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Petaluma's Inclusive Center for Jewish Life

Tyrants will arise throughout time...

04/13/2022 01:10:08 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Tomorrow evening we will welcome our Festival of Passover. As you are well aware, this holiday and the acknowledgement of the Biblical exodus from Egypt is pivotal in Jewish thought. The notion from the Torah that God wants human beings and, in particular, our people, to be free was a profound recognition of the precarious nature of human existence. That, like Pharoah, tyrants will arise throughout time to exercise their power over others, is a sad acknowledgement of the propensities of human nature.

In today’s world we need not point any further than the immense tragedy in Ukraine and the fate of so many people who have either died or been uprooted. Certainly, Pesach is a joyous celebration of our ancient liberation. It is also an enduring reminder that we, as Jews and as part of the human family, play a role in insuring that freedom and the avoidance of conflict and violence in our world might cease. 

I hope that as we gather with friends and community we will embrace  the gifts we have in our lives and sing the songs of Passover in our yearnings for a redeemed world in which Shalom will reign in the hearts of human beings.

I want to wish all of you a Chag Samayach…a joyous and fulfilling Passover.

Rabbi Ted Feldman

Help for Ukrainian Jewish Community

02/26/2022 08:48:39 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Shavua Tov...a good week to all of you. Needless to say, the situation in Ukraine is dire for the people living there and, particularly, the Jewish community. The history of the Ukrainian Jewish community is fraught with difficult moments and filled with glorious ones. Right now that Jewish community is under threat.

This link will take you to the website of the Jewish Federation which is collecting emergency funds to be directed to Ukraine.

This morning at services, we chanted the song based on Biblical texts...

"Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore"

The Petaluma Jewish Community joins many, many others in hoping hostilities cease. Meanwhile, there has been much harm done and our people need our assistance...

Rabbi Ted Feldman

Donate Here

Yesterday's Events

01/16/2022 07:06:35 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Good evening and Happy Tu B'Shvat - Our New Year of the Trees

It is challenging to celebrate a time of gratitude for the natural gifts which we daily enjoy since our weekend has been marred with the events in Colleyville, TX yesterday. Many of us, I am sure, were glued to the news reports and heaved a sigh of relief when the hostages escaped to safety. While they didn't experience physical injury there is, no doubt, the effects of trauma on them and on their community. If I dare say, the traumatic effects extend far and wide within the Jewish world.

For us in Sonoma County, this was the second targeted occurrence in the past two weeks. A portion of the Holocaust Memorial at the Santa Rosa Cemetery was vandalized. While the police have yet to characterize it as a hate crime, it felt as such to the Jewish community.

Both with yesterday's event and the cemetery vandalism, the outpouring from the general community has been comforting. Certainly the police, FBI, and all involved in Colleyville deserve gratitude for the lengthy and persistent efforts to secure the safety of the hostages. Couple that with the many statements of concern and support from governmental leaders, across party lines, are also a source of comfort.

That being said, we as Jews also know that the ugly head of antisemitism has been protruding more and more into our world as the political and moral divisions within our country deepen. Hatred is on the rise during this pandemic...against Blacks, Asians, the LGBTQ community, and, yes, the Jewish community. At the same time, crime has increased in our nation's cities and more and more people are fearful of venturing out. While we might think that is good during omicron, we would be deluding ourselves to thank the petty thieves and gangs for helping us to keep the infections lower.

What is important during this tumultuous time is to maintain our connections with each other and make sure we are known in our community and concerned about its general welfare. In generations past and for good reasons, Jews often felt it was better not to be out there in the world. I would propose that we need not be a mystery to the world but we need to stand proudly as Jews with our diverse community around us and participate in making our world better. In addition and as we have in the past, we should avail ourselves of the trainings available from our police department and other agencies on how to be prepared for such events.

There is, of course, another level and I am speaking of faith. For those whose hearts and minds find strength in reaching out to the spiritual essences of Judaism and our faith in God, that, too, is a source of comfort and resilience.

In that spirit and with a deep sense of gratitude that the hostages at Congregation Beth Israel found freedom from their torment, there is a blessing we recite upon hearing good news and good news this is:

Praised are You, Ruling Spirit of the Universe, whose presence is integral when good happens.

