I just had the great naches (pleasure) of talking with one of “my brides” who is now preparing to perform a wedding ceremony herself. Besides the delight of touching base with a lovely person that I don’t get to talk to very often, our conversation got me thinking once again about the power and peculiarity of ritual. “Why do you drink wine in the wedding?” she asked me. I don’t know! I never really thought about it. Because it’s part of the ritual.
We talked together about the bitter and the sweet tastes of wine, about its intoxicating aspect, about wine and joy, about the actual swallowing and digesting of wine. We talked about how in the wedding the couple drinks the first cup after they have circled around each other--first they wind themselves together, and then they take some of each other more deeply into themselves.
I loved this conversation, thinking more deeply into a ritual gesture, and doing so with a study partner. I’ve officiated at a number of weddings over the decades, but as we talked, the whole wedding ritual began to assemble itself in my mind in new ways, as a kind of a map, a narrative that begins in one place and--by means of the various ritual steps on the journey--delivers the participants, transformed, to a destination.
Why, then, do you break a glass at the end of a wedding? Every rabbi has her shpiel about breaking the glass. I have mine, but it happens that this week I am also starting to think about the Pesach seder, and in particular about yachatz--the breaking of the middle matzah. Some of my friends have been writing words for a yachatz ritual, and they asked me to help them edit it. So I have been thinking anew about rituals in which you break things.
Fairly early in the seder the middle matzah is lifted up and broken in half. The larger half of the matzah is hidden away, to be searched for and returned in the end as the afikomen. Many of us, I’m sure, have multiple memories of someone, maybe a child, triumphantly producing the afikomen and the playfully skeptical seder leader holding it up to the first half to make sure it really fits.
I’ve always loved the symbol of the lost half of the matzah being found, of the broken becoming whole again. The Breslov Haggadah (published by the followers of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov/Bratzlav and following his teachings) gives it this beautiful spiritual spin:
Matzah symbolizes great awareness of God.... Mankind [sic] though is not ready for this overwhelming experience of God…. We must therefore break the matzah; separate this great awareness into fathomable sections. The larger part is set aside for the ‘end.‘ In the End of Days, Man [sic] will rise again to his destined level of awareness.
I don’t necessarily subscribe to the End of Days theology here, but I love the notion of that cosmic awareness, now broken off and hidden away, being restored to us all Someday. In the blissful, sleepy, full-bellied latter half of the seder, the End of Days half, that which was broken is restored. Elijah comes in and has a drink. We all live in a Yellow Submarine....
But wait! The very next thing we do is pass that afikomen around. Everyone at the table breaks off a piece, chews it up and swallows it. It’s not going to come together again in any easily recognizable way. We can say something, I’m sure, about how that Awareness lives in us all, but separated once again, subdivided, spread around.
I think that one of the tasks for the seder this year, in my heart anyhow, is to search for the value of brokenness. This year, when there is plenty of brokenness and division and fragmentation to go around, it occurs to me that maybe I don’t show enough respect for that smaller half-matzah. It is fragile and incomplete and perhaps a little lonely. Unlike the coveted afikomen, it doesn’t even have a name. It got separated from its bigger half, from full awareness of Everything, from having all the answers, and it sits forlornly on the plate waiting for the Great Return.
Just like us! Just like me. A little fragile, feeling incomplete, wishing I had all the answers and all the power and could make things right. Of course I should learn more! Give more! Do more! Be more powerful! Live bigger! Be visionary! But I am, we all are, partial and fragile and, relative to the great ALL, small.
What if, to take just one instance, instead of looking at the political landscape and seeing everyone as heroes or villains, I could see all the players as broken pieces of matzah, partial and fragile, trying to find meaning and wholeness in a vastly complex global landscape that no one will ever completely master or apprehend? What if I viewed science and technology the same way? Or my community? Or my family? Or my own soul?
What if I held that smaller half of the middle matzah with tenderness? What if I were gentle with its crumbly edge? What if I saw my own brokenness, and that of every being, as part of our beauty? What if I looked at the part of me that thinks I should be bigger and more whole than I am and felt some rachmones--that beautiful word that means pity in the best sense: compassionate affection?
