The Day of the Herring, no Kipper

What did you say? I’m hard of Herring?

Seriously, I just got back from Yom Kippur services, and I thought I would share my recollections of the sermons. The services themselves were the typical Temple Beth Hillel services, nothing different (unlike the first night of Rosh Hashanah).

  • Last night we had Rabbi Jim talking. He built upon his sermon of Rosh Hashanah where he talked about the first 60 years of the congregation. Last night, he spoke about the history of Reform Judaism. He noted how is started in the early days of Germany with folks that translated the prayers into the vernacular, and discarded what they felt were outmoded traditions (such as replacing Bar Mitzvah at 13 with a communal ceremony, called Confirmation, at 16). He noted how Reform got very popular in the US, where in its early days it was effectively Orthodox Reform: that is, unaccepting of those that wanted to retain tradition. I remember that well: my great-Aunt grew up in Shaare Emeth in St. Louis, and would scream at you if you wore a “beanie”. He talked about how Reform has drastically changed in the last 60 years: accepting many things that were once discarded (Bar Mitzvahs, Kippot, Tallit, and many other practices). He noted how Reform has grown to embrace and become an active supporter of Israel. He noted how the Rabbinate has become more caring–he attributed this to the grown and involvement of women in the rabbinate. He closed with his fears for the next 60 years: there are so many more notions for “God” out there (look at Kaballah, the mystical notions taking hold) that the simple God is being lost. He urged us not to let that happen.
  • This morning we had Rabbi Sarah. She had more of a “charge” sermon. The main sermon related to Israel, and what we must do to support Israel. She noted the financial support that can be provided through the URJ, through the Assocation of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), by buying Israel Bonds, through the local Jewish Federation, and by supporting organizations such as the Leo Baeck Education Institute. She also noted how important it is to visit Israel, and announced to that end she would be organizing a congregational trip. Later in the service, she turned her attention to Darfur. The congregation is in the process of funding a well through Jewish World Watch, and also plans to raise money to fund solar ovens.

Some other observations from services:

  • They had out a history display of the last 60 years of the congregation. Needless to say, I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I was less focused on the people, but on the history of the buildings (does that surprise you). While I was looking at it this morning, Cantor Emeritus Brown came by. I told him the display was missing one thing: the seminal role the congregation played in starting other congregations throughout the valley. I view this as important: Effectively UAHC seeded the valley with TBH (in fact, it was seeded by Rabbi Alfred Wolf, one of my heroes), and TBH later had a close relationship with Wilshire Blvd Temple. I also told Cantor Brown that through his work at the congregation he had a positive impact on many, many lives.
  • The daughter of our current cantor, Cantor Allan, was one of the Torah readers this morning. At one point, she started stumbling, and had to turn and shush her dad on the bima. It seems he was chanting along with her, and it kept throwing her off!

Rosh Hashanah Observations

No, this isn’t a theatre review. That comes tomorrow.

Last night and this morning, we attended services at Temple Beth Hillel for the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The evening services were led by Rabbi Sarah. She was using a new prayerbook adapted from Mishkon Tefilah, and the service incorporated a lot more music (and featured the “Members of the Tribe” band). The sermon’s theme was “tradition”, and how important tradition is in our lives to preserving Judaism. To that end, they handed out a notebook to all families present to capture their family traditions, be it meals, recipes, games, service attendance, or whatever, in order to preserve the traditions for the future (and hopefully encourage the creation and preservation of new traditions). As is this temple’s tradition, they started exactly on time, and ran over… by 2 minutes… from the published end time.

This morning’s service used the slightly more traditional prayerbook editied by Rabbi Jim, who led the service. Thus, it was the normal morning Rosh Hashanah service, highlighted by three things:

  1. The Israeli Bonds appeal, which was a bit more emotional than usual, as Israel is in a bit more need, given the current war. Related to this, preceeding Sim Shalom (the prayer for peace), the Rabbi related how most of the world supported 1947 partition that created the state of Israel and space for the Palestinians… except for the Palestinians. Since then, they have never accepted the existance of Israel. This was highlighted by the most recent actions of Hamas, who is continuing to refuse to acknowledge the right of Israel to even exist, although it wants a cease-fire from the non-existant country. I do wish for peace in that region: the continued fighting helps no one.
  2. The Birthday Sermon, which celebrated 60 years of Temple Beth Hillel. I found this fascinating, as I love history. Back when we were with Temple Beth Torah, I wrote up quite a bit of history of congregations in the San Fernando Valley, including the following table:

