You know the plot: a shallow and stupid king, bent only on displaying his vast wealth to his vassals, gets duped by his Anti-Semitic henchman--who is infuriated by the uppity Jew who won’t bow down to him--and signs a decree to kill the Jews. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the king, he has just replaced his disobedient queen with a beautiful young closeted Jew, herself the ward, or niece, or something, of the guy who wouldn’t bow. When the new queen learns of the plot against the Jews, she arranges a “honey trap” (I just learned that term in a review of recent TV spy shows) to seduce and ensnare the henchman. This is accomplished, but along the way she learns that the king can’t undo the decree against the Jews; he can only authorize a new one, against all the non-Jews of the land. When that slaughter succeeds, the Jews rejoice and sing, and the Queen’s, uh, “uncle” calls for a second day of mass murder. Then they hang the henchman and all his children. The uncle takes his place next to the throne. The End.
Happy Purim! Here we are, late in February in our own little Mendocino/Chelm, getting ready to reenact this story for the umpteenth time, along with Jewish communities all over the world, who are readying their skits and costumes and noisemakers, as we all have for millennia. I cringe every year as I dream up yet another new way to playact the tale. I thought I would share with you some of the moral and dramaturgical dilemmas that my confederates and I are dealing with this year even as we are working on the mechanics of Haman’s decapitation.
It’s a gross, sexist, and extremely violent story.
Who needs more vulgarity, sexism, and violence given our present political climate? Isn’t the daily news crawl enough?
The punchline of the tale is all about the joy and satisfaction of revenge, which isn’t a wholesome spiritual message.
Jewish people have taken comfort and pleasure in this message of revenge throughout the generations without irony or spin. This isn’t really what we should be encouraging, is it?
The whole audience (i.e., all of us) is supposed to drink itself blotto, “ad lo yada”--until you can’t tell the hero from the villain--which is a problem for those with addiction concerns and anyone who will be driving home.
Who exactly is the hero of this tale anyhow? If this is what we’re supposed to think of as heroism, yikes!
Why does the uncle get all the power and glory?
The only one who does anything remotely heroic is the young queen with her honeypot. Why isn’t she calling the shots, if someone has to?
We’ve heard all the jokes a million times.
It’s an old story that scholars assert never really happened. By retelling it, there’s not even the virtue of “Facing History and Ourselves,” as the Anti-Defamation League would have it.
Worst of all, we bring CHILDREN to this holiday!!!
I suppose we could dispense with Purim altogether and stick with the more wholesome and morally uplifting stories and practices, like, uh, Passover (with the joyous drowning of all the Egyptian soldiers immediately after the slaughter of all the Egyptian firstborn, itself capping off nine other devastating plagues). Or Shavuot, with its revelation of Torah designating the Israelites as the chosen people and Canaan--already settled by seven nations--as the chosen land to be dispossessed of its present inhabitants. Or Hanukkah, with the brave, pious Maccabees killing other Jews because they follow modern ways. Or the High Holy Days with all their slaughtering and hurling of blood....
The sad and important truth is that a lot of violence is embedded in Jewish text and practice. Over the years I have sometimes wished for a cleaner, lighter, more sanitized spiritual practice than the mess which is Judaism. I sometimes laugh that I have “Quaker envy” (without knowing a lot about the intricacies of Quaker faith and practice, which may have its own unseemly aspects). But more recently I have come to think of the moral messiness of Judaism as a “feature and not a bug.”
Partly that’s because I value the id, the lively, wild, not always well-behaved aspect of human consciousness. I think this is very much the same energy that the rabbis call the yetzer ha-ra, the evil inclination. We certainly don’t need more evil in the world, but those who would try to vanquish the evil urge entirely [probably won’t succeed, and if they do] may face unintended consequences.
A famous midrash that I adore makes reference to the biblical telling of the creation of the world:
Rabbi Nahman said in Rabbi Samuel's name: 'Behold, it was good' refers to the Good Desire; 'And behold, it was very good' refers to the Evil Desire. [It says 'very good' only after man was created with both the good and bad inclinations; in all other cases, it says 'and God saw that it was good.'] Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the Evil Desire, no man would build a house, take a wife and beget children (Bereshit Rabbah 9:7).
Ambitious, competitive, appetitive energies -- all of these have their place. The work of life is not to vanquish these unruly energies, but to channel them toward what is good and beautiful and healing and productive. And, I’d suggest, in order to do that, we have to know them.
Purim (and, for that matter, Pesach, Hanukkah, and the High Holy Days) is based in a story, not a set of rules. It does not prescribe that we be vengeful or bloodthirsty or sexually violent (has v’halilah!). It asks us to look at these inclinations, to get to know them, to feel them in ourselves and in our community. On Purim we literally act them out, but in a skit, not on the streets. Purim, we might say, invites us to have a drink with the yetzer ha-ra. The squicky feeling (as Dan Savage would say) that comes from the Purim story is built in. We are supposed to feel creepy when we tell it. Those wise rabbis!
