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Rabbi's Notes

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There is a story I love and hate, about Rabbi Zusya of Hanipol, one of the eighteenth-century Hasidic masters. He’s the guy who said, “When I get to the World to Come, they won’t ask me, ‘Why weren’t you Moses?’ They will ask me, ‘Why weren’t you Zusya?’” But it’s not the story that has been driving me nuts for decades. My Zusya story—which you’ve probably already heard me tell because I think and talk about it all the time—is the one in which two students of another rebbe were stumped about a famous rabbinic dictum that one should “bless God for the bad as well as the good” (that’s in Berakhot 9b). How can you possibly bless God for the bad? Their teacher sent them to inquire of Reb Zusya in his little cabin where he had spent years in poverty and episodic illness. When the two young students asked their question of the frail old man, he said, “I don’t know why your teacher thought to send you to me. I’ve never had a bad thing happen in my life.”

I’ve been on sabbatical now for almost four months. This is the first of all my sabbaticals for which I made no plans at all. I just wanted to rest, to think, to renew and then to see what unfolded from there. The first month or so I was happily self-absorbed, reading books about the inner life, mulling, drawing a bit. I started making a life-sized doll out of old clothes and every pillow we’d never thrown out over the decades. Her head was blue and she had lovely green hair made out of stuffed points of fabric. I took a couple of short family trips, enjoyed lots of walks, plenty of quiet time. I took a big break from news and an even bigger break from Zoom. After some weeks I began to feel quiet and calm and restored.

 

Then I broke my arm playing pickleball. Then our beloved dog died. Then a couple of much larger and more difficult things, mostly in the medical realm, began and continue in my family. (I’m sorry to be vague, but I’m not free to share details right now.) The sabbatical that I had not planned began to look a lot different from what I had [not] planned on.

 

So I return to that question whether anything that happens in life is actually bad. I note first that Reb Zusya was speaking only of his own life; he didn’t have the agency to judge other people’s lives, and neither do I. Which makes me think about various kinds of badness. There is unarguably a lot of badness in the public realm: immoral activities, hurtful behavior, acts of violence, harm to others and to the earth. There are also terrible stories of unfortunate and difficult things happening to other people. Reb Zusya, like us, lived in politically fraught and violent times, and I imagine he had opinions about them. I’m trying to understand the difference between this public kind of “badness,” which is easy to see and easy to name, and whatever it was that Reb Zusya had never experienced in his life.

Was it bad when I broke my arm? It didn’t make me very happy. Of the things I most wanted to do during my sabbatical, like working on my doll and making soups, most involved having use of my dominant hand. So I said to myself, “I get to be even slower, even more inward.” I checked that out for a while…like seven weeks. Was it bad when my beloved studio, unused all those rainy weeks, got damp and full of rat refuse? That didn’t make me very happy either, but I cleaned it up one-armed and made habitable again. The doll didn’t survive the rain and pests very well, as she had serious structural issues, and is now in the landfill. But other projects are starting to percolate. In the meantime I read some books, like one about dreams, that meant a lot to me. Was it bad when Pulga died? She had a hard end and many tears were shed. But death, you know…. Everyone dies, even adored dogs. Sad, difficult, but not bad.

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Is it bad when people I love get sick? Can there be a bad diagnosis, a bad prognosis? Is death bad? Is suffering bad?

 

I just read a gorgeous little book. I picked it up kind of randomly at Gallery Bookshop, in part because one of the blurbs on the back said, “Lost & Found is the most daring of books, a memoir by a happy person.” That premise intrigued me. It’s written by New Yorker writer Kathryn Schulz. The book has three chapters: a long one called “Lost” which involves the death of her father, a wonderful and beloved man; a second called “Found,” which tells the story of meeting and falling in love with the woman who would become her wife; and a third little chapter called “And.”

 

This third chapter spoke right to my heart. Schulz writes about the conjunction “and,” which is different from any other conjunction—like “if” or “because” or “after”—because it doesn’t imply anything in particular about the relationship between what comes before it and what comes after. She writes, “What, then, is the feeling of and? Above all, it is a feeling of association, a subtle awareness that two or more things have been brought into relationship.”

