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In “Teaching Your Children About God,” Rabbi David Wolpe suggests taking our children to a sanctuary when services are not being conducted to give them a sense of the
I love this idea. I have been in my own sanctuary at odd hours, and even if I am there for “business reasons” — taking pictures for a new synagogue brochure, for example — I feel different in the sanctuary than I do in any other room.
Seeing the eternal light, knowing the Torah is sleeping inside the ark, gives me the feeling of being on holy ground.
But here’s a variation on Wolpe’s idea — let your children stand in awe in front of the bimah, but then take them behind the bimah. Raise the curtain and demystify the sanctuary. By doing so you help them feel comfortable.
Many of my adult friends still feel uncomfortable in synagogue. To them, it is a place where you have to go — where you have to sit still and say meaningless prayers in a difficult language, where you have to listen to lectures from a rabbi who you do not know personally and are, perhaps, a little intimidated by. No wonder they only attend services twice a year.
I was extremely fortunate as a child. My family “raised the curtain” for me. And they did so by doing two things.
The first is unique to my family — my uncle is Cantor Saul Hammerman, who is now cantor emeritus of Beth El in Baltimore. Before my parents affiliated with our Philadelphia synagogue, they would take us to Baltimore to be with our extended family for holidays. I remember sitting in Beth El, an imposing synagogue to anyone, but even more so to a little girl. I looked up at the enormous ark and wondered how anyone could ever reach the Torahs.
I listened to the brilliant Rabbi Jacob Agus, and wondered how old I would be when I would understand his sermons. And I listened to the chazzan — so imposing in his white robes and his big white hat with the pompom on top (oh, how my sister and I loved that hat). When he sang, his voice wafted over me — both beautiful and frightening in its power and passion.
But, then, during the Torah procession, something would happen. My sister and I would scramble to the end of the aisle to kiss the Torah, and as the procession passed the cantor would wink at us and flick his tallit so that the fringes brushed our cheeks. We would giggle, and the imposing chazzan would once again become our beloved Uncle Saul.
At other times, Uncle Saul took us to his office and even showed us where his robes hung and how he entered and exited the bimah. Those special visits made the synagogue seem less foreboding, but no less magical.
The second thing my parents did was be involved with our synagogue. Their involvement inspired my own. I remember being on the bimah with the choir, making macaroni in the kitchen between tutoring the younger students and waiting for my own evening classes to begin, and even raking leaves at my rabbi’s house during our Kadima “Rent-A-Rake” fundraiser. This involvement, this ownership, made synagogue a comfortable place.
And so, the very first thing I did when my husband and I joined our shul was to volunteer. I didn’t like the feeling of entering the synagogue and not knowing what it was like behind the bimah. By volunteering, I was able to feel at home. I did this for me and I did it for my children.
This is a gift every Jewish parent can give to her child. Not all families have an Uncle Saul, but everyone can volunteer. Synagogues desperately need lay leaders. It is so easy to get involved — just call and ask how you can help. And then? Well, you will have raised the curtain, you will learn that a synagogue is not run on some intimidating magic, but by people you know and care about. Synagogue will no longer be a frightening Oz, but rather a welcoming home.
“Just one Shabbos and we’ll all be free,” religious rocker Mordechai Ben David sang back in the 1980s. Well, for the last decade, one Jewish organization has tried to get people to experience Shabbat at least once a year. The National Jewish Outreach Project (NJOP) on March 3 celebrates its 10th anniversary of Shabbat Across America, where more than 650 synagogues of all denominations will host Friday night services and a traditional Shabbat meal around the country.
“Shabbat Across America/Canada allows Jews — many of whom have never enjoyed any Sabbath experience — to come together to get a real feel for one of the Jewish tradition’s greatest treasures,” said Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder and director of NJOP.
Buchwald founded NJOP in 1987 to address issues of assimilation and lack of Jewish knowledge. NJOP also provides classes and programs as well as Shabbat Across America, which some 850,000 people have attended over the years.
For the 10th anniversary dinner, held at locations around Los Angeles and the Valley, the organization has produced “Gourmet Shabbat: Recipe for a Friday Night Experience,” a 32-page color booklet that includes an explanation of rituals, prayers and 10 recipes from top chefs around the country. Wolfgang Puck chimes in with gefilte fish, Jean-Georges Vongerichten with brisket, Sara Moulton with Grated Carrot Salad. The booklet — a takeaway gift to all participants and also available online — is meant to provide Shabbat newbies a recipe for a traditional meal.
