Comments From the Clergy


Dear Friends,

The crisp feel of the evening breeze, the coolness in the air, and the colors on the leaves of the trees are all evidence that our seasons are changing and we are headed away from the warmth of summer to the coolness of fall.  I am always attuned to the change of seasons, but especially aware of this one each year as we move from one year to another.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches us about his concept of Radical Amazement.  He teaches, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.  Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Each year, I find myself embracing this concept at exactly this point in the year as we move through our High Holy Day season.  In December, we move from the coolness of fall to the down-right cold.  We bring out our coats and boots, and we prepare ourselves for some serious weather (or in California, weather that is definitely colder than other times of the year).  In March, we move from the frigid winter to the spring, filled with drops of rain and perhaps some blooming flowers.  We put up our umbrellas and do some serious puddle jumping from one day to the next.  In June, we move from the rain to the warmth of summer.  We visit the beach, we travel with family, we sit around the campfire and we watch the sunset day after day.  And now, in September, as the coolness of the evening sets in and the leaves begin to change, we plant our seeds and prepare for a year of goodness and peace.

May we enter 5778 with open eyes, with a heightened awareness of our surroundings, and may we strive to live in radical amazement of this ever changing world each and every day.

May this new year be filled with joy, with light, and with love for you and yours.

Shanah tovah u’metukah!

Rabbi Lara

A Note From Our President

Dear Sisters:

Who is still feeling the glow after those marvelous High Holiday services? We are so fortunate to have such inspiring, soulful, musical, insightful clergy and congregants. We have each received immeasurable gifts. It seems like 5778 is going to be a good year, despite turmoil related to politics, weather or work, we have the solace of a strong community.

Women of Rodef Sholom has many wonderful events planned for the year. We hope you will join us. If you are not big on attending gatherings then meet us for coffee or a walk.

I want to personally invite you to our Opening Tea on Oct 8 at 3pm in the Social Hall, hear Sylvia Boorstein and Rabbi Stacy in conversation. Doesn’t that sound great?  All are welcome! WRS Members and those considering membership, men who might consider becoming “friends” of the sisterhood and those who have already joined us. Later in the month on Oct 21 We have the honor of hearing Leslie Brier, Women of Reform Judaism’s representative to the United Nations. Join us for Yoga on Oct 22. Games night playing Poker, Mahj and more on Nov 18th which will be an opportunity to JUST HAVE FUN! Take a look at our calendar and see what interests you.  Please contact us with your suggestions.  We are open to any and all ideas that will bring us closer, contribute to social justice, enhance spirituality and deeper connections.

On behalf of the Women of Rodef Sholom’s Board, I wish you all a peaceful, loving, sweet New Year.

Susan Goldwasser, President WRS

A Note From Our President

Dear Sisters,

Transitions. They keep happening. Ready or not, my youngest is off to college. It brings up so many feelings, memories. We remember when he was born. How did time go so fast? He is ready for this next phase but am I? I had those dark thoughts of regret. What mistakes did I make, how had I fallen short? When I’m wondering how to process a giant step I like to speak with people who have walked that line. You guessed it –Sisterhood!

At the August pool party I spoke with women who had adult children and they told me about their experiences when their kids left for college. They graduated and found jobs. Got married. Became parents themselves!  Ok. Slow down here.  But it was so comforting and beautiful to hear how women in our community at Rodef Sholom have navigated these life cycles.

And it all comes down to love. We love our children completely. We embrace them even after we have let them go.

Wishing you all the best as you encounter your own transitions. Share the wisdom you have acquired with others. We need each other, especially during these moments of profound change.

-Susan Goldwasser, President WRS

Susan and Jeremy Goldwasser

May 2017, from the clergy

Dear Friends

This past Sunday, I was honored to give the introductory remarks at our community Yom HaShoah ceremony. The day is one that is filled with remembrance, with sadness, and with love and compassion, both for the survivors and for those whose lives were lost in the Holocaust. And I felt much darkness as I entered the synagogue that morning knowing what the rest of the day held and the emotions that went along with it all.

But when I walked in the religious school office that morning, I felt the same energy I always do: joy and excitement for all that would take place that morning. Our 5th graders were taking a field trip to Urban Adamah to learn about taking care of our world. Our Kindergarteners were going on a scavenger hunt for ritual objects in the sanctuary. Our 4th graders were learning about the Dead Sea in Israel.

And as I listened to the various conversations amongst the teachers and madrichim, one caught my attention. On of our 3rd grade teachers was telling another that they were making sun catchers that morning as they learned about the value of tikkun olam and repairing our world. “Sun catchers,” I thought to myself, “are the exact opposite of what I am feeling today.”

This day that filled me with such darkness was suddenly filled with rays of light, and I could only hope that I too might be able to catch some light to bring into this dark day. Light is hopeful, cheerful, uplifting, and perhaps we need that light to carry us through the darker days.

