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Rabbi's Notes

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I'm sitting in my big red chair right now by the wood stove, wrapped up in an afghan, writing with a pen on a pad of paper--remember those? The power went out unexpectedly this bright, sunny morning.


It’s apt for me to be using these stone-age tools today, because I was all set to begin my notes here by remembering back to February 2nd, 1989. February 1st brought the biggest snowstorm here in 100 years. There was snow falling on the ocean. Highway One was closed. I remember this well, because I was supposed to be arriving in Mendocino on the 1st to start my new life as your rabbi. Instead I was marooned on a friend’s couch in Berkeley, checking the weather reports on the phone (1-800-GAS-ROAD), my Hyundai packed tight with my belongings. The next day the highway was again passable and I was able to get to Bobby Markels’ cabin in Mendocino, my new home.

That was 30 years ago and I was 31 years old. I had long, curly brown hair with Farah Fawcett wings. I was single. My parents were younger then than I am now. I had recently junked my Kaypro word processor and adopted a fancy new-used IBM something-or-other 486 computer. I brought along an electric typewriter just in case. There was no internet then, no cell service. My nearest rabbinic colleagues were in Santa Rosa and Ashland, Oregon.


I had been working as an organizer on Skid Row in Los Angeles for a number of years before then and, while I was passionately connected to that work, it had gotten harder and harder for me. I really needed to do something else, but I couldn’t figure out how to. When Donna Montag called one day and invited me, on behalf of MCJC’s Board, to come up here and be the rabbi, I felt a little like I was being pulled off a plank of a busted up boat in the middle of the ocean. I was profoundly grateful for this new and unexpected opportunity to start a new chapter of life. And in such a beautiful place! With such nice people!


At the same time, I didn’t really know anyone very well. I had come up here for the High Holy Days for the prior five years, and I loved my visits every time, but I had never really imagined being part of the community. I was a good decade younger than most of the people I knew. I hadn’t even been ordained three years by then and hadn’t worked in the Jewish community since my ordination. And I was supposed to roll into town on February 1st and be your rabbi! I was pretty intimidated.

I arrived at the cabin. It was still snowing cats and dogs. There was a wood stove. Someone--I still don’t know who--had kindly left me a load of wood under the little overhang outside the back door. I don’t know that I had ever built a fire in a wood stove before, but okay: new life, here we go!

That was 30 High Holy Days ago, 30 Purims and Simchat Torahs, and 30 million fabulous meals. Twenty-nine years with Mickey Chalfin! New babies have grown up to be 30-year-olds. People have arrived here, and people have moved away. A generation of elders, and a few younger souls as well, have taken up residence in our once-empty cemetery. Times of ease. Times of struggle. Projects, adventures (Alephnet, anyone???). So many mistakes! Hurt feelings. Apologies. Painful and wonderful community and world events. The twists and turns of my own inner life.

An infinity of conversations. An infinity of cups of coffee (interrupted by a year or two of herb tea, heaven help me, before I came back to my senses). I was reflecting recently that, while I may occasionally be driven ‘round the bend by this situation or that person, after 30 years of life in this community, in this lifeboat, this clown car, I am not lonely.


I treasure this as I contemplate this benchmark of 30 years. We are all individual people, with our own paths and destinies. But we are so permeable too. I am mixed up with all of you, and you with me. We absorb each other. We shape each other. We are in each other.


My first landlord and beloved friend, Bobby Markels, now very much of blessed memory, in her later years spent a couple of winters in an assisted living place down in the desert. Bobby was “a character,” as we say, and very much of this place, so after she returned from her first desert winter, I was anxious to find out how she felt living among what I imagined were much more conventional people than we wild things up here. I still remember Bobby’s answer: “It’s fine; they’re just people.”

It’s so true, isn’t it? We’re all just people, not so special or different from any other people. But we’re these people, the ones who landed up here and live together. And as we live together we come to know each other--through conversation and shared effort and celebration and struggle and exploration--in all our particularity. We get mixed in with each other, and we become who we become, by this relentless process of bumping and grinding through life with these particular others. We are not alone.


Oop! The power just came on. The Monitor heater is purring, or more like roaring--it’s so quiet when the power is off. My printer is making printer noises. The fan is spinning overhead. Things beep and hum all over the place. I’m back in the modern world, back in 2019, back in the present moment. I’m about to head out the door, to the Elders’ Conversation, where this week we’ll talk about secrets, and then to the MCJC board meeting, where we’ll talk about a bunch of timely matters having to do with keeping our little lifeboat afloat and pointed forward.