Back to breaking a glass at a wedding. The Machzor Vitri says, “This is done for the purpose of making the people mindful of the great tragedy of the destruction of the Temple….” At the most joyous moment of a wedding we remember the great shattering. I always thought that this classical interpretation was a little perverse. But today I am appreciating it. Yes, serious brokenness is part of life. We are mindful of it. Now go ahead and kiss.
Maybe our chisaron--our quality of brokenness, fragmentation and lack--is part of the design of each of us and of the world we share. So this year we can perhaps regard with kindness, maybe even enjoy, that part of ourselves, our world, and our seder plate, for a moment before we go ahead and kiss. Happy Pesach dear community!
Community Seder Plans
As always, we mostly hope that people will celebrate Pesach at a home seder with friends and family. But we know that this isn’t accessible to all and we certainly want everyone who so desires to be part of a beautiful and loving seder. We’re trying something new this year: two shul seders, each limited to 30 participants.
Tuesday, April 23rd, 5:30 to about 8:00 PM — All-Ages Seder. We’ll tell the story, sing the songs, bless and eat the foods, hunt for the afikomen. A somewhat traditional but not very long seder that will be fun for children and adults.
Thursday, April 25th, 5:30 to ??? — Freedom Seder. We’ll dive deeper into the liberatory themes of Pesach even while we sing, bless, and fress. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Freedom Seder, composed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow and originally celebrated by a multi-racial gathering of 800 people in a Washington DC church. The Freedom Haggadah is a classic of our epoch, and its anniversary is being celebrated this year in many Jewish venues. We’ll touch on the words and issues of 1969, but mostly the issues of our own time as they are evoked by matzah and bitter herbs and song and prayer.
Please follow the three steps below:
Plan to attend at the most one shul seder this year
RSVP to Mina by April 16th at email@example.com
At which point Mina will assign you a dish to bring for the seder.
In addition to the shul seders, there will be a third-night seder on Sunday, April 21st at 5:30 pm at Shambhala Ranch with Rabbi SaraLeya Schley. All welcome! For more information, contact Janae at (707) 456-7035.
The annual matzah bake will be on Wednesday, April 17th, from 3:00 to about 5:00 PM at the adobe oven behind the Caspar Community Center. Great thanks to Annie Lee, who will be our fire tender, and to Nina Ravitz, who will supply the wood! We’ll hope that the weather cooperates (unlike last year, when the wind was so fierce we couldn’t keep the oven hot enough). If it looks questionable, check your e-mail before you head to the CCC to see if we’re baking.
Please bring a mixing bowl and spoon, a dry bag of flour, and a rolling pin if you have one. A fork for poking those little holes is helpful too. You’re welcome to try gluten-free flour as well. The matzah we bake isn’t technically kosher l’Pesach, since we don’t use sh’mura flour.
Huge thanks to the crew that made Purim so spectacular this year (and apologies in advance for names not known):
To the kitchen and set-up crew: Marnie, Devora, Nancy, Kenny, Ruby and Sarah;
the hamantaschen bakers: Susan T, Henrietta, Benna, Amy, Margaret, George and Marnie;
the prop-makers: Karen B, Rosalie, Sandra and Margaret;
the on-the-spot crew: Clay, Athena, Miles, Judah, Yadida and Juliet;
the impresarios: Karen, Sandra and Margaret;
Tante Ellen and her incomparable Sisterhood Gift Shop;
the flash mob clean-up crew who moved so quickly we didn’t get all their names;
And the ever-delightful and fabulous Klezmishpoche and their great leader, Wade!
It takes a shtetl!
All About the Hevra Kadisha
Beginning this month in these pages, our Hevra Kadisha (“Holy Committee,” the group that offers ritual support at the time of a death) will share information about Jewish practices around death. It’s a part of Jewish life and practice with which many people are unfamiliar, and we hope that increased understanding of the mitzvah will inspire some of you to take part in the associated rituals.