    Year Congregation Notes

    1946 Temple Beth Hillel  
    1951 Temple Beth Torah Formed at suggestion of Temple Beth Hillel
    1952 Temple Judea Established by group from Temple Beth Hillel
    1959 Temple Solael Established by group from Temple Judea
    1960 Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf

    1962 North Valley Reform Congregation  
    1965 Temple Ahavat Shalom Merger of North Valley Reform and Temple Beth Torah
    1968 Temple Beth Torah Reestablished by group from Temple Ahavat Shalom

    1968 Temple Emet Established by group from Temple Solael
    1970s Shir Chadash Established by group from Temple Judea

    1986 Valley Outreach

    1993 Kol Tikvah Merger of Shir Chadash and Temple Emet

    2000 Temple Judea: Lindley & West Campus Merger of Temple Judea and Temple Solael

    As this table shows, Temple Beth Hillel was really the seminal Reform congregation in the San Fernando Valley, and I find it fascinating to learn its history. We also learned during the sermon that the congregation has purchased a parcel of land immediately behind the facility for additional parking, and will begin a remodeling of the facility soon. I’ll have to look at some of the oldest buildings before they do; the ECE building was evidently the original school and sanctuary, and dates back to 1955 (before then they were in a house). Really interesting sermon.

  3. Hundreds of Massed Shofars, for as this congregation does, they have lots of Shofar blowers for the shofar service. Yes, it was loud.

In short, it was a good service. Tomorrow they are doing their first 2nd day service at Zuma Beach… it sounds fun, but we probably won’t be going.

Next up: mailing a package to jumbach, working out at the Y, cleaning up the house, with the day culminating at the Pasadena Playhouse where we will be seeing Fences.



It’s been a long day.

The day started with the California State Science Fair. I was there just before 7:00am. After judges orientation, judging was from 8:30am-10:30am, and then 11:00am to 12:30pm. We had 10 judges, and 25 projects. Each project needed to be seen by at least 5 judges, most were seen at all. What won? Divisibility Discovery: A New Divisibility Rule by Casey Fu from Alta Sierra Intermediate School, Clovis. Second place was Searching for Perfection: Utilizing Patterns to Calculate Perfect Numbers. Third was Cycling Antibiotics to Control Antimicrobial Resistance: A Mathematical Model. Honorable Mention was Packing Ellipses into a Hexagon: Does Varying the Ratio of the Two Axes of an Ellipse Affect Packing?. I should note that 2nd and 3rd both came from the same school: Pacific Collegiate School, Santa Cruz.

I had planned to spend the afternoon wandering the Natural History Museum. However, gf_guruilla was sick… so I came home to pick up my daughter for the last day of Hebrew school, and to bring the supplies for the school party. This I did, with only a few minor incidents (I got knocked over by a teacher while unloading a cart, and fell into the rock garden while reaching over to get some papers that had fallen out of a basket. The party had a rock band, so this made for an interesting afternoon. Of course, I was one of two parents that actually stayed behind to help folks clean up.

When I got home around 7pm, I then ran out to Circuit City to pick up two hardwired phones (I prefer them to cordless) and a boom box for my daughter.

So… it has been a long day. Tomorrow should be interesting: I’m going on the van into work. When mommyathome‘s mom (my stepmother) arrives back from Israel, I’ll pick her up and bring her to work for lunch. My wife will drive down to meet us, and she’ll bring her back home to Mission Viejo. There is a plus to all of this: my stepmother just sold her house and will be downsizing… and so she needs the boxes that have been waiting bundled in our garages for her move.

So now to go veg for a bit…


My Congregation in the News

Whoa! Temple Beth Hillel‘s Seder in the Desert just got an LA Times Writeup. I think the best line in the story is: “until you’ve eaten a matzo kugel that’s sat on the bottom of an ice chest for 36 hours and been reheated on a Coleman camp stove, you’ve never truly suffered”. The story is worth the price of registration (although somehow, I don’t think we’ll go next year… our idea of “roughing it” is a 2-star hotel).


She’s Back…

NSS&F is back at her retreat, that is. No problems. So much easier than last year.

I’d forgotten how much fun it is to drive canyon roads in the early morning (I won’t admit my speed). The retreat is at Camp JCA Shalom. Going there, I took Kanan to Mulholland and then across Mulholland to the camp, which is to the W of Decker. Coming back it was Mulholland to Decker to Lechuga to Encinal to Mulholland to Kanan and back. Lots and lots of driving fun!

P.S.: The county symbol is because these are mostly county roads, except for the Route 23 portion of Mulholland/Decker.


Gulp! It’s Coming in 2007….

…my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, that is.