Rabbi Ted Feldman

Welcome 5782!

09/05/2021 08:12:17 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Why is this New Year different from all other New Years? That sounds like a Passover question to be sure. I grant you that every Rosh Hashana is different because the world and our individual lives are dynamic. We are ever changing creatures who, as Jews, present ourselves at this season as ready to keep changing. That being said, I never imagined last Rosh Hashana that our world would be coping with the challenges we face and that, once again, this Ten Days of Repentance journey would be done online.

Therefore, tomorrow evening we will welcome 5782 with you, hopefully, joining us and looking at your screens while Fredi Bloom, Jef Labes, and I do our thing in front of cameras and microphones. Behind the scenes will be my friend, Lou Zweier, helping with the technology so I can, hopefully, bring our spirits and minds together to connect our community during this sacred time.

With all that we humans and we Jews have on our plates this year—health challenges, fires, floods, Covid-19, antisemitism, white supremacy—I better stop the list, I think we need to be together. The words of our Machzor, our High Holiday prayerbook, provide a way to draw ourselves together to contemplate how we use the gift of life and the gift time in our journey. The universal themes of repentance and renewal have called out over the generations of our history to provide hope and resilience to our spirits. People, inclined by their faith in God, have made these Days of Awe a building block to strengthen their confrontations with the many challenges of life.

All of these Jewish tools are available to us, not just during this season, but throughout our lives. The 1-1/2 years of Covid-19 isolation and the fracturing of our lives have left their toll in our emotional and spiritual worlds. I hope and pray that this Holy Day season will bring us together as as a community of people strengthened by each other and by our faith that as Rosh Hashana celebrates the creation of the world, we can find grateful and hopeful hearts inside of ourselves to jumpstart another year.

Our Board of Directors, Staff and I join in wishing all of you a healthy and happy New Year.

Shana Tova!

Rabbi Ted Feldman

Important High Holiday Announcement

08/09/2021 03:28:33 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Dear BIJC Community,

A few decades ago I lived in the south of the United States and Delta was merely the airline that flew through Atlanta. Now the word delta permeates news pages world-over with more ominous implications. The pandemic that we thought was winding down is now, once gain, roaring in our country and around the world. With it come the donning of masks for those vaccinated and unvaccinated and precautions renewed to prevent the transmission of the virus that has changed our daily lives.

It is with this in mind that the BIJC Board of Directors and Ritual committee met last Thursday to review our plans for the High Holidays, but a few weeks away. After serious and heartfelt discussion and with my support, we have decided that the risks associated with gathering in person are too great. We will, therefore, be making our holiday services available only virtually again this year through the Zoom platform.

While there is disappointment in such an action, the reality of the threat is too great to take the chance. I have been following decisions made by other communities and more and more are shifting their services online. There have been communities which have opened their doors for services and events and seen outbreaks of Covid-19. We choose not to risk that happening here. Please look for further communications in the coming weeks for the changed schedule and access links for the services. Fredi Bloom, Jef Labes, and I will be working to do our best to provide a meaningful experience, albeit in a seemingly unnatural way.

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month of Elul on the Jewish calendar. Our tradition has seen this month as one of preparation for the Days of Awe leading from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur. Our season of reflection and renewal comes with the ability to use these days ahead to think about the new year and how would might like our lives to be, recognizing the difference between those parts of life over which we have some say and those over which we do not. The themes of renewal and repentance come with notions of forgiveness - forgiving ourselves and people in our lives who have brought hurt into our worlds.

As the holidays approach, there will be opportunities to learn, contemplate, and prepare for our High Holiday experience so that we may enter 5782 with hopeful hearts and grateful feelings for our blessings.

I look forward to walking this journey of the month of Elul with you.

Shalom and Shana Tova,
Rabbi Ted Feldman

Memorial Day Message

05/31/2021 03:44:36 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Isn’t the greeting “Happy Memorial Day” a bit perplexing? I have been watching a couple of news programs and, sure enough, the greetings have been those words. I won’t even get into the phrase “Memorial Day Sales” as I have in the past. What is on my mind this Memorial Day is the thought that we are remembering all who served our country, men and women, and the sacrifices they made to preserve the ideals enshrined in our Constitution and the basic documents of our democracy. Memorial Day is exactly that, to remember those who gave their lives for us and an opportunity to express gratitude for their sacrifices and for the preservation of American ideals.

