Rabbi's Notes

A chilling moment came as I was preparing to write this (that would have been June 19th) when President Trump, in response to the global outcry against separating children from parents seeking to cross the U.S. border, tweeted:A chilling moment came as I was preparing to write this (that would have been June 19th) when President Trump, in response to the global outcry against separating children from parents seeking to cross the U.S. border, tweeted:

Democrats are the problem. They don't care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.  They can't win on their terrible policies so they view them as potential voters!

The specific stab of ice to my heart came with the word “infest.” “Infest” is not a word that is, or should be, used for human beings. Insects and vermin infest.

 

Language, as we all know, is powerful. It has specific power to dehumanize people. And once a person or a group is verbally dehumanized, it is possible to do still worse to him or her.

 

Raul Hilberg, the eminent historian of the holocaust, asked the question, “How did the Nazis accomplish the murder of six million Jews?” (He references the murder of other populations targeted by the Nazis, but his focus, as the title of his most famous book makes clear, was The Destruction of the European Jews.) Hilberg meticulously documents the practical steps taken by the Nazi government to accomplish what was—among other horrible things--a mind-bendingly complex bureaucratic and political undertaking. Hilberg concludes that a government can’t destroy an entire population in a single step. He describes four stages, each necessary, in order to commit genocide.

 

Before I even describe his four steps, or at least the first one, I should say that I think that analogies to the holocaust are very seldom useful. For one thing, historical analogies of any kind are always inexact. For another, the words “holocaust” and “Nazi” are so emotionally painful and explosive that it is almost impossible to think once those words have been said. So I want to be clear here: I’m not making an analogy between the holocaust or Nazis and the current situation in the United States.

 

I bring up Hilberg’s scholarship here because of his first stage, what he calls “definition.” Definition in the Third Reich had both a legal and a propagandistic aspect. Legislators had to define what constituted a Jew. And the instruments of propaganda had to dehumanize them. Until these were undertaken, no further damage could readily be done.

 

Here’s another imperfect historical example. I began working on Skid Row in Los Angeles in 1981. At that time the population of people on the streets was changing quickly and radically. There used to be a fairly stable and small population of older men, mostly white, mostly alcoholics, who lived on Skid Row. They were known as “winos,” “bums,” or “derelicts.” Not flattering names, any of them. But these names didn’t fit the Greyhound bus loads of young, mostly African American men arriving in downtown LA daily as manufacturing plants closed in the South and Midwest. At the Catholic Worker, we watched the demography of Skid Row get younger and blacker, a whole new kind of tragedy. This was happening all over the country, and at first it elicited compassion. “We have to do something!” said moral, religious and civic leaders. There began to be a push for more shelter beds and soup kitchens, for transitional housing, for livable welfare. And the word “homeless” began to be used around the country. None of this stopped the hemorrhage of unemployment in the manufacturing sector or the destruction of people’s lives as they found themselves on the streets. But the initial language was fairly kind.

 

Flash forward a few years, and there were more homeless people than could be contained in Skid Row. There started to be tent cities and encampments under freeway overpasses, homeless people in more affluent areas, more urgent pressure for funding and services to ameliorate homelessness. And, sure as rain, new language began to creep into the public pronouncements: “predators,” “health hazards,” “vermin.” These words made possible a new approach to homelessness: it became a police problem, a sanitation problem, and cities could “sweep” and “clean up the streets.”

 

All of this came to my mind as I read the president’s tweet calling the presence of immigrants in our country an infestation. Neither should we overlook the casual “like MS-13”--the brutal gang that originated among Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s and has spread in the U.S. and Central America. This reference adds murderous gangsters to the images of lice and rats. On the campaign trail then-candidate Trump called Mexicans “drug dealers and rapists,” two other odious categories of humanity.

Once you define a group of people with language like this, you have laid the groundwork to incarcerate them without redress; to turn them away without hearing their claims to asylum; to take away their children. Once you say enough times of Muslims that “tens of thousands of people" are entering America with "cell phones with Isis flags on them,” it becomes possible to act harshly against them, as has also been done here. As George Orwell remarked shortly after the end of WWII, “Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” (Politics and the English Language). 