“Shabbat is not merely a series of gourmet meals,” Buchwald said. “Shabbat is an environment of light, peace, domestic tranquility and song. But most of all, an environment of sanctity.”
The following synagogues are hosting NJOP in Los Angeles:
•Adat Shalom, 3030 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles (310) 475-4985
•Temple Bet T’shuvah, 8831 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles (310) 204-5200
•Helkeinu Foundation (310) 785-0440
•Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, 9350 Civic Center Drive, Beverly Hills (310) 203-0170
•Chabad of Burbank, 1921 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank (818) 954-0070
•Pacific Jewish Center, 505 Oceanfront Walk, Venice (310) 392-8749
•Temple Mishkon Tephilo, 201 Hampton Drive and 206 Main St., Venice (310) 392-3029
•Maohr Torah, 1537 Franklin St., Santa Monica (310) 657-5500
•Temple Sinai, 1212 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale (818) 246-8101
•Temple Beth Hillel, 12326 Riverside Drive, Valley Village (818) 763-9148
•Beth Shir Sholom, 1827 California Ave., Santa Monica (310) 453-3361
•Congregation Tifereth Jacob, 1829 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach (310) 546-3667
•Makom Ohr Shalom, 5619 Lindley Ave., Tarzana (818) 725-7600
•Jewish Home for the Aging, 18855 Victory Blvd., Reseda (818) 774-3018
For more information, visit NJOP.org
Since distributing a CD of hymns to members of Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel, the Conservative synagogue’s cantor, Marcia Tilchin, and congregant Carl Cedar, a veteran musician, no longer sing alone in the sparsely filled sanctuary on Friday night.
“The house was rocking,” said Cedar, who last summer first began accompanying Tilchin on an acoustic guitar during “kabbalat,” a less formal preface to the mandatory Friday evening Shabbat service.
“The congregants were drowning us out. It’s very different then it was even a month ago,” he said.
Both musical innovations reflect a cultural shift by the county’s youngest Conservative congregation and reveals the challenge facing Conservative Judaism.
Since an organist was welcomed in Reform pulpits as early as 1817, the addition of a guitar player is sure to strike some observers as a tempest in a theological teapot. But playing sacred music remains a forbidden Sabbath activity in most Conservative synagogues, though organ music was sanctioned after the State of Israel was established. The exception remains the West, where even 10 years ago half the congregations enlivened worship with instruments, a percentage far higher than elsewhere in the country.
So local Conservative congregations are latecomers, experimenting with instruments only in the last two years. But what is welcomed by some congregants alienates others, who feel compelled to worship now in Orthodox settings, said Rabbi David Eliezrie, who said his Yorba Linda Chabad has seen a small influx from Conservative congregations.
Other leaders say music is too powerful a spiritual engine to forego.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Stuart Altshuler, rabbi of Mission Viejo’s Congregation Eilat, where once a month piano, guitar and mandolin are included in a service that is better attended than most. “It makes the whole experience more meaningful.”
Doris Jacobson, president of Anaheim’s Temple Beth Emet, hired Craig Taubman this year to lead four abridged Saturday services, where he played guitar and led congregants singing prayers in a smooth-jazz style. Four-hundred seats were filled instead of the normal 75.
“There is a joy to it,” she said, absent from liturgy sung to melodies that are generations old. “We have to change as times change. It doesn’t mean our values are devalued. It’s like freeze-dried coffee. Why drink it when you can go to Starbucks and have so many choices?”
Aside from the human voice, musical instruments historically were banned because their use could lead to violating prohibited Sabbath activities, such as public carrying and fixing, and out of mourning for the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
“Rabbis say they’re willing to accommodate because of the payoff both in numbers and quality,” said Dr. Jack Wertheimer, provost of New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative movement’s flagship academy. “Synagogue renewal regards the use of music as a critical force for positive change, and getting them involved, and enhancing their religious experience. This is very much in the air,” he said.
