Rabbi's Notes

I went walking in the forest with Mirisa yesterday. It was a drippy, fragrant afternoon, just a couple of hours after a downpour. Mirisa is into mushrooms and was happily pointing out different ones, some clustering in multiples, others hiding shyly under duff, one shiny neon orange one standing up like the tentacle of a sea creature, one big collection spread like tiny brown ruffles up the side of a tree. At one point she plucked a mushroom to look at its underside and, when I looked a little surprised, she explained that it doesn’t hurt to pick a mushroom--it’s like picking fruit.

All this got me thinking about mycelium, the fibrous, spreading, threading underground network from which mushrooms pop up for their moment aboveground. I love to think about mycelium, but I hardly know anything about it. So, like a proper modern person, I google the term. What I see, in addition to the Wikipedia entry, are a whole bunch of what I think are probably metaphors: mycelium is like the World Wide Web; it’s like a superhighway. There is an entry about “mycelium consciousness.” There is an allusion to Star Trek. I also see a bunch of technological applications for mycelium: as a biodegradable, plastic-like building material; as a platform for cloning organs outside a body. I also read up a bit on different things that mycelium does: it sequesters carbon in soil; it helps plants draw in needed nutrients; it can help plants resist disease by triggering release of chemicals that defend the plant’s roots; it can even spread the alarm of an infestation to neighboring plants, enabling them to fight off blight. It was the great mushroom expert Paul Stamets who apparently first called mycelium “Earth’s natural internet.”

Plant biologist Suzanne Simard found that fir and birch trees can transfer carbon between them via the mycelium. Other scientists have shown that plants can exchange nitrogen and phosphorus this way as well. Individual plant and tree starts don’t do as well where there is no mycelium in the soil. "These plants are not really individuals in the sense that Darwin thought they were individuals competing for survival of the fittest,” wrote Simard, “but in fact they are interacting with each other, trying to help each other survive.” (“Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus,” by Nic Fleming, BBC Earth, November 11, 2014.)

talking trees.jpg

Mickey and I were just talking about some annoying and puzzling habits of a lifelong friend of his. Because I am thinking about mycelium these days, I found myself picturing the huge complexity of the nature of this irritating friend. You can’t separate and wish away the attractive from the unattractive parts of a friend, any more than you can separate the orangeness from the slipperiness of that tentacle-like fungus. Our individual character emerges from this huge, intertwined matrix largely below the surface.


I’m thinking these days about the great conundrum of who we each are, where we come from, why we are so different from each other. I am thinking about how my way of seeing things, of moving in the world, makes perfect sense to me, and how other people feel the same way about what they think and how they choose to act. I’m thinking about how no two people respond to a moment in the same way, and how mysterious and confounding that is. I am thinking about how little I really know about what it is like to be in another body and another soul.


And yet we do things like love each other, feed each other, protect each other and, even sometimes, to a degree, understand each other. Amazing! This is partly due to our own hard work and determination, but I think it is also because of mycelium, both the metaphorical kind and the literal kind.


There is a large, interwoven, spreading, more-or-less invisible substrate from which we each sprout up, like a fruiting body, in all our specificity. We are all individuals, and yet we are part of something larger, which enables us to grow and thrive for our time. We are each who we are because of our own genetics and our own upbringings and whatever events of fate shape us. But we are also mysteriously formed, and bound to each other, by this interconnected, underground root-web from which we emerge.

There is also the almost-literal mycelium, the web that sustains life. We are individual creatures, but we are part of one large being called nature, or called the world, or called ha-olam. We say that word in every blessing: melech ha-olam, “sovereign of the universe.” I look up that word olam in my lectionary, even though I think I know everything about it, and I find so many definitions: duration, antiquity, futurity, ancient gates, the heavens, forever, dynasties, everlastingness…. We are individual people, and part of a single species, but we are also part of ha-olam--that great matrix, that web, that mycelium. A tentacle, a sprout, a moment, literally as well as figuratively.

