My dearest community,
Mickey died three weeks and two days ago as I write. I am grateful beyond words—though I’ll try to come up with some here—for the profound support of our community and our tradition from the time Mickey first began to feel unwell until now, and beyond, I am sure.
Mickey’s illness had, if you like, three chapters. In the first he had abdominal pain, and a scan showed a mass. Because of his family history of pancreatic cancer, we knew the likely nature of the mass. But it hadn’t yet been named and, more importantly, though Mickey was uncomfortable, he wasn’t yet terribly ill. Things moved slowly: it was over a month before he had a biopsy and a definitive diagnosis. We both looked back at that month as a blessed time, when we knew that our time together was limited, and our hearts were full with love and sadness and wonder at what was to come. We had time, so much time, to talk with each other, about love, about death, about our family and friends, about our life together, about what was important to Mickey and to me. His three children and two of his grandchildren came for a three-day visit that filled our hearts with happiness. His son Noah came back on his own a few weeks later. There wasn’t a day when Mickey—walking around our house, sitting in the yard—didn’t say, “This is Paradise!” And nearly that often he said, “I have had a wonderful life!” He said he was ready to die if death was what was coming.
The biopsy plunged us into Chapter Two: The World of Big Medicine: formal diagnosis and treatment plan coming at us like a freight train. There was a period of time when it felt like we were on a conveyor belt feeding Mickey inexorably into many months of painful, debilitating treatment that had a very low likelihood of success. At other times it felt irresponsible to decline even a minute chance of extended life. I felt despair during that time, and I think Mickey did too.
Meanwhile, he got immensely sicker, and the pain and nausea became dreadful. Narcotic pain relief has its own challenges, but up the ladder of stronger and stronger medications he went, nothing quite alleviating his symptoms. Mickey listened and deliberated, but fundamentally he was clear: he was not interested in life-prolonging treatment. In fact, he wanted to pursue Aid in Dying, and we began the process which would enable him to procure medication to end his life.
Mickey’s beautiful daughter, Shirra, had said that she would show up the minute I needed her. That day came, and I reached her at the end of a vacation in Mexico. She arrived the next day in her beach clothes on a one-way ticket. Shirra’s arrival brought about Chapter Three, where we—with loving help from Dr. Mark Apfel—were able to care for Mick at home, give him the pain relief he needed, hydrate him (once in our yard with an IV saline bag hanging from a gardening fork attached to a ladder), and just be with him every minute. One night about a week later Shirra noticed that Mickey seemed hot to the touch. Mark came over the next morning and told us the infection causing the fever could be treated with antibiotics, but untreated it would carry Mickey to a fairly quick and gentle death. Mickey opted not to treat the infection. After Mark left, we went out in the yard. A friend visited with us all for an hour or so, and then Mickey said he was tired. He went inside and lay down on the couch and quickly slipped into a deep sleep from which he never entirely awoke.
The next day I wrote to all of you asking for you to come and offer prayers while Mickey moved toward death. I didn’t even really know what I was asking for. I went outside only briefly, late in the day, but I’ve heard some accounts of what was going on in our yard: of the many, many of you who came, who prayed, meditated, read and chanted, and I don’t know what else. Occasionally, we could hear some soft singing. At one point we heard the music of a harp. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, that circle of love and spiritual strength that we could feel every minute from inside the house. It felt like a wall of love, like a fortress, so holding and containing and protecting. I will be grateful for the rest of my life for the circle you all created to hold us. It was exactly what we needed, and you knew exactly what to do.
That evening we noticed that Mick looked uncomfortably scrunched into the couch so we moved him to some quilts on the floor. Shirra curled up next to him. I was, as usual, in my red chair, a hand-squeeze away. Shirra and I dozed. At 11:00 PM she woke up and noticed that Mick wasn’t breathing. We both sat up. He took one more breath and that was his last.
In the morning we washed him, dressed him in white shrouds, and placed him in the beautiful box his friends had built for him. We put him in the window seat in our bedroom. Shomrim came through the day and the night, creeping in quietly with kind nods to Shirra and me, and sat with him. One shomer told me later that he had read Mickey jokes from The Big Book of Jewish Humor. The gentle presence of the shomrim felt angelic.
The next day we buried him. So, so many of you were there, and you came back to our house, day after day, and led beautiful Shiva services every evening and filled our house with food and friendship and love. I was largely numb during the funeral and Shiva, existing somewhere outside my body as the week went on. Our beautiful family was here, and left a few at a time over the ensuing days.
Even in the midst of all my enormous sadness I was aware that losing a beloved partner is a very common experience. It has been very helpful, and very tender, for me to talk with some of you who have also lived through the death of long-time spouses.
One morning during the Shiva a rabbi friend from back East called and asked me, ”What do you need right now?” Out of my mouth flew the words, “I need God.” “Okay then,” he replied, “Shall we pray? Shall we sing?” We sang a few beautiful songs together over the phone, and I felt my heart settle a bit.