I debated with myself about writing this column because there are so many words out there already, because so much of what we all say to each other in this political environment is deadening, because sometimes I feel like I am drowning in despairing spew, and I really don’t want to add more. But last night at our last Heschel class I heard someone I respect say that she had been watching news reports of separated and incarcerated children and was heartened to hear the voices of Christian clergy raised in passionate protest. And she wondered if we would be hearing from rabbis.

 

Language matters. It matters what we refrain from saying, and it matters what we do say. What, then, I ask myself, might be useful and life-giving to say at this horrible moment? I don’t know. Mostly I just want to weep. But here, perhaps, is a tiny, minimal starting place: in that horrifying and heartbreaking photo we’ve all seen lately--of a young child being taken away from her parent by an officer in rubber gloves--no one is a rat or a flea, not the child, not the parent, not the officer. Every human being deserves to be seen, spoken of, and treated as a human being.

 

Perhaps in the new year that is coming around the bend we can find ways to speak up, and perhaps also refrain at times from speaking, so that more respect, more justice, and more humaneness come into being. May our words lay the groundwork for a better country and world.

This year, with all the heartaches of our present time, we will simply pray together for peace in our world, with some guided and silent meditation and some chanting. Prayers for peace always matter, and perhaps especially so on this holy day.

Tisha B'Av Peace Prayers

Tisha B’av falls this year on Sunday, July 22nd, and we will gather at the shul at 5:30 PM for an hour of prayers and meditations for peace. Tisha B’av (which means the Ninth Day of the month of Av, though this year the holy day is actually on 10 Av) is a day of mourning, initially for the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem in antiquity. More recently, some Jewish communities mourn for war and social destruction more broadly. There is a beautiful and hopeful legend that says that the Messiah will be born on the afternoon of Tisha B’av. In that spirit, it is our MCJC custom to gather later in the day, when perhaps sorrow can turn to hope.

Elul Musar Group

Elul, the month in the Hebrew calendar immediately preceding the High Holidays, begins this year on August 12th. Traditionally this is the time we begin to turn our attention toward the central most gesture of the holidays: Tshuvah or the return to wholeness in our relationships and in our world. Elul is a time of introspection and stocktaking, and as such is a particularly good time to engage in the practice of Mussar, the centuries-old Jewish path of cultivating positive character traits (Middot).

During four consecutive Tuesdays, we will utilize chant, chevrutah study, journaling, meditation, and group conversation to strengthen and balance key inner traits such as patience, trust, and lovingkindness. To focus and personalize our practice, we will explore some important questions: Which relationships and situations in my life call for Tshuvah? What are the actions and personal qualities that would foster those healings? How can I mobilize and sustain my resolve to implement these changes as we move toward the High Holidays and beyond? Together as a learning and practicing community, we will listen to the wake-up call of the shofar and turn toward the places in our lives where transformation and the New Year call to us.

 

Laura Goldman, L.C.S.W., will facilitate this group. A recent arrival to the coast, but a long-time Bay Area Mussar learner and teacher, Laura is thrilled to embark on this Mussar path with the MCJC community.

 

Tuesdays, August 14th, 21st, 28th, and September 4th, 5:30-7:00 PM at the shul. All are welcome, but because Mussar involves some consistency of practice, plan to come for the entire series if possible.

Torah Readers for High Holy Days

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are coming up (September 10th and 18th), so if you’ve ever had a yearning to be a Torah reader for the high holidays or are one of our regulars, it’s time to sign up.  If you’d like to have your first experience with this, Mina Cohen can help you prepare; if you are one of our experienced readers and have a preference for a holiday and a passage, please contact Mina at mcohen@mcn.org or call 937-1319.

Shabbat Morning Services With Torah Teachings

Shabbat morning services are held every Saturday morning of the year at 10:30 AM, lasting until about 12:30. People are most welcome to come for any part of the service. Lately, we’ve been gifted by members of the community often giving the Davar Torah (literally “word of Torah”), a reflection on the weekly Torah portion. The services are led each week by Rabbi Margaret, except when she is out of town. Below is the drash schedule for July and August.

