Welcome to Tri-Valley Cultural Jews

We are a Secular Humanistic community serving those who identify with the Jewish People through family, culture and history, rather than through religion. Serving the Greater East Bay with holiday celebrations, opportunities to express your progressive social values, and education for children, adults and families. We are affiliated with the Cultural and  Secular Jewish Organizations.  Please view the Upcoming Events link for a look at future activities. We look forward to seeing you!

Virtual Passover Seder

The TVCJ annual community Seder will be held virtually on Sunday, March 28, 2021 at 5 p.m via Zoom. Everyone will participate in the comfort of their own home. Our progressive, secular humanistic Seder includes English-language readings highlighting the power of community and the value of freedom, along with songs in English, Yiddish and Hebrew. The hour-long ceremony is followed by optional schmoozing time while your family eats the dinner that you’ve prepared in your home. The event is family-friendly. We will provide a shopping list for your seder plate, suggested recipes, and the Passover Haggadah. We ask non-member adults to give a donation of $10 if you are able to support our programming.

If you have any questions or if you would like to be put on the evite list for this event, please email culturaljews@gmail.com

Why I chose Jewish Secularism and Joined Tri-Valley Cultural Jews

by Joy Randel

I was eight years old.  My family, uncle, aunt and cousins sat at my grandmother’s dining room table set with her plates and bowls made of green Depression glass. Food sat on beautiful platters in the middle of the table.  But we couldn’t eat it yet. It was another one of those Jewish holidays where we had to read from the thick prayer book written in Hebrew with Yiddish supplements until midnight before we could eat. My grandfather had passed away when I was one years old but we felt his presence.  My grandmother took over the reading of the prayer book and kept a kosher kitchen.  My mother had grown up in this home full of tradition and culture.  My father sat impatiently while awaiting his meal, helping my brother and me sneak food.  Other than those little tidbits, we just had to sit there hungry, listening to grown-ups recite words we couldn’t understand.  Not a great motivator for us to be really into the religious part of Judaism. 

My father’s parents were both Jewish, but he was raised with a Christmas tree and celebrated Christian holidays.  His mother thought it was easier to do what everybody else did around them.  I decided that I enjoyed the culture and traditions of Judaism, but I chose not to practice it as a religion.

My husband was raised Protestant and is also not religious.  When we had our daughter, we decided that we would raise her as Jewish and teach her Jewish culture and traditions.  When we moved to the Tri-Valley, I attended a local festival where Tri-Valley Cultural Jews had a booth.  I learned that Tri-Valley Cultural Jews is a secular organization where my daughter could learn about Jewish culture, history and traditions without being religious.   Our daughter attended Jewish Culture School where she learned about Jewish holidays, Jews from Around the World and cooked traditional Jewish recipes.  She also participated in community service projects, learned about Jews during the Black Plague, and researched Jewish authors and read their books as part of her preparation for her Bat Mitzvah.  She had a beautiful Tri-Valley Cultural Jews Bat Mitzvah that celebrated her coming of age in accordance with Jewish tradition.  We continue to be part of the Tri-Valley Cultural Jews as our daughter goes off to college because we enjoy the feeling of community that it provides.  

Tri-Valley Cultural Jews Virtual Tu B’Shvat

Tu B’Shvat has become a “Jewish Earth Day” when we focus on the environment. This year will be a virtual Tu B’Shvat event on Zoom. We will be have Leah Morrison speak to us about her journey making a zero-waste household, and give us tips. In addition, we will have a short Tu B’Shvat seder. On Tu B’Shvat it is traditional to eat 7 foods native to Israel, so we invite you to make a dish that incorporates one or more of the following: olives, grapes(raisins), figs, dates, citrus, almonds, and carob. Please share with us what you make at the event, and we will collect recipes to distribute. Look for the evite or email culturaljews@gmail.com for the Zoom code.