Needless to say, the various notions that they were to protect have been under attack and we are struggling as a nation to rediscover what our path is to get back to those ideals. Part of that current struggle is a rise of hatred and injustices against our Black communities, our Asian American - Pacific Islander communities and, now, in particular against our own Jewish communities. There has been a precipitous rise in acts of vandalism, violence, and verbal attacks against Jews over the past few years and, in particular, in the aftermath of the recent Israel-Gaza conflict. The mixing of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism further confounds the issues we are facing.

I would like to invite you to a community discussion of these issues on Tuesday evening, June 1, at 7 p.m. The discussion will take place on Zoom. If you would like to participate, send us an email at

The purpose of our session will be to forge our bonds and explore what this all means for us. It is vitally important that we stand as community in face of these challenges. Meanwhile, it behooves us to remember the fallen of our country who gave their lives in service of the ideals which have permitted our people to live freely in this nation and to flourish like never before.

—Rabbi Ted Feldman

Have a Happy Hanukkah

12/10/2020 01:49:52 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Yes, in just a few hours, we will welcome the Festival of Lights. How appropriate that is for us at this season. Not only are our days shorter and the nighttime hours prevail, but our our world is clouded with its daily challenges. The kind of light we need is not the kind that lets us perceive the physical world around us. We need a light that will brighten our hearts and souls, a light that might pierce the loneliness created by the pandemic, a light of hope in the face of the healing needed in our world.

As I, no doubt, point out year after year, Hanukkah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukkah is a minor festival on our calendar. I must say, that this year, with all that is happening in our worlds, it takes on a different dimension. It is that expanded dimension that invites the holiness of the light emanating from the candles of the holiday. We declare after the lighting that this light is sacred and we only can use the light to be able to absorb its holiness. The light is not for reading or for warming ourselves, but for igniting the spark of life that has sustained our people throughout the generations.

I hope you will be able to join us for candle lighting at 5:30 today. The link is in yesterday's email.

Happy Hanukah to all of you!!

Rabbi Ted

In hopes for a good tomorrow

11/02/2020 09:37:16 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Wow...what a stressful time. I had to stay away from the news for a few hours in order to think about writing these words. Of course, only to discover the reports of the terrorist attack in Vienna. Each day feels so intense in our world and achieving the balance between "normal" life and the fate of our country being in the balance is really a challenge.

On this day before election day I hope that all of you have voted or intend to cast your vote tomorrow. While the national scene is receiving the most attention, please know that your votes on local life make a difference for our communities in which we live.

At our Shabbat services over the past number of months I have been trying to emphasize how important for us to be able to be together as a Jewish community and use words and music to sooth our souls and find the resilience inside to be able to handle these difficult days. Many groups are having Zoom gatherings this week to be able to pray or talk or listen to music in order to navigate this bumpy journey. I would like to offer a time to check in and reflect this Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. If you would like to join the Zoom session, send us an email at

There are a number of reasons for us to come together, perhaps without even knowing the final result of tomorrow's balloting. The number one reason is to be together. Number two, as Jews, last week marked the second anniversary of the shootings in Pittsburgh and this Shabbat will be the second anniversary of the community memorial we held at BIJC. We need to acknowledge how it felt to have all of those people from the greater community surrounding us and trying to bring us support and comfort. Number three, we will begin to know the direction our nation is heading and be able to look for strength together to chart that course. So, please join us, if you can, for a little bit of music, a bit of reflection and conversation.

The Torah describes the people of Israel as a nation that will dwell alone. Indeed, that is the way it has felt at different points in our history. As anti-semitism rears its ugly head, we are reminded of the Torah's teaching. There are other times when we have been united with the communities around us in justice and peace. I hope we can soon return to this latter position and that journey back begins with our being together.

Od yavo shalom alienu...may Shalom soon come our way.

Please keep safe, wear masks, and socially distance so that we can one day come together in person and embrace each other as we had done...