We’ll start with shomrim. When a person dies, it is customary not to leave the body (called in Hebrew the met or metah) unattended. People sit with the met/ah around the clock until burial, which ideally happens as soon as possible after death. A person who sits with the body is called a shomer, which means something like attendant or guardian. Shomrim is the plural, and shemirah is the act done by the shomrim.
People perform the mitzvah of shemirah for a number of reasons. Some believe that the soul of the one who died is nearby for a time and should be attended. Others feel that sitting as a shomer provides comfort for the family. Still others find it a meditative opportunity to be in the presence of death. In a more ancient context, shomrim may have protected the body from theft or animals.
There is no set ritual for a shomer, but one approaches it with a respectful and serious attitude. Some people recite psalms or sing quietly to the met. Others read spiritual books quietly or just sit in silence. Family members and close friends may sit as shomrim if they wish to, but it is not expected.
When there is a death in our small community, we reach out to everyone to offer the opportunity to be a shomer. We are developing an online method for doing this, but until we have it, you may get a call asking if you are available for this mitzvah. We generally schedule people in two-hour increments, though if you are able to sit for longer (especially at night), this is very helpful. The body is covered--by a sheet until taharah (ritual washing and dressing) is completed, and in the casket after that. We still sit at Chapel by the Sea mortuary in Fort Bragg. There are some books of Jewish spiritual interest available for people who are sitting.
This practice of attending the dead brings comfort to mourners and perhaps to the soul of the dead, and it brings our community together through loving service of a profound nature. If you are interested in being a shomer or have questions about the Hevra Kadisha, please contact Joan Katzeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or Donna Montag at email@example.com.
Shabbat Morning Services
Shabbat morning services are held every Saturday morning of the year from 10:30 AM until about 12:30 PM. People are welcome to come for any part of the service. Members of the community often give the davar Torah (“word of Torah”), an interpretation (drash) of the weekly Torah portion. The services are led each week by Rabbi Holub, except when she is out of town. The drash schedule for March is below:
04/06/19 - Tazria - Margaret Holub
04/13/19 - Metzora - Margaret Holub
04/20/19 - Pesach - Mirisa Livingstar
04/27/19 - Pesach II - Margaret Holub
There will be no Kabbalat Shabbat in April as the fourth week of the month is Passover, with two community seders (see p. 2). In May we will be at the home of Susan Tubbesing and Sarah Nathe in South Caspar.
The joyful get-togethers usually take place on the fourth Friday of the month, begin at 6:00 PM, and include a short service with a vegetarian potluck following. If you would like to volunteer to host a gathering, contact Mina at 937-1319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Elders’ Conversation meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 3:00-5:00 PM at the shul. This month we will meet on April 9th and 23rd. Topics for conversation are selected at the prior meeting. It’s always interesting! People of all ages are most welcome.
MCJC Justice Group
Last year was a grand one for the Citizen Scholarship Project! Twenty-seven scholarships were awarded throughout the year. Twelve of the scholarship recipients are now citizens and the others are waiting for their interviews to be scheduled. Every scholarship student who has been interviewed and tested has become a citizen—a 100% success rate!
Becoming a citizen is a challenge. Many immigrants must learn English in addition to studying significant moments in US history, the meaning of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, the structure of government, and the political system. Then they take an oral and written exam on the curriculum. They also deal with government bureaucracy, deadlines, rules and fees and travel. Citizenship empowers and changes lives: it creates opportunity, mobility, stability, security and the ability to vote.
The Citizen Scholarship Project helps our friends and neighbors on their pathway to citizenship. The students are enrolled in the Citizenship Class offered by the Coastal Adult School of the Fort Bragg Unified School District. After they have paid their $725 citizen exam filing fee and their applications have been approved by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Justice Group reimburses them the cost of the filing fee.
Last year 120+ generous donors and contributors in our coast community made these scholarships possible. The following people recently donated to the Project: Suzanne & Stephen Whitaker; Arleen Weisman; Sandy Berrigan; Deena & Mark Zarlin; Claire Ervin Lee; Gayle & Larry Heiss; Joyce Gertler; Osha Dean.