Tonight, we had our first meeting as prospective Bat Mitzvah parents. We got all the paper work, we got all the price sheets. We now get to answer those famous questions:

  • What date do we want it? We can’t do it on her birthday, as they are setting up for the Chanukah bazaar. We’ll likely push it back to “shutdown” (between Christmas and New Years) so some relatives can drive in from Arizona. Thanksgiving weekend is also a possibility.
  • Morning or Afternoon? We’re thinking morning, with lunch afterwards in the social hall.
  • How Many Guests? Gulp. No idea.

Then there are the basic fees. The temple has a small set: education fee (with a deposit when you reserve the date), the security deposit, the pulpit flowers, the security guard, 20% of the catering bill, the dishwasher fees. Then, of course, are the reception fees you pay to the various vendors. Luckily, we’re all agreed on keeping it simple, so we’ll likely just have a caterer and some simple entertainment, in the social hall. Oh, right, invitations. I guess we’ll need those too. Additional flowers? Professional photographers? I just don’t know. Those of you who have coordinated such events: I do welcome advice.

Luckily, the Rabbi and Cantor emphasized (and I agree) that the focus is the ceremony, not the party afterwards.

But, you know, this is the wrong paperwork to hand me just after I’ve bought a house.


Weekend Observations

It’s been an interesting weekend so far.

This weekend, my daughter was supposed to attend a Temple conclave at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu. Now, if it was me, I would have jumped at the chance! But she was hesitant. We brought her to Temple Friday afternoon, expecting her to get on the bus with the other campers. She was due to check in at 3:15 PM, and I had a 4:00 PM dentist appointment. But events conspired against us. First, we had some unexpected thunder and lightening cells in the valley. Pouring rain. Second, we had some unexpected separation anxiety cells in the Temple lobby. The net result: I missed my appointment (rescheduled to 3/23) and she was going to be driven up to camp Saturday morning.

So, Saturday morning, The plan for the day was for drop her at camp while my wife got her legs done; go out to the Fountain Pen Shop to pick up my pens; spend some afternoon time together; and then go to a free showing of The Last 5 Years my wife got us tickets for on Craigslist. Following the plan, I get S&F out of the house bright and early to get up to JCA Shalom. The normal route to get there is to take US 101 to Kanan Dume; Kanan Dume to Mulholland Hwy; Mullholland to Encinal Canyon, up a short road to Decker Cyn; Decker Cyn to Mulholland, and thence to the camp. First plot complication: Decker Canyon is closed due to storm damage. Have to run down Encinal to PCH, PCH to Mulholland, and then up to camp. We get there: Second plot complication: S&F isn’t sure she wants to stay. So I sit and wait, like a good dad, until she decides it is OK to stay. Of course, this makes it too late to go to the Fountain Pen Shop, so that’s scrapped. Around 11:45 AM, she decides she will stay the day, but I need to come back at 9:00 PM to pick her up. Call the wife—we release the theatre tickets. I head back home via a different, much better, route (Mulholland to Westlake Bl, down Westlake to US 101). You can imagine my mood.

Luckily, gf_guruilla and I did spend some time together in the afternoon. Some time with just the two of us was what we both really needed. Brightened my mood immensely!

We then went out for dinner (Roxie’s Famous Deli in Thousand Oaks), and did a little shopping. Drove up Westlake/Mulholland to camp, getting there around 9:00 PM. We just hung in the background talking to the camp director until the end of the Closing Circle (they had a great songleader: Robbo!). Finally picked up S&F. She had a great time, made a new friend, decided she prefered CHK/GHC to JCA Shalom, but still wanted to go home. Drove home, and we all went to bed.

So, we had a day whose plans were completely mucked up, and started out with everyone in a bad mood. We ended up with a pretty good day after all. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned there. I know that I was reminded that being a father means that you put your kid first, even thought that may means you get disappointed at times. There are sometimes larger responsibilities in life.

As I wrote Friday, I received a mailing from the HOA of the interval timeshare I now own in Kaanapali, Maui, HI. Since then, I’ve learned more about the situation. It’s a real mess. The impression I get is that there are a few disgruntled owners who don’t like the fact that fees were raised in order to get adequate reserves and security, and so now are making life miserable for the board, with claims and counterclaims, lawsuits and “confidential” documents, and loads of hurt feelings. Of course, I’m seeing this from the sides, not knowning the backstory having been dealing with my dad’s death when it happened. I did find this site with some information online, and I’ve been mailed more. I think I’ve got reading to do Monday.

Today. So what are we doing today. Most likely: staying home and cleaning up. This place is a mess. If I have some free time, I might work on doing some backed up FAQ updates. We’ll get S&F to clean her room (or at least, attempt to do so). Other than that: No plans.