Yet, contemporary issues, such as music and same-sex marriage, create tension within the Judaism’s centrist denomination, whose mission is to integrate modernity with devout religious observance. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the movement’s congregational arm, claims 760 congregations with 1.5 million members. But the number of self-described Conservatives declined 10 percent over a decade according to two population surveys, though survey questions about affiliation were not exactly comparable.
Conservative leaders like Tilchin consider music an invaluable hook to engage a constituency lacking fluency in Hebrew and whose allegiance is based on relationships rather than ideology. Even clergy steadfast in their opposition to instruments nevertheless feel pressure from lay governing boards trying to encourage adherence to Jewish laws while still reaching out to the unaffiliated and disengaged.
“You have to meet people where they are,” said Tilchin, who joined B’nai Israel two years ago. She estimated half of its 495 families read Hebrew.
“I’m trying to teach my congregation to daven,” she said, describing “Shalom Aleichem: The Music of Kabbalat Shabbat,” as a “beautifully produced learning tool.”
The CD cost $10,000 to produce and was distributed in December.
Tilchin’s selections blend Ashkenazi sacred melodies with more contemporary ones that also previously were paired with prayers. Cedar, after familiarizing himself with popular Jewish music stars, contributed his professional talents by recording, arranging and performing separate tracks for guitar, percussion, bass and clarinet.
“In theory, you could do this style for every service,” Tilchin said. “It’s a fantasy.”
In the meantime, she is working on a fully transliterated Friday night prayer book as a companion guide to the CD. She hopes to complete it this month and distribute one to each congregant.
“Now, when they come, they’ll be able to participate,” Tilchin said.
Elie Spitz, B’nai Israel’s spiritual leader, lifted the instrument ban after researching technical issues and determining that musical accompaniment enhanced rather than distracted from religious experience.
“The guitar helped people sing along,” he said. “A capella is sufficient if you know the music.”
Spitz and Rabbi Elliot Dorff, a philosophy professor at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, are members of the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which decides issues of Jewish law. They are co-authors of a recently submitted “responsa,” their explanation of permissible use of music on Shabbat. Their arguments must win the approval of six of the panel’s 25 rabbinical members to be considered a valid opinion. Opinions are not binding, though acceptance could influence broader use of music within the Conservative movement. The panel isn’t expected to consider their responsa for another year or more.
Dorff said the responsa explains the rationale behind the historical music ban and under what circumstances an instrument circumvents Shabbat prohibitions about creative activity.
Eliezrie, the Chabad rabbi in Yorba Linda who is president of the all-Orthodox Rabbinic Council of Orange County, is dismissive of such explanations. He cited an instrument ban from the Mishnah, oral explications of Torah recorded around the year 200 C.E.
“In an effort to market Judaism, do we loose the essence of Judaism? When you cross the line,” Eliezrie said, “you lose your raison d’etre.”
Tilchin, for one, is looking beyond theological lines.
“More people are singing than ever before,” she said. “Music is a universal language for people who feel distant from the idiom of the liturgy.”
The High Holidays seem to bring out not only more Jews than any time of year, but also more innovative services. Los Angeles is blessed with a creative spiritual community, dedicated to offering everything from the very new to the very traditional — to the most unlikely blends of the two.
Here is just a small sampling of where to find High
Holiday services that might give you what you don’t even know you’re looking
for. (For a complete list of services, visit www.jewishjournal.com/local/directory.php .)
The popularity of services like Sinai Temple’s Friday Night Live has spilled over from Shabbat into the High Holiday arena, where bands that lead participatory singing and dancing complement — and in some cases replace — traditional cantorial music. Many of these services also feature Torah discussions rather than sermons.
Long before there was Friday Night Live, there was the TishTones, Beth Shir Sholom’s in-house band led by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels on guitar. Some of the music is original, some of it is traditional music arranged for the band. Beth Shir Sholom, a Reform congregation in Santa Monica, will also offer a music workshop on Rosh Hashana afternoon, a spiritual dance workshop on Yom Kippur afternoon and a service for interfaith families on the second day of Rosh Hashana. In addition, guest speaker Mayor James Hahn will visit the congregation on Yom Kippur.
Services will take place at the Marina Beach Marriott
Resort, 4100 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, (310) 453-3361, www.bethshirsholom.com .
The New Emanuel Minyan at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills is an alternative service that is more intimate than the main sanctuary service, with participatory music and an interactive study of High Holiday themes. Participants are encouraged to pick up a tape of the holiday music before services, so they can become familiar with the tunes they will hear.
