I’m happy to say that my mother, Rosalie, is turning 85 in a couple of days. I don’t think she’ll mind my revealing her age, as she wears her years proudly and beautifully. People talk often about the joys and mysteries (and sometimes heartaches) of watching children grow up. We don’t talk as much about watching our parents grow older. But that’s what’s on my mind today.
I don’t want to tell stories out of school, but I think that many of you who know my folks know that they were divorced for many years. The exact number of years is unclear; it depends on how you count.... And then they got back together and I married them to each other in my cabin in Mendocino, with my own newish partner, Mickey, as a witness.
So I remember my mom raising three young kids (I’m the oldest--you can see THAT, I’m sure) while working poorly paid jobs, going to school herself. It wasn’t an easy scene for anyone, but somehow we kids got launched, albeit with some dramas along the way. For my part, I went off to school and then more school and then some not-school and then more school. And one day I was in my apartment in New York, chatting with my mom back home in OC. It might even have been Mother’s Day. We were well into our conversation when she suddenly changed the topic and said, “How would you feel if your father and I moved in with each other?”
I almost dropped the phone! But I felt a sweet happiness creep into me. I realized then, I think, that even situations that I think are pretty fixed, pretty frozen, can always change. In fact they ARE always changing. And not always for the worse.
My mom was younger that day than I am now, and there’s been a lot of life for everyone involved since that phone chat. I don’t think about it every day at all; it’s just how life went for my family. But when I do contemplate these events I find myself thinking about change. I’ll always be the child of my parents, and I’ll always look at them from that self-centered child’s-eye view. But one thing I feel lucky about, luckier than some other people I know, is that, with all this turmoil, I have been privileged to watch my parents CHANGE.
One impressive change is that my mother became Bat Mitzvah at age 60. It’s something she had long wanted to do. Even with nothing but resistance from the rest of us, she always stayed a member of a synagogue. She really wanted an involved, committed Jewish life. She learned to read Hebrew, gave a drash, and had a party. And she has kept studying with a group of women ever since. During the year they have official teachers; in the summers they meet on their own, gather Torah teachings from the internet, and study the weekly Torah portion together. Every Tuesday morning. There is no stopping these students of Torah!
Mom pursued another long-deferred dream by learning to weave. She came up here and took beginning weaving at the Mendocino Art Center from the great Lolli Jacobsen. Then she went back home and joined a weaving guild. That group of weavers not only study together weekly, but also they have become a real community of friends and fellow travelers. They celebrate birthdays and holidays, look in on each other when they are sick, help each other with weaving snafus, take trips, teach weaving to kids at day camps, pose as pilgrims, and do all kinds of weaving-world tasks I’ll never understand.
She also started volunteering various places, at the local Senior Center, at something whose name I love: Operation Santa Claus (Mom, I thought you said there was no Santa Claus!). She joined an active Red Hat group. She and some other women formed an Elders Group, of which she is the eldest elder. And she has become a much-loved regular participant and friend of our Jewish community up here. It takes a certain wicked woman to be in charge of laying out our Sin Buffet every Rosh Hashanah....
I remember my mom as being kind of solitary when I was young--probably just way too busy to be hanging out. We had neighbors, and she had and still has a couple of beloved friends from her childhood. Now I see her in the middle of circles of friendship, learning, fun, conversation, mutual support, community service and growth. It’s incredibly beautiful, especially because I have seen her reach out and become part of all these circles and add so much to them all.
Mom has always been freakishly healthy, especially for someone who has never done an intentional moment of exercise or dieted in her whole life. (Who’s jealous here???) But in the past year or so she has started to have some health challenges. Nothing fatal, thank God, but they’ve cramped her style a bit of late. So my dad and my sibs and I keep watching her meet the challenges of this phase of life, which seem every bit as rugged as any of the earlier ones.
There is a complex relationship between what we can change and what changes us. There is very little that is fixed, though I must say that my mom’s love for her three kids is about as solid as any element I’ve ever encountered. Things change all the time, sometimes because we work to make them change, but usually because things just change. Living well seems to be some hard-to-train-for mix of being steady on our feet and nimble enough to jump for the trapeze bar at just the right moment.
I’m writing this love letter to my mom as a birthday gift. She’ll get it late, of course--why would THAT ever change? Oh wait…I think this will be in time for Mother’s Day! Beyond that, I want to notice and honor that which she does so well, which we all do as best we can: meeting change, taking hold of it, trying to work all
the moving parts into some kind of joyful balance, for a moment, at least, struggling a bit as they shift onward. The work of life. Zei gezunt!
