JWeekly

  • Cello theft solved with concerted effort — and an assist from Facebook
    The two co-founders of the local bands Dirty Cello and San Francisco Yiddish Combo were robbed of their musical instruments in San Francisco Tuesday night, but a strong community effort and the ingenious play of a Good Samaritan helped recover the valuable cello and guitar about 15 hours after they went missing. Santa Rosa Symphony cellist Rebecca Roudman and her husband, guitarist Jason Eckl, had gone from a teaching gig straight to a David Crosby concert at the Castro Theatre, parking their car with the instruments covered in the back. When they went to check on them at intermission, they found their car window smashed and Roudman’s Luis and Clark carbon fiber cello and Jason’s Rainsong guitar gone, along with the cases and two carbon fiber bows. All told, the equipment was worth about $12,000, Roudman said by phone from their Novato home. And they had three upcoming concerts to play this weekend, including a Dirty Cello concert in San Rafael on Friday night. (Roudman and Eckl were profiled in J. in July.) Police were called, but the response was slow. Where else to turn but Facebook? Roudman quickly posted the distressing news, asking her online community to keep a ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-08
  • Q&A: An interpreter who had a childhood run-in with the KGB
    Margarita Bekker, 48, of Redwood City is a certified health care interpreter and lead interpreter of education and training at Stanford Health Care, where she has worked for 16 years. She immigrated to New York from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1989, when she was 19, and settled in the Bay Area the following year. J.: You arrived in the U.S. with some nursing background. How, at just 19 years old? MB: In the Soviet Union you could go to nursing school after eighth grade, and in three years you’d finish nursing studies and all of your high school requirements. I was in a grade school that had very anti-Semitic teachers, especially my math teacher, who called me “idiot” in front of the entire class. I didn’t have the strength to keep putting up with that, so I applied to nursing school. How did you come to your present line of work? MB: I’ve always loved medicine and I’ve always loved languages, and when I saw the job opening at Stanford for a Russian health care interpreter, I realized that was the perfect job for me. Real stuff happens in hospitals and clinics. You’re constantly brought to that existential reality ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-08
  • Decades later, the return of Michael Tilson Thomas’ orchestral tribute to Anne Frank
    With the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights coming up in December, Michael Tilson Thomas knew exactly what piece to select for his penultimate season as musical director of the San Francisco Symphony. Some 28 years ago, with his star rising in the world of American conductors and composers, Tilson Thomas had been contacted by actress Audrey Hepburn and asked to create a musical performance piece based on “The Diary of Anne Frank.” At the time, Hepburn was a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. “She spent her teenage years in Holland during the war and had great sympathy for what Anne and others like her had gone through,” Tilson Thomas said. “And she wanted to bring [Anne’s] words to a wider audience.” A pianist and composer by training, Tilson Thomas saw the potential for a creative melding of words and music, and together they quilted a composition of “songful” instrumental music and the spoken word. The music was composed by Thomas using themes from the Mourner’s Kaddish, and the words were taken from Anne’s diary, penned nearly 50 years earlier during the Holocaust. “From the Diary of Anne Frank,” with Hepburn narrating and Tilson Thomas conducting, made its ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-08
  • The Torah’s model for civil discourse
    Toldot Genesis 25:19-28:9 The excruciating election season is finally over. As I write, I don’t yet know the outcome. But I know that this has been a season of agonizing conflict and division in our country. And regardless of who won and lost, a large percentage of Americans is saddened and enraged by the results. What does the Torah have to teach us about our season of discord? There is hardly a parasha in the Torah with more conflict stories than this week’s portion, Toldot. We have Jacob and Esau struggling in the womb of their mother, and Jacob steals Esau’s birthright and his firstborn blessing. But a conflict story beyond the family circle has particular relevance to our own experiences of conflict, both interpersonal and communal. In Chapter 26, we learn that Isaac went down to Gerar in search of food and water in a time of famine, much as his father had done, and as refugees around the world do today. Isaac, also emulating his father, lied to the Philistine king, Avimelech. Believing that the wicked Philistines would kill him if they knew that the beautiful Rebecca was his wife, Isaac said that Rebecca was his sister. Here ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-08
  • My fellow faith leaders showed up, proving no community is alone in its struggle