  • 7/7/18 Pinchas - Rabbi Holub

  • 7/14/18 Matot-Masei - R. Deerwater

  • 7/21/18 Devarim - Bob Evans

  • 7/28/18 Vaetchanan - Andrea Luna

  • 8/04/18 Eikev - Rabbi Holub

  • 8/11/18 Re’eh - R. Deerwater

  • 8/18/18 Shoftim - Rabbi Holub

  • 8/25/18 Ki Teitzei - Elias Steinbuck

Kabbalat Shabbat

Benna Kolinsky and Danny Mandelbaum will welcome us to their Boonville home on July 27th. Please call them at 895-3883 to get directions and let them know you are coming.  Parking is challenging so carpool if you can.  

August 24th we will be at Julie and Bob Melendi’s home in South Caspar. Call them at 961-6010 for directions and to let them know you are coming.  In September we will have the joys of Sukkot so will be celebrating in a sukkah.  Stay tuned for host.

Thanks to all the hosts this year, we have our calendar complete through the end of 2018.  If you would like to host in 2019, and know your schedule, contact Mina at 937-1319 or mcohen@mcn.org.

All gatherings begin at 6:00 PM on the fourth Friday of the month, and include a short service with a vegetarian potluck following.

Graduates

Congratulations to our high school graduates, and best of luck in the next chapter of your lives: 

Cole Duncan will attend Chico State, Tobey Kafin will tread in the footsteps of his parents at UC Berkeley, Olivia Grinberg will matriculate at Columbia University, and Ariella Heise will become a Smith Woman.

Jewish Women's Retreat

Our 28th annual Jewish Women’s Retreat will be August 9-12th at River’s Bend in Philo. Our theme this year is “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” There is still room for a few people. If you’d like to sign up or find out more, please contact Registrar Harriet Bye at bysawyer@mcn.org or

937-3622.

Elder's Conversations

The elders continue to meet and converse every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, 3:00-5:00 PM at the shul. Summer conversations will be on July 10th and 24th and August 14th and 28th. People of all ages are most welcome.

MCJC Justice Group

The Justice Group will meet on Thursdays, July 12th and August 9th, from 5:30-7:30 PM at the shul. All are welcome to attend.

 

The MCJC Justice Group is supporting SB10, a bill that passed in California Senate and is pending in the Assembly, which would change the current system for judges assigning bail to people who have been arrested.  Together, we have been learning about money bail and also about the messy way legislation is made.  SB10, as written, addresses a piece of the larger program of mass incarceration of poor people and people of color.

Many in our group worked to support the passage of Measure C, the hospital parcel tax, and we were happy to learn yesterday that it DID pass—by a very few votes!  Every vote really does count!  And we’re working on getting at least 36 new ACLU memberships in our Jewish community.  If you’re ready to “be a card-carrying member,” please contact Kendall Smith at kksmith@mcn.org for details. The work continues.

Book Group

On Monday July 23rd we will discuss Mendel’s Dwarf by Simon Mawer. Like his great-great-great-uncle, the early geneticist Gregor Mendel, Dr. Benedict Lambert is struggling to unlock the secrets of heredity. Benedict’s mission is particularly personal for he is afflicted with achondroplasia. In other words, he’s a dwarf. He’s also a man desperate for love and acceptance. And when he finds both in the form of Jean—simple and shy—he stumbles upon an opportunity to correct the injustice of his own capricious genes. Weaving a compassionate story of the life of Ben’s distant relative and fellow scientist with Ben’s own tender perspective, Mendel’s Dwarf takes us to the new world of genetic science and the ethical problems. As intelligent as it is entertaining, this witty novel reveals the beauty and drama of scientific inquiry as it informs us of the basic yearnings of even the most accomplished life.

