I was a little coy in my last Rabbi’s Notes alluding to family illnesses, and now it’s time to tell my dear community—if you haven’t already heard—that Mickey has pancreatic cancer. My sister Barbara also has breast cancer. That’s the family medical story.
Mickey wasn’t feeling so well for a stretch of time, and finally he decided he needed medical attention. His father and brother both died young of pancreatic cancer, so it’s always been a lurking possibility. Still, we who know Mickey know him to be a paragon of health and vitality. So this abdominal discomfort was a cause for concern.
It’s taken a long time to get that discomfort fully diagnosed. He’s had a CT scan, an MRI, another kind of MRI, an endoscopy and biopsy. We knew in our hearts early on what the outcome would be. But for a long time doctors still spoke of it as the “‘cyst” or “growth” on his pancreas. The biopsy verified what we already knew. Now we enter the long process of figuring out what kinds of options, if any, are available for treatment. Then there will be choices to make.
Barb is a little further along in the treatment process, but still has hoops to jump through. She’s brave and straightforward. I hope very much that she will have many healthy years ahead.
I will save the medical details—they are Mickey’s (and Barbara’s) to share. I have made sure that Mickey is comfortable with me sharing even this much. What I want to say is about what this time has been like for me, particularly as Mickey and I undertake this journey together.
Because the process of diagnosis has been so slow, we have had plenty of time to wait between tests, results, consultations and so on. Lots of time to just be with each other and the growing clarity that he has the same illness that took his father’s life in ten days and his brother’s in 16 months. Lots of time to talk. Lots of time to talk about death. Lots of time to reminisce. Lots of time to contemplate all the unknowns and the one known ahead for both of us.
It’s been a very tender time. Lots of tears. Lots of quiet. Sometimes we tear our hair out because we are expecting a call at a certain time and it doesn’t come, or someone forgot to send something somewhere. But not so much. There’s a fair amount of pain management to deal with, and pain management has its own complications, but there are hours between doses. Sometimes we sit outside in the yard. Sometimes we go to a friend’s house for a while. Sometimes someone comes over here. Sometimes we drive down to the coast to watch the sunset.
Friends have been checking in, and that’s been lovely. The ones who know us really well know just what we might need in the moment, and they are showing up in beautiful ways. Earlier today I was cleaning the fridge and couldn’t get the shelves back together, which led me to a crying, swearing fit. Immediately afterwards I sent a text to a friend, who knew just what I needed: a phone call stat and a quick laugh about the whole thing. Many others are sending loving notes, offering to help when we ask. We’ve had luscious and loving gifts of food and too much chocolate. We don’t need a whole lot on the material plane, not yet. I expect we may in days to come, and it is a great comfort to know that we will have—already do have—the loving care of such a generous and supportive community.
When I began my sabbatical last October, I wanted to slow down, to reflect, to feel my own pulse after some years of helter-skelter. I wanted to reconnect with what is deepest and most real. I was looking forward to having time to be in the Mystery.
However, as I wrote last month, my invitation into the Mystery was, as it should be, completely different from what I expected. It’s tempting to write that nothing prepared me for this moment of Mickey’s illness, but that’s not exactly true. I recently got together with two beloved friends to sit together in silence and prayer. We were on a deck overlooking the ocean. I closed my eyes and the sounds of the waves and the cars on Highway 1 mingled into a roar. Then, one after another, the teachers of my life came to me. The people I love who have died, those who have taught me Torah, Moses in his last hours of life, texts and teachings that have sustained me over the years. Each sat with me for a few minutes, whispered something into my ear.
Ein od mi’l’vado ADONAI hu ha-ELOHIM—There is nothing else but the Mystery. This Hasidic spin on a verse from Deuteronomy (4:39) keeps wafting into my head, in a melody I learned not to long ago from my friends Julie Batz and Maggid Jhos Singer. I’m humming it a lot these days, with the English second line my friends taught me: “Love is all there is.”
I am looking forward to returning to my rabbinic role with all of you in April. I’ve missed seeing all of you and I have also missed the rhythm of Shabbat gatherings, holidays, cups of coffee, elders in conversation, the touchstones of our Jewish and communal life. I don’t know what the trajectory of Mickey’s illness will be or what will be called for. I know that you will support me, and both of us, to be in this time as best we can, with you, with each other, with love, and with open hearts.
In terms of particulars I don’t know, and can’t know, how completely present I will be able to be to MCJC at any given time. I am grateful beyond words for the myriad ways that people have come forward during my sabbatical to center every aspect of Jewish life here with such brilliance and care. Even if Mickey weren’t ill, I would be looking forward to collaborating more, soloing less, sharing the joy and responsibility of leadership more than I have in the past. (Why didn’t I figure this out 30-plus years ago???) Now I know that I will need this collaboration and that you will all continue to benefit from it. Our beloved Board of Director is committed to helping me explore how to re-enter under these new circumstances. I’ve already talked with some of you who have been leading services, conversations and more. Everyone has responded with such generosity and care. We’ll figure it out, I know. As specifics get ironed out, the Board and I will keep you up-to-date. If Mickey and I need help with food or rides or those kinds of things, I know that someone will reach out on our behalf.
