Rabbi's Notes

A couple weeks ago, during the week of Passover—just when it would have been especially appreciated had there been no more plagues to deal with—our local newspapers included a special, four-page, color-printed Easter supplement. In itself, it could have been lovely, but it included a long screed explicitly and repeatedly blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus. I’m not going to quote it here since I don’t feel like giving it any more breathing room.

What I do want to spend my breath on are the quick and heartfelt messages of outrage about this anti-Semitic message that I and others received from several local Christian ministers. The Publisher of the Mendocino Beacon and Fort Bragg Advocate-News, in response to numerous calls of complaint (including one from me), offered to publish a response from me if I cared to write one in the next two days. I decided that more punch could be delivered in a message from Christian leaders expressing their condemnation of the message. I quickly wrote back to Reverends Matt Davis of the Mendocino Presbyterian Church and Tansy Chapman, Associate Priest at St. Michael and All Angels’ Episcopal Church in Fort Bragg, who had been the first to get in touch with me. I asked them to write to the newspapers and to see if other clergy would join them. And then I let go of the process. A fine guest editorial appeared Thursday the 16th in the Beacon and Advocate-News signed by five local Christian clergy (who together lead six area churches as one is the rector of two churches).

Letters from other church leaders, lay and ordained, appeared as well, along with letters from others in our community, decrying the anti-Semitic content of that insert (and many more appeared the following week). The first letter, though for some reason it appeared in the paper over my signature, was intended to be signed by the Justice Group and MCJC’s Board of Directors. The Justices met on short notice on Zoom to draft the letter. People on the call spoke their fear, their outrage, and their impulse to punish the writer, the editor, and the publisher. People also spoke of the economic pressure on small newspapers, of our dependence on local press, even when it’s not always gold-standard journalism. Still others talked about their fear of repercussions from a visible Jewish response. Beyond how we felt, we talked about what approach would be clearest and most effective in repudiating the anti-Semitic message that had been published. Should we call for a boycott? Would a retraction satisfy us? Should we not say anything and wait for the ministers?

In that meeting we wrestled with what we needed to say and what we needed to hear in response. There was a moment when one of the Justices spoke about Yom Kippur, about the understanding that human beings err, that atonement and forgiveness are at the center of Jewish tradition. The person speaking said that ultimately we want to be in restored relationship with our community (in this case our local newspaper) and not in enmity. Whatever we do or say should reach in the direction of repairing relationship rather than punishing or cutting off. This comment penetrated us deeply. Someone else said that moving in the direction of relationship does not mean withholding our outrage. We can speak both. I hope that the final letter conveyed some of this rich mix of intention.

 

When Reverend Davis first wrote his support note to me (on the evening of Easter Sunday, which I’m sure had been a long day for him), he mentioned that he was reading a book about the village of Le Chambon in France, a small rural community that, during the Holocaust, rescued, sheltered and saw to safety many hundreds, perhaps thousands of Jewish refugees. He spoke of wishing to cultivate that ethos in our community. A week or so later I asked him if he would speak to our community about Le Chambon and its values on Yom Hashoah, the annual Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust. He did, very beautifully. And many of his congregants joined our community on Zoom, so that it was the largest Yom Hashoah service we have ever had. Reverend Davis also remembered the time, two years ago, when he gathered with other clergy, church and community people outside the shul in the aftermath of the shooting of 11 Jewish people at their shul in Pittsburgh. That day, the response of our Coast community, and of the church community in particular, was one of solidarity, comfort and friendship, as it had been a generation earlier in Le Chambon, as it was again with the recent publication of the hateful Easter insert.

 

In recent years, particularly since the public outcry about the shootings of unarmed African Americans by police in many American cities, I have begun to hear the phrase “security through solidarity.” For many people, especially people of color (but also people with mental illness, homeless people, and others), police force is not a source of security but a source of danger. Security through solidarity means that our safety comes not through reliance on armed response, but through the attentiveness and presence of friends and allies in the community.

 

Personally I don’t think it’s an “either/or.” I think there is a role for police in certain dangerous situations, and police officers are part of our community—and therefore in our circle of relationship and friendship—too. MCJC’s board contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff to apprise him of the newspaper insert and filed a report with the Anti-Defamation League as well.

