March 2016, from our president

Hello Ladies,

March is here and thoughts turn to Purim. I am thinking of Queen Esther, courageous and clever and of my beloved grandmother Esther Birenbaum. She never knew her exact birthday but she knew she was named Esther because she was born near Purim and so she celebrated her 103 birthdays in March. Like Queen Esther she was an orphan (at least I think Queen Esther was an orphan or why would she be raised by her uncle?) and she was very brave. She left Poland alone as a young woman and arrived at Ellis Island and started a new life. She learned a trade and became a sewing machine operator in a factory, she learned English, got married and had a family. She was very wise despite never having had any formal education.  When I would visit  we would sit at her kitchen table and she would serve coffee and her homemade cookies.  She taught me so many important lessons: life is a college; home is best; never spend more than you earn; clean the house first thing in the morning, then you are free to enjoy the day; always a mother. She encouraged me to marry my husband (best advice, ever).

My grandmother lived through unimaginable hardships and life tragedies. The most devastating was the death of her daughter Lillian, when she was 44.  She could reflect on her experiences with Pogroms, anti-Semitism, homelessness, immigration, poverty and widowhood but she never recovered from my mother’s death. My grandmother Esther always encouraged and supported me. Her belief in me was something I will always have, it is my legacy from her and I am forever grateful. She really loved me. She taught me the act of loving can not only lift and sustain, it can save lives.

In the spirit of Esthers, in Persia or the Bronx, let’s give ourselves time to have coffee and a treat with each other. My grandmother never tasted a scone but here is my recipe. Give it a try.

Susan’s scones


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Put In food processor : 1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup cornmeal, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 TBSP baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp cinnamon. Pulse to combine.

Add ½ cup(one stick) unsalted butter, pulse until sand-pea size, don’t over do it.

Add 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, ¼ cup cream or plain yogurt. Pulse just until combined.

Dump out into large bowl, and add ½ cup dried fruit (currants, dried cherries ,etc.) and ½ cup nuts (walnuts, pecans) and knead with your hands just to combine.

Put dough on baking sheet, cut into triangles or use round biscuit/cookie cutter.

Bake @ 15 minutes and enjoy!

~Susan Goldwasser, WRS President

Women’s Retreat, May 13-15

The Women of Rodef Sholom invite you to join us for our 2016 Weekend Retreat

All of the beds are full, but you can still join us for the day! Enjoy gourmet meals, shabbat services, yoga, workshops, create new friendships and relax in the beautiful setting of Westerbeke Ranch. Participation in this event is limited to WRS members. If you are not a member and would like to join us, add $50 to your total payment to cover the cost of WRS membership.

Friday night, May 13th | $70
WRS Membership (if not already paid) | $50
Includes 4pm opening program, Shabbat service with Rabbi Elana, Dinner, Shabbat Unplugged, Leaving by 10pm
Saturday, May 14th | $195
WRS Membership (if not already paid) | $50
Includes 8-10am breakfast, 10:30 am Shabbat service, Lunch, Workshops (including one with Rabbi Stacy), Dinner, Havdalah, Fire Circle, Leaving by 10pm
Make checks payable to ‘Women of Rodef Sholom’ and mail to
170 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael, CA  94903
Clearly mark envelope ‘retreat’
Information below and payment must be received to complete registration. Space is limited so don’t delay! You may also use the form below to ask questions or add your name to our waiting list for the full retreat.

about that chicken

The Kosher Chicken Index

really….it does exist!

On Jan 8th, the Jewish Chronicle of London, England, published their research as The Kosher Chicken Index to spell out the cost of living a “full” Jewish life in London when compared to the alternative. Not too fond of that “full” part as it carries with it some sort of “shame on you” for Reform Jews.  But it is an interesting peek into London Jewish life.