    On my way into synagogue, a member of my congregation remarked to me: “After seeing that Temple Beth Abraham was a polling place, I was so very proud after Pittsburgh to see my shul embracing its civic duty.” It has always been important to me that our synagogues embrace the fact that we do not stand alone, but rather, are part of the communities in which we reside. The Jewish community’s vigilance with security is understandable, but we cannot build fortresses to keep others out. We also have to be able to let people in — our own members, visitors from other Jewish communities, and our neighbors. As one of the Torah’s most basic tenets says: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Being a polling place for the neighborhood symbolizes this important connection. I believe having your neighbors know you is also good security. They provide eyes and ears to our institutions. But neighborliness and its benefits go far beyond that. In 2015, after the brutal shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina, the members of Temple Beth Abraham, old and young, wrote condolence cards to the members of the First AME Church of Oakland (FAME). That ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-08
  • Historic wins for JCHS in soccer and volleyball
    The boys soccer team at Jewish Community High School of the Bay is on its way to the championship game in its division for the first time, matching the historic accomplishment of the school’s girls volleyball squad. Junior forward Ethan Finestone scored three goals last night at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium as the JCHS Wolves defeated Point Arena High School 5-1. It was the second consecutive game in which Finestone scored a hat trick. The soccer team, seeded No. 2 among the 25 teams in its division, will travel to top-seeded Anderson Valley Junior Senior High School in Boonville next Tuesday, Nov. 13, for the championship game in division 3 of the California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section. Anderson Valley has won five of the past eight NCS division 3 soccer championships. JCHS Wolves boys soccer teamJCHS reached the semifinal game against third-seeded Point Arena by winning 7-0 last Saturday against No. 7 seed Laytonville High School. The JCHS girls volleyball team also reached the championship game in its 35-team division for the first time, but lost that match at Calistoga last Saturday night, Nov. 3. Despite the 3-1 loss to Calistoga in the division 6 title game, the Wolves ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-08
  • Activist Rabbi Uri Regev warns of a growing theocracy in Israel
    Rabbi Uri Regev next week will be asking Bay Area Jews to imagine what it would be like if a small group of extreme Jewish fundamentalists tried to set up a Jewish theocracy — a “Torah state” — here. “They would be laughed out of town,” he said. “No one would take them seriously.” But, he warns, that’s just what’s happening in Israel. Regev, an Israeli Reform rabbi and longtime activist, has a history of working against the encroachment of an ultra-Orthodox hegemony into Israel’s democratic sphere. He’ll be speaking in the Bay Area this month, where he’ll tell diaspora Jews that their belief in pluralism and tolerance means they should also make a commitment to bolstering these values in Israel. “Here, clearly, the overwhelming majority of American Jews are on the side of religious freedom and equality,” he said. Regev is the president of Hiddush, an organization promoting equality for Israelis, whether they are religious or secular, Jewish or not. For Regev, that means a democratic state whose Jewish nature is inherent but which supports all its citizens. Hiddush works on influencing policy-makers, doing public polling and providing legal support in court cases to counteract what it sees as ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-08
  • ‘Don’t want to die in America’: Q&A with Israeli director Shlomi Eldar
    Translated from the Hebrew by Michelle Shabtai. This interview originally appeared in BaInyanim and has been condensed for space. Two months ago, when “Foreign Land” won the Israeli Ophir Award for best documentary, director Shlomi Eldar stepped up to the stage and told the audience that when he started filming six years ago, “no one would have considered turning up at the courthouse with a D-9 bulldozer, artists weren’t persecuted and threatened, bereaved parents weren’t reprimanded, Arabs didn’t flock to the polls, annexation was an outlandish notion associated with marginal right-wingers, “religionization’ didn’t exist in our lexicon, and there was no national law that determined so definitively that Arabs, Druze and Karachay-Cherkess are second-class citizens.” Eldar has always been an opinionated journalist. For years he served as a political reporter for Israel’s TV Channel One, and in 2003 he joined Channel 10 News as a correspondent for the Palestinian Authority. Only after he’d made two documentaries (his first, “Precious Life,” also won an Ophir in 2010) did Eldar begin to present himself as a director first and a journalist second. At the end of 2012, Eldar resigned from Channel 10, explaining that the stories he wanted to convey as ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-07
  • Honoring John Goldman: a philanthropist who lets the youth lead