It’s all so good and ordinary and tedious and crucial and beautiful. Thirty years of all of this, of all of you, has filled my heart and formed my soul. I am so very grateful.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Ledford House, Albion

Join in the fun & help support our Jewish community.


6:00 pm: Delicious appetizers & fine food

7:00 pm: Dinners

Spring Greens

with a Basil Vinaigrette Roast Duck Breast or

Braised Cabbage Roll


Corona Bean, Cardoon, & Butternut Squash Ragout



Strawberries & Crème

* both entrees are gluten free, as are the salad & dessert


$60 per person


 For information or to make a reservation, please contact Harriet Bye 

at 937-3622 or


  Please send checks for dinner to MCJC, Box 291, Little River 95456

For a list of confirmed auction items, please visit the MCJC web page:

Black and Red Right Arrow
Black and Red Right Arrow
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It's A Guy Thing

he Men’s Dinner offered in the Silent Auction at the Ledford House dinner has changed its format: all who sign up can come! There is no bidding. The requested donation for Dinner at Chez Rick is a minimum of $95.

Your hosts, bartenders, and chefs — Rick and Sam Banker—are preparing a lavish, full-on southern banquet straight out of New Orleans with all the trimmings and potables. Vegetarian options available.


The dinner will be on SATURDAY, MARCH 23rd, at 5:30 PM in the clubhouse at The Woods


Dine well, support MCJC, and laissez les bon temps rouler! To make reservations now, contact Rick Banker at or 397-7557. The final opportunity to reserve a seat will be at the Ledford House dinner on February 19th.

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 January is below:

  • 02/02/19 - Mishpatim - Margaret Holub

  • 02/09/19 - Terumah - Andrea Luna

  • 02/16/19 - Tetzaveh - Fran Schwartz

  • 01/26/19 - Ki Tisa - Margaret Holub

Kabbalat Shabbat

In February we will gather on the 22nd at the home of Irv and Rosalie Winesuff on Point Cabrillo Drive. They can be reached at 937-4526 to RSVP and for directions.  The March get-together will be at the home of Tracy Salkowitz and Rick Edwards in Mendocino.

The joyful celebrations begin at 6:00 PM and include a short service with a vegetarian potluck following.

We have nearly all the hosts we need for 2019; however, things change, so if you would like to volunteer to host a gathering, contact Mina at 937-1319 or

Elder's Conversation

The Elders meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at the shul. Our winter hours are 2:30-4:30 PM. This month we will meet on February 12th and 26th. Each time we take up a juicy topic (selected by the group at the prior meeting) and let it take us wherever it takes us. It is often, nearly always, a surprising and enriching conversation. Our February 12th conversation will take up the hard question, “What is it like for us as elders to think about the end of homo sapiens on the planet?” The February 26th topic is as yet undetermined.


People of all ages are most welcome.

MCJC Justice Group

The Justice Group generally meets on the second Thursday of each month, but in deference to the demands of Cupid, we will avoid meeting on Valentine’s Day and move to the following week, Thursday, February 21st, 5:30-7:30 PM at the shul. We will be working on the Citizenship Scholarships, our new climate project, and possibly on assisting DACA recipients. If you would like to be on the Justice Group mailing list for additional information, or if you want to get involved in our work, please contact Margaret at or 937-5673.

How Kosher Is Valentine's Day?

Every year about this time the same thorny question arises for many Jews: should I or shouldn’t I celebrate Valentine’s Day? There is nothing about the contemporary traditions of Valentine’s Day--cards, flowers, chocolate, champagne--that seems religious, but the original name, St. Valentine’s Day, implies that it has Christian roots. In making your decision, you’ll need to know a little about Valentine and a bit more about halachic thought on the celebration of non-Jewish holidays.


The origins of Valentine’s Day are indeed linked to a saint, though the connections are so mysterious that in 1969 the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine's Day from the liturgical calendar. It was instituted by Pope Gelasius I in 496 C.E. to commemorate the martyrdom of a certain Valentine who was buried on Via Flaminia in Rome on February 14th, of an unknown year (in the Julian calendar). He probably lived in the late 3rd century C.E., but the name Valentine (derived from the Latin word valeo = strong) was common in the ancient world. What does any of this have to do with love?

n 1981, a University of Kansas English professor (Oruch, Speculum Vol. 56 #3, pp. 534-565) suggested in a scholarly article that Chaucer was the first to link love with St. Valentine in his 14th-century work "Parlement of Foules." In Chaucer’s day, February 14th was considered the first day of spring since it was thought to be the beginning of birds' mating season.