We enter the month of Shevat at the end of January, and on the evening of January 9th, Tu B’Shevat, the full moon of Shevat will rise. We will gather together that afternoon to feel ourselves as one creature together, as nature, nourished by earth, offering our blessings as a kind of nourishment and communication to help sustain this web of which we are a small part. Baruch ata ADONAI eloheynu melech ha-olam. Blessed indeed is the Nameless Source who is the life energy of all that is.

Silvan Tu B'Shevat

We enter the month of Shevat at the end of January, and on the evening of January 9th, Tu B’Shevat, the full moon of Shevat will rise. We will gather together that afternoon to feel ourselves as one creature together, as nature, nourished by earth, offering our blessings as a kind of nourishment and communication to help sustain this web of which we are a small part. Baruch ata ADONAI eloheynu melech ha-olam. Blessed indeed is the Nameless Source who is the life energy of all that is.

This year we are changing things so we can be closer to the Trees of Life. We will celebrate the Tu B’Shevat seder on Sunday, February 9th at 3:30 PM, NOT at the shul, but OUTSIDE, rain or shine. We’ll meet at 3:30 PM at the east entrance to Van Damme State Park.* Please bring a camping chair if you have one. We’ll walk in together about 1/4 mile--three city blocks--to a beautiful grove. Once there, we will circle up and travel through the Four Worlds via contemplation, prayer, eating special fruits, and drinking four colors of wine/juice.


If it is raining hard, we will still hold the seder outdoors and those who don’t mind the downpour will gather in raingear. Later, we will meet at the shul at 5:00 PM for an indoor seder. You are welcome to either one or both. Look for an e-mail the day of Tu B’shevat to announce whether there will be an indoor seder following the outdoor one.


* To get to the east entrance to Van Damme State Park, take Road 409 (just south of Caspar Creek bridge) east. Look for the 3.26 mile marker, then a sign that says “pavement ends.” Park on the side of the road there. This is just past the Caspar Creek Learning Center, on your right. On the right, you will see the entrance to the park (it also says Equestrian Camp). We will gather there at 3:30 PM sharp and begin walking by 3:40 PM.


If you will be a little late, please contact Margaret at mholub@mcn.org or 937-5673, and she will give you (very simple) directions to our gathering spot.

Hevra Kadisha Meeting

The Hevra Kadisha will meet on Sunday, February 16th, 4:00-6:00 PM at the shul. This will be mostly a business meeting to further refine and update our process for caring for a person after death and for their families and loved ones. If you are interested in being part of the Hevra Kadisha and have not before been involved with the group, please contact Donna Montag at montag@mcn.org or 877-3243 or Joan Katzeff at jkatzeff@mcn.org or 964-9161.

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”), a teaching about the weekly Torah portion (drash). The services are led each week by Rabbi Holub, except when she is out of town. The Parshat for January is below:

  • 02/01/20 - Bo - Margaret Holub

  • 02/08/20 - Beshalach - Margaret Holub

  • 02/15/20 - Yitro - Raven Deerwater

  • 02/22/20 - Mishpatim - Margaret Holub

  • 02/29/20 - Terumah - Andrea Luna

Kabbalat Shabbat

In February, Kabbalat Shabbat will be on Friday the 28th at the home of Karen Rakofsky and Helen Jacobs in Albion.  They can be reached at 937-5522 to RSVP and get directions. Our March hosts will be Sandra and Kenny Wortzel also in Albion.  


The joyful get-togethers take place on the fourth Friday of each month. The short service is followed by a vegetarian potluck dinner.

We are looking for a host for the month of April (24th).  Please contact Mina at mcohen@mcn.org or 937-1319 if you can help.

Essential Judaism

The Basic Judaism class has two more meetings to go. In this class we’re having a great time looking at the Big Picture (all of Jewish history, all the books in the sacred canon) and taking deeper dives into interesting parts. All the classes are on Thursdays from 5:30-7:30 PM at the shul. Each class will have a particular focus:

  • February 6th — Holocaust in history and theology

  • February 20th — Women, queer people, other revolutionaries, and front-line issues of our Jewish generation.