 

Schulz goes on:

“That semantic versatility reflects an existential truth. Our chronic condition involves experiencing many things at once—some of them intrinsically related, some of them compatible, some of them contradictory, and some of them having nothing to do with one another at all, beyond being crowded together in our own awareness. Even if we try, we can hardly ever experience something all by itself, as [psychologist William] James pointed out” (italics mine).

 

 

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I think that it might be this sense of “and” that Reb Zusya knew so well that he could never simply call anything that happened “bad.” Within each experience, many things are happening at once; and often the more intense the experience, the more different colors, sparks, tones, and sensations are in it at once. Such big experiences might even be described as being fractal—like the shoreline, which looks straight or curved from an airplane, but up close has ripples upon ripples, and then inside each ripple the complex shapes of every grain of sand, and then the molecules below that.

Reb Zusya was poor. He was sick. He lived in fractious times, and so do we. I can only imagine that he was gifted with some kind of vision that enabled him to stand inside the experiences of his own life and see “and.” He could see the blessing along with the misfortune along with the love along with the loss along with the growth along with the diminishment. And then maybe even the fractal facets within these. When we stand within an experience, “we can hardly ever experience something all by itself.”

 

That brings me back to the matter of “blessing God” for these bad-from-ten-thousand-feet but also fractally complex life experiences. That doesn’t seem so hard to wrap my head around. Whoever and whatever God or God-ness is, I think that may be where It can be seen, from inside life, looking at the immense complexity and dare I say beauty of its moments, whether I like those moments or not.

 

Maybe that’s another one of those things one can only say for oneself and not for anyone else’s experience. Maybe I can’t even say it for myself, at least not with certainty, at least not all the time. It remains to be seen.

Hold The Date ...

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…for “Purim! - The Musical.” A generation ago four young men from Liverpool came together and made music history. During their little-known Jewish phase, they rewrote the lyrics to many of their hits for the benefit of Purim shpielers the world over. Join us on Wednesday, March 16th on ZOOM for this musical retelling of Queen Esther's bravery. The time for the extravaganza has yet to be determined, but will be announced in the next Megillah.

Shul Reopening Phase 2

As Covid-19 persists, the MCJC board continues to discuss how and when to reopen the shul. We still look forward to the time we can all meet together in person for prayer, learning and celebration. Our foremost concern is for the health, safety and feelings of all members of our community. When the current Omicron variant surge abates and it is advisable to gather inside, we will allow synagogue groups to meet in the shul. With a trained group member to act as computer host, hybrid gatherings will be possible. We now have the technology for fully interactive Zoom sessions with remote participants.

At a minimum, we will follow county guidelines. We will continue to update our policy as conditions change.

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For events inside the shul:

 

  • All in-person participants must be vaccinated and boosted. Please be prepared to show documentation of your vaccines and booster.

  • All in-person participants must wear high-quality N95, KN95 or KF94 masks.

  • It is up to the leaders and members of each group to decide whether they want to meet in person. Computer equipment is available for hybrid meetings with a trained group member on site. Please contact Marnie Press at marniepress@gmail.com for information and scheduling. We will have a refresher training in early March, 2022.

  • Gatherings will be limited to approximately 25 participants.

  • Please respect each person’s personal space and ask before hugging or touching others.

  • Attendees should bring their own drinking cups. Food will not be served. Paper cups and plates will be made available if needed.

  • Please take any trash with you when you leave.

  • It’s OK to use the heat. Turn the heat up with the arrows on the thermostat and down when you leave.

  • Hand sanitizer is available in each room. Disinfectant and disinfecting wipes are available in the kitchen and bathrooms.

  • Please inform the board (marniepress@gmail.com) when groups will be using the shul.

 

 Contact Marnie Press for scheduling and questions at marniepress@gmail.com or (707) 513-5539.

 

For events held outside:

 

  • Everyone is welcome. In accordance with county guidelines, gatherings are limited to 100.

  • Anyone who is not fully vaccinated and boosted, please wear a high-quality mask.

