It’s mid-Pesach as I write and I just came home from putting my parents on a plane after a week up here with us. They don’t move around as quickly as they used to, so we had plenty of time to just sit around in the living room, spreading matzah crumbs over the rug and chatting about everything in the world.
My dad is big on brain science these days. He is fascinated by the mechanics of memory: neurons, synapses, the amygdala, all that stuff. “It’s all in the brain,” he said one day. “So there is no such thing as a soul.
Now wait a second! Why would having our beautiful, intricate brains mean that we don’t have souls? I love the word “soul.” I’ve been using it more and more lately. I’m fond of the old-fashioned elocution that calls the population of a city a certain number of souls. Sometimes on Shabbat morning when I’m leading the service I’ll stop for a moment and say--either aloud or to myself—“Take a moment to notice your soul.” In fact just today, while I was driving home, a little tired, a little hungry, mulling the various chores to be gotten to, and so on, I stopped myself for a second and said just that to myself: “Notice your soul....” Even while I’m driving and thinking about coffee and e-mails, I have a soul.
Of course I had to argue with my dad! Everyone has more or less the same brains. We all have neurons, synapses, an amygdala. They are all arranged more or less the same way in our more or less similar heads. But even with the same equipment, we are so different from each other. We each have a nature, a quality, an essence which makes us ourselves. Think about when a person you love dies. There are plenty of other brains locomoting around on top of plenty of other shoulders. But that person was unique and irreplaceable. There was only one of him or her.
There is a complex soul-ology in Kabbalah, many words for soul, different aspects to each. According to some sources, we each have a nefesh, associated with our liver; a ruach, associated with our heart; and a neshama, associated with our brain. Some say that over our heads rest two still higher levels of soul: chayah and yechidah. My beloved Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Piacezner Rebbe of blessed memory, says that the soul is shaped like a funnel, with the wide part above us, narrowing and pouring into our individual selves.
I love the image that our souls are funnel-shaped, wide at the top and skinny inside us. I once heard that redwood trees manage to be so tall and not fall over in part because they hold each other up by their canopies. We might each just be long, skinny trunks, but branching out way up high we touch the rest of the soul-world and are connected.
Tonight I start at the bottom of the funnel, look up the root of nefesh in my lexicon: nun/ feh/ shin. “That which breathes, the breathing substance or being.” That which is breathed into a baby at birth and departs at death. Life, people (like the souls in a city). The seat of appetites, emotions, desires. “My soul loveth...” “The darling of my soul...” Soul can even be a verb. God created the world in six days: “And on the seventh day God sat vayinafash--and en-souled” (Exodus 31:17). In other words, God restored God’s own soul by taking a calming break from the labor.
That’s plenty! Before I even get to the ruach and the neshama. “The breathing substance,” the Whom in whom rests that beautiful brain, and lungs and veins and arteries and blood. Some would say that we don’t just have souls, we are souls.
It is easy for me to forget my soul, especially when I am caught up in things, when I am stressed or sad or scared or self-involved. I am trying these days to remember my soul even while I am hassling out the things of daily life, even when I am worried about important things--like the situation at the US border or in our atmosphere--that are very much worth worrying about.
Martin Buber wrote in I and Thou about encountering the Thou—that which isn’t instrumental--in another being. Thou doesn’t exist just to give you change at the market or to bring you your burrito or fix your car. In the same way, we ourselves are not simply instrumental. We can do many useful things (and destructive ones as well), but we aren’t simply what we do.
I have a dear friend who talks a lot about “soul-work.” When I am carrying on about some fix I am in, she will sometimes ask, “What is your soul-work here?” I hear her query: “In this situation, what will allow you to most fully be the soul that you are?” Or, one might say, to be the most alive, the most whole. It’s not an instrumental question; it’s not, “What will work best?” My soul isn’t a static thing; it has life, it is life. It grows and thrives...or the opposite. Soul work is the task of allowing my soul to manifest and grow.
I had a beautiful time with my parents, but by the time they left this morning, I was kind of tired. In those couple of hours driving home from the Santa Rosa Airport, I had time to ask myself some questions about that tiredness. First of all, did I really mean “tired?” Was I sleepy? Had I been shlepping too many heavy things? Hardly. No, I was a bit depleted because I had been paying a lot of attention outward, dealing with schedules and meals and hostess-y things. My soul was a little tired. My soul-work today is to en-soul, to remember my soul and to nourish it.
It’s funny: just looking at the beautiful words nefesh, life, breathing substance, ensoulment tastes good to my soul. I feel nourished just contemplating them. Lucky that I had a Megillah column to write, and parents to converse with, so I could remember my soul and en-soul.