More About Tzedakah

This article--the second in a year-long series—was penned by Raven Deerwater, Secretary of the MCJC board.


The MCJC Board of Directors has been reflecting on the mitzvah of tzedakah in order to bring the action of tzedakah more prominence in our community. In general, giving tzedakah is part of Jewish religious citizenship. You do it for the greater community. Tzedakah, says Maimonides, is a “duty with regard to others imposed on you on account of moral virtue.” This runs against the more typical sense in our culture of charitable giving, which is that it is completely voluntary and exemplary, that one gives from what is left after taking care of mandatory expenditures.


But our tzedakah obligation is wider than just making voluntary contributions to charities of our choice. Tzedakah is owed to our community. MCJC members stepped up during our campaign for building repair and improvements, showing that a center for Jewish life here is important to many Jewish residents of the Mendocino coast.


Tzedakah may also include helping out individuals, whether you know them or not. Maybe you help a family member in need, maybe you are pointed to a friend of a friend’s GoFundMe account. Tzedakah may include agencies that are not necessarily recognized as charities, but you feel are important to the social structure. You support an association that is doing righteous work by signing up for its services or products. Perhaps you choose to buy carbon offsets as part of your regular utility bill.


Of course, voluntary contributions to charities that help fulfill your sense of moral virtue are always appreciated and put to good use. Tzedakah as a duty may not be as well known, but obviously our MCJC community and community at large depends upon it. Tzedakah as a duty also allows us to put our approach to giving into a larger and more righteous context.

Dine Out For MCJC

Another opportunity for fine dining and to support the MCJC. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 11th and make plans for dinner with many of your friends at the MacCallum House. That nights’ profits will go to MCJC, so we want to make sure they have a very full house all evening. Round up all your usual, and unusual, dining companions and make reservations today by calling  (707) 937-0289 or online at https://www.maccallumhouse.com/dining/ . Dinner is served from 5:30–8:30 PM. The bar opens at 5:00 PM.

Elder's Conversation

The Elders meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, 2:30-4:30 PM at the shul. February meetings will be on the 11th and 25th. Topics to be determined. People of all ages are most welcome.

MCJC Justice Group

“The Justices” meet on the second Thursday of each month, 5:30-7:30 PM at the shul (a little earlier for sharing noshes and schmoozing). We’ll meet Thursday, February 13th. If you’d like to be on the Justice Group mailing list, please contact Margaret at mholub@mcn.org or 937-5673. Anyone is welcome to attend a meeting.


Many thanks to the following donors for their generous gifts to the Citizen Scholarship Project: Jean & Otto Graham, Liz Helenchild, Jan & Marc Wasserman, Claire & Sherman Lee, Soul Collage Group, and Gwen & Bill Jacobson.

Some members of the JG are participating in 25 Million Stitches, one hand-sewn stitch for each of the world’s 25 million refugees. Over 1400 participants from 44 states and countries are stitching panels that will be part of an historic community art installation. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness about the plight of the 25 million refuges across the globe that have been forced to flee their homes due to genocide, war, famine, natural disasters, targeted violence, political persecution and other dangerous circumstances. The organizers of the project believe it is a way to engage with the global crisis instead of ignoring it. Although no single stitch can even hope to represent an individual, the act of stitching and the enormity of the collective work will bring attention to the scale of the crisis.

More participants are needed to create enough panels for the first full installation, scheduled for the Verge Center for the Arts in Sacramento, June 5th through August 15th, 2020. You don’t have to be an accomplished hand-sewer to join the project. The website www.25millionstitches.com has all the information about participating, examples of completed panels, stories from around the world about the project, fact and stories about the refugee crisis, and much more.

Hear About The Politics Of Climate

The MCJC Justice Group is hosting Doug Nunn’s new presentation, “The Politics of the Climate Crisis,” on Wednesday, February 19th, at 6:00 PM at the shul. Doug has been presenting his Climate Reality Show for the past 15 months, and has recently developed a “Politics of Climate” report on the history of environmentalism in the U.S., conservation losses and the rupture of the longtime consensus on national parks during the Reagan administration, the hiding of the growing evidence of climate change by the fossil fuel industries, and the denialism of the Republican Party in the last decades. He will explore the Green New Deal, Cap & Trade, and carbon taxes and take a quick look at various candidate’s platforms on climate change. Doug’s presentation is about an hour long, and there will be time for conversation afterward.