In the time since, I’ve mostly needed quiet and rest. It’s not easy these days for me to chat. People have been so very kind, checking in but not imposing. I have received dozens, maybe hundreds, of loving notes, which I read and then put in a box to take out and look at again. Not unlike the day you all prayed outside in the yard, I feel your loving presence holding me.
Every evening I have joined the Nechama Minyon, a minyan started by a rabbi a year and some ago after her mother died, when she wanted to say Kaddish every day. It is very simple. A different person leads it every evening in whatever style they prefer. There is always time for healing prayers and for the Mourners’ Kaddish. In a few weeks I have started to feel close to this collection of people I mostly don’t know. Anyone is welcome. It meets at 6:00 PM every night except Friday. Here’s the Zoom info if you’re interested:
Meeting ID: 825 8896 5994
One day shortly after Shiva had ended I was out in town and I impulsively bought a quilt with a map of the constellations and an image of the Milky Way. Every night now I sleep under my beloved night sky. I’ve found myself thinking that, when the moon is full or the sun is out, you can’t see the stars. But they are always there. Maybe a bit like that, when I lived daily life with my beloved in our house that was often full of light and laughter, I didn’t need to see the stars so much. But now that the light has gone out, I can see and feel presences that I wasn’t so aware of before. I feel the strength of our Jewish community, of the mourning cycle, of neighbors and friends far and near, of prayer and song, of those who have walked this path before me. I feel the Mystery above and throughout it all. I feel the bulwark of all that love and all that wisdom. While I am immensely sad and will be, I’m sure, for a long time to come, I know that I am not alone. For that I am so deeply grateful.
Sunday The Rabbi Came Back
I will return to MCJC on May 1st, which will be just a few days after Mickey’s shloshim (the 30-day period of intensive mourning). I look forward to rejoining services, meetings and projects with all of you. I don’t know how much stamina I will have, and I know you will be gentle with me. At the same time, I am eager to get back into community life.
I want to express my enormous gratitude to all who led Friday night and Shabbat morning services, more people than I can name here. Also to Leslie Krongold, who has presided over the weekly Cuppa every Wednesday, keeping up enthusiastic chats all these months, I hear. To Linda Jupiter and Joy Lancaster, who have kept the Elders’ Conversation going strong all this time, offering up provocative questions about important issues. And to Nancy Harris and Judy Stavely, who have chaired the Justice Group and led them to do important work.
To Andrea Luna for housing our Torah scroll until she could return to the shul. To Marnie Press, who has taken the lead in the big project of getting us ready for hybrid shul/Zoom life, and all the tech learners who will keep us rolling. To Alix Sabin, Harriet Bye, Susan Tubbesing, Raven Deerwater, and others I may not know about, who made sure that there were leaders for all of these services and groups. A special thank you to Susan T. for keeping everyone informed about MCJC goings-on with her warm and efficient e-mail messages. I am a very blessed rabbi to know that my community can be so strong and growth-ful in my absence.
Nancy and Judy are aboard with the Justices for the time being and I look forward to checking in with the other groups that have been moving forward so beautifully under communal leadership to figure out how we might share leadership and learn together.
W e will celebrate Lag B’Omer on Wednesday, May 18th at 7:30 PM at Fortunate Farm. The 33rd day of the Omer—the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot—is a break from the semi-mourning of the Omer that calls for happy events like outings, bonfires and song parties. You can also get married or have a haircut, if you need one, but it’s not required.
This year, everyone is invited to converge on the bonfire space at Fortunate Farm (just east of Caspar off Highway 1) with their musical instruments, snacks and s’more makings, and enjoy an evening of communal fun out under the stars. If you need more information or directions, contact Aviv Kleinman at email@example.com
The Elders meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month, 3:00-4:30 PM on Zoom. We will meet on May 10th and 24th. 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. The mcjcshul shared Zoom room link is 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.
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 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.
The Bottomless Cup
Join your friends for a virtual cup of coffee (or an inferior beverage) 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 Talmud to cats. and grands. Religion, sex, politics, gender, food and even sports are not beyond the pale, but cat convo is encouraged. Leslie Krongold is the host and welcomes your questions and comments any time at email@example.com. Use the Zoom address:
Cat appearances are welcomed, but not mandatory.
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. In late March, we began hybrid services most Saturdays, so come to the shul or Zoom in from 10:30 AM until about 12:30 PM. Rabbi Holub usually leads the service, in her avcence members of the community lead the service. Rabb\i Holub or 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 May on Thursday, the 12th 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.
Update on Citizenship Scholarship Project
When schools were closed for in-person classes at the beginning of April, 2020, Anne Thomas, instructor for the Citizenship classes through the Fort Bragg Unified School District, had to make the switch to online classes. It was a big learning curve for Anne and her students, many of whom were just beginning to learn English. Anne had to cope with new technology and the vicissitudes of remote teaching. The congeniality and camaraderie of the classroom suffered and class attendance fell off sharply.