In addition, Emanuel’s family service is led by teenagers who have been studying with the cantor and accompanied by the family choir made up of children and adults.
8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6388, www.templeemanuelbh.com .
Sinai Temple, home of Friday Night Live, has been evolving its alternative minyan — one of five services — for several years, under the leadership of Rabbi Sherre Zwelling Hirsch and Cantor Tannoz Bahremand. Craig Taubman leads a full band, and singers from the community participate in a choir that leads congregants in lots of singing throughout the service. Lay leaders help guide congregants throughout the service, which this year will include some yoga and meditation and a choreographer who will lead a dance interpretation of a prayer. Chairs are arranged around the bimah, which helps facilitate the Torah discussion.
10400 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, (310) 474-1518,
Adat Ari El, home of One Shabbat Morning, offers two Rosh Hashana days and one Yom Kippur day, with 1,000 families joining for participatory services with lots of music and a warm environment.
12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 766-9426, www.adatariel.org.
While you won’t find a band at The Happy Minyan at Beth Jacob, you will find music and dancing that can go on for hours into the afternoon at this Orthodox service. For Happy Minyan-goers, the Days of Awe are more aptly called the Days of Joy, where service of God is out of love, not out of fear, says founder Stuart Wachs. Using the tunes and the spirit of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the Happy Minyan is a traditional alternative for the alternative crowd. On Saturday night, Sept. 14, join the Happy Minyan for a concert with the Moshav Band.
The Happy Minyan meets at Congregation Beth Jacob, 9030
Olympic Blvd. (310) 285-7777, www.happyminyan.org .
B’nai David Judea, also an Orthodox congregation, has been building up its musical repertoire for its High Holiday services for several years. Tapes go out to congregants during the late summer so they can start familiarizing themselves with the tunes. Under the leadership of Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky and with prayers led by members of the congregation, the service is a warm and spiritual option, with lots of singing, for those looking for a traditional service.
8906 W. Pico Blvd., (310) 276-9269, www.bnaidavid.com .
The Sports Club L.A., Los Angeles’ premier luxury and fitness complex, offers alternative High Holiday services and an opportunity to participate in an intimate journey to heal and rejoice in body, mind and soul.
Services will be officiated by Cantor Esther Schwartz, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shirah and a Holocaust survivor, who will share her personal story of faith and hope. Participants will take part in a memorial candlelighting ceremony to honor heroes from Genesis to Sept. 11, and services will include the music of Rachel Brill and Vera Budinoff and the insight of various guest speakers.
1835 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information call Esther Schwartz (310) 666-9918.
The High Holidays is always a good chance for beginners to enter the fray, and several congregations are offering minyans for those who have minimal background, or for those who want a better understanding of what they’ve been doing all along.
Beth Jacob Congregation is offering free services on both days of Rosh Hashana and on Yom Kippur conducted by Dr. Daryl Temkin, author of the forthcoming book “Teachings of the Soul.” His spiritual and psychological presentations will be molded together with prayer, song and discussion, designed for those seeking deeper and more spiritual ways of making Judaism relevant as a life tool. Seats must be reserved.
Services will be held at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy,
9120 Olympic Blvd., (310) 278-1911, www.bethjacob.org .
The Jewish Learning Exchange, home to one of Los Angeles’s largest selection of beginner’s classes and services, offers a traditional service accessible to those with no background, that is also interesting and meaningful to those who have spent years immersed in Judaism. Prayerbooks are Hebrew/English and Rabbi Avrohom Czapnik offers insights throughout the service.
Services for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are at 7011 Clinton Ave., near La Brea Avenue. For information, call (323) 857-0923.
In addition to its regular service, which is Orthodox and accessible to those with varying backgrounds, Aish L.A. is offering an intermediate service that is 70 percent English with lots of explanations along the way. And Aish has caught the “alternative” bug, with a minyan for 20-35-year-olds that is advertised as provocative and user-friendly. For the alternative minyan, $36 and pre-registration covers both days of Rosh Hashana, a catered lunch, Yom Kippur and a break the fast.