But a couple of problems remain. First, the kids. We older folks probably know our complicated, duplicitous souls and world, and we can understand the moral complications of Purim. But children? I don’t know. I was a child once, and I did some Purim now and again, and even then I got that it was weird and unsavory. Which is the right lesson. But I worry about giving any intimation to younger generations that Jewish teachings endorse violence, misogyny and racism (or alcohol abuse, for that matter).
And second, so much vulgarity, xenophobia, and violence are afoot in the real world. How can we do the ribald work of celebrating Purim without feeding the exact hateful energies that dominate so much of the public sphere right now? If ever there were a year to cancel Purim and just pray for peace, might this not be the one?
Hard and endless questions. Don’t miss this year’s festivities!
MCJC’s Purim Carnival will be Wednesday, March 20th, 5:30-7:30 PM, or so, at the shul. Think carnival as in New Orleans or Rio: masquerade, music (from our own Klezmishpoche, of course), dancing and carrying-on for revelers of all ages. There will be a light dinner and hamantaschen! Costumes are most welcome and there will be some dress-up supplies on hand to augment whatever you can cook up at home. There will also be opportunities to give tzedakah; if it would please you to do so, bring some cash to drop in the tzedakah box.
On Tuesday, March 19th, from noon until about 3:00 PM, we will bake hamantaschen at the shul. All the supplies will be there, and you don’t need to have any skills at all. In fact, you’re always welcome to come and just hang around and make jokes or keep the coffee dripping while others bake. The more the merrier!
It helps to have some idea who’s coming, so if you will be able to join us, please let Margaret know at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5673. If you decide to show up at the last minute, that’s great too.
Young Folks Shabbat
T here will be a Shabbat evening gathering especially for young folks and their families on Friday night, March 15th at 5:30 PM. At Nina Ravitz’ house off Benson Lane, Rabbi Holub and Nina will host a relaxed, kid-friendly get-together with some games and crafts, candle-lighting and kiddush, a very short Shabbat service, and dinner. Children of all ages (even the very young and even the hardly-still-children) are invited, along with all their adults. Dinner will be provided; all you need to do is show up.
For directions and to RSVP, contact Nina at email@example.com. If you have questions or concerns, call her at 357-6462.
There are still a couple of slots open for the Men’s Dinner at Chez Rick. Your hosts, bartenders, and chefs — Rick and Sam Banker—are preparing a lavish southern banquet straight out of New Orleans with all the trimmings and potables. Vegetarian options will be available.
The dinner will be on SATURDAY, MARCH 23rd, at 5:30 PM in Rick’s house at The Woods. The requested donation is $95. To make reservations, contact Rick Banker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 397-7557.
Dine well, support MCJC, and laissez les bon temps rouler!
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:
03/02/19 - Vayakhel - Mirisa Livingstar
03/09/19 - Pekudeh - Lew Mermelstein
03/16/19 - Vayikra - Margaret Holub
03/23/19 - Tzav - Margaret Holub
03/30/19 - Shmini - Raven Deerwater
On March 22nd we will gather at the home of Tracy Salkowitz and Rick Edwards in Mendocino. Please contact them at email@example.com for directions and to RSVP.
The April Shabbat celebration will be at Dawn Hofberg and Bob Schlosser’s in Albion.
The joyful get-togethers 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 meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. March meetings will be on March 12th and 26th. Daylight Savings Time begins March 10th, which means that we will revert to our “summer hours” and meet from 3:00-5:00 PM at the shul. Topics will be announced. People of all ages are most welcome.
MCJC Justice Group
Members were alerted to the harassment, arrests, and federal trials of volunteers for No More Deaths, an organization that distributes water and provides humanitarian aid on the border between the US and Mexico. We are encouraged to take action by asking the US Attorney in charge to drop charges.
If you are concerned, call Elizabeth Strange, U.S. Attorney, at 520-620-7419 and demand that she drop the charges against Scott Warren and the other No More Deaths volunteers. More information about this human rights organization i available at http://forms.nomoredeaths.org.
Immigrant children continue to be incarcerated. The Justice Group intends to identify and support effective legislation that mandates their release to their parents and prevents family separation and detention.
The Citizen Scholarship project is ongoing in 2019 as more students in the class complete their studies, file applications with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and successfully pass the citizenship exam.
In January Doug Nunn gave a talk/slide presentation based on Al Gore’s “Climate Reality Project,” (www.climaterealityproject.org) a leadership training Doug took when he “retired” from teaching. His presentation discussed the diminishing glaciers, the warming ocean, storms, fires and other realities of the changing climate on planet earth, our only home. He also spoke about solar and wind energy, the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels, and new and innovative solutions to the climate crisis.
The Justice Group meets on the second Thursday of each month, from 5:30-7:30 PM at the shul. The next meeting will be on Thursday, March 14th. 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.