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Join us for High Holiday Services

09/25/2020 05:00:14 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

In a little over 48 hours we will be welcoming Yom Kippur, as we gather in community on Zoom. Needless to say, 5781 has begun with continued drama and challenge. The passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the struggle around appropriateness of now appointing her successor, the threat of a non-peaceful transition into a new government... and, yes, lost in that is the saddest news of reaching over 200,000 deaths from Covid-19. We need a day of retreat, introspection, connecting with each other in order to find the resilience to cope. By the way, I left many things out of the list, including our own personal pains and struggles.

In this period of my life I have wanted to see Yom Kippur as if we are all going to a retreat together. When I have looked out at the congregation as we chant Kol Nidre, I have often thought, "We are in this for 24 hours. What a great opportunity we have.” Yes, this year is very different. Just as we were able to come together for Rosh HaShana, I hope we can do even more on Yom Kippur.

The Koretzer Rebbe, a Hasidic master, taught that the Shechina (The Presence of God) does not abide in a place of melancholy. His admonition is there to remind us that the seriousness of self-reflection on Yom Kippur and the sadness of remembering our departed is not meant to result in a state of melancholy, but an opportunity to access a kind of joy that is not necessarily contained in a routine smile. In ancient times, Yom Kippur was viewed as a time of great joy. There was a relief among our people because the High Priest of ancient days would expiate the wrongdoings of the people. As the hours of Yom Kippur waned, there was a certain exhilaration that the new year could move forward in positive anticipation. Our challenge in being together on Zoom is to find the ways to embrace the experience so that the passing hours comprise a journey toward hope and simcha.

The greeting as we approach Yom Kippur and on Yom Kippur is “g’mar chatima tova,”(literally, may you finish by being sealed in the Book of Life). Perhaps we might say, may you truly begin a good year!

I look forward to greeting you for our Yom Kippur observances.

G’mar Chatima Tova.

–Rabbi Ted Feldman

5781 is Different, But Not More Difficult

09/15/2020 12:15:10 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Yes, this Friday evening, as we welcome the year 5781 on the Jewish calendar, we may be asking a similar question to our spring festival of Passover. Why is this year different from all other years? Need I give all of the answers right now? It sure is different, different for our lifetimes and, in many ways, different than the lifetimes of the people who preceded us. Different, I said, not more difficult, except that we are experiencing it now. That's why the colorful greeting at the top of this email...we need some brightness in our lives.

What is, perhaps, historically different is that we won’t be able to gather in the Community Room of B’nai Israel Jewish Center as our community has done since the building was built in 1925. This year we will be looking at faces across small screens and hearing the service piped through the speakers of our computers, tablets, or phones. Recognizing that gathering that way and making the virtual world our sacred space comes with its challenges, services will be much shorter and some or many of the familiar elements will be absent. I would invite you to please join us on time, if possible, following the schedule available through the other emails. The link for the service will work for all of the services listed, including the Family Services. I will be joined by Fredi Bloom, Jef Labes, and Diana Faraone in creating what we hope will be a meaningful experience for you.

Given all that is happening in our world right now, it is so important that we strengthen ourselves by each other’s presence for the holidays. This will be a profound opportunity to pause from the daily confronting of challenges and search inside ourselves for the resilience that permeates Jewish teachings as we face the world.

While the themes of repentance and renewal permeate the liturgy particularly on Yom Kippur, those ideas, if brought into our lives, open our hearts and minds to add kindness, caring, and compassion into life. It is through those vehicles that, I believe, internal strengths are found.

Last year, on Yom Kippur, we bound ourselves together using a long string as community connected to Torah. That connection does not need to go away because we are separated into the safety of our homes. Please join us and help make these holidays not only different, but memorable as a source of strength.

May this be a year of health, safety, resilience, prosperity,…a year of deeply breathing fresh, life sustaining, clean air.

Shana Tova
Rabbi Ted Feldman

Words are Hard to Find

06/04/2020 05:09:15 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

As Jews, we should understand the anger that builds up over generations and generations confronting racism. George Floyd's death is an affront to the moral teachings that comprise the fabric of our free society. We are taught to not stand idly by the pain of our neighbors. What we witnessed on the viral videos was the fulfillment of an admonition in the Ethics of our Sages, the reward of one crime is another crime. Not only was there one perpetrator of this crime, but those who stood by joined in responsibility.