For example, the Jewish Chronicle reports on the increased cost of a Jewish wedding compared to non-Jewish. But where is it written that Jewish weddings must cost an arm, a leg and your first born? Bring that cost down (how hard could that be?) and the Kosher Chicken Index becomes less of an issue.

And if you think the cost of kosher chicken is way too high I have one word for you…vegetarian! There are ways to bring down costs, and whether you choose to keep kosher or not, the recipes coming out of  Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook will rock your world. Buy it at the Women of Rodef Sholom Gift Shop in the JCC…but you knew that!

Regardless of your take on kashrut, The Kosher Chicken Index does make for interesting reading.  Enjoy.

If you do decide to take on that chicken, Bubbe can help. Bubbe has left us, but her heartwarming videos play on.

But back to the Gift Shop….here are a few things you should know:

  1. The Gift Shop carries almost 60 tallit, from traditional styles to modern, wool, silk, polyester and acrylic and priced from $60 to $300.
  2. The Gift Shop looks for unique Judaica like the mezuzot made from found industrial materials by Schmutz & Bolts out of Berkeley.
  3. The Gift Shop carries a child size lap harp with accompanying Jewish sheet music. Can’t you see this? It’s Seder and time for a song and the little one asks for quiet  then moves everyone to tears with a Jewish tune on the lap harp. You kvell!
  4. The Gift Shop carries Mini Mazels for your next simcha.  Made from Belgian chocolates, they are tiny coins foil wrapped in pink or blue or an Israeli theme of blue and white. Bag of 240 costs $24.00.  Sprinkled around tables you’ve got something really unique.

~Ronna Voorsanger
The Gift Shop manager




Membership Social, February 21

Please join us for our winter February Social on Sunday morning at 9 am in the JCC Gallery

Share your favorite things

Oprah isn’t the only one who has a favorite book, movie, recipe or funny story! Come share your favorites, laughter, and some delicious egg casserole, donuts, tea & coffee.

Come Share These Favorites & More!

  • Thought provoking books
  • Academy Award nominees you’ve seen & enjoyed
  • Music to warm your heart
  • Overdrive: the computer app that allows you to check out & read/listen to library books anywhere/anytime
  • Favorite local cheese company
  • Favorite Trader Joe’s Items
  • Funny Family Stories

RSVP below.

Sisterhood Hike, first Friday

Join the women of WRS and CRS on the first Friday of most months. See the CRS weekly email and the WRS monthly newsletter for confirmation of dates.

Meet at Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon at 8:30 for a spectacular walk along the water. The path is flat, dogs on leashes are welcome. It’s a wonderful opportunity to commune with nature while enjoying our community of women.


WRS Seder Planning Meeting, January 6

WRS Seder Planning Meeting, 5-7 pm
5 pm at the Osher Marin JCC. This year, co-chairs Ruth Malkin and Rhonda Daniels will lead our planning committee meeting. Please join this wonderful committee of dedicated women to make this year’s Seder as special as all of our others. RSVP below if you can join us for this first planning meeting or if you cannot make the meeting but want to be involved in the planning. This is a wonderful way for all members to get involved in our sisterhood, and many hands make for very light work and a lot of fun!

January 2016, from our president

Dear Ladies,

I’m looking forward to 2016. We all have different reasons to celebrate the new calendar year. The Women of Rodef Sholom would like to know what would make you happy, something you have always wanted to try but haven’t had the opportunity, what events would get you out of your bathrobe (don’t you just love fleece?) and comfortable home on a random Tuesday night. I’m talking fun, not what we should be achieving or accomplishing. We are all really, really good at being hard working and responsible. Please join me shifting directions here. We are open to suggestions. We have some big plans for 2016 at Sisterhood.

Trivia night January 23rd is a good start. Even if you don’t think you’ll know the answers your teammates might and you will laugh, sip a beverage and nosh and have a great night out. The first Friday of the month starting up again in February we hike (ok, more like walk) with Rabbi Stacy. Join the monthly book group. Come to the monthly senior luncheons. We are already planning the women’s seder and our wonderful retreat in Sonoma. Who is in for a movie, Mom’s night out for manicures, wine, and cheese tasting? Contact me with your ideas for other informative, educational or just plain entertaining events.  Wishing all of us a healthy and happy 2016!