Kaddish For My Father
The passage below is excerpted from the 1/17/19 blog by Nigel Savage at hazon.org
My dad was an accountant and he liked numbers. For many decades he played poker on Tuesday nights with ‘the boys’ and he kept a written record of exactly how much he won or how much he lost. So maybe it was obvious that I’d write down the statistics of saying kaddish for him. I was aiming to say kaddish at least once a day, knowing that I probably wouldn’t quite succeed in that. Turns out I said kaddish on 408 occasions, on the 326 days I was obligated to say kaddish. (If I went to mincha and then ma’ariv, I counted that as two occasions, because these were two different days, but if I was at shacharit and musaf, I counted that as only one.) The kind of minyanim at which I said kaddish was a snapshot of the world I live in–somewhat different from the one in which my father said kaddish for each of his parents.
Here’s how I characterized them:
Learning 13 (learning some text with a minyan, and then saying kaddish d’rabanan);
Private minyan 36.
I said kaddish at Stenecourt in Manchester and Dunstan Road in London. I said kaddish at both New London and Great Portland Street. I said kaddish at Young Israel of Brookline and at Dovid Ben Nuchim in Michigan. I said kaddish at the kotel, and at 770 Eastern Parkway. I said kaddish at Avigail & Sarah’s wedding and at the shiva for Bernie Glassman, z”l. I said kaddish at Gate 65, Terminal B, Newark airport. I said kaddish at the Carlebach shul and at Vorhand’s, and at the Friday night minyan that has bubbled up in the basement of my building. I said kaddish at Larchmont Reform Temple and at Zion in Jerusalem. I said kaddish in the beautiful and ancient shul in Venice’s ghetto. I said kaddish at Sukkahfest and, separately, with the Adamahniks.
I very rarely found the experience to be ‘meaningful’ and I struggle consistently with the notion of ‘spirituality’ and of what it is that we are meant to ‘get’ from davening. Rightly or wrongly I have internalized from somewhere (ok: from my Dad, z”l) some notion of ol malchut shamayim, essentially of doing it because that’s what you do. In my lifetime it’s a position that has been put most strongly by the late Yeshayahu Leibowitz z”l: you do it because that is commanded to us as Jews.
In the middle of the year, my wife, Liz, made the observation that I was davening in these places because they were where my dad would have davened, the shuls and services he would have found comfortable and familiar; that whether I knew it or not, whether I intended it or not, I was in a sense connecting with my father, connecting with his memory, connecting with his values and his practice, by placing myself in his shoes, by redigging his wells. I think that was a very astute observation, and maybe that’s the only reason I need.”
We will meet on Monday, March 22nd at 2:00 PM to discuss Paris in the Present Tense, Mark Helprin’s new novel set in a Paris caught between violent unrest and its well-known, inescapable glories. Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour—a maître at the Sorbonne, cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust—must find a balance between his strong obligations to the past and the attractions and beauties of life and love in the present. In the midst of what should be an effulgent time of life, Jules is confronted all at once by a series of challenges to his principles, livelihood, and home, forcing him to grapple with his complex past and find a way forward. He risks fraud to save his terminally ill infant grandson, matches wits with a renegade insurance investigator, is drawn into an act of savage violence, and falls deeply in love with a young cellist. Against the backdrop of an exquisite Paris and the way it can shape a life, he moves toward a denouement that is staggering in its humanity, elegance, and truth.
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 March meeting will be on the 12th. 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 Nona Smith and Art Weininger for preparing the February 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 email@example.com.
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 https://www.mcjc.org/newsletter.
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
Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards; Bob Evans; Lisa Frederickson; Lew Mermelstein; Anita Korenstein; Nancy Harris; Henrietta Steinger; Susan Tubbesing & Sarah Nathe; Adina Merelender & Kerry Heise; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Susan Hofberg; Suzanne Lampert; Rachel Lahn; Susan Juster; Elias Steinbuck; Larry & Gayle Heiss; Josh & Carolyn Latkin; Eric Labowitz & Kathy Bailey; Donna Feiner; Shelly Garrison; Robert Cutler & Jeannette Rasker; Elaine & David Tavelli; Sandra Oppenheimer; Dr. Jennifer Kreger & Dr. Wade Grey; Fanshen Faber; George & Donna Montag; Susan & Gary Levenson-Palmer; Betty Barber; Nona Smith & Art Weininger;
Karen & Leonardo Bowers; Carol Maxon; Shelley Martin; Julie & Robert Melendi; Mark Kalman & Marcia Steinfeld; Carolyn Metz; Henrietta Bensussen; Dr. Mark & Deanna Apfel; Rachel Binah; Maynard Kaminsky; Irv & Rosalie Winesuff; Lois Berman; Benna Kolinsky & Danny Mandelbaum; Norm & Karen Rosen; Cayenne Harris; Sam Markson; Linda Shear & Windflower Townley;
In honor of Mina Cohen's birthday by Sally Welty; in memory of Tal Sizemore by Helen Sizemore.
Wishing you all a fruitful year of Jewish community building from Evely Shlensky
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
Email: email@example.com 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. 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)