LAG B’OMER CEMETERY CLEAN-UP AND PICNIC
On May 14th we will gather at the Evergreen Cemetery in Mendocino at noon to tidy up the Jewish section in celebration of the 33rd day of the Omer count. That day is traditionally marked with outings, picnics, and bonfires. In Israel, many visit Meron, the resting place of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the anniversary of whose passing it is. The rabbi, who lived in the second century of the Common Era, was the first to teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the Kabbalah, and is the author of the basic work of Kabbalah, The Zohar. After our yard work is done, we will have a potluck picnic down on Big River Beach. If you have garden tools, please bring them; if not, come anyway.
LEIL TIKKUN SHAVUOT
Erev Shavuot, the holy festival that marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer and celebrates the Torah’s revelation at Mount Sinai, falls this year on the night of Tuesday, May 30th. We will have our customary late night of study, conversation, prayer, and blintzes.
The Torah mandates the seven-week Counting of the Omer, beginning on the second day of Passover, to be immediately followed by Shavuot. This counting of days and weeks is understood to express anticipation and desire for the Torah. On Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God. Mark your calendar now and await further details.
PALM TREE STUDY GROUP
The group studying the Palm Tree of Deborah meets on the first and third Thursdays of each month, this month on May 4th and 18th, 5:30-7:00 PM at the shul.
The Palm Tree is a medieval work by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero which combines lessons about how to live in a generous state of mind at all times with a nice dose of kabbalah. We’ve been reading it closely, a paragraph or two at each session. At the most recent meeting, we all asked, “Isn’t he just saying the same thing over and over???” So we decided to read ahead a little bit. And it turns out he’s not! More to be discovered....
MCJC JUSTICE GROUP
The Justice Group will have its next meeting on Tuesday, May 2, 5:30-7:30 PM at the shul. We’ll be following up on our Citizenship Scholarship project, through which we are raising funds to help people who are able to become US citizens take the final test.
We will also be distributing the wonderful “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” signs. And there will be time for other agenda items as well.
If you would like to be part of the MCJC Justice Group, please send an e-mail to Margaret (email@example.com) and she will add you to the e-mail list.
SPEAKING OF NEIGHBORS
For ten years, from 1993 until 2003, Ellen Saxe wrote a column in the Megillah on food. Mostly it was on Jewish food, often relating to holidays. At other times she tried to find the “Jewish connection.” In December of 1999, she offered two kosher-style tamale recipes (hold the manteca!). The introduction she wrote seems particularly poignant today. (If you want the recipes, call Ellen at 877-3475.)
If I want to get a feel for what life might have been like for my immigrant great-grandparents as they adjusted to their new life in America and began raising my grandparents, I don’t need to look any farther than the Mexican communities of Mendocino’s inland and coast. There I see so many of the qualities I have been taught characterized Jewish families: homes defined by a close relationship to religion, where generations freely mix and support each other, some earning money to bring relatives from poverty in the “old country.” Younger people help their elders maneuver the complexities of a governmental system in a foreign language while the elders work in low-paying jobs to help advance their children through education and increased opportunities.
All the while, the generations are determined not to abandon the old culture while embracing the excitement of being Americans. Just as my non-Jewish friends tell me they feel enriched when they are included in our simchas, our family has been fortunate to be invited by Mexican neighbors and co-workers to baptisms, weddings, quinzes, house warmings and birthday parties where we feel surrounded by the warmth of a hamish culture, great music, and wonderful food, presided over by the oldest women present, in bright aprons, rarely leaving the kitchen.
On May 26th we will be at the home of Charles and Louise Ross in Manchester, on the south coast. To RSVP and get directions, please contact them at 882-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All gatherings begin at 6:00 PM and include a short service with a vegetarian potluck following.
Our host in June is Shelley Martin in Albion on Friday, June 23rd. We are blessed to have a full calendar through October; if you would like to host in November or December, please contact Mina at or 937-1319
The Elders’ Conversation meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, from 3:00-5:00 PM at the shul. This month’s meetings will be on May 9th and 23rd. Topics to be announced.
GERIATRIC WORKING GROUP
The “Geris” have been working for the past year on developing ways for older people to get more accessible healthcare. We’ve surveyed older people on the coast to get a clear sense of the major problems people face, and we have developed a proposal for some changes that we think would be especially helpful. Last month we had a very promising meeting with leaders at the Mendocino Coast Clinics, in which we reviewed our proposal and talked in detail about how MCC might be able to create an Elders’ Clinic, with community support. Very exciting!
PRE- (OR SLIGHTLY POST-) BAR/BAT MITZVAH FAMILY CLASS
We have had the greatest conversations! The last family class of the year will be on Sunday, May 7th at 4:00 PM, with a potluck dinner. Our topic will be “Does Being Religious Help or Hurt the World?” The location will be announced.