~Susan Goldwasser, WRS President

January 2016, from the clergy

Dear Women of Rodef Sholom,

A Mountain of Cookbooks and The Perfect Shabbat Afternoon

It had been another mighty Shabbat morning at Rodef Sholom: Gesher families had bonded in deep ways, Torah with Soul folks had surfaced even more connections to the weekly parsha, and 2 b’nai mitzvah families had each risen to the top of Sinai to receive Torah of awareness and awe: for the gift of their child, for their family and community, and for one of the most profoundly holy mornings of their lives.  As a rabbi, there’s nothing quite like witnessing people of all ages coming alive with gratitude for life, for community and for an appreciation of shared sacred paths.

After sharing reflections and mazal tovs with the b’nai mitzvah students, their parents and grandparents, I head home for a Shabbat afternoon with my family.  Invariably, I’m greeted with hugs or hot cookies or a dance performance that they’ve been working on over the past hours or weeks.  Needless to say, Shabbat is our most important family recharging station.

When I returned home from services three weeks ago, my girls were nowhere to be found.  After combing our first floor, I headed downstairs to find all three of them huddled up in Minna and Bluma’s bedroom.  There, smack dab in the middle of all three of my daughters, was a stack of no less than 15 cookbooks rising high above all the stuffed animals on the adjacent bed.  I soon realized that I had walked into the middle of a dialogue that had been going on for at least an hour.  Together, my three daughters had grabbed all of their favorite cookbooks off the shelves, and were in the middle of going through them, making a very long list of all of the recipes that interested them.   And now they were busy winnowingthe list from 500 recipes all the way down to the one we would work on as a family that Shabbat afternoon.

To me, this is an image of what we aim for on Shabbat: slowing way down and shutting down anything that might get in the way of laughing and bonding and dreaming together.  The rabbis talked about how Shabbat was to gift us with  “mei’ein olam ha’ba / a taste of the world-to-come.”  That cake our girls baked that shabbes afternoon was supremely tasty.  I like to think of Shabbat as the originial Slow Food or Slow Life movement.  Shabbat’s a tool that gifts us with time and space to breathe, to connect, to savor relationships and mainly, to feel wildly alive.  That image of my ladies and their cookbooks piled high reminded me of how very good life can be.

In what ways is Shabbat helping you to feel wildly alive.  Let us know how we can help you deepen your practice.

~Rabbi Michael Lezak

Maccabee Santa and other sweet joy

when Maccabees weren’t

photo courtesy
photo courtesy

I love Kaiser Permanente and especially the cardiology department. And, why does this have anything to do with chocolate Maccabees & Hanukkah? Because when my newly acquired cardiologist told me it was doctor’s orders to eat a square of high quality, 70% or more cacao chocolate every day, I didn’t much mind that I also had to take those new meds! I just love Kaiser…how cool.

I also decided that we would only carry high quality chocolate in the Gift Shop so our customers would smile too. We wouldn’t carry the little, chocolate Maccabee soldiers. They’re just not the same yumminess when you tear off their foil and pop them into your mouth.

Until just the other day someone wrote an article that they had unfoiled a Maccabee and took a good look…who does that? What this person found was so Jewish-news-worthy that it showed up in The Forward! Under the Maccabee foil was a very naked, very chocolaty Santa Claus….so I got right on it and have ordered 144 little Maccabee soldiers (144 divided by 18 = 8 – the distributor chose the number not me).

photo courtesy
photo courtesy

Run right in to The Gift Shop and grab some! Getting undressed has never been this much fun.

other sweet treats

Stuck inside because who wants to go out and get chilly or wind-blown or wet? Using silicon molds, bake Hanukkah goodies or freeze or chill a Hanukkah treat for family, friends or just for you to dig into using The Gift Shop’s silicon dreidel or Star of David silicon muffin molds or ice cream molds or Jello or whatever.