    John Goldman, this year’s recipient of the Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership, recalls words his mother, the late Rhoda Goldman, spoke to him long ago. Giving back is like breathing, she told him. “It’s something natural we do as human beings,” Goldman says. “My mother said you should enjoy what you have, but in equal measure you should give.” And give he has, for all of his adult life. In recognition of his work with the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, as well as his service and leadership on scores of nonprofit boards in the Jewish community and beyond, Goldman will accept the Sinton Award on Nov. 13 at the annual Day of Philanthropy, sponsored by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. Goldman, 69, says he may be one of the few recipients of the award who actually knew Robert Sinton, a former Federation lay leader who died in 1997. “He was a very good friend of my dad’s,” he says, referring to his late father, philanthropist Richard Goldman. “The thing about Bob I so respected was the depth of his caring. He was one of those guys who felt that Jewish values were the mainstay of ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-07
  • Here are the 2018 midterms results that matter most to Jews
    Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections held Tuesday, with Jewish Congress members poised to take key leadership roles. Republicans looked to increase their majority in the Senate. Five Jewish Democrats are set to chair key House committees, including three representatives from New York: Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee; Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs; and Nita Lowey, Appropriations. Adam Schiff of California will head the Intelligence Committee and John Yarmuth of Kentucky will lead the Budget Committee. Democrat Jared Polis will be the first Jewish and first gay governor of Colorado, and J.B. Pritzker, a Jewish Democrat, will be the next governor of Illinois. And two Jewish military veterans won upset Democratic victories in House races: Max Rose in New York and Elaine Luria in Virginia. In the Senate, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat and a former synagogue president, defeated the incumbent Republican, Dean Heller. Here are more results in races of significance to Jewish voters: House of Representatives In Michigan, Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, handily won her race in District 13. Tlaib favors a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has opposed U.S. aid to Israel. She will also be one of the first Muslim women in ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-07
  • Beth Torah in Fremont helps Redding families hurt by fire
    When the massive Carr Fire broke out near Redding this past summer, volunteers at Reform synagogue Temple Beth Torah in Fremont wanted to help out. But they weren’t sure how to reach their fellow Jews in Redding, more than 200 miles northeast of the Bay Area. “There wasn’t a lot of information,” said Phyllis Wood, head of Beth Torah’s social action committee. “So I just looked up their phone number on the web.” The fire began on July 23 and burned for several weeks, destroying more than 1,000 homes and scorching 230,000 acres in Shasta County. Four members of Temple Beth Israel in Redding lost their homes, so a few weeks ago a Fremont volunteer packed up four boxes of Judaica for the affected families, along with some much-needed cash. The act of charity mirrored the Jewish community’s effort last year when deadly fires burned thousands of acres in the North Bay, including torching Camp Newman in Santa Rosa. “One of our members actually drove the boxes to Redding and handed them over personally,” said Beth Torah administrator Jill Ziman. Packed inside were mezuzahs, menorahs, Shabbat candlesticks, jewelry, mugs and books. Wood said other organizations were filling in by covering ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-07
  • Democrats win the House, and Jewish lawmakers step into key roles
    If you thought the first half of Donald Trump’s first term as president was volatile, think about the next two years: His hated opponents, the Democrats, are now weaponized. Returned to the majority after eight years, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will now wield the awesome power of subpoena. And some of the key party figures who will be able to force Trump administration officials to testify are Jewish. Caucus elections will take place between now and the launch of the 116th Congress, but barring a surprise, these five Jewish Democrats are now set to chair key House committees, including three from New York — Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee; Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs; and Nita Lowey, Appropriations. Also, Adam Schiff of California will helm the Intelligence Committee and John Yarmuth of Kentucky will lead the Budget Committee. Those committee chairmanships and others will figure large in efforts by Democrats to stymie what they consider to be a catastrophic presidency. Impeachment does not appear to be an option for now: Nancy Pelosi of California, likely to regain the Speaker’s gavel, has counted it out, and so has Nadler, whose committee would conduct any investigation into the president. But ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-07
  • Shootings make it official: We no longer feel safe as Jews in America.