As I write this note, demonstrators are in front of the Petaluma Police Department, freely and, I hope, peacefully, expressing their solidarity with the thousands and thousands of people who have walked and cried and marched and prayed for change and healing. Our Chief of Police has expressed his and his officers horror at what has happened.

For us as Jews, finding ourselves in a period of rising anti-Semitism, these events and threats of military invention should raise our antennae and remind us that our vigilance is important now, as ever. In doing that, though, we want to join with the myriad of Jewish and community organizations who stand with the African American community in demanding a stop to these events which destroy lives, families, and communities. I feel like I am going back to the 1950's and recall driving in Tennessee during the early stages of the civil rights movement. I remember, as a child, seeing cars overturned, smoke billowing from buildings, police in riot gear and whites and blacks trying to heal the then racism that permeated life in those communities. It feels like deja vu. Watching the news this week reminded me that there our parts of our world still needing healing and renewal.

I know that I should be writing a long analyses of these events using Jewish sources and reminding us of our roots. I have to believe that most, if not all, of those reading this feel that urge for justice in our guts. Given what is happening, I am planning to offer a class in Jewish notions of social justice...just to remind ourselves from whence we came and where we can go.Please stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I invite to to affirm through your thoughts and actions that black lives do, indeed, matter. In fact, all of human life matters and right now we are focusing on understanding what is going on in our society and offering our thoughts, actions, donations, demonstrations to express our work to make a more just society.

May we all reach into our hearts and check out our own prejudices as we reach out beyond ourselves to make a difference in our world.


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Helping Our B'nai Israel Jewish Community Through the Covid-19 Pandemic

06/02/2020 07:17:12 PM


Stuart Nissenbaum, BIJC President

Covid-19 has shaken our world. Everyone of us has felt the ripple effects as this disease has taken so many lives and livelihoods. Together, we are facing a truly unprecedented situation. It is my hope that each member of our community is staying safe, healthy, and getting through these trying times.

During this time, I wanted to reach out and update you on how B’nai Israel has assessed, convened and realigned itself to a “new normal”- one that no one can yet imagine. The term new normal, itself, is so strange and I pray that we never accept it as such. Because I believe…

  • It is not normal for multiple family members, sometimes several generations to die within days of each other
  • It is not normal for burials to take place without loved ones present
  • It is not normal for our Shabbat services to be virtual rather than to gather as community in our synagogue
  • It is not normal for our extended families to have a Passover seder on Zoom
  • It is not normal for our synagogues, JCC’s and Jewish agencies to lay off or furlough thousands of employees

These past few months have turned out to be a test for our Jewish Center. Do we have the ability to rapidly re-create our way of doing business? The short answer is: YES.

Within days of the closure, B’nai Israel moved its Shabbat services onto Zoom. A typical Zoom service has seen 25-30 members join virtually as our Rabbi leads us in prayer and guides us towards healing. Rabbi Feldman has channeled FDR’s fireside chat, where each Tuesday morning he hosts an open forum so that members can discuss how they are coping with the changes brought on by Covid-19, and Wednesday evenings are set aside for virtual Adult Education classes. Our educators also moved our religious and pre-school classes to Zoom and have maintained constant contact with our children and their families. And several members have conducted Zoom cooking classes each Wednesday afternoon.

We know that the Covid-19 pandemic will eventually come to a pause and the economy will reboot itself, as will BIJC. But before we even think of re-opening, we must assess the damage that this pandemic has caused our community. Who has lost their job, business, retirement and God forbid, their life? Who has gotten sick or needs immediate assistance? Who has gone from a two-family income to a single family or zero income? Whose parents can no longer assist in the financial and/or physical needs of their children or grandchildren. And who cannot continue to pay their membership dues or re-join BIJC for 2020/2021.

