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Petaluma's Inclusive Center for Jewish Life

Rabbi Shalom Bochner

 

I’ve been working in the fields of Jewish education and community leadership for almost 40 years since I was in high school. I’m passionate about teaching and making Jewish texts meaningful and accessible. Embracing pluralism and the diversity of the American Jewish population are extremely important to me, as is multi-faith dialogue, and connecting with people individually. My experience, in addition to the last 10 years of being a congregational rabbi, includes working with college students at Hillel, directing Jewish summer camps and youth groups, being a synagogue Educator, teaching at Day Schools, and supporting Jewish life through organizing regional gatherings, retreats, and conferences. The threads that run through all off this work include music, text-study, and hands-on holiday programming. 

Some of my goals at BIJC are to actively outreach to younger families living in the area to get them more involved, to ensure that there is regular cultural programming to attract and maintain members that are proud of their Jewish identity but are less motivated by our prayer Services, and to ensure that the spiritual and educational life of the community is robust, inspiring, and accessible. My initial sense of the community is extremely positive and I was really moved by the warmth and leadership of the congregation when I visited last month. I’m highly motivated to dream big with all of you and to support the BIJC moving into a new era of growth, increased activity, and raising the profile of the congregation in Petaluma and Sonoma County. There are so many successes to build on: a rich Jewish history, an historic and beautiful building, and a genuine sense of friendliness and community.  

I grew up in Albany, NY in a Jewish community with much in common with Petaluma. I’ve been living on the west coast since 1993, first in Seattle, then 13 years in Santa Cruz, and then Berkeley, and Modesto. My wife Shoshana is eager to bring her own talents to the community. She’s an avid reader with a wide variety of interests and hobbies including photography, Jewish astrology, genealogy and travel, and loves to try new foods and drinks. We have three children in our blended family: Ethan (24) serves in the Navy,  Nitzan (20) is a Junior at UC Santa Cruz, and Yuval (16) is a Junior at Berkeley High. When I’m not at work, my interests include hiking, biking, skiing, playing guitar, drums and song writing, and listening to live music.  Forming a Petaluma Jewish Jam band is absolutely on my to-do list in addition to my current musical projects and bands. 

My immediate priority is to get to know all of you. Between now and the High Holidays, I want to meet with every member family and get a sense of what you are looking for in a diverse and active Jewish community, what committees, working groups or tasks forces you are willing to serve on, and what have been your experiences with the Jewish community in Petaluma. Together, we can create a vibrant center of Jewish life that is intergenerational and engaging. I’ll be available to meet you at shul, in your home, or out for a cup of coffee. All Rabbis love questions and I am particularly eager to hear yours. Community is about building relationships and it’s this work that I am most eager to begin as soon as possible. I can’t wait to begin this exciting new era together with all of you.

Kol tuv - all the best,

Rabbi Shalom

 


Message from Our Rabbi

“The Importance of celebrating Jewish Culture”

Our identity as Jews can be complex. Many of us say that we are not part of a religion, and certainly we are not only part of a religion. We are part of an extended family, members of “The Tribe” and Judaism is both a beautiful and meaningful faith, and a culture. We don’t fit it neatly into just one box. 

The dictionary defines “culture” as: the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group. That fits us really well. As has been explained by the Reconstructionist Movement, (now known as “Reconstructing Judaism”), Judaism is a civilization. This is a difference and an advantage over every faith-based institution - we are here for those who wish to celebrate the Jewish faith through meaningful spiritual rituals AND we are also proudly here for the atheists, agnostics, secular, and culinary members of our community. We are a culture.

Not only do we have incredible holiday customs, arts, social institutions and achievements to celebrate. We have music, food, and comedy. In fact, we have musics:  Klezmer, Sephardi, Mizrachi, let alone the hundreds of famous Jewish musicians in all genres.

We also have our food, and we love to eat it! But we really have our foods: Ashkenazi, Middle Eastern, Lower East Side delicatessen, South and Central American, Ethiopian, and Indian Jewish cuisines, plus all of the vegetarian and vegan versions of thousands of years of Jewish delicacies from all over the world. We love our food, and so does the rest of the world. As the old ad campaign went: “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish rye!”. We have introduced the world to the bialy, matzah ball soup, challah, and the hot pastrami sandwich; and the world has never been the same. It’s been much improved.

We also have our comics, our authors, our playwrights, actors, directors, producers and all of the technical supporters. We don’t control Hollywood, but we certainly have played a huge role in the success of the entertainment world, not only here in the US, but in Europe, and even in Cairo. We know better than most that life throws lots of challenges our way, and we can either laugh or cry, and laughing (including at ourselves) is much more fun. The Borsht Belt of New York’s Catskill Mountain resorts made an impact on the worlds of comedy and entertainment that is still shaping how we all laugh many decades later. 

Beyond eating, singing, and laughing, Jewish culture is full of accomplishments. From Albert Einstein to Jonas Salk, from Gershwin to Chagall, we have led the way in making the world a better place for everyone. “Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax, you're darn right I'm living in the past!” [paraphrased from the Big Lebowski]. Our commitment to repairing the world has driven so many of us to make a real difference. How else can you explain that we are .2% of the world’s population but 22% of Nobel Prize winners in all fields of the arts and sciences?!

Here at the B’nai Israel Jewish Center, I am 100% committed to ensuring that we are a thriving Center of Jewish Life. We are not a “synagogue”; we are a Jewish community. A synagogue is a Greek word for a Jewish gathering place, and we gather not only for holidays and education, but for life, for food, music, and CULTURE. 

Please join us Friday, October 6, 2023 at 5:30 for our BBQ. There will be music, food, storytelling and celebration. It’s an all-ages event as we celebrate our proud Jewish identity.

Join us every Saturday at 12pm as we celebrate Jewish culture with a Shabbat Lunch.

And be on the look out for information about new monthly programs that celebrate Jewish Culture: Friday night dinners, concerts, movie nights and maybe even a Jewish Comedy Night. I’m really looking forward to eating, singing and laughing with all of you.

Rabbi Shalom 

Rabbi Shalom's Rosh HaShana 2023 Drashot (Sermons)

Our Staff

Gan Israel Preschool Director - Teri Porter

Teri Porter is BIJC's Director of Gan Israel Preschool. Teri has a wealth of experience in Early Childhood Education and has directed infant, preschool, and after-school care programs in Sonoma and Marin counties. She received a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena. Teri has lived in Petaluma for over 30 years, and has two grown sons, Garrett and Marshall. She enjoys photography, hiking, yoga and traveling.

Teri may be reached at (707) 763-5136. Email her at Teri@bnaiisrael.net

 


 

Office Administrator -  Erica Stuart

Erica Stuart is our Office Administrator and Communications Director. Before moving to Petaluma, she spent 20 years in the news industry, including 10 years at "60 Minutes." She also served as Public Information Officer for the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, handling media relations for local and state government agencies. She manages BIJC's Gift Shop, which is open Monday through Friday, and year-round. Erica’s hours are:

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: 11:a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

She can be reached by phone at 707-762-0340, or via email at office@bnaiisrael.netClick here to view our Gift Shop catalog online.

Tue, February 20 2024 11 Adar I 5784