I am all too aware, as are we all these days, that life is simply not secure—and no measure of friendship and solidarity, or policing, for that matter, insures that no one will ever do anything violent or hurtful to our community, or to our neighbors. But I am more convinced than ever of the truth of security through solidarity. I am reminded by this recent experience that it’s important to reach towards community and relationship whenever we possibly can.

Which makes me think of the slow, tender work MCJC and the Justice Group has been part of in building relationships of friendship and solidarity with Latinos in our community. It takes a long time—years, decades—and many small, individual gestures of showing up, getting to know people, helping and being helped, trying to understand and be understood. That has been a well-intentioned, sometimes awkward process, but it is resulting, I hope, in some trust and solidarity.

 

We show up and are shown-up-for. Whether this saves anyone if, God forbid, someone comes to do serious harm, no one knows. In the meantime, we get to know each other. Our circles of friendship and trust grow. I think more and more that this is the work we are invited to do in this deeply divided age. I am grateful to those in our Jewish community and our neighboring church communities and our community at large who see this value and show up again and again to make it so.

Shavuot

The festival of Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai—seven weeks after the Exodus. This year, it begins on Thursday night, May 28th, exactly 50 days after the first seder. It is our custom to have a late night gathering of sacred study. In years past, we would stay up all night to greet the dawn, as was the custom of the mystics. This year’s straitened circumstances bring both challenge and opportunity: we will not be able to sit around our beautiful, candle-lit table with our stacks of books and blintzes in the shul kitchen, but we WILL be able to join with people all over the world studying and celebrating the covenant between God and Israel—in spirit and on Zoom!

If you would like to help envision what this very special night of study and contemplation could involve, please contact Margaret at mholub@mcn.org or 937-5673.

Life In The ZOOM Lane

For the foreseeable future, we will continue to have MCJC activities on Zoom. In addition to Shabbat morning services, special holiday observances, meetings and classes, we’ll continue with the Wednesday morning Cup of Coffee and the Friday night candle-lighting and Kiddush each week. Rabbi Holub will send out Zoom invitations to these gatherings by e-mail. They will also be posted on the MCJC web page (https://www.mcjc.org/calendar) . If you’re not getting these invitations, please let Margaret know at mholub@mcn.org or 937-5673.

Cup of Coffee—a time to connect and check in and talk about anything at all every Wednesday morning at 10:30 AM.

 

Candle Lighting—a half-hour of schmooze, followed by Shabbat candle-lighting and Kiddush. Schmooze begins at 6:30 PM, candles are lit at 7:00 PM.

The Adele Saxe Fund

Since our beginnings, MCJC has had a tzedakah fund that enables us to offer financial support in times of need. It works like this: a request comes to Rabbi Holub, who writes a personal check and then is reimbursed by the Tzedakah Fund. This enables it to be totally confidential. Usually, tzedakah grants range from $100-$200. We wish we could pay rent or wages for people right now, but those are larger amounts than the fund can offer. We are already seeing people in our community and beyond being laid off, and we may well feel obliged to increase the amount the fund can offer. As you are thinking about how you can help others in a difficult time, a gift to the Adele Saxe Tzedakah Fund would be a wonderful contribution.

Jewish Ways of Death In The Time of Covid-19

For millennia, Jewish communities have helped families bury their dead and mourn them. Since at least the 16th century CE, in Ashkenazic society, a Chevra Kadisha (Holy Society) has performed functions within Jewish communities associated with death, namely Tahara (ritual preparation of a body) and Shmirah (guarding the body).

 

While Jewish communities have faced plagues and epidemics many times before, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Because of advances in medicine and virology, the underlying causes of disease and its transmission are now understood.

 

Kavod V’Nichum (Honor and Comfort) is a North American organization dedicated to the support and education of Chevra Kadishas. On March 8th,, Kavod V’Nichum recommended that Taharas no longer be performed. Not because of the risk of infection from the dead, but because Tahara requires that the living participants come in close contact with one another. This presents an unacceptable risk, considering the infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2. The Jewish principle of Pikuach Nefesh (saving souls) states that saving a life is more important than following a Torah commandment, in almost all cases.

 

A large part of the power, behind the Jewish traditions around death, is the support that the community offers to those who mourn. This is done by caring for the body, attending the funeral and making Shivah calls. In a time of social distancing, this is no longer possible. Among the horrors of this disease is that people are dying in isolation and must grieve in isolation.