1417 Doheny Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 278-8672, www.aish.com/branches/los_angeles_ca/ .
Something Old, New and Borrowed
While Main Sanctuary services meet some people’s needs some of the time, rabbis and lay leaders are working to make those services more relevant and meaningful to more people more of the time. Here are some new twists on standard services:
At Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, Rabbi Stewart Vogel wanted to take one of the most neglected services, Neilah, and turn it around. At the last service on Yom Kippur, congregants used to tolerate having to stand for the whole 45 minutes to an hour, looking forward to the end of the fast. So Vogel added a feature that is practiced in some traditional and liberal settings. He invited congregants up to the bimah to offer their own personal prayers in front of the open ark during Neilah.
“Some people put a tallit around the entire family and offer personal prayers for health; some will sit in almost a meditative state. When they turn around to descend from the bimah, sometimes people are crying and sometimes you see a look of satisfaction, of connectedness. And the congregation is privy to this drama,” Vogel says.
6025 Valley Circle Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818)
346-3545, www.templealiyah.org .
Temple Israel of Hollywood had enough of the supplementary handouts of additional prayers and readings that went along with the Machzor, so rabbis at the Reform congregation decided to craft a new High Holiday prayerbook.
Over the last five years the temple has also developed its own Shabbat prayerbooks. The new machzors, which will be used experimentally for two years while feedback is integrated, will include translations and transliteration and all the songs.
The new book will be used both in the main sanctuary and in the alternative minyan, which will meet first day Rosh Hashana and feature the Chai Tones congregational band and interactive Torah study.
There will be free services for children on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and for adults on the second day of Rosh Hashana.
7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323)876-8330, www.tioh.org .
Out of Shul Experience
Sometimes, getting out of synagogue might be the best option. Here are a few services from those who have gone out on their own.
The Moveable Minyan will celebrate the High Holidays in much the same way it did in its early days of existence: In the space at the Westside Jewish Community Center once occupied by the Zimmer Children’s Museum. The chavurah-style, lay-led minyan, which hasn’t been moveable for some time, spent several years in the space before the children’s museum moved into the JCC, and then wandered through rooms at the JCC until the museum moved out. This year, minyan members have spent a summer’s worth of Sundays refurbishing the space to have it ready for the High Holidays.
The minyan will meet for both days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and there will be children’s services as well as child-care. 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 229-5359.
Metivta: A Center for Contemplative Judaism offers a prayer venue for those looking for a meditative experience where traditional liturgy is infused with kabbalistic insights and cantorial singing blends with chanting. Rabbi Rami Shapiro, head of Metivta, leads participants on a journey inward, where congregants work together to search and heal.
Services will take place at Beth Shir Sholom, 1827
California Ave. in Santa Monica. (310) 477-5370, www.metivta.org
This year, 5763, Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, the weekly observance that Sen. Joseph Lieberman calls "a sanctuary to put the outside world on hold and concentrate on what’s really important — your faith and your family." And although Lieberman, who was the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2000, will experience the same joy he feels every Friday night as he takes off his watch and prepares to get into the Sabbath mood, during Rosh Hashana all activities are heightened — the prayers are longer, the conversation more intense, the urgency to evaluate the past year and make resolutions for a sweet New Year more palpable.
Since Lieberman attends an Orthodox synagogue, he will have to wait until the second day of Rosh Hashana to hear the blowing of the shofar. When Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, that ancient instrument, which is fashioned from a ram’s horn and sounds eerily like a human cry, cannot be played during the 25-hour observance, explains Rabbi Matthew Simon, former spiritual leader of B’nai Israel congregation in Rockville, Md.
"According to Jewish law, playing the shofar is considered work, which is prohibited during Shabbat, as is the actual carrying of the instrument," Simon says. "Because the shofar acts as an alarm clock to those of us who have fallen spiritually asleep, this Rosh Hashana will be more challenging. We can’t hear the sound of the shofar, so we must remember its message." Typically rabbinical, Simon illustrates his point with an analogy: "It’s like the Sherlock Holmes story: what gave it away is the dog didn’t bark."
Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom for the Arts feels Shabbat is holier than Yom Kippur. "When Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, it reminds us that this microcosm of spiritual fine-tuning comes every weekend. We don’t have to wait for Rosh Hashana to tell us that a whole year of Shabbats have gone by," he says.