As we count the days of the Omer and the weeks leading up to Shavuot on May 30th, may we each find some rays of light to catch and bring into our lives. May that light shine brightly within us, and may we extend that light to those people we touch and the world in which we live day in and day out.

~L’shalom,
Rabbi Lara

May 2017, from our president

Rabbi Michael Lezak has been a good friend to the Women of Rodef Sholom. He has been present for our sisterhood Shabbaton, bringing his special touch of holiness. He has been present in our personal lives guiding us during life’s most challenging and joyful moments. He has watched our organization grow and change and he has always been supportive. He has said the word “beautiful” a million times. We have been so fortunate to  have had the opportunity to share this time with him.

We have also experienced him develop over the years. His voice has always led us towards social justice and it has become stronger and stronger. We have seen his wonderful daughters grow up and his powerful wife create her own congregation.

With respect, appreciation, gratitude and love we wish Rabbi Michael all the best in his next adventure in life. Glide Memorial is on the other side of the bridge but you remain right next to our hearts.

~Susan Goldwasser

President, Women of Rodef Sholom

April 2017, from our president

I had the good fortune to attend the fried leadership conference in Charleston, South Carolina in March. This marvelous conference is held once a year and is open to all members of sisterhoods who want to develop leadership skills. I met women from all over the US and Canada. The services were gorgeous and the sounds of 300 women singing has stayed with me.

I attended workshops on bringing Jewish values to running effective and efficient meetings. We were challenged to be respectful, good listeners, as well as kind and focused.

Rabbi Zamore led a workshop on creating a Jewish food ethic by reclaiming kashrut. We explored our Jewish approach to food by being ethical, respecting animals, the land, farm workers, farmers. We discussed food issues including health, economics, food insecurity. She helped us understand how we can define kashrut and make it meaningful and relevant beyond the traditional definitions.

We visited the magnificent congregation of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, founded in 1749, whose cemetery includes revolutionary war heroes. We learned the Jewish community began in Charleston in 1690 and has the second oldest continuous reform congregation in North America.

Charleston is a big food city, I had my first grits(organic, local, stone ground no less!) and real southern biscuits with butter and jam. I visited the Slave Mart Museum which is the original site of the indoor slave market established when the city leaders thought it unseemly to sell slaves on the street. It was the most devastating and important place in Charleston, a city whose very riches and lovely homes were built on the torture of millions of people.

We were entertained Saturday evening by Nefesh Mountain, a Jewish bluegrass band. Dancing to Jewish mountain music was a joy!

Please join us next year in Nashville, March 1-4, 2018. You will make new friends, learn interesting, useful information, challenge yourself by learning new leadership skills, learn to be a stronger advocate for social justice, sing, dance, explore a new city and so much more.

~Susan Goldwasser
President, Women of Rodef Sholom

March 2017, from our president

Like so many of you I am looking forward to Passover. It always helps me reflect about what really matters to me as a Jewish woman. I come back to “welcome the stranger”. We left Egypt and became a roving refugee community. Homeless people in a hostile land. But we were free. No longer enslaved. This is our history. It isn’t politics. Not about republicans or democrats. We must empathize with individuals needing refuge because that is who we are, it is where we have been.

Please join us on Sunday, March 26 at 4:00pm for our own beautiful WRS Women’s Seder. We will enjoy delicious food, listen to gorgeous music, sing, dance and participate in the retelling of our history and celebrate our precious freedom. If you are feeling shy about coming on your own send me an email. We will make sure everyone feels welcome and enveloped by our own loving community.

~Susan Goldwasser
President, Women of Rodef Sholom

March 2017, from the clergy

Dear Sisters,

As many of you know, Purim is one of my favorite Jewish holidays (aren’t they all)?!?

The costumes, the laughter, the hamentachen, the fun, the poking fun at ourselves and the world, and the songs. And although Purim is one of Judaism’s fun and silly holidays, it is also quite serious, particularly this year.

The story of Esther, as you may remember, is that of a young lady who rises to a position of influence, yet is instructed to hide her Jewishness while she is there. Essentially, she is told to cover up who she is to protect herself and her people. But ultimately, when her people, the Jews, are threatened, her uncle/cousin Mordecai instructs her to step forward and use her proximity to the king to save her people.

When Esther expresses fear to Mordecai over confronting the king, he admonishes her and reminds her that her life is in peril as well. But then ultimately, he challenges her with some of the most powerful words in the entire Bible; he says, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created.”

These words have been ringing in my ears and reverberating in my soul in recent weeks. Looking out in our world and in our nation, I do believe that THIS is the moment for which we each were created. And with that statement comes the question …. what does this moment call us to do? To be? To say?