When: January 24, 10:30 – 12:00
Cost: Free to members. $10 suggested donation per non-member adult

Making Time and Marking Time

by Jesse Pino, TVCJ Board Member

In these busy and trying times, it can feel like we are always ‘on’. With adults telecommuting and kids distance learning or homeschooling, the usual barriers between work and home are blurred. Work takes over spaces and times that should be reserved for family, and the kids can walk in during work meetings.

One solution to this conundrum is to clearly mark time – instead of separating in space, we separate in time. My family has recently found some comfort in observing the Jewish traditions of Shabbat and Havdalah to help us do this. The symbolism of these rituals resonates with us and gives us something to look forward to.

Shabbat marks the end of the working week. We light candles, bless the wine, and bread–All good Jewish celebrations feature fire, wine, and food! These remind us to carry a light within ourselves, to rest, and to honor the earth and the workers that provide our food. We also honor our children and remind them how they honor us. The weekend is the time to slow down and connect with family.

Havdalah marks the end of the Sabbath. We light a braided candle to signify how family, friends, and community burn brightly together while still maintaining their own identities. We pass around wine and spices that represent the fragrant beauty of all that is good and true in life and sustains us for the entire week. During Tri-Valley Cultural Jews regular community Havdalahs (which have gone online for the time being), we then share any special or notable events that have happened during the last week. These can be anything from our littlest members losing a tooth, to someone getting a job promotion. We then extinguish the candle in the wine, transferring its spark to our hearts to carry forward into the week. Community Havdalahs are then frequently followed by games (or movies and pizza, in less socially-distant times). Connecting in this way has helped me and my family stay sane and make stronger connections in the community. We hope to see you at a Havdalah sometime soon!

Watching my kids prepare for their B’rit Mitzvah

by Noah King

During the course of my family’s time in TVCJ, both of my children went through the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program.  As they were getting started, I was excited in anticipation of watching each of them prepare for their “big day”.   In my mind, I was comparing the work they were about to undertake with the preparation I did at their age in a reform congregation.  For me, learning Hebrew, memorizing my Torah portion, and writing my speech were all means to an end;  stepping stones to help me achieve my goal of becoming a successful Bar Mitzvah when the day came.

     Very quickly it became apparent that the work my kids were doing was different.  The work WAS the goal in and of itself, with the “big day” simply being a culmination and sharing of all the growth they had both made while going through the entire process.  My daughter got in touch with distant Jewish relatives of ours in Brazil to learn about their culture, and she researched Jews in the history of the ballet.  My son prepared an authentic Jewish Hungarian meal, read a novel about the holocaust, and created an online informational map of the concentration camps the main character was sent to.  Both of them put in several hours of community service with a local food kitchen providing meals for those in need.  These are just a few examples of the many projects they invested their time in.  And that work wasn’t in preparation for what was to come…  the work itself molded who they were, and the adults they were growing to become.  The lessons learned by doing these projects guided their development.  When their “big days” finally came, the work was already done, and all that was left was the joyous occasion of sharing their experiences with friends and family.

     And this, I came to realize, was so much more fulfilling for them both.  Our more religious relatives who came to the ceremonies commented on how evident it was that the students in our Brit Mitzvah program were getting a much more meaningful experience than we had received in our own, more traditional, Bar/Bat Mitzvah programs.  My mother commented on her surprise over how “Jewish” the entire experience was.  As a parent, watching my children live and grow into adulthood, I was extremely grateful for the opportunities provided them by our program.  I would highly recommend it to other parents who are looking for a meaningful and valuable experience for their own children.

Member news!

Rebecca, TVCJ board member and JCS alumna, organized and led a Woman’s March in Castro Valley on October 17th. 50 members of the community marched and chanted on our 2 mile route. The March was fighting for economic, racial, and gender justice and to oppose the Supreme Court seat confirmation before the election. 1,2,3,4 we won’t take it anymore 5,6,7,8 no more violence, no more hate!