The most relevant halachic ruling is from the renowned Talmudic scholar and posek, Rabbi Moses Isserles, who lived in Krakow, Poland, from 1520-1572. He explained that four criteria must be met in order to permit Jewish celebration of rituals initiated by Gentiles (Shulkan Aruch, Yoreh De’Ah 178:1):

  1. Does the debated activity have a secular origin or value?

  2. Can one explain the behavior or ritual apart from the gentile holiday or event?

  3. If there are idolatrous origins, have they disappeared?

  4. Are the activities actually consistent with Jewish tradition?

So, let’s see: sending cards and flowers and chocolates can (only) be explained as a secular expression of love; the ritual has more to do with birds than anything else; any idolatrous associations have long since disappeared, and the desire to express love and to offer gifts is certainly in line with Jewish tradition and values. The idea of a special day for love is also rooted in the Jewish tradition: Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Av (July-August), was an ancient day of matchmaking.


Over the years, rabbinic opinions from most streams of Judaism have been inclined to agree that it is always wonderful to be able to express and celebrate love. Buy those chocolates!


Book Group

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We will meet Monday, February 18th to discuss The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure.


In 1942 Paris, gifted architect Lucien Bernard accepts a commission that will bring him a great deal of money, and maybe get him killed. Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, Bernard has little empathy for the Jews, so when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. But he needs the money and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly, where to hide a Jew becomes terribly personal.


This debut novel asks us to consider what we owe each other, and just how far we’ll go to make things right. Written by an architect whose knowledge imbues every page, the story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.

The book group meets at 2:00 PM on the third Monday of the month. Please call Fran Schwartz at 937-1352 for information. 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 February meeting will be on the 28th. 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 Sherman and Claire Ervin Lee for preparing the January Megillah 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. Please contact Sarah at 962-0565 or

The Human Factor

In the recently published MCJC Directory, we made a few errors. We published three corrections last month but, wouldn’t you know it, a couple more have been brought to our attention. Since we won’t be reprinting the directory in the foreseeable future, we ask you to write the changes in your copy.


  • Mindy Rosenfeld’s correct phone number is (707) 357-7323

  • Rick Banker has his own phone and the number is (707) 397-7557

New Online Megillah

The MCJC Megillah is now available in a new format suitable for online viewing. The new format will adapt itself to any screen size, including smartphones. It is posted on the MCJC website on the newsletter page

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


Any information on changes in mailing address, changes in email address, and changes in email notifications should be sent to Sarah Nathe at 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


Evely Shlensky; Marilyn Kreisberg; Lew Mermelstein; John Allison & Rebecca Picard; Judith Greenleaf; Susan Archuletta; Linda Jupiter; Phoebe Graubard; Kathie Sarin & Stephen Schoolman; Terry Gross & Barbara Moed; Sharon Shapiro; Andrea Luna; Sally McConnell; Roslyn & Bruce Moore; Linda Leyva; Mindy Rosenfeld; Sam Waldman; Henrietta Steiniger; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Cecil Cutler; Les Reichek & Rima Lieben; Rosalie & Art Holub; Adina Merenlender & Kerry Heise; Teresa Morales;  Jonathan & Annette Lehan in memory of Bert Lehan; Benna Kolinsky & Danny Mandelbaum in honor of their new grandchild, Jonah William Mandelbaum; Robert & Carol Kafin in honor of Peter, Alicia, Ben & Toby Kafin.

To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah Fund: Teresa Morales


To the Mendocino Coast Jewish Community, “an organization near and dear to our hearts,” from the Charitable Remainder Trust of Edie & Ira Plotinsky.

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

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.


Karen Bowers Studio: Painting workshops and studio gallery. Website:  

Email:  Tel: 707 937-3163.




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.


Out of this World: Telescopes, binoculars, & science toys. 45100 Main Street, Box 1010, Mendocino. 937-3335. Serving all your interplanetary needs since 1988.


Phoebe Graubard: Attorney at Law. Wills, trusts, probate, conservatorships. 594 S. Franklin, Fort Bragg, 95437. 964-3525. 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: Website:


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 the seashore!  $5 off your first purchase when you sign up at 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:



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.


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:


(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

MCJC Board and Contacts

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

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