The Book of Esther is truly about Esther’s exploration and discovery of the answer to this question, it is about her path to meaning and purpose, as much as it is a story of the Jewish people of Persia.

As we too face rising anti-Semitism and other forms of hate speech and intolerant acts, this too is our moment to consider and discern what our unique contribution will be to bring about love, cooperation, and acceptance, unity, and respect to our world.

Happy Passover!!

Look forward to celebrating with you ALL Saturday night, March 11th!!

~Rabbi Stacy

February 2017, from our president

Trivia is not trivial

This is a tumultuous time during the transition from one administration to the next: protests, storms, flooding, work, school…life. It is easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. We worry about our children, our nation’s political direction and the safety and well being of Israel.

I wanted to let you know the Women of Rodef Sholom are doing a few things to make our community and world a happier place.

Come join us at Trivia Night on Saturday, February 4th at 7 in the Social Hall. We will eat and drink, kibbetz, laugh, learn, get a little competitive about important facts, purchase amazing bargains at the silent auction, and enjoy being with each other.

Community is something that we have to celebrate. No weather or political administration can stop us from knowing we have always been, and always will be, stronger together.

~Susan Goldwasser
President, Women of Rodef Sholom

February 2017, from the clergy

Greetings to the women of Rodef Sholom.

Recently “Rilla”, the female guide-dog breeder I have been taking care of, reversed roles with me. I have been suffering from a case of shingles. Rilla has become a companion dog, always by my side, always ready to give love and comfort. She can sense the pain and discomfort I’m going through, and she has a calming influence, helping me to feel better.

Sometimes experiencing pain and suffering can be a pathway to gratitude for when our mind and body is functioning well. This week we started to chant and study from the book of Exodus. As we meet Moses, we learn that despite his self-doubt he takes on the mantel of leadership and steps into a new role. What fierce courage it must have taken to approach the Pharaoh and demand he let the Hebrew slaves go.

Moses willingness to lead stands as an inspiration to so many women from our congregation who have answered the call, joining sisterhood and offering their skills to make our community a better and holier place.

As we move from slavery to freedom to revelation may we find ourselves ever grateful for good health and eternal love.

~Cantor David

January 2017, from our president

When it gets cold outside it feels so good to curl up, retreat, read a rom com or binge watch Netflix. It is also pretty special to invite a friend over, reach out and maybe make a new buddy and have tea and serve a homemade apple galette. I have an easy recipe that looks rustic (aka awkward) and tastes delicious. So put a fake log on the fire and have a nice chat. Winter chill? Bring it on!

Make a friend apple galette

In food processor pulse 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, 1/4 cup brown sugar; add 1 stick butter, pulse a few times; add 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, pulse. It will become dough! Turn out dough and press into disc shape, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1/2 hour. Turn oven to 400 degrees. Slice 4 apples and/or pears, add 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Roll out dough onto parchment paper. Transfer to a sheet pan. Add apples to center, fold dough at edge. Bake 45 minutes. Voila!

~Susan Goldwasser
President, Women of Rodef Sholom

January 2017, from the clergy

Dear Women of Rodef Sholom,

May 2017 be a year that brings much joy and laughter, health and happiness to you and your families. We thank you for all that you do to contribute to the strength and warmth of our community and we look forward to celebrating Rodef Sholom’s 60th anniversary together with you this year. Sending you much love and light for a wonderful new year.

~With love and appreciation,
Rabbis Stacy, Michael, Elana, Lara, and Cantor David

December 2016, from our president

Decades before Hillary’s campaign adopted the tag line, Women of Reform Judaism’s motto has been “stronger together”.

I recently visited the new Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture. It is a powerful place explaining the horrors of slavery. It details how our colonial society, economy and very infrastructure were literally built on the backs of slave labor. 12 of our first 18 presidents were slave owners. You learn about the experience of the Civil War, Segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynchings from the perspective of the people most affected. You walk into a slave cabin. You see chains and shackles.

Just when you’re so devastated you’re ready to collapse, you finally reach the top floor and see Oprah’s couch from her TV set! A full on shrine to President Obama! The extraordinary musical, sports, cultural, scientific contributions of African Americans on display!

I walked out and saw the sunset behind the Washington Monument. A wave of shock overcame me as I reflected on the fact that our president elect has chosen white supremacists as advisers. I wanted support to keep from reeling over. I reached out and held my daughter’s hand. Just over five feet, a towering pixie queen of hope and optimism, sparkling bright.

Stronger together, we remain determined to continue to do what we can to bring love and light into our world.