Many of you attended our Annual Membership meeting on May 17th and heard me discuss the effects that Covid-19 is having and will continue to have on our Jewish Center. This year’s budget and the budget that was passed for the upcoming year will see a major loss of revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We estimate the shortfall to be approximately $90,000. Several of our fundraising events have been postponed. Our annual golf tournament which raised over $27,000 last year had to be postponed and will likely not be rescheduled until late fall or spring. Our Bidding for Good auction raised over $20,000 last year and also needed to be postponed as we were unable to go out in the community to solicit donations from local businesses. Although our High Holiday Appeal begins in late summer with mention in our newsletter, it is the appeal from the bimah on Yom Kippur that helps fund a good portion of our operating expenses. Yet this year our congregation may not be praying together in our building and there will be no opportunity for an appeal from the bimah. There is nothing more powerful than a meaningful address to the congregation followed by an ask and then a call to action for everyone to support our Center.

We are now approaching the end of our fiscal year and for the most part we have been in quarantine since mid-March. Most certainly, we won’t go back to any semblance of business as usual until the end of summer. Our Gan Israel Pre-School has been closed for almost three months and it appears that we will not be re-opening for a summer session. More lost revenue. Many Gan Israel families have prepaid their summer tuition and we are in the process of refunding over $20,000 in tuition.

No matter what the outcome of this year and next, the work of B’nai Israel Jewish Center is important and must continue. What will be the final cost to do that work, what employees need to be kept on, all the insurance, building maintenance, office expenses….the list goes on and needs to be considered when we look at the overall cost of running our Center. While we have somehow managed through the initial stages of Covid—19 lockdown, we are now bracing for the ongoing effects of the epidemic. B’nai Israel has faced many difficult situations in the past and we are adept at facing hardships with incredible resiliency, creativity and care. We know how to turn sorrow into joy and face fear with confidence and as a community we will come together to not only survive but to return stronger than ever.

If you have been so fortunate as to have escaped the personal financial losses associated with Covid-19, I am asking you to join me in making a difference today when it matters more than ever. Our staff and Board of Directors need your help to continue doing the good work that we do for you and for our community. Please carefully consider making your donation and give generously so that the doors to our beloved 155-year-old institution can remain open in good times and bad.

Click here to make a donation

Lag B'Omer

05/11/2020 04:11:08 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Tonight, at sundown, we welcome the day on the Jewish calendar called Lag B’Omer, the 33rd Day of the counting of the Omer. The mitzvah, commandment, in the book of Leviticus, bids us to count the days from Pesach to Shavuot. In ancient times this counting was accomplished by bringing measures of grain, an Omer, to the ancient Temple. The counting of the days from the liberation from Egyptian bondage to the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai took seven complete weeks. Shavuot was the fiftieth day.

So, why is this 33rd day significant. According to Talmudic tradition, a plague was rampaging through the communities of Jews during the time of Rabbi Akiva, Second Century. According to the tradition, on the 33rd day of the counting, the epidemic was declared lifted and celebrations ensued. As a result of that plague, 24,000 students had lost their lives. The celebrations represented a feeling of miraculous healing.

This 33rd day of the counting is also considered to be the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the principal book of the Jewish mystical tradition. Bar Yochai, on his death bed, revealed all of the secrets of that mystical tradition. The celebratory bonfires in Israel are to acknowledge that revelation.

For us today, struggling with the presence of COVID-19 in our world, we are reminded that civilization has had to deal with these plagues throughout history. Only in retrospect can the power of healing stand out for us. Today we have the tools of modern science to help us confront this reality, but we are also reminded that the natural world is, ultimately, beyond the total control of human beings.

On this Lag B’Omer, we acknowledge the lives lost centuries ago and the healing that came forth. We also acknowledge that we are saddened by our contemporary pandemic and the lives that have been lost and affected by this scourge. As we care for ourselves and our loved ones, we look forward to a contemporary Lag B’Omer when we can declare the plague lifted. May that moment come speedily and, in the meantime, may we live safely and with hope.

We were together...