In the previous three years, 34 scholarships had been awarded to Anne’s students by the Justice Group, with money raised through well-attended fundraisers and donations. Roughly 11 a year were awarded, but in the past two years, only eight scholarships were awarded, five in 2020 and three in 2021.
Anne has recently begun an eight-week session, with ten students studying to become citizens. One has already successfully filed an application to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service and Anne is hopeful that most of the others will be able to apply soon. At this time, the Justice Group has enough funds for 18 more scholarships.
Public Safety Advisory Board
The Justice Group’s interest in, and concerns about the functioning of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department provided the impetus one member needed to get involved in the county’s pursuit of justice when the newly created Public Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) needed members. Consisting of seven members (five appointed by the Board of Supervisors, one a member of the BOS, and the sheriff or his representative), the PSAB is intended to facilitate communication between the public and law enforcement, and to increase operational transparency. It will make reports and recommendations to the Board of Supervisors and to the sheriff related to law enforcement and public safety.
Last month, Supervisor Dan Gjerde nominated Justice Group member Donna Medley as his representative to the PSAB. Her professional background made her a good fit for the position: criminal investigator for both prosecution and defense; investigator/administrator in an agency for the civilian oversight of law enforcement; mental health professional; and social activist and nonprofit administrator. Donna’s goal is to seek information on current practices and policies of the Sheriff’s Department, research best practices in the field, solicit questions and concerns from the public, and provide feedback to the community, the BOS, and the sheriff.
The constant MCJC readers will not meet in May, but will reconvene in June. For information on the book group, contact Fran at email@example.com. She can get you the Zoom invitation and/or directions to the meetings. Copies of the books are usually at the Gallery Bookshop; tell them you are a member of the MCJC book club and get a 10% discount.
The Ethical Clotheshorse
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a good book, may we recommend Worn: A People’s History of Clothing by Sofi Thanhauser. This look into the worldwide rag trade convinces us that getting dressed is a political act. Worn is both a historical examination of clothing, of how fashion has shaped human history, and a call to wake up to the human rights abuses of the textile industry. Thanhauser exposes us to the state of the current clothing industry: a wasteland of overproduction, toxic waste, choked rivers, child labor, and collapsing factories. Following five threads–linen, cotton, silk, rayon and wool–Thanhauser weaves her way through each material’s history, arguing that “there is scarcely a part of the human experience, historic or current, that the story of clothes does not touch.”
In the early modern period, Americans literally grew and made their own clothes: wool from their sheep and flax from their fields were spun and woven at home (a few women in Mendocino County still do that!). In the 19th century, production moved into factories, at first in Britain and then in the New England mill towns. In Manchester—England and New Hampshire—cotton from the American slave states was turned into fabrics for transatlantic markets. That was only a ladder stitch or two from today’s globalized system, where cotton is harvested by forced labor in China’s Xinjiang province, processed heaven-knows-where (the supply chains are deliberately obscured) before being sold in the malls and online hubs of the U.S. and Europe. Not since we left Eden have we been able to go naked, but what are we going to wear?
MCJC Board Meeting
The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:00 PM, still on ZOOM. The May meeting will take place on Tuesday, the 10th. 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 respond.
Newsletter Thank You
We are very grateful to Rhoda Teplow for preparing the April Megillah for mailing. We appreciate her cheerful readiness! If you volunteer for a future folding, stamping, and mailing project, you can do it in about two very fun and productive hours. Such a mitzvah! Please contact Sarah Nathe 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
Todah Rabah (Great Thanks) To The Following Donors
Phoebe Graubard; Ronite Gluck; Myra Beals; Ruth Rosenblum & SA Ephriam;Bob Evans; Alena Deerwater & Jon Goodstein; Ronnie James; Reba Simon; Lew Mermelstein; Liz Sabin; Alison Trick-Thornton & family; Zomala Abell; Tracey Salkowitz & Rick Edwards; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Sandy Glickfeld; Carol Maxon; Carolyn Glubok; George & Donna Montag; Kath Disney Nilson.
To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah Fund by Ronite Gluck.
In memory of Mickey Chalfin: by Fran Danoff, Lee & Sally Welty, Marc & Jan Wasserman, dobby sommer; Rabbi Irwin Keller, Claire Ellis & Chuck Greenberg, Julie and Robert Melendi, Larry Sawyer & Harriet Bye.
In honor of Rabbi Margaret Holub & Mickey Chalfin by Annette & Jonathan Lehan, Janet Ginsberg Cohen.
In honor of Mickey Chalfin of blessed memory by Danny Mandelbaum & Benna Kolinsky, Diane Millen.
In loving memory of Mickey by Jim Young & Rachel Lahn.
In memory of dear Mickey by Rabbi Eric Weiss & Dan Alpert.
So sad for the profound loss of Mickey Chalfin by Diana Douglas.
To honor the memory of our dear friend Mickey Chalfin, who we already deeply, deeply miss by Joy Lancaster & Marty Freedman.
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.)