I will make one specific request: I would rather not hear anecdotes about people that you know of who have beaten pancreatic cancer or who lived for decades after diagnosis. Obviously, we would love for that to be the case for Mickey. If it is, we will be grateful beyond imagining. But it’s not likely, and we both need to find peace with more probable outcomes.
For Mickey and me I anticipate that March will bring lots of doctors, lots of information, lots of decision-making. And more time to sit in the yard (maybe even in the rain), to love each other, to talk and to try to rest and renew when we can. All in the context of the second month of Adar, when merriment is the order of the season. Purim, with its laughter in the face of annihilation. An equinox. Longer days, later sunsets. Rain, I hope. A kind of hidden joy amidst it All. Love is all there is. I love you all.
A Hard Day's Night In Shushan
…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.
Some of MCJC’s brightest musical stars are rehearsing now their celebration of the many ways in which we get by with a little help from our friends. You will have to bake your own hamantaschen this year, but a recipe is coming in your email next week.
Online Jewish Resources
Margaret here again. One of the bonuses of COVID, if we can speak of such, is that so much that used to happen only face-to-face has become available online. Wherever you happen to perch—like, say, on the Mendocino coast—you can tune in to interesting and educational seminars and conversations. Below are three personal favorites of mine. I think that in the Jewish future there will be ever more opportunities to learn from wise and inspired teachers and communities all over the world:
Svara: A Radically Traditional Yeshiva (svara.org). Svara is a method and a practice for learning text — Talmud in particular — even if all you know is your alef-bet (and they’ll even teach you that if you need it). It is also emphatically queer, meaning not only gender queer but rediscovering learners and teachers who have historically been marginalized in Jewish life and beyond. It made me understand how queer I am. Check out the daily Mishnah Collective—a 30-minute drop-in study of Pirkei Avot (a very approachable collection of ancient aphorisms) from 10:30-11:00 AM every day except Shabbat. I tried it once: very cool, and no one hounded me to come back. Or take a big breath and go to Queer Talmud Camp; read about that on their web page.
Jewish Studio Project (jewishstudioproject.org). The JSP does lovely half- and full-day online retreats that include a bit of text study around a theme, some conversation in pairs, and then some gentle and personal art-making related to the theme (the next retreat, from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM PDT on March 27, is on the theme of “liberating creativity” around the themes of Passover). The retreats are free and thoughtfully run. I always leave them feeling open-hearted and renewed. JSP also does regular writing-based retreats using a similar format, where people write creative commentaries to a text.
Hazon (hazon.org). Hazon means “vision,” as in visionary. The group has been working hard to connect Jewish and environmental values and practices in many ways. If it weren’t for Hazon, few of us would know about the shmita (the seventh year, when we leave our fields fallow, and so much more). I took a couple of classes from Hazon that knocked my socks off. Hazon is smart and serious both Jewishly and environmentally. They span the Jewish spectrum from orthodox to whatever is at the opposite end, and I never heard anyone’s input elevated or diminished on that count. Get on their mailing list. Try something they offer. And if the first one doesn’t do it for you, try another. On March 14th they are starting a three-week program, “Adamah at Home,” to build food skills, ecological connection and Jewish community.
The Elders meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, 3:00-4:30 PM on Zoom. We will meet on March 8th and 22th. 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 below. If you need more information, please contact Linda Jupiter (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Joy Lancaster (email@example.com) and they will be happy to fill you in and bring you up to date.
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
Meeting ID: 707 183 6183
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
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kd4ljIwm4
The Zoom link information can always be found on the MCJC online calendar:
If you have questions or problems, contact Susan Tubbesing at firstname.lastname@example.org and she may be able to help you.
Have A Cup
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 email@example.com. Use the Zoom address:
Cat appearances are encouraged, but not required.
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.
Members of the community are invited to give a Torah teaching (drash) during a Shabbat service. If you have an interest in performing this mitzvah, or would like more information about what’s involved, please contact Raven Deerwater at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-1099.
MCJC Justice Group
The Justices meet on the second Thursday of each month, in March on Thursday, March 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 email@example.com or Nancy Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone is welcome to attend.
During the last Justice Group meeting, those present voted to help support the reinvigoration and rebuilding of the Redwood Coast Senior Center vegetable garden. This once-flourishing garden has gone into considerable disrepair as a consequence of the pandemic. The RCSC has committed to rebuild the sustainable garden that will provide organic vegetables for the Senior Center’s kitchen. The Justice Group donated $500 toward this effort because the RCSC has established a fund specifically for this goal and is committed to making this garden a reality within the coming season.