Dinner at the Center of the Earth, by Nathan Englander, will be our focus on Monday, August 27th. We meet a prisoner in a secret cell, the guard who has watched over him for a dozen years, an American waitress in Paris, a young Palestinian man in Berlin who strikes up an odd friendship with a wealthy Canadian businessman, and The General, Israel’s most controversial leader, who lies dying in a hospital, the only man who knows of the prisoner’s existence. From these vastly different lives Nathan Englander has woven a suspenseful portrait of a nation riven by insoluble conflict as the lives of its citizens become inextricably entwined. This political thriller interrogates the anguished, violent division between Israelis and Palestinians, and dramatizes the moral ambiguities haunting both sides. Who is the guard and who is the prisoner?

MCJC Board Meetings

We meet at 2:00 PM; please call Fran Schwartz at 937-1352 for information on location. The books are available at Gallery Bookshop; you receive a 10% discount when you say you are in the MCJC book group.

The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:30 PM at the shul. The July meeting will be on Thursday, the 19th.

The date for August has not yet been set. If you would like to attend, please leave a message on the phone at the shul, 964-6146.

Thanks For Mailing The Newsletter

We are grateful to Linda Jupiter for preparing the June 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 sarah.nathe@gmail.com.

Megillah Subscriptions

The Mendocino Megillah is published in three formats: hardcopy, emailed PDF, and online web page. You can subscribe to the hardcopy version and have it mailed to you, you can subscribe to the email PDF/ online version, or you can receive both. The Megillah is posted on the MCJC website www.mcjc.org/newsletter.

 

Any information on changes in mailing address, changes in email address, and changes in email notifications should be sent to Sarah Nathe at sarah.nathe@gmail.com. If you choose not to be a contributing member of MCJC, we request a $25 annual fee for the Megillah hardcopy or email.

Great Thanks To The Following Donors

Ronnie Kemper & Lance Johansen; Linda Jupiter; Rosalie & Art Holub; Fanshen Faber; Marty Freedman & Joy Lancaster; Lillian Cartwright; Dawn Hofberg & Bob Schlosser; Mark & Deena Zarlin; Susan Hofberg; Henrietta Steiniger; Rebecca Yaffe; Rachel Lahn; Jay & Stacy Pollina-Millen; Nancy & Rick Banker; Marinela Miclea; Cecile Cutler; Dr. Jeff Berenson & Mina Cohen; Merry Winslow & Teddy Winslow; Liz Helenchild; Dennak Murphy & Laura Goldman; Leslie & Dan Gates; Roberta & David Belson; Buzz & Pamela Graham & Sasha Graham; Irv & Rosalie Winesuff; Frieda Feen.

Sandy Glickfeld in memory of Julie Jaulus; Jonathan & Annette Lehan in memory of Bill Garrett;

Fran Danoff in memory of Jane Marcus.

Capital Campaign For The Building

Pledges and contributions to the Capital Campaign have been received from the following:

Eric Labowitz & Kathy Bailey in memory of Michael Shapiro; Elias Steinbuck;

Wendy Verba of the San Francisco Jewish Federation; Dan Plotinsky & Rachel Plotinsky; Jay & Stacy Pollina-Millen; Dennak Murphy & Laura Goldman; Merry & Teddy Winslow; Pamela & Dave Duncan; Rosalie & Art Holub; Buzz & Pamela Graham & Sasha Graham.

 

We have secured $74,704, $300 away from our goal. You can put us over the top! We are so grateful to all who have given, and we look forward to completing our campaign, and the work on the steeple, this summer.

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 2018. 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 montag@mcn.org

Editorial Policy

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: highpt@mcn.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.

 

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

 

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). www.rainsongshoes.com/

 

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: raven@taxpractitioner.com Website: 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: rteplow@mcn.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: silverandstone@comcast.net

Web: www.silverandstone.net  

 

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, www.tonkstreeservice.com, Email: info@tonkstreeservice.com

 

(MCJC underwriters increase their businesses’ visibility to over 300 subscribers and improve their presence on the web. $100/year. Contact Donna Montag  at 877-3243 or montag@mcn.org)

MCJC Board and Contacts

(* identifies the MCJC Board members. All phone numbers are in the 707 Area Code)

15071 Caspar Road, Caspar, CA   (707) 964-6146
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 291, Little River, CA 95456
Email: sarah.nathe@gmail.com

© 2019 MCJC updated  11/03/2019 (rge)