When There Is A Death In The Community
When someone in our Jewish community dies, usually Rabbi Margaret gets a call from a family member, and they discuss funeral plans. If there is to be a Jewish burial, Margaret notifies the Hevra Kadisha and it begins to schedule shomrim to sit with the met (the deceased person) until the funeral. If the family or people close to the met are amenable, we inform all members of the MCJC that the person has died. For many years, we have used a phone tree--led with great generosity and dependability by Fran Schwartz--to notify everyone that someone has died, tell them when the funeral will be, and ask them whether they’d like to be shomrim.
Even if we have been aware for some time that someone is close to death, when they die, much has to be organized in a short time. The Hevra Kadisha schedules a taharah (ritual washing) and the shomrim, usually within a couple of hours. Often there are other matters for the Hevra Kadisha to attend to: arrangements for a meal of consolation, hospitality for people coming to the coast for the funeral, working with the mortuary, and the like. Every death is different, in its practical issues as well as its spiritual and emotional effects.
Recently, our Hevra Kadisha has decided to move in the direction of e-mail to inform the community and to schedule shomrim. Obviously, it is less labor-intensive to send an e-mail than to organize 150 phone calls. Some of the long-time callers on our phone tree are no longer up to the task. And more often than one would think, deaths happen over holidays and other times when many phoners are unable to make calls. This leaves the indefatigable Fran sometimes making many dozens of calls herself. And we are looking into ways to use on-line schedule programs (like Doodle, but not necessarily exactly that) to streamline the shomrim arrangements. We will keep the community apprised as we get these systems in place and try them out.
At the same time, however, there are some losses inherent in moving to a more efficient system. When there is a death in our community, there is an opportunity to reach out to everyone (unless they have told a phone tree caller previously that they would like not to be called again.) As you know, we consider everyone who lives here and is Jewish, or lets us know that they are interested in being part of our community, to be a member of MCJC. We have many local people who get the Megillah, but they may otherwise be in touch with MCJC only rarely. There is something very inclusive about calling everyone in the community and inviting them to participate in a mitzvah.
This move to e-mail notification may seem like a small matter, but it makes a difference in how inclusive and embracing our Jewish community is. Above all, we want the dead and their loved ones to be cared for with maximal kindness and support. Every bit as much, we want to everyone in the Jewish community to feel included and connected to each other.
Since we don’t, of course, know who is in everyone’s circles of friendship and connection, we don’t know when an e-mail about a death will be a cold and shocking surprise to someone. A phone call bearing sad news can also be a shock, but at least it comes from a caring human voice.
Furthermore, everyone in our community has a unique relationship with technology. For some, e-mail is old-fashioned and clumsy; others don’t even have a computer or a smart phone, so they won’t get e-mail news of a death in our community.
We are trying to move thoughtfully. If you would like for any reason at all to continue to receive notice of deaths by telephone, please let Fran Schwartz know at 937-1352 (or franbschwartz@gmail). We will keep a phone list and are glad to call if that is your preferred way to receive this news. We will also try as best we can to think about who we know is close to the person who has died, and we will telephone those people.
Among the many fine films to be screened at the 14th Annual Mendocino Film Festival (May 30-June 2), one will be of particular interest to the blues fans in our community. “Satan and Adam” tells the story of two radically different guys making great music together.
In 1986, when harmonica player Adam Gussow asked if he could jam with one-man band Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee on Harlem’s 125th Street, it was the beginning of an unforgettable collaboration--dubbed Satan & Adam by their fans. Magee’s religious mother had told him that playing the blues was consorting with the devil, but he was not dissuaded. Amidst the racial tension in New York, the Jewish Ivy League graduate student and black Mississippi blues man made an unlikely pair, but their musical styling perfectly aligned. After a chance encounter with members of U2 and a celebrated debut record, the duo rose to international acclaim from their Harlem street corner. In 1996 they were the cover story in Living Blues magazine—the first time in that magazine's history that an interracial act had ever been featured on the cover. But their meteoric rise was cut short in 1998 when Mr. Satan mysteriously disappeared. The resulting 23-year odyssey is captured in V. Scott Balcerek’s documentary about friendship, heartbreak, and the transformative power of music.
“Satan and Adam” shows at 3:00 on Saturday June 1st. To purchase tickets or to see the whole schedule, go to https://mendocinofilmfestival.org
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:
05/04/19 - Achrei - Margaret Holub
05/11/19 - Kedoshim - Claire Ellis
05/18/19 - Emor - Raven Deerwater
05/25/19 - Behor - Margaret Holub
O n May 24th we will gather at the home of Susan Tubbesing and Sarah Nathe in
South Caspar. Please contact them to RSVP and get directions at 962-0565 or
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 email@example.com.