The RCSC is receiving donations for the greenhouse, the re-establishment of the watering system and the rebuilding of the garden. In the past, the garden was vibrant and productive for many, many years, and its organic produce went into creating the lunches in the kitchen. There was an active volunteer base tending and harvesting. Fresh produce also came from the Farmer’s Market and other local farms. In spite of great staffing challenges throughout the pandemic, the RCSC has been able to continue to provide lunches and deliver meals to homebound elders.
The RCSC welcomes assistance in re-creating the garden. The City of Fort Bragg has already approved the design for the fence and fencing materials are available. RCSC will need to pay for qualified workers to erect the fence and build the raised beds. Additional necessities for the garden are wheat cloth, mulch, seeds, soil and soil preparation, new pathways, a work table, and a variety of tools and hoses.
RCSC is receiving advice and assistance from Matt Drewno and his partner Jamie, who are experts in creating sustainable community gardens. With the help of volunteers, they will be implementing bio-intensive methods and preparing the soil in order to minimize water use. Justice Group members are excited to support this effort and want to share these developments with the entire MCJC community.
We are reaching out to all who read the Megillah to ask you to support the work of the RCSC. Aside from financial support, volunteers are needed to work in the gardens, serve meals, make home meal deliveries, and participate in the overall operation of the Senior Center. A lovely way to connect with the RCSC and its activities is to take yourself and friends to lunch, any day from Monday through Friday, 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. You can enjoy lunches for a small suggested donation.
If you want to support the Garden Project specifically, please send a check to Redwood Coast Seniors, 490 North Harold Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437. Please put Justice/Garden in the memo. For more information on the RCSC, go to www.RCSCenter.org .
he book group will meet on Zoom Monday, March 21st at 2:00 PM to discuss An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn. When 81-year-old Jay Mendelsohn enrolls in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar taught by his son, Daniel, the two embark on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. When the class ends, and father and son go on a cruise that re-creates the legendary voyages of Odysseus, and long-buried secrets begin to surface that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last. As this intricately woven memoir builds to a wrenching climax, Daniel Mendelsohn’s narrative comes to echo Homer’s Odyssey itself. Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a deeply moving tale of a transformative journey in reading—and reliving—the epic masterpiece.
Please contact Fran at email@example.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
The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:00 PM, still on ZOOM. The March meeting will take place on Thursday, the 24th. If you wish to attend part of the meetings, please contact board member Susan Tubbesing at (707) 962-0565, or firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will send you an invite.
Newsletter Thank You
We are very grateful to Julie and Bob Melendi for preparing the February Megillah for mailing. They claim it was a fun and productive way to spend a few hours, and it was a mitzvah to boot! If you volunteer for a future folding, stamping, and mailing project, you can do it in about two very fun and productive hours. Please contact Sarah at 962-0565 or email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you choose not to be a contributing member of MCJC, we request a $25 annual fee for the Megillah hardcopy or email.
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 email@example.com
Great Thanks To The Following Donors
Roslyn & Bruce Moore; Linda Jupiter; dobby sommer; Kath Disney Nilson; Bob Evans; Lew Mermelstein; Adrienne Ross; Myra Beals; Micelle Lucato; Joyce Gertler; Harriet Bye & Larry Sawyer; Susan Tubbesing & Sarah Nathe; Joan Selchau; Sally & Lee Welty; Liz Sabin; Cecile Cutler; Ronnie James; Nancy Harris; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards. Donna Feiner; Bob Schlosser & Dawn Hofberg; Suzi Lampert; Rosalie & Art Holub; Robin Briskin; Nona Smith & Art Weininger; Rhoda Teplow; Mark Slafkes & Helen Gregory; Margaret Fox-Kump; Judy Stavely; John Allison & Rebecca Picard; Josh & Carolyn Latkin; Theresa Glasner Morales; Danny Mandelbaum & Benna Kolinsky; Rachel Binah; Karen & Leonardo Bowers; Sandra & Kenny Wortzel; Eric Labowitz & Kathy Bailey; Nancy Drooker & Ali Sabin; Linda Jupiter; Irene Malone
n honor of Rabbi Margaret & Mickey by Liz Helenchild.
In memory of Helen Glickfeld, mother of Sandy Glickfeld, by Jan & Marc Wasserman;
In memory of Leah Lahn, mother of Rachel Lahn, on her yahrtzeit by Rachel Lahn.
To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah Fund by Kevin Accurso.
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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MCJC Board and Contacts
(* identifies the MCJC Board members. All phone numbers are in the 707 Area Code, except when they are not.)
[Purim liturgical poems: illuminated manuscript]
Published / Created
Illuminated plaque on paper with calligraphy and decorative elements. Includes four liturgical poems for Purim customary among Kurdish Jews, verses from the Book of Esther, and the blessings recited before and after the reading of the Megillah.
Imperfect: mutilated with loss of text and illustration.
approximately 43.2 x 29.7 cm.
Extent of Digitization
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library