  • Masks are recommended for everyone.

  • Please be considerate of each participant’s personal space.

Elder's Conversation

The Elders meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, 3:00-4:30 PM on Zoom. We will meet on February 8th and 22th. The questions they will be considering in February have not been formulated yet, but the conversation is always provocative and enjoyable. Link up and share your experiences, thoughts, feelings, and any good jokes you might have heard. People of all ages are most welcome. Use the MCJC Zoom address right above. If you need more information, contact Linda Jupiter (jupiter@mcn.org) or Joy Lancaster (ajoylancaster@gmail.com) and they will be happy to fill you in.

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Zoom Address

We are using the Zoom address below for all MCJC events. You may or may not be asked to type in a password, which is shalom. Disregard the numeric passcode at the bottom of the invitation unless you’re dialing in on a phone number.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7071836183?pwd=NzFaTkpjOXVYMDNnNnprOXlnZjVhQT09

 

Meeting ID: 707 183 6183

Passcode: shalom

One tap mobile

+16699006833,,7071836183#,,,,*776001# US (San Jose)

+13462487799,,7071836183#,,,,*776001# US (Houston)

 

Dial by your location

        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)

        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)

Meeting ID: 707 183 6183

Passcode: 776001

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kd4ljIwm4

 

The Zoom link information can always be found on the MCJC online calendar:

https://www.mcjc.org/calendar

If you have questions or problems, contact Susan Tubbesing at susan.tubbesing@gmail.com and she may be able to help you.

Have A Cup

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Join your friends for a virtual cup of coffee or tea every Wednesday at 10:30 AM. Check in with community members and chat about anything and everything from the weather to the human condition, or from cats to your progeny, to politics, to Talmud to cats. and grands. Leslie Krongold is the host and welcomes your questions and comments any time at elkrong@yahoo.com. Use the Zoom address:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7071836183?pwd=NzFaTkpjOXVYMDNnNnprOXlnZjVhQT09

Cat appearances  are encouraged, but not required.

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Shabbat Morning Services

A Shabbat Shacharit service in held on Shabbat morning with much singing, chanting and silence, Torah teaching and reading, blessings for healing and peace, and an opportunity for mourners to say the Mourner's Kaddish. All are welcome to join in on Zoom for any or all of the service from 10:30 AM until about 12:30 PM. In Rabbi Holub's absence for Sabbatical members of the community will lead the service. A member of the community will offer a Dvar Torah. Please check the calendar for the  latest information https://www.mcjc.org/calendar.

MCJC Justice Group

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The Justices meet on the second Thursday of each month. The next meeting is on Thursday, February 10th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. If you would like to be on the Justice Group mailing list or attend meetings, please contact Judy Stavely at judyst@mcn.org or Nancy Harris at nancyh@mcn.org. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Protecting the Right to Vote:

In 2022, Reclaim Our Vote (ROV) and its parent organization, The Center for Common Ground, anticipate a busy year of postcard writing as they look toward the midterm elections. Some members of the JG are writing and mailing postcards to voters purged from state rolls, explaining how, when and where they can re-register.

 

The following are ROV’s target states and the dates of their primary elections: Texas primary March 1; North Carolina primary May 17; Alabama and Georgia primaries May 24; South Carolina primary June 14; Virginia primary June 21; Arizona primary August 2; Florida primary August 23; Louisiana primary November 8 (tentative). We will be targeting the North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia primaries. Want to participate? Contact Nancy Harris at her email address above.

 

Update on School for Young Afghan Women

Kate Ruprecht, a former student of Fran Schwartz who is now a Fulbright Scholar, approached the JG asking us to help support an underground school for girls and young women she is associated with in Afghanistan. We voted to support the school with three month’s rent. If you would like more information about the school, its students, teachers and supporters, and/or might be interested in making a contribution, you are encouraged to contact Judy Stavely or Nancy Harris at the emails above.

 

Dr. Mustafa and Shabnam Sherzai run the school. We recently received the following from Dr. Sherzai:

 

I am writing this email on behalf of the Farkhunda Educational Centre, students, myself and Shabnam. We all want to thank each one of you from the depth of our hearts for supporting and contributing to our school.