If you would like to contribute to more scholarships for deserving students, please make checks out to MCJC, with a notation of Justice Group on the memo line, and mail them to MCJC Justice Group, PO Box 291, Little River, CA 95456. We welcome and appreciate donations of any amount.
The Justice Group meets on the second Thursday of the month, April 11th, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the shul. Everyone is welcome at the meetings. If you would like to be on the Justice Group mailing list, or if you would like to get involved with the group, please contact Margaret at or 937- 5673.
Annual Fundraising Letter
Thank you to all of those who have responded! We appreciate your support, at every level. We are about to begin to contact all those whom we have not yet heard from. PLEASE save us the time, expense and effort by responding today to the appeal you received for your annual contribution to MCJC for 2019. If you value the Jewish community and its programs, please help support it. If you would like to pay at a future date in 2019, let us know and we will send you a reminder then. If you have questions or concerns, please email Donna Montag at Montag@mcn.org or call her at 877-3243, preferably in the early evening.
We will meet Monday, April 15th at 2:00 PM to discuss Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion. Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life: Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at 63, a pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer—in love with her boyfriend, but still full of an ambition that she can’t quite place—feels her inner world light up. Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds away from Cory and toward the future she’d always imagined. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. It’s also about reckoning with the successes and failures of the women’s movement.
The book group meets at 2:00 PM on the third Monday of the month. Please call Fran Schwartz at 937-1352 for information on location. Gallery Bookstore offers 10% off your purchases if you belong to the book club.
MCJC Board Meetings
The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:30 PM at the shul. The April meeting will be on the 17th. If you would like to attend a meeting, please leave a message on the phone at the shul, 964-6146.
Thanks For Mailing The Newsletter
We are grateful to Ceril Lisbon for preparing the March Megillah for mailing, and then facing rain, wind, and local flooding in order to get the issues to the post office. 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. It’s a mitzvah! Please contact Sarah at 962-0565 or email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
Andrea Luna; Bob Evans; Lew Mermelstein; Hal & Sidra Stone; Frieda Feen; Leslie Gates; Bob Schlosser & Dawn Hofberg; Ellen Robin & Michael Katz; Linda Jupiter; Arlene Elster; Terry Clark & Nina Ravitz; Karen Rakofsky; Jane Corey; Bonnie Lawlor; Roger & Fran Schwartz; Joan Selchau; Margaret Kane; Cecile Cutler; Art & Rosalie Holub; Beatrice Karish; Raven & Becky Deerwater; Judy Stavely; Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards; Mark & Deena Zarlin; Roz Keller; Meadow; Ann Kantor; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Ceril Lisbon; Ron & Marnie Press; Ben & Susan Finkelstein; Helen Jacobs; Steve Antler & Carla Jupiter; Devora Rossman; Lee & Sally Welty; John Allison & Rebecca Picard; SA Ephraim & Ruth Rosenblum; Ellen Saxe & Ronnie Karish; The Charitable Remainder Trust of Edie & Ira Plotinsky.
Mary Leipziger in honor of Fran Schwartz's birthday; Benna Kolinsky & Danny Mandelbaum in honor of their new grandson, Jonah William Mandelbaum.
To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah Fund: Mark & Deena Zarlin in honor of Fran Schwartz's birthday.
To the Building Fund: Eric Labowitz & Kathy Bailey.
Contributing Membership In MCJC
Everyone who lives on the Mendocino Coast, and desires to be a member of MCJC, is one. The MCJC Board had a goal of having every household become CONTRIBUTING members in 2019. 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
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
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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
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: 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:
Sea Shore Sells: New-to-you clothing for everyone, collected and curated by Mirisa Livingstar. She sells clothes...by the seashore! $5 off your first purchase when you sign up at www.poshmark.com/closet/seashoresells and use code SEASHORESELLS
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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, Email: email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
MCJC Board and Contacts
(* identifies the MCJC Board members. All phone numbers are in the 707 Area Code)