03/29/2020 08:11:59 PM


Hillary Fox

Finding Direction by Looking Back

03/26/2020 02:00:51 PM


Ruth Wilson

During these unsettling times, I find comfort in looking back and learning how people coped with and often rose above challenges in their lives. As a relative newcomer to the B’nai Israel community I have always wanted to know more about its storied history that began in the 1860s. Many of us own or have heard about Comrades and Chicken Ranchers,[1] Kenneth Kann’s collection of interviews that included the Russian Jewish immigrants from the turn of the 20th century, to successive waves of settlers from mid- to late-century. Under the Fair Use doctrine, I offer a short excerpt. N.B. the names of the interviewees have been changed. I wish it weren’t so but I understand why the author chose to do it.

from Ch. 8 When There’s A War It Gets Busy

Diana Rabin Hartman (b. 1925 Petaluma)

The war was marvelous! Absolutely marvelous!! Right near Petaluma was Hamilton Air Force Base, the Coast Guard at Two Rock Ranch, the cavalry at the Santa Rosa fairgrounds. Boys everywhere! I had a lot of fun!

The war didn’t really hit me until my brother got drafted. Before that, when a girlfriend got me a date with a soldier from Hamilton Field, I was afraid to tell my mother. Jewish girls did not go out with soldiers! They were the dregs of the earth! But when nice Jewish boys from Petaluma became soldiers, it was entirely different. That’s when this nonreligious Jewish community started holding Oneg Shabbat, Friday-night services. So the Jewish soldiers in the area would have someplace to go. It brought all the Jewish soldiers into the Center! Non-Jewish boys came too. Oh, we had a lot of boys around.

I met my husband at one of those Friday-night services. He didn’t have a chance, poor guy. I met him in February of 1943 and we announced our engagement at the community seder in the spring. Joe Holtzman toasted us with champagne!

We had a huge wedding. Everybody came – 400 people. This was wartime, so the whole community gave sugar stamps for the cake. All the women helped with the cooking. Bill’s parents flew out from New York for the wedding. They were very religious – sixteen sets of dishes – you couldn’t mix anything – kosher kosher. When they arrived my mother-in-law asked, “Who is the shoykhet [ritual slaughter] for all this chicken at the wedding dinner?”

Bill says, “Me! I string up the chickens, take the knife, and whoosh – slit their throats!” [Much laughter.]

She almost had a heart attack.

We tried our best to have a real Jewish wedding. Rabbi Solomon Platt came up from San Francisco to marry us. We had the whole thing – the khupe [traditional wedding canopy], the banquet, music, dancing. We did it all after dark, do everyone had time to put their chickens to sleep.

[1] Comrades and Chicken Ranchers, Kenneth L. Kann, 1993, Cornell University Press

Our Evolving World

03/25/2020 12:54:40 PM


Rabbi Ted Feldman

Our staff, Hillary Fox(program and outreach director), Ruth  Wilson (communications coordinator), and Lisa Basalto(webmaster) have worked so hard to get this site ready for us to use as a forum for thoughts, feelings, ideas, and whatnot during these challenging times. All I know is that my email boxes are filled with words from organizations, businesses, political leaders, and such trying to assure people, inform people, on and on.

Anyone who has studied Judaism with me knows that I have, for decades, relied on Mordecai Kaplan’s definition of Judaism as an evolving religious civilization. Over the centuries we have clearly demonstrated that our Jewish lives have changed. They have changed from location to location, in various cultures in which we lived and under the leadership of different people who have developed different views of how to live our lives as  Jews. A prime example is happening right now. I know of rabbis and communities that would not have been willing to rely on technology to connect people, particularly on Shabbat. In the unfolding drama of the world pandemic, things have changed.For a while now, many have condemned technology as taking people away from live interactions. Today, we are grateful toi have these tools to keep our community together.

And, right here, we have this thing called a blog to give us the opportunity to express ourselves in writing or through pictures or art or music. I will watch these pages closely to look for words from our community. It is these words that will profoundly connect us in these days of separation.

Meanwhile, I will work from home, attend to my child who starts distance learning after this week and will likely not be back in a classroom for the remainder of the school year. I will try to keep in touch with as many of our BIJC community as I can and add thoughts to these pages. Please join me.

News from Outreach and Programming

03/24/2020 02:01:45 PM


Hillary Fox

Welcome to our community blog!  Hope we can all stay in touch here & keep updated w/ our virtual events!

Speaking of: Shabbat Connect, our religious school programming is back this Saturday, March 28th from 10am-10:40am.  This is a family program for preschool-7th. If you haven’t participated before but would like to pls email me:  You can also see our website for full description of the “regular” program.

💞, Hillary

Wed, August 10 2022 13 Av 5782