    My local newspaper ran a column by Dana Milbank in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre in which the Washington Post columnist laid much of the blame for the worst such attack in U.S. history at the feet of President Trump. While Trump’s rhetoric may be inspiring right-wing wing nuts, this is, unfortunately, not the full picture. It would be much easier if it were only neo-Nazi fanatics that America’s Jews had to worry about, but it’s not. We are being vilified, as the song says, by both sides now, and the vitriol coming from the left is even more insidious and dangerous, in my opinion. This is because, unlike the Nazi or KKK types, who make no bones about their anti-Semitism, the left often is couching its Jew-hatred in “social justice” trappings, in most cases, trying to draw a distinction between hatred of Israel — the world’s only Jewish country — and hatred of Jews . Just to be clear, I see no way to separate the two, as Israel is home to about half the world’s Jews. Most of the other half is in the United States. So whatever happens to the Jews of Israel happens to ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-06
  • Protesters sit shiva, block street at San Francisco ICE office
    Several dozen members of the Jewish social justice organization IfNotNow on Monday blocked the street in front of the San Francisco office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sitting shiva for the 11 Jews murdered in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue last week and protesting white nationalism, as well as the administration’s continuing arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants. A contingent of IfNotNow protesters spread across Washington Street, blocking traffic and unfurling a banner that read “Jewish Resistance.” A second group sat in in the middle of Sansome Street, surrounding a circular piece of fabric decorated with a painted Tree of Life. Protesters chanted in English and Yiddish, “Mir veln zey iberlebn” — “We will outlive them” — a phrase from a Yiddish protest song that has become a rallying cry among young left-wing Jews since the 2016 presidential election. Protest leaders made special mention of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the venerable Jewish organization that was cited by the Pittsburgh shooter in his anti-Jewish vitriol. In another speech, one protest leader cited the doomed 1939 voyage of the St. Louis, a ship that carried Jewish refugees from Germany to the shores of the United States but was turned away. ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-06
  • Month of Kislev: The darker the night, the brighter the light
    Kislev, 5779 Nov. 8–Dec. 8, 2018 We welcome the Hebrew month of Kislev Nov. 8-9. Kislev is connected to the mutable fire sign Sagittarius (Keshet, the bow), the Tribe of Benjamin and the traditionally beneficent planet Jupiter (Tzedek). The Holy of Holies was built upon a tiny bit of Benjamin’s tribal land during the time that the Temple stood in Jerusalem. Just as the Temple gave spiritual light to the world, Kislev gives spiritual light to the soul during the darkest part of the year. This year, Kislev begins 13 days before the Sun enters Sagittarius on the solar calendar. This gives November a Scorpio-Sagittarius (Mars-Jupiter) flavor, supersized by Jupiter’s return to his home sign of Sagittarius on Nov. 8 for the first time since Nov. 2006-Dec. 2007 and multiplied by Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius/Scorpio from Nov. 16 through Dec. 6. Jupiter’s propensity for devotion can be seen in how Benjamin named his ten sons for life events connecting him to his supposedly lost brother Joseph. Sagittarius the Archer is brutally honest, aiming for the highest truth with his bow, shooting right through convention, tradition and the status-quo to reach the heart of the matter. Mars-Pluto ruled Scorpio delivers precise ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-11-06