Short-Listed For The Bucher Prize

Lew Mermelstein has just published his first novel, Solomon's Net: A Tale of Madness. In the summer of 1973. Steve Williams, recently terminated Peace Corps volunteer, is being treated for paranoid schizophrenia by his doctors in Iowa. But Steve knows that the real problem is evil Zar demons and only his Ethiopian lover, Abebech, can help. But Steve can’t get back in to Ethiopia, not after what he did. Based on real events, the novel describes how Western psychiatry treated Steve's delusional disorder, and through Abebech, we learn how traditional Ethiopian healers dealt with madness.


The print version and Kindle version are available on Amazon, but you could perform a mitzvah by buying a paperback copy locally at the Gallery Bookshop.

Book Group

The group is meeting Monday, February 17th at 2:00 PM to discuss Waking Lions by Israeli writer Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. The novel takes the reader through the wilderness of the Negev desert and its underworld of Israeli drug dealers, Bedouin gangs, and desperate refugees.  It is part psychological thriller and part morality play.  It offers a commentary on privilege and “otherness.” One night, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, Eitan Green hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene. But the dead man’s widow knows what happened, and her price for silence is not money, but something that will pull Eitan into a world of secrets and lies.


Please call Fran Schwartz at 937-1352 for information on location. Gallery Bookstore offers 10% off purchases to MCJC book club members.

MCJC Board Meetings

The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:30 PM at the shul. The February meeting will be on Tuesday the 25th.

If you would like to attend the meeting, please leave a message on the phone at the shul: 964-6146.

Thanks For Mailing The Newsletter

We are grateful to Carla Jupiter and Steve Antler 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 sarah.nathe@gmail.com.


 Online Megillah

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.

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

Joan Selchau; Nancy Harris; Ben & Susan Finkelstein; Linda Jupiter; Liz Helenchild; Mike & Anita Korenstein; Philip Auerbach; Arleen Weisman; Lew Mermelstein; Clare Zwerling; Barbara & Michael Newmark; Jeff Zolitar & Audrey Wells; Zo Abell; Phoebe Graubard; John Allison & Rebecca Picard; Roslyn & Bruce Moore; Ronnie James; Barry Vogel; Mina Cohen & Dr Jeff Berenson; Marilyn Kreisberg; Susan Tubbesing & Sarah Nathe; Harold Hauck & Annie Liner; Evely Shlensky; Kathie Sarin & Steve Schoolman; Carolyn Metz; Claire Ellis & Chuck Greenberg; Marcia & Dr Robert Popper; Sharon Shapiro; Robert Cutler & Jeannette Rasker; Harvey Hoechstetter & Lari Shea; Henrietta Steiniger; Mike Kim & Susann Flowers; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards; Rosalie & Art Holub; Dawn Hofberg & Bob Schlosser; Bob Evans.

In memory of Bert Lehan by Jonathan & Annette Lehan; In honor of Sally Welty's birthday by Shelley Martin;


In memory of Roger Schwartz by Art & Rosalie Holub.


To the Judith Meisel Education Fund in honor of Mina Cohen's birthday by Sally and Lee Welty.


To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah Fund by Steven & Deborah Wolfe.

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 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 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


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

Email: highpt@mcn.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: 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

Soft and Tumbled: Shamelessly second-hand apparel for conscious clothing enthusiasts. Get $5 off your first purchase when you use the password SOFTANDTUMBLED. Sign up at www.poshmark.com/closet/softandtumbled 


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: tonk@mcn.org

(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
The Caspar shul is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Events are now taking place online
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 291, Little River, CA 95456
Email: sarah.nathe@gmail.com

© 2021 MCJC updated 01/03/2021 (rge)