~Susan Goldwasser
President, Women of Rodef Sholom

December 2016, from the clergy

Dear Friends

I love the festive feel of this time of year – the light, the joy, the time together with our community.  And while I am filled with that joy, I am constantly reminded that the holiday of Chanukah is a season of dedication, of looking to recognize that which might need repair and working to recognize the holiness in our lives and around our world.  The word Chanukah literally means “dedication,” as we celebrate the time of the dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem.  What is it that we dedicate ourselves to year after year?  How can we dedicate ourselves as individuals and as a community to work together to help make the world a little better, one mitzvah at a time?

I would like to invite you to Rodef Sholom’s first ever Mitzvah Fair! The event will take place this Sunday at 10:30am-12:30pm in the Social Hall.  Now more than ever, as we enter this holiday season, we need to think about how to perform acts of tikkun that will improve the lives of those in our community who are struggling.  Come learn about volunteer opportunities for adults, kids, families (there’s something for everyone!) at Rodef Sholom and the larger community.  Meet representatives from over 20 local agencies and organizations in the county and learn about how you can get involved.

When we light our Chanukah candles, we sing the blessing, “she’a-sah ni-ssim l’a-vo-tei-nu ba-ya-mim ha-hem ba-z’man ha-zeh,” “Blessed are you God who made miracles for our ancestors in their days at this time.”  Let’s work together to dedicate ourselves to making this a season of mitzvot – of giving of our time and purpose to performing acts that will heal our community and our world in our days now at this time.

~L’shalom,
Rabbi Lara

November 2016, from our president

94 years ago these candle sticks were given to Nancy Symonds’ grandparents as a wedding gift. Nancy has decided to light Shabbat candles to engage more fully with Jewish ritual. She is participating in the Chai Mitzvah course with members of the Sisterhood Board. Each month we are led by Jewish educator and WRS board member Claire Mikowski. We study together, explore Jewish text, deepen our understanding of Jewish ritual, engage in social justice projects, and get to know each other better.

We are fortunate to have so many opportunities to learn together at Rodef Sholom. Please join us at our programs, make a friend, learn something new and feel the warmth that comes from being more fully engaged with your community of Jewish women at Rodef Sholom and generations past.

~Susan Goldwasser
President, Women of Rodef Sholom

November 2016, from the clergy

My First Israeli Friend

Her name was Tabi Weidenfeld. She was from Kfar Saba, just outside of Tel Aviv. She had two younger brothers, who would reportedly devour untold kilos of their mom’s chicken schnitzel every Shabbat when they came home from the army. Tabi herself was an architecture student at the Technion in Haifa. She had short black hair back in the summer of 1992 when we met. We were campers together at the BCI program in Los Angeles for Jews ages 18-26 to explore their Jewish identities.
It was a pivotal time in Tabi’s life and in mine. She was newly in love with her boyfriend back home. And I was in the midst of figuring out what my adult life might look like. We were surrounded by 60 fellow campers and a world-class staff of educators that included my first justice mentor Carol Levy and Rabbis Daniel Gordis, Levi Lauer and Karen Bender. For the first time in my adult life, I could see Judaism playing a major role in my life, and not just because the director of the program, Rabbi Alvin Mars, suggested that I should become a rabbi. For it was that summer that I began to appreciate the arc of Jewish history and the importance of the State of Israel . Plus I fell head over heals in love with Shabbat, Jewish justice work and with Rikud Am (Israeli folk dance).
What helped me fall in love with Israel that summer? Simply put, meeting Israelis: hearing their stories, understanding their pain and their dreams. I can still recall all of the stories they shared with us that summer. After camp, Tabi and 4 other Israelis came to stay at my parents house. We fed them, did their laundry and gave them a world-class tour of L.A. Six months later, I was in Israel. My first time as a curious Zionist. I had Shabbat dinner with Tabi’s family. I got to eat the schnitzel…and yes, I too ate kilos of it. And I fell in love with Israel and Israelis.
I tell you about about BCI, Tabi and the chicken schnitzel because I want you to fall in love with Israel and Israelis in the same way that I did. That is why we raised money to bring Adi Dardikman here to be our second shlicha. By now, I trust that most of you have seen her face. But have you invited her for coffee? A walk? A meal?
You should know that Adi will be soon be teaching a FABULOUS three-part class about Israel:
  • Thursday, 12/1 at 6:30pm – Watch the 2012 movie The Gatekeepers about Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, from the perspective of six of its former heads in JCC Library
  • Sunday, 12/4 at 4pm -Come hear Carmi Gillon speak, former head of Shin Bet (featured in the movie) speak in Rodef Sholom sanctuary
  • Thursday 12/8 at 6:30pm – Discuss the movie and Carmi Gillon’s talk with Adi in JCC Library
Trust me, the movie, the lecture and the discussion will be lively.  It will get you together in the room with fellow congregants who want to talk about Israel.  Plus, it will get you in the room with Adi three separate times, putting you on the path to claiming your new(est) Israeli friend.
~Rabbi Michael Lezak