Here’s an extremely peppy young lady who’s not afraid to show you how it’s done.  Enjoy the video, grab the keys and drive on down to The Gift Shop for your very own molds.


Wouldn’t mind if you shared your successes on this blog…just use the comments below. And maybe even bring a sample into The Shop!  We’d love that.

~Ronna Voorsanger
The Gift Shop manager




Healing Leslie

WRS member Leslie Goldgehn is recovering from a tragic car accident in March. She is not yet able to drive so needs help getting to (mostly) doctor’s appointments. She has set up a CaringBridge account to organize the help she needs and to keep family and friends updated on her recovery. Below is her message from her site. Please sign up and help out when you can.

Welcome to my CaringBridge site. Linda Hearne and I have created it to keep my friends and family updated on my recovery and to let you know how you could help me out, if you have the time. In case you don’t know already, I was in a serious car crash in Houston on March 10. I have been home almost two months and am adjusting to an almost independent life. My injuries were very serious and I am working very hard on my recovery. I have a fabulous physical therapist who is helping to minimize my pain. I have a strict exercise schedule that I try to maintain at home. Tucker, my  dog, is  a godsend in demanding his walk and cuddle time every day. In addition to this message, I have sent a schedule out to you with times and dates of various appointments as well as tasks that I need help with.  If you have the time I would very much appreciate it if you would sign up to drive me to appointments, come over to help me with planning (still a challenge for me), or just going out for lunch, dinner or a walk. My neck, wrist and back 8 ribs were broken, and I suffered a serious concussion. I’m recovering one step at a time and my children and friends have been wonderful. If you are able to help, please sign up on Caring Bridge and thank you so much ahead of time. Love, Leslie 

December 2015, from our president

Hi Ladies, I can’t believe it is almost Hanukkah. How did that happen so fast?  Come join us December 7th at our Women of Rodef Sholom Member’s Social. If you are not a member yet, come anyway.  We will visit, drink, eat, light candles and celebrate being together. Meet new friends, reconnect with old friends.

For years I was a member of Sisterhood but didn’t attend many events. I was busy working and taking care of my kids. I wasn’t sure how to get involved, I didn’t know if I had the time or energy. But then someone asked me to bring baked goods to something. I don’t really remember the occasion. The women were very organized and welcoming and there was this great energy. They were having fun. I helped out at Pizza Bingo and met a woman who taught me about the importance of creating a circle of support. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. At another event I met  two women who had gone back to school and became lawyers at a time when there were very few women in law, another woman was a lawyer who had become a yoga teacher.  There were artists, musicians, writers. Ideas about parenting, recipes, books and travel were never in short supply. I looked forward to  developing relationships with women who had diverse backgrounds, life experiences and areas of expertise.

I can relate to finding it difficult to determine when and how to participate.  Especially when you aren’t sure if you will know anyone.  It can be confusing trying to figure out how to jump in, and who to contact. Well, we would love to hear from you. Just email me. I’ll connect you to the right person. Come to one of our Board Meetings, first Wednesday of the month 7-9pm. Whatever your interest, there is a way to get involved. Perhaps you like to throw parties, we need your skills. We need assistance driving Seniors to the clergy-hosted Senior Luncheons. You might prefer to help out preparing food and serving at our homeless shelter dinners. The Women’s Seder is a fabulous event and our committee is open to more volunteers. Trivia Night is coming up in January and you might enjoy helping out with our Silent Auction. Help us plan our wonderful annual retreat in Sonoma.

I can’t call all 300+ members of the Women of Rodef Sholom, so here is my personal invitation to all of you to get involved. I look forward to lighting candles with you at the Members Social!