Baron’s congregants will hear the sound of the ram’s horn on the first night of the Days of Awe, since it is played in Reform and Conservative congregations, but he agrees with Lieberman that our wake-up call should be about the appreciation of living and the importance of family gatherings — not merely once a year during the High Holy Days but every week.
"When we cease working for those 25 hours, we hear the message loud and clear: focus on gifts before you, rather than on the brass ring." Baron is gratified that since Sept. 11, when we’ve all had to face our vulnerabilities and reevaluate our priorities, more families than ever before are celebrating Shabbat.
The High Holy Days will begin at sundown when the senator’s wife, Hadassah Freichlich Lieberman, will light the candles and recite the blessings. Some years the Liebermans host the Rosh Hashana dinner in Georgetown or New Haven, but this year the family will gather around the table of Lieberman’s mother, Marcia, in Stamford, Conn.
Marcia Lieberman, who has already started getting ready for the holidays, loves reminiscing about past Shabbats. "When Joey was growing up, I would start days before; making sure everything was spotless, polishing my mother’s brass candlesticks — they’re my treasure. Everything good comes out of the closet and is on my table.
"On Thursday I shopped, on Friday, I cooked — I’d always bake honey cake and challah. The house has the glow of Shabbat — a sense of peace and comfort. Maybe it’s because of the sweet smells coming out of my oven. That’s what Shabbos and Rosh Hashana smell like."
(Ashkenazi Jews say Shabbos; Sephardim say Shabbat.)
What do the holidays sound like? To artist Mindy Weisel, close friend and frequent guest at the Liebermans’ Shabbat and Rosh Hashana table, it’s Hadassah’s beautiful voice. "Their family sings together more than most families," she says. "When Hadassah lights the candles and leads us in the traditional songs, the whole energy in the room changes."
Many of the religious rituals are the same. Joe Lieberman will make kiddush over the wine, then make hamotzi, the blessing over the golden brown challah, plumped with raisins. During the Days of Awe, the days beginning on Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur, the challah is round, to symbolize no beginning and no end. Raisins are added for additional sweetness, as is the plate of sliced apples to be dipped into honey, and the tray of exotic fruits, preferably varieties family members haven’t eaten during the year, so the family can make the shehechiyanu, the new-fruit blessing.
Many families serve pomegranates, since rabbis tell us there are 613 seeds, the same as the 613 commandments in the torah. Dates are often served both because they’re sweet and are symbols of beauty and peace. Dried fruit, sugar, and honey are added to main courses, salads, vegetables, and of course, desserts. All are symbolic of the wish for a sweet New Year.
Lieberman particularly delights in the ritual of blessing his four children, Matthew, Hana, Ethan and Rebecca, and now, his two granddaughters, Tennessee and Willie. "You put your hands on their head or shoulders and bless them, but since our older kids aren’t always with us, I mention who’s here, who isn’t, and why not," he explains. "I like to talk about where they are and what they’re doing: ‘Bekka’ is in New York, Ethan is in Israel — sometimes I think I’m trying to direct the prayer off the satellite so the blessing goes directly onto the head of the child who isn’t there."
New Year’s resolutions are also part of Rosh Hashana. The Liebermans will spend time, both privately and among themselves, evaluating what was good during the past year, making lists of what they want to improve about themselves and the world in the upcoming year. "There is also a sense of joy that we made it through another 365 days," Weisel comments. We pray that God will grant us another year."
Although the dinner is always delicious — both Hadassah and Marcia pride themselves on their culinary skills — the dinner table is as much about honoring their ancestors and showing love to their family. And the conversation at the table is always enlightening.
Hadassah and Joe encourage serious subjects — sometimes asking a question or discussing a Rosh Hashana reading from the Torah, but it’s also an opportunity to discuss what’s going on in each of their lives.
"It’s always been a conducive setting to talk about important issues with the children, whether it’s school or social activities, and now, their own families," Hadassah says. Lately, though, "everyone wants to talk about what’s going on in the world."
"Rosh Hashana is a marking of time, the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new," says Marcia Lieberman. "This is the time we remember those who aren’t with us anymore: Joe’s father, Henry, his grandma, Minnie…." Lieberman often says that his parents and his grandma, who had lived with them, gave him the faith he relies on every day.