REFRESHED MCJC WEBSITE
The website for MCJC has the same address (http://www.mcjc.org), but it has been updated and revitalized. Most of the links will be the same, though you will find a cleaner and more manageable site. Bob Evans and Mina Cohen have labored many hours on this makeover, and we thank them and hope you enjoy it.
We are always looking for photographs, so we invite you to share any Jewish community photos (with permission from the photographed individuals). Or the next time you attend an MCJC event, help us record it. Please send photos to Mina at email@example.com.
MCJC BOARD MEETING
The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:30 PM at the shul. The May meeting has not yet been scheduled.
If you would like to attend, please leave a message on the phone at the shul, 964-6146.
BOOK OF THE MONTH
The book group will not meet in May, but will reconvene on June 5th to discuss The Laws of Gravity by Liz Rosenberg. Please call Fran Schwartz at 937-1352 for information. The books are available at Gallery Bookshop; you will receive a 10% discount when you let them know you are in the MCJC book group.
WRITERS SALON SAVE THE DATE
Some of MCJC’s talented writers will be reading for us on June 25th at 3:00 PM at the shul. Ink in that date!
The featured writers will include Rosalie Winesuff, Devorah Rossman, Ronnie James, and Susan Finkelstein. More details will appear in the June Megillah.
NEW YORK NEW YORK: IT’S A WONDERFUL TOWN
NYC Jewish lore
Outside of Israel, New York City is home to the largest population of Jews in the world. As of 2011, one in six households in NYC was Jewish.
Congregation Shearith Israel, founded in New York in 1654 by 23 Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent, was the first synagogue in the colonies. It was the sole purveyor of kosher meat until 1813.
The first Reform congregation in New York City, Temple Emanu-El, was founded in 1845 by 33 mostly German Jews; it moved to its present location in 1929. Members have included J. Rivers and M. Bloomberg.
Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, the first Eastern European Jewish congregation, was founded in 1852.
By the late 19th century, there were over 5,000 kosher butchers and 1,000 kosher slaughterers in New York.
In 1930, there were over 80 pickle vendors in the Lower East Side’s thriving Jewish pickle scene. The kosher dill was brought in the mid-19th century by German Jews.
The egg cream is said to have been invented around 1890 by Louis (Pop) Auster, the owner of a Lower East Side candy store. An egg cream dynasty was created by his sons who eventually ran five candy stores in Lower Manhattan.
The erection of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 catalyzed a Jewish exodus from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn. By 1930, more than 40% of New York’s Jews lived in Brooklyn.
Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan was dubbed “Frankfurt on the Hudson” in the 1930s, as a large number of German and Austrian Jews fleeing Nazism settled there.
Starting in the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Jews left the Soviet Union for New York, many settling in Brighton Beach, which came to be known as “Little Odessa.”
The Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside of Israel, with one of the biggest concentrations of Hasidic and Hareidi Jews in the United States.
At Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House on Chrystie and Delancey, every table is provided with a pitcher of shmaltz and serenaded by emcee Dani Luv singing Yiddish standards.
One of the first kosher Chinese restaurants in New York was Moshe Peking, founded in the Garment District in 1974, where the all-Chinese wait staff wear yarmulkes.
Sig Klein’s Fat Men’s Shop opened in 1895 at 52 Third Avenue, and carried plus-sized clothes for men. Its sign featured the slogan: “If everyone was fat there would be no war.”
Three hundred all-Jewish New York bagel craftsmen formed a trade union in the early 1900s, the Bagel Bakers Local 338, which established standards for bagel production and conducted meetings in Yiddish.
In December of 1951, New York City was hit with what The New York Times termed the “bagel famine,” when a dispute between the members of BB Local 338 and the Bagel Bakers Association led to the closing of 32 out of 34 of the city’s bagel bakeries. As a result of the bagel shortage, the sale of lox dropped nearly 50%. Murray Nathan, who had resolved a smoked salmon strike in 1948, was brought in to mediate the situation.
We are grateful to Monique and Jay Frankston for preparing the April newsletter for mailing. If you volunteer for a future folding, stamping, and mailing project, you can do it at home, or another spot of your choosing, in about two hours. Contact Sarah at 962-0565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING DONORS
Sally & Lee Welty; Roslyn & Bruce Moore; Ronnie Karish & Ellen Saxe; Helen Jacobs; Nina Ravitz & Terry Clark; Henrietta Steiniger; Fran & Roger Schwartz; Margaret Fox; Susan Tubbesing & Sarah Nathe; Ben & Susan Finkelstein; Mark & Deanna Apfel; Carolyn Steinbuck; Karen Rakofsky; Bonnie Lawlor; Marinela Miclea; Brona Lessen; Annette & Jonathan Lehan; Jay Millen & Stacy Pollina Millen; Susan Hofberg; Steve Antler & Carla Jupiter; Dr Robert & Marcia Popper.