 

After the fall of democratic government of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 the Taliban fighters took control of Kabul and the entire country. I was teaching in an educational center in the east part of the Kabul City where we had around a 1000 students both male and female. But after Taliban took over, the girls over grade 6 were banned from coming to our school. It was very painful and sad moment for myself and other school teachers. Only male students were allowed to come and we lost almost entire our female students.

 

We decided to do something for these talented girls who were deprived of their basic right. We opened a school secretly and invited some of our female students to continue their studies.

 

We were able to rent a basement and informed the girls that they can come. When our students heard they were happy. We are doing this job voluntarily and we are using very basic tools to run this school, open Monday through Thursday. Girls from grade 8–10 are learning English, Math, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. If we secure further funding we are planning to teach computer to our students too.

 

Thanks to all of you for supporting our noble cause. Girls just like boys, have the right to education and we will continue our efforts to educate the girls of this country despite the risks, challenges and restrictions imposed by the Taliban.”

Book Group

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We will meet at 2:00 PM on Monday, February 21st on Zoom to discuss Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house in Atlantic City to vacationers. They move back into the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence. It’s 1934 and Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel. Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bed rest, leaving her daughter, Gussie, in Esther’s care. Then Joseph insists they take in a young woman he has helped emigrate from Nazi Germany. Esther wants to keep everyone close and safe, but some things are beyond her control. When tragedy strikes during one of Florence’s training swims, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth from Fannie until her baby is born. She pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret keeping and lies, bringing long buried tensions to the surface.

Please contact Fran at franbschwartz@gmail.com for Zoom invitations and/or directions to the meetings. Copies of the book are at the Gallery Bookshop; tell them you are a member of the MCJC book club and you get a 10% discount.

MCJC Board Meeting

MCJC is pleased to announce that Alix Sabin has joined the board of directors; she will serve on the Finance Committee. The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:00 PM, these days on ZOOM. The February meeting will take place on Tuesday, the 15th. If you wish to attend part of the meetings, please contact board member Susan Tubbesing at (707) 962-0565, or susan.tubbesing@gmail.com, and she will send you an invite.

Newsletter Thank You

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We are very grateful to Susan Tubbesing for helping us prepare the January Megillah for mailing. In spite of everything she does for MCJC, she found time to help with the newsletter. What a mitzvah! What a role model! If you volunteer for a future folding, stamping, and mailing project, you can do it in about two very productive 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.

Contributing Memberships

Everyone who lives on the Mendocino Coast, and desires to be one, is a member of MCJC. The MCJC Board of Directors has a goal of having every household become CONTRIBUTING members in 2022. 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 make a donation 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

Great Thanks To The Following Donors

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Kath Disney Nilson; Bob Evans; Lew Mermelstein; Dorothy Salant; Kevin Accurso;

John Allison & Rebecca Picard; Linda Jupiter; Barbara & Michael Newmark; Sam Waldman;

Claire Ellis & Chuck Greenberg; Myra Beals; Kate Dougherty; Michael & Anita Korenstein; dobby sommer; Susan Archuletta; Deana & Dr Mark Apfel; Marinela Miclea; Les Reichek;

Sallie McConnell & Tom Costello; Harold Hauck & Gloria Liner; Joan & Paul Katzeff;

Katherine Sarin & Stephen Schoolman; Sharon Shapiro; Nancy Drooker & Ali Sabin; Fran Schwartz; Susan Hofberg; Janet Sternberg & Steven Lavine; Susan & Gary Levenson-Palmer; Roslyn & Bruce Moore; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Danny Mandelbaum & Benna Kolinsky; Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards;

Jonathan & Annette Lehan in memory of Burt Lehan.

To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah fund: Ruth Rosenblum & SA Ephraim; Susan Tubbesing & Sarah Nathe;

Kevin Accurso; anonymous.

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 Shoes:  Shoes & accessories for men & women. Two locations: Mendocino and Healdsburg. , 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

 

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, except when they are not.)