Kavod V’Nichum has been holding weekly ZOOM meetings with representatives from around the US and Canada to find out how communities are dealing with the situation and what strategies they have developed. The MCJC has been represented in these meetings. The restrictions and approaches vary widely. In most places burials are limited to 10 people. This may or may not, include clergy, cemetery and mortuary workers in the 10. In some places, the restrictions are placed by public health, local elected officials or cemeteries, in others there are no restrictions. The Levaya (funeral, literally “accompanying”) is often broadcast via ZOOM.

Rituals have been developed to take the place of physical Tahara. The Portland Chevra has developed an alternate virtual Tahara manual. Various post burial rituals are being developed to take the place of Tahara, when a physical Tahara could not be performed. The virtual Taharas are performed via ZOOM. In some cases, the mortuary workers are included and instructed to place shrouds over the body and earth from Israel in the casket, in others, just the Tahara team is involved. Virtual Shmirah has also been performed and virtual Shivah has been organized.

 

The reports have been positive. The Chevras report that they are glad they are able to honor the deceased. Some have said that because they can focus exclusively on the liturgy, it has additional meaning. The mourners are glad that this can be done for their loved one. There have been many Shivas. It was reported that mourners found it tremendously comforting to be visited by so many caring people, even if it was only on a screen. It was noted that the use of ZOOM Rooms might be a practice that should be continued even after the emergency has passed, since it allows those who are physically distant to participate in the Shivah.

 

Kavod v’Nichum has long advocated expanding the role of the Chevra Kadisha beyond just Tahara and Shmira, to its former role as a general Jewish social welfare agency. During the weekly meetings, there has been much discussion on what Jewish communities can do to reach out help those in their communities that are feeling isolated and distressed. Providing support for the Rabbinical staff and supporting those outside the Jewish community has been discussed. In New York, one of our members who is a therapist, has arranged short gatherings for medical hospital staff at the beginning and ends of their shifts, to help them deal with the unusual level of stress and sadness.

It has become apparent from talking with other Chevras, how lucky we have been with this pandemic, so far, in Mendocino. There is a subgroup, within the MCJC Chevra Kadisha, developing plans for how the Chevra would, God forbid, deal with a death during the time of the COVID-19 emergency. There is a wealth of materials, including virtual rituals, available on the Kavod v’Nichum website. https://www.jewish-funerals.org/coronavirus-and-jewish-death-practices/ There is also a very interesting series of video lectures on “Jewish Response to Contagion, Epidemics & Disease” by Rabbi Jonathan Seidel. They are principally from a historic perspective. https://www.aquarianminyan.org/yeshiva

 

זײַט געזונט   Zayt Gezunt   Be Well

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Mitzvah Food

There is delicious homemade vegetarian food in the Mitzvah Freezer at the shul and canned food in a box nearby that may be helpful to you these days. And there are Clorox disinfectants and instructions for getting food in a safe way. Please be in touch with Margaret if food would be helpful for you. We also have several generous folks who have offered to bring deliveries of groceries or other needed things, and you’re welcome to contact Margaret about these as well.

Shabbat Morning Services

Shabbat morning services are held every Saturday morning of the year from 10:30 AM until about 12:30 PM. This month they will be held online via ZOOM.  The rabbi and members of the community will continue to give davar Torah (“word of Torah”), an interpretation (drash) of the weekly Torah portion . The services will be led each week by Rabbi Holub.

Kabbalat Shabbat

The monthly Kabbalat Shabbat service in someone’s home has been replaced with a virtual schmooze and candle lighting on every Friday evening at 6:30 PM.

Elder's Conversation

The Elders continue to meet every second and fourth Tuesday at 3:00 PM. Because talking on Zoom is a little more tiring than a regular face-to-face conversation, even with brilliant and high-spirited folks, we will try ending by 4:30 PM. May meetings will be the 12th and 26th. Topics to be announced. People of all ages are most welcome.

MCJC Justice Group

“The Justices” meet on the second Thursday of each month, from 5:30-7:30 PM. In May, we will meet on the 14th. All meetings for the foreseeable future will be online via the ZOOM platform. If you would like to be on the Justice Group mailing list, please contact Margaret at mholub@mcn.org or 937-5673. Margaret will send out an email invitation to join the meeting with easy-to-follow steps for downloading ZOOM to your computer, pad, or smart phone. Everyone is welcome to attend.