Rachel Binah in memory of her parents, Sydney & Eleanor Kellner; Danny Mandelbaum & Benna Kolinsky in honor of Mike Shapiro & his family; Emily Inwood & Elias Steinbuck in honor of Mina Cohen's generous help with the Bat Mitzvah of Josephine Steinbuck.
CONTRIBUTING MEMBERSHIP IN MCJC
Everyone who lives on the Mendocino Coast, and desires to be a member of MCJC, is one. The MCJC Board has set a goal of having every household become CONTRIBUTING members in 2017. We have memberships at Regular, Limited Income, and Family levels, as well as any level possible for you. Please mail your donations to MCJC, Box 291, Little River, CA 95456, or use PayPal on the MCJC website.
When you contribute in memory or honor of someone, an acknowledgment card will be sent to the individual or family. Please include their name and mailing address. Contact Donna Montag at email@example.com
The Mendocino Megillah is published monthly. The deadline for article submission is the 15th of the month before publication. The editor will include all appropriate material, space permitting, with the exception of copyrighted material lacking the permission of the author. Divergent opinions are welcome. Material printed in the Megillah does not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the MCJC Board of Directors.
Please Support the Underwriters Below
Albion Doors and Windows: 1000s of recycled windows, French doors, thermal windows, entry doors, new & used. Leaded glass, arches & unique styles. Liquidation prices at 937-0078 in Albion. www.knobsession.com
Karen Bowers Studio: Painting workshops and studio gallery. Website: karenbowersstudio.com
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 707 937-3163.
College-Bound Advising: College search, coaching, and application assistance. Mina Cohen, certified college counselor. Individual consultation and group workshops. Tel: 937-1319. cbadvising.com
Frankie's Pizza and Ice Cream Parlor: Homemade pizzas, Cowlick's ice cream, and other yummy things to nosh on. Beer and wine available. Live music weekly; all ages welcome. Open daily from 11:00 am - 9:00 pm at
44951 Ukiah Street, Mendocino, 937-2436. www.frankiesmendocino.com
Luna’s Challah: Superior hand-kneaded artisanal organic challah, baked most Friday mornings in Fort Bragg. Call or text 707-972-4494 or email by 6pm Thursday to order. For special events, please order a week in advance. Happy customers testify: “The best in Northern California!”
Out of this World: Telescopes, binoculars, & science toys. 45100 Main Street, Box 1010, Mendocino. 937-3335. www.OutofThisWorldShop.com. Serving all your interplanetary needs since 1988.
Phoebe Graubard: Attorney at Law. Wills, trusts, probate, conservatorships. 594 S. Franklin, Fort Bragg, 95437.
964-3525. www.phoebelaw.com Member National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Wheelchair accessible.
Rainsong & Rainsong Shoes: From head to toe in Mendocino! Contemporary clothing. Shoes & accessories for men & women. Two locations: Mendocino and Healdsburg. 937-4165 (clothing), 937-1710 (shoes), 433-8058 (Healdsburg).
Raven Deerwater, EA, PhD: Tax practitioner. Specializing in families, home-based & small businesses, & non-profit organizations. 45121 Ukiah Street, Box 1786, Mendocino. Tel: 937-1099. Email: email@example.com http://www.taxpractitioner.com
Rhoda Teplow Designs: Original jewelry created with beads from around the world, specializing in brass from Ghana, silver from Israel, and lapis, turquoise and coral from Tibet/Nepal. POB 453, Mendocino CA 95460. Tel: 964-2787.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Silver & Stone: 45050 Main Street, Mendocino. Contemporary sterling silver & gemstone jewelry for women & men. Affordable to indulgent. 11:00-6:00 pm daily. 937-0257. Email: email@example.com
Thanksgiving Coffee Co: Local roasters on the Mendocino Coast for over three decades. Certified organic, shade grown coffee & Fair Trade Coffees. Box 1918, Fort Bragg, 95437. (800) 462-1999. www.thanksgivingcoffee.com
Tonk's Tree Service: Hazardous removals, spurless pruning, arborist reports, stump grinding, 60' aerial lift, view and sun improvement. Owner-operated, licensed & insured. Tatanka Russell, certified arborist WE-9236A, lic. no. 798911. 964-6209, http://www.tonkstreeservice.com, Email:
BOARD AND USEFUL NUMBERS
* - Memeber MCJC Boar of Directors