Growing up in a conversative Jewish household, I came to dread the High Holidays. Yom Kippur meant hour upon hour of services in impenetrable Hebrew standing in an uncomfortable suit, hunger gnawing all the while. Rosh Hashanah was only better in the sense that there was no fasting, but then stretched across two days rather than one. I had little care for the significance of the days, and even the fact that it usually meant missing a few days of school was little consolation when measured against the discomfort and boredom. In discussions with others who were raised in conservative or traditional Judaism, I learned that I was not alone in this opinion.
As an adult, I have a greater appreciation for the meaning behind these days, but little interest in subjecting myself or my own children to what I mostly remember as torment.
However, the High Holidays as celebrated by Tri-Valley Cultural Jews bear little resemblance to my prior experience. The focus is on the meaning of the days, but expressed in contemporary terms that are both more relatable to secular Jews of all ages and surprisingly enjoyable. The key rituals remain — the blowing of the shofar, Tashlich, the round challah — but they are framed in a modern and meaningful way.
So today, rather than dreading the High Holidays, I find myself looking forward to them, more fully able to appreciate their significance and the opportunity to celebrate with the TVCJ community.
The sound of the shofar is meant to wake us up so we can look at ourselves and the world around us and decide how to change in the coming year. We asked the Jewish Culture School students to make pictures of what they wished the world would wake up to in the coming year. Here are some of their pictures:
A Livermore Area Recreation and Parks District Ranger will join us again this year for an exciting program about native trees and the animals that depend on them. In addition, to honor greening efforts in the Bay Area, children will take home pre-planted native oak tree seedlings, and receive instruction on their care and feeding and when and where to plant them. Following these activities will be a yummy pot-luck lunch, accompanied by music and singing. Please bring a dish to share. Since we have members who are dairy- and/or gluten-free, please bring a card with your dish that lists the ingredients. In keeping with this holiday tradition, you are encouraged to include one or more of the following ingredients: Dates, Figs, Oranges, Almonds,Raisins, Olives, Carob.
Date: February 9
Time: 10:15 – 1:00
Venue: Bothwell Arts Center. 2466 8th Street, Livermore
Cost: $10 per non-member adult
We celebrated Lag B’omer this year with a potluck brunch and games. The weather broke just enough for us to hold our traditional watermelon toss. Thank you to Karen and Joy for help with planning and set-up of the event and to Ira for taking photos.
TVCJ’s annual community seder will be held at the Bothwell Arts Center, 2466 8th Street in Livermore on Saturday, April 20 at 5 p.m. Reservations are required. To reserve a space and receive a potluck assignment, please call (510) 888-1404 or e-mail Reservations@EastBayCulturalJews.org by April 15. Food need not be kosher for Passover. There is a requested donation of $25/adult non-member of TVCJ. Children are welcome. Our secular seder, replete with songs of resistance and hope, uses an English-language progressive Secular haggadah highlighting the power of community and the value of freedom. The hour-long ceremony, followed by a potluck dinner, is family-friendly (but not child-centered).
This weekend, secular humanist jews from all over joined us for our west coast conference, “A World of Jewish Music”. Talented speakers, excellent food, interesting company, and fabulous entertainment were all part of the fun. Here are several photos from the first day of the conference.
Cantor Dr. Jonathan Friedmann delivers his keynote On Beyond Klezmer.
The J-West audience enjoying Dr. Friedmann’s talk.
Schmoozing between sessions
Dr. Ezra Donner delivering his session on Jewish Composers
Audience during the Q&A portion of Dr. Donner’s presentation
Dr. Friedmann chipping in during Dr. Donner’s Q&A session. It was fun to see the two have a bit of a back and forth on a topic they were both quite knowledgeable about.