In his book, "In Praise of Public Life," Lieberman credits Minnie, whom he called by the Yiddish "Baba," with being his "window to the Old World" of Central Europe, since she would tell him stories about Jews being punished or sent to the camps when they would try to celebrate the Jewish holidays.
"When Minnie moved to America she was exhilarated when she’d walk to synagogue on Saturday and her Christian neighbors would greet her, ‘Good Sabbath, Mrs. Manger.’ This was an endless source of delight for her," Lieberman remembers.
When Mindy Weisel and her husband, Shelly, are in attendance, the conversation often turns to the Holocaust, as Hadassah and Mindy are both daughters of survivors. "Both of our mothers, who lived in neighboring towns in Europe, were arrested at their Passover tables on the same night and sent to Auschwitz," she says. "This bond makes us feel closer than sisters." Weisel edited a heart-rending book, "Daughters of Absence: Transforming a Legacy of Loss," for which Hadassah wrote a moving chapter, dedicating it to "my beautiful mother; Ella Wieder Freilich, a presence in the absence."
On the second day of Rosh Hashana the family celebrates Tashlich, the ritual casting of sins upon the water, to symbolically throw away mistakes from the past year. During the campaign, the family was walking toward the park, carrying bags of bread to toss into the water.
Hadassah, the children, and Joe, who was pushing Marcia in her wheelchair, engendered quite a group of onlookers. "Joe began explaining to them what we were doing," says Marcia Lieberman. "Before we knew it, we had a whole group walking with us — we must have had 30 people — all in a line. When we got to the park, Joe recited the prayer. He usually does it in Hebrew, but this time he did it in English, so our new friends could understand. On the way back, an Italian gentleman presented me with a bouquet of flowers. ‘That’s because you raised a son like Joe,’" Marcia relates, kvelling the way any mother anywhere would do.
If Baba could see her grandson now.
Temple Sinai: 9:30 a.m. Shabbat services. 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 474-1518.
OASIS/ Older Adult Services: 10:30 a.m.-noon. Performance of prominent women in history, such as Betsy Ross and Violet Jessup. $2. 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. For more information, call (818) 710-4163.
Brotherhood of Temple Sinai: 7:10 p.m. Baseball game featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the New York Mets. $12. 1212 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale. For reservations or more information, call (626) 799-4234.
Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim: 4 p.m. Hatha yoga led by Corey Roskin. $10. Also: Sun., 3 p.m. Festival of Jewish books and writers, with readings by various Jewish authors. 6000 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 931-7023.
Barnes & Noble: 11 a.m. Book signing and reading for children, “I’ll Never Find Anything In Here,” by Susan Attlyah. 16461 Ventura Blvd., Encino. For more information, call (818) 380-1636.
Valley Cultural Center: 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Performance by Jack Mack & The Heart Attack. Warner Park, 5800 Topanga Canyon, Woodland Hills. For more information, call (818) 704-1358.
Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim: 6 p.m. “The Mikvah Project,” documentary screening of the traditional ritual. $10. 6000 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 931-7023.
Valley Beth Shalom: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. “We Too Were There: Finding Women’s Voices in Rosh Hashanah,” program in honor of Rosh Chodesh Elul with food and Torah study. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. For reservations or more information, call (818) 788-6000 ext. 523.
Temple B’nai Hayim: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Open-house event. 4302 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks. For more information, call (818) 788-4664.
West Valley JCC: 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Yiddish Music & Conversation class, every Monday. $4 (each session). Also: Tues., 9:30 a.m.-noon, Bagel brunch and variety show. $6 (nonmembers); $2 (members). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. For more information, call (818) 464-3300.
The Museum of Tolerance: 6 p.m. “The Path of the Just,” discussion of Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto’s book as part of the Great Books of Jewish Civilization series. 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 552-4595 ext. 27.
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, followed by a no-host lunch at Marie Callenders. Bus transportation provided. $13 (members); $15 (nonmembers). 1434 N. Altadena Drive., Pasadena. For reservations or more information, call (626) 798-1161.
Ezra Center: 9:45 a.m. “Medical Books to China,” lecture and discussion with Dr. Jordan and Mary Phillips. Lunch served. $5 (members); $6 (nonmembers). Temple Ner Tamid, 10629 Lakewood Blvd., Downey. For more information, call (562) 861-9276.
B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 7:30 p.m. Meet to discuss the Playa Vista Project with the developers. 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Westchester. For more information, call (310) 645-6262.