~Susan Goldwasser, WRS President

December 2015, from the clergy

Dear Women of Rodef Sholom,

I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Wanting to understand why this little book has attracted so much attention and why it has remained on the New York Times Bestseller list for 56 weeks, I read the book and was surprised by what I found. Instead of merely being an instruction book on organizing one’s home, it turned out to offer straightforward advice on living a more deeply spiritual life. Like everything in Jewish life, Marie Kondo’s book can be understood on many levels. On the simple level, what we call in Judaism, the pashat level, it guides us in the art of discarding unnecessary and expendable objects that clutter our closets, cupboards, and homes. But on a deeper level, the drash level, Kondo calls upon us to discern what truly matters in our lives. She advises the following technique: take all of a given category from your closet, shirts, for example, place them all in one place, pick up each one and ask, “does this spark joy for me?” If the answer is yes, great, return it to the closet (in a specific order and arrangement which she explains). But, if the item does not evoke joy in one’s heart, if it does not make you sparkle with delight, hold the object, thank it for being in your life, wish it well, and release it to the world or to someone who needs it and will enjoy it. She prescribes the same process with papers, books, household items, and kitchen supplies.

Years ago, I adopted the practice of getting rid of at least one article of clothing whenever I bought something new. But Kondo’s method pushed me even further. It’s not about gradually weeding out our closets or possessions, she believes, but rather, about ridding ourselves of that which no longer serves us, which no longer “delights” us. It is also about honoring each of our possessions, treating it well, with love, and with admiration.

What I found through reading her book is that the “magic art of tidying up” is really a spiritual primer for daily living. And that when we truly appreciate everything in our lives, it is easier to let go of it. For example- a box of my sons’ old toys has been hiding in the corner of the garage for years. Every few months, Frank asks, “can we get rid of this?” And I answer, “no, I’m not ready, the boys used to love these toys when they were little, I can’t get rid of it.” But this time, I picked up each object- a small plastic dinosaur, a red, bouncy ball, a tattered, well-read book- thanked it for bringing me and my sons so much pleasure, and let it go. I was finally able to give the old toys away. While the memories are still with me, the boxes and bags of old toys and clothes are now being recycled and given to others who can make good use of them.

Perhaps the same is true of non-physical items in our lives- our character traits and habits as well! If one of our traits no longer serves us, focus on it, thank it for being present in our lives, and give it away! It might not be as easy to “give away” stubbornness, laziness, or anger, but it is a spiritual practice made easier over time. Try it!!

~Rabbi Stacy Friedman

Jewish Women’s Collaboration, January 17

Marin Jewish Women’s Collaboration
Join your friends for a riotous good time at the Marin Jewish Women’s Afternoon “Chai” Tea, accompanied by the soulful sounds of Jazz & Blues chanteuse, Pamela Rose. Enjoy an afternoon of entertainment and artisanal teas along with an assortment of delectable treats.

3-5 PM at the Osher Marin JCC. WRS members $10, public $18. Tickets and more information here.

Trivia Night, January 23

Trivia Night, January 23, 7-9pm

It’s time to get out and have an adult evening! WRS is excited to bring to you, once again, Trivia Night, with Rodef Sholom’s very own master of trivia, Howard Rachelson. It’s going to be a great night – it always is! 7pm in the Rodef Sholom social hall.

  • Ticket price includes savory and sweet food delights, coffee and your first glass of wine or beer.
  • Form your own team (limit 10 per team) or just show up and join a team.
  • 50/50 Raffle: winner takes half of the raffle ticket sales. Tickets $2 each or 3 for $5
  • We are preparing a silent auction, so bring your checkbook!

$20 advance, $25 at the door (includes 1 drink ticket). Prizes will be awarded. RSVP below and mail a check (made out to Women of Rodef Sholom) to WRS, Congregation Rodef Sholom, 170 N San Pedro Road, San Rafael, 94903. Note ‘trivia’ on the envelope and in the memo section of your check.