalent. Those relationships don’t last when the man is pressed to be honest. I don’t want you to be madly in love and only then find out that he can’t bring himself to commit to you. I do not support lying or deception in a relationship. Granted, he may at this point be lying to himself most of all, but you are the person who will be most harmed. Please ask him about this and tell me what he says. n
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