Museum of Tolerance: 7:30 p.m. Rabbi Ari Hier leads a discussion on literature throughout Judaism. Barnes & Noble, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 552-4595.
Temple Sinai of Glendale Seniors: Noon-2 p.m. Meet for bingo, prizes and dessert. 1212 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale. For more information, call (818) 766-8700.
Temple Beth Am: 6:15 p.m. Neshama Minyan, Shabbat services with the music of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 652-7353.
Congregation B’nai Tzedek: 7:30 p.m. Shabbat services. 9669 Talbert Ave., Fountain Valley. For more information, call (714) 963-4611.
Temple Emanuel: 7:30 p.m. “Shabbat Unplugged,” kabbalah Shabbat service, the fourth Friday of every month. 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 274-6388.
Leo Baeck Temple: 7:30 p.m. Shabbat Under the Stars and folk dancing. 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 476-2861.
Congregation Kol Ami: 8 p.m. Erev Shabbat services. West Hollywood Presbyterian Church, 7350 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. For more information, call (310) 248-6320.
Congregation Ner Tamid: Sat., Aug. 25, 8 p.m. “Havdalah” service, followed by karaoke. $23 (adults in advance); $25 (adults at the door); $3 (children 12 and under in advance); $5 (children 12 and under at the door). 5721 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes. For tickets or more information, call (310) 377-6986.
Singles Helping Others: 2:30 p.m.-5 p.m. Help with the incoming classic cars in Montrose. For reservations or more information, call (818) 998-4570. Also: Sun., 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Help children with their art projects at the Wedding Festival at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (818) 851-9070.
Jewish Singles Meeting Place (30s & 40s): 5:30 p.m. Dodgers vs. Mets game. Carpooling available from Encino. $10. For reservations or more information, call (818) 780-4809. Also: Sun., 9:30 a.m. Brunch at Shanghai Reeds in Marina del Rey, followed by a walk along the water. $17.95 (not including tax and tip). For reservations or more information, call (323) 653-3147.
Southern California Social Guide: 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Cocktail party with music, dancing, appetizers, dessert, no-host bar and prizes. $20. Holiday Inn Select Hotel, 1150 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. For more information, call (323) 656-7777.
New Age Singles (55+): 8 p.m. “A Musical Journey Through Italy and France,” classical music event with refreshments. $5 (members); $7 (nonmembers). For reservations or more information, call (818) 907-0337.
Business & Professional Singles: 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Dinner dance with a pasta buffet, music by the Johnny Vana Trio, no-host bar, door prizes and line dances. $13 (members); $16 (nonmembers). The Radisson Valley Hotel, 15433 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. For more information, call (818) 761-0179.
Reality Today (21-35): 8 p.m. Dance party with an “Arabian Nights” theme. Enjoy Middle Eastern appetizers and a massage. Lush, 2020 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. For more information, e-mail: email@example.com.
Israeli Folk Dancing: 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Open session with Michele Yakovee. $6. 2244 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (800) 750-5432.
Torah on Tuesday (25-40): 7 p.m. Torah lesson. $7 (nonmembers); $5 (members). Lunaria, 10351 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 474-1518 ext. 3234.
Jewish Single Parents & Singles Association (30s & 50s): 7 p.m. Meet in front of Waters Restaurant to walk around the lake. 4615 Barranca Parkway, Irvine. For more information, call (949) 551-0401.
Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. Coffee, Cake and Conversation, discussion group every Sunday and Tuesday. $8. For more information, call (310) 444-8986.
New Age Singles (55+): “Our Third Age: Reinventing Our Lives,” discussion with Laurel Newmark, with refreshments. $3 (members); $5 (nonmembers). For reservations or more information, call (310) 306-5070.
Conversations!: 7:30 p.m. A guest speaker leads a discussion with food and drinks every Thursday at a private home. $15. For reservations or more information, call (310) 315-1078.
Singles Helping Others: 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Help usher event at Pasadena Pops concert at Descanso Gardens. For more information, call (323) 663-8378.
J Tennis (25-45): Sun., Aug. 26, 1:15 p.m. Play tennis at Rancho Cheviot Park in West Los Angeles. $10 (including refreshments). For reservations or more information, call (310) TENNIS-1.