The Elders’ Conversation meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, 3:00-5:00 PM at the shul. This month we will meet on May 14th and 28th. We’ve already picked our theme for the May 14th conversation: concerns about losing your mind. We will select a topic for the May 28th meeting at the end of that conversation. People of all ages are most welcome.
MCJC Justice Group
The JG continues to respond to the unhealthy and brutal conditions of the detention centers for immigrant children by writing letters to those with political power and influence, urging them to protest and denounce the draconian policies of the government. The group has decided to support HR6, The Dream and Promise Act of 2019, a newly introduced House bill that seeks to reinstate DACA and Temporary Protected Status, and enlarge their scope. California 2nd District Congressman Jared Huffman is one of the sponsors of the bill.
Thank you to the following generous supporters for their donations to the Citizen Scholarship Project: Julie Masterson, Merry Winslow, Judith & John Garrett, Karen & Jeffry Stubbs, Carolyn & Josh Latkin, Joan Selchau, Pat Dunbar, Purim Party Guests, Gene Parsons & Star Decker, Jeannette Rasker & Robert Cutler, Claire Ellis & Chuck Greenberg, Christine & Sam Speake.
We appreciate donations of any amount. If you would like to contribute to the Citizen Scholarship Project, 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.
The Coast Climate Crew (CCC), an offshoot of the JG, is working with Mendocino County on environmental matters. The Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution to prioritize climate issues and the CCC and other local environmental activist groups are working to form a Community Advisory Board and to create practical plans for lowering emissions, drawing down carbon, and mitigating damage from climate change in our county. The CCC is interested in working with the City of Fort Bragg on the same climate change issues.
At the last meeting, a member of the CCC presented “Small Steps to Zero Waste,” with recommendations about cutting down on the use of plastics. Two books that deal directly with this topic are Zero Waste by Chantal Plamandon and Life without Plastic by Jay Sinha.
The Justice Group will meet on Thursday, May 9th at the shul. At 5:00 PM we will share some food and drink and then meet from 5:30-7:30 PM. If you’re on the Justice Group mailing list, you’ll get more details. If you’d like to be on the list, please let Margaret know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annual Fundraising Request
Thank you to all of those who have responded to the appeal you received from MCJC for your 2019 contribution. We are beginning to contact all those whom we have not yet heard from, but you can save us the time and energy by responding today. 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. Should you have questions or concerns, please email Donna Montag at email@example.com or call her at 877-3243, preferably in the early evening.
The book group will meet on Monday May 27th at 2:00 PM to discuss Birds without Wings by Louis de Bernieres.
In his first novel since Corelli’s Mandolin, de Bernieres’ setting is a small coastal village in southwestern Anatolia in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Eskibahçe is filled with a wild assortment of characters, Christian and Muslim, Turkish and Armenian, the mad and the sane, the rich and the poor, living side by side in remarkable harmony. Everyone there speaks Turkish, though they write it in Greek letters. It's a place that has room for a professional blasphemer; where a brokenhearted aga finds solace in the arms of a Circassian courtesan who isn’t Circassian at all; where a beautiful Christian girl named Philothei is engaged to a Muslim boy named Ibrahim. But all of this will change when Turkey is swept into World War I and irrevocably changed. When the young men of the town are conscripted, we follow one to Gallipoli, where the brutality of battle robs him of his innocence, and in the town he left behind, the religious and nationalist fanaticism unleashed by the war quickly and irreversibly destroy the centuries-old peace there.
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 May meeting will be on the 22nd. 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 Rhoda Teplow for preparing the April 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. It’s a mitzvah! Please contact Sarah at 962-0565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The MCJC Megillah is available in a format suitable for online viewing. The 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 email@example.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
Bob Evans; Lew Mermelstein; Mettika Hoffman; Dr Jeff Berenson & Mina Cohen;
Benna Kolinsky and Danny Mandelbaum; Rio Russell; Rosalie & Art Holub;
Linda Jupiter; Henrietta Steiniger; Marc & Jan Wasserman; Susan Hofberg;
Andrea Luna; Lisa Weg; Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards; Elaine Tavelli; Michelle Lucato; Lisa Frederickson; Theresa Glasner Morales; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Adrienne Ross; Stuart & Tara Marcus; Pamela & Dave Duncan; Paul & Joan Katzeff
In memory of Mildred Rakofsky by Karen Rakofsky
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 Our Underwriters
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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: 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: 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, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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MCJC Board and Contacts
(* identifies the MCJC Board members. All phone numbers are in the 707 Area Code)