At the last meeting we asked ourselves what we should do at this time to keep fulfilling our mission, goals and principles? We reviewed our past projects and our intention to do work that bears witness to the time in which we are now living. What can we do during the pandemic to help our local community; looking beyond the pandemic, what project(s) can we commit to that will make a difference in our own community and the larger community? How can our group contribute to what other groups are doing?

 

A number of ideas were presented:

  1. Those who can, donate the government-issued $1,200, or a part of it, to funds for a cause

  2. Work with other local groups

    1. Help local immigrants with food and medical care, e.g., Safe Passage

    2. Help abused woman and children, e.g., Project Sanctuary

    3. Help feed/clothe needy and homeless people, e.g., Food Bank, Hospitality House

    4. Volunteer at, or donate to Food Bank

  3. Create a newsletter that summarizes what many of our nonprofit partners are doing, what they need, how to volunteer, contact information

  4. Advocate for voter rights and fight voter suppression

 

We have a principle that a member or members who want the group to undertake a project must come up with a plan of action. There must be at least one member willing to head the project. We left the meeting reflecting on the many ideas we came up with.

 

On another pressing issue, members of the Justice Group and MCJC board met with Rabbi Holub via Zoom on April 12th to discuss the tone and content of the MCJC letter written in response to the anti-Semitic insert in the Beacon and Advocate-News on Thursday, April 9th and Saturday, April 11th. That letter and others, including one written by a group of local Christian clergy, appeared in the local papers on Thursday, April 16th. More support letters appeared in the papers on April 23rd. The incident was reported to the Anti-Defamation League.

Book Group

The book group will meet online via ZOOM on May 18th at 2:00 PM to discuss kaddish.com: a novel, from Nathan Englander, the bestselling author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and “What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank.” When his father dies, it falls to Larry, the secular son in a family of Orthodox Brooklyn Jews, to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, every day for 11 months. But to the horror and dismay of his sister, Larry refuses, imperiling the fate of his father’s soul. To appease her, he hires a stranger through a website called kaddish.com to say the prayer instead, a decision that will have profound and very personal repercussions. Irreverent, hilarious, and wholly irresistible, Englander’s tale of a son who makes a diabolical compromise brilliantly captures the tensions between tradition and modernity.

 

Please contact Fran at franbschwartz@gmail.com for a Zoom invitation.

MCJC Board Meetings

The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:30 PM. It used to meet at our beloved shul, but now it meets via ZOOM. The May meeting will be on the 18th. If you would like to attend part of the meeting, please contact board member Susan Tubbesing at susan.tubbesing @gmail.com, and efforts will be made to patch you in.

Thanks For Mailing The Newsletter

We are grateful to Mina Cohen for preparing the April Megillah for mailing. That was two in a row for Mina! Volunteer for a future folding, stamping, and mailing project, and you can do it at home, or another spot of your choosing, in about two hours. If you are tired of watching TV and want to fill your time productively, please contact Sarah at 962-0565 or sarah.nathe@gmail.com.

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

Judy Stavely; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Susan Miller; Suzanne Lampert; Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards; Bob Schlosser & Dawn Hofberg; Clarke Glasow; Marc & Jan Wasserman; Mina Cohen & Dr. Jeff Berenson; Nicole Zimmerman; Karen Rakofsky; Irv & Rosalie Winesuff; Marty Freedman & Joy Lancaster; Nicky & Clark Fish; Tara & Stuart Marcus; Andrea Luna; Bob Evans; Lew Mermelstein; Sandy Berrigan; Helen Jacobs; Nancy Harris; Sandra & Kenny Wortzel; Leslie Gates; Karen & Leonardo Bowers; Sandy Glickfeld; Bonnie Lawlor; Alison Trick-Thornton; Carol Maxon; Theresa Glassner Morales; Art Weininger & Nona Smith;

Michelle Lucato; Kathleen Disney Nilson; Linda Leyva; Diana Corbin; Dr Mark & Deanna Apfel; Danny Mandelbaum & Benna Kolinsky; Larry & Gayle Heiss; Ben & Susan Finkelstein; Janet Sternberg; Linda Jupiter; Fran Schwartz; Jeanette Rasker & Robert Cutler.

To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah Fund: Theresa Glassner Morales; Susan Tubbesing & Sarah Nathe;

Mark & Deena Zarlin.

 

In honor of Alex Sabin from her sister, Liz Sabin.

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 2020. 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.

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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

 

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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

© 2020 MCJC updated 06/30/2020 (rge)