Monday, October 30, 2006

Torah Tonight in Santa Cruz!

Dear Chevrah,

I am glad to report that after much deliberation we have a topic!

Something different...

Tonight we begin "Nefesh HaChaim" - the "ethico-kabbalistic" magnum opus of Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner (1749-1821).

Don't miss out!

Rabbi Gordon

Time: 7:30pm, tonight! - (monday, oct. 30)

Location: 132 Castillion Terrace, Santa Cruz 95060 (831/427-1285)

Directions from the intersection of Mission St. and Bay St.:

Take Bay St. up towards UCSC. Turn Left on Nobel. The second street
on the right is Castillion Terrace (a tiny street with a circle).
Parking is most available on Nobel. Walk up Castillion Terrace and
turn right into the first driveway. Walk straight ahead onto the
walkway. I'm in the first unit on the left, right there behind a
wooden gate. There is a mezzuzah on the door!

check out my new parsha blog:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween and the Jews

The day of tricks, treats, and all things ghoulish known as Halloween is upon us on Tuesday of this week. While Halloween, as practiced by many Americans, has little spiritual or religious significance apart from the use of supernatural imagery, it’s religious and specifically non-Jewish origins cannot be denied, having grown out of the pagan Celtic Samhain, the Irish All Hallows Eve and the Catholic All-Saints Day.

With such a pedigree, I think a Jew’s participation in Halloween activities is questionable at best. The emphasis of Judaism is on life, not death, and we certainly have a number or days and occasions during the year where we remember those who are no longer with us physically. The folks over at the Orthodox Union seem to agree, and have posted some thoughts as part of a series called “Wicca, Torah, and Truth,” which looks at Wicca, witchcraft, and the modern Jew.

What do you think? Do you plan to party like a pumpkin, or is this just another Tuesday night? Post your thoughts, and let us hear what’s in that Yiddeshe kop of yours.

Interesting Artistic Opportunities

This was forwarded to me by Rabbi Shalom Bochner. Sounds interesting:
>I'm looking for models with Middle Eastern faces. Our first account
>> is of the woman who wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. I'd like to
>> have some actual pose time with the model, but after that I would
>> work from a photo.
>> Sooooo, I'm wondering, do you know of any folks who might be up for
>> something like this?
>> We'd really appreciate any help or direction you could give us.
>> Blessings,
>> Ruthie Korch
>> 831.426.6869
Well, he was Jewish I suppose.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Standard Time Begins

Just a quick reminder that today, Sunday October 29th, Standard Time resumes at 2:00am, so remember to set your clocks back one hour.

To lazy to set your clock to the right time? It might just earn you a Darwin Award:

Living on Zionist Time
5 September 1999, Jerusalem

In most parts of the world, the switch away from Daylight Saving Time proceeds smoothly. But the time change raised havoc with Palestinian terrorists this year.

Israel insisted on a premature switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time to accommodate a week of pre-sunrise prayers. Palestinians refused to live on "Zionist Time." Two weeks of scheduling havoc ensued. Nobody knew the "correct" time.

At precisely 5:30pm on Sunday, two coordinated car bombs exploded in different cities, killing three terrorists who were transporting the bombs. It was initially believed that the devices had been detonated prematurely by klutzy amateurs. A closer look revealed the truth behind the explosions.

The bombs had been prepared in a Palestine-controlled area, and set to detonate on Daylight Saving Time. But the confused drivers had already switched to Standard Time. When they picked up the bombs, they neglected to ask whose watch was used to set the timing mechanism. As a result, the cars were still en-route when the explosives detonated, delivering the terrorists to their untimely demises.

Reference: Margot Dudkevitch of the Jerusalem Post, Ron Kampeas of the Associated Press

Friday, October 27, 2006

Partners in Talmud

Partners in Talmud: Santa Cruz - Kew Gardens

After a very successful pilot project, in which several members of our community learned Talmud one-on-one with members of Rabbi Ya'akov Grossman's community in Kew Gardens, New York and came together virtually for a summary lesson via Webcam, the KT education committee is pleased to announce our first formal Partners in Talmud course.

Here is how it works:

Congregants from Santa Cruz will be paired up with their own individual study partners from the community of Rabbi Grossman in New York. The partners will study Talmud over the phone by scheduling one learning session of about one hour per week at their common convenience. The New York partner, who will have prepared a session with Rabbi Grossman, will call his Santa Cruz partner and review with him/her the material, which will be emailed in advance of the session. Approximately once a month, after completing a segment of learning, participants from both coasts will get together, summarize what they have learned and participate in a joint roundtable discussion via a Webcam connection, which will connect the two groups gathered in their respective cities.

The first topic that will be covered is the lighting of the Chanukah menorah. Partners will begin to learn during the week of October 29 and continue through the week of December 11 (just before Chanukah). If you are interested in participating in this unique learning opportunity, please call 457-0264 or email Tammi:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rabbi Gordon Returns!

A message from Rabbi Yisroel Gordon:

Just wanted to let you know that I'll be back in Santa Cruz this Monday night (Oct. 30) like old times. So if you're in the mood for some enlightening and inspirational Torah discussions... or even if you're not but you recognize your duty as a Jew... or even say you're just nostalgic, join us Monday night at 7:30 for the launching of year six!
Topic? Still up in the air. Let's say it'll be a surprise, even to me! (email your wish list to
Location: 132 Castillion Terrace, Santa Cruz 95060 (831/427-1285)

Directions from the intersection of Mission St. and Bay St.:

Take Bay St. up towards UCSC. Turn Left on Nobel. The second street
on the right is Castillion Terrace (a tiny street with a circle).
Parking is most available on Nobel. Walk up Castillion Terrace and
turn right into the first driveway. Walk straight ahead onto the
walkway. I'm in the first unit on the left, right there behind a
wooden gate. There is a mezzuzah on the door!
Special thanks to Sharon for hosting!

Rabbi Yisroel Gordon

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tsniut and Tsreaking

On the eve of October 4 2006, the UCSC campus witnessed an annual tradition... First Rain. When the first rain of the school year falls for more than 15 minutes in the evening of a weekday (unstated, generally understood social rules... are there more??) many students streak across campus. I've heard that it's a fun bonding activity for the campus, but I wouldn't know.

Streaking just isn't my activity. For some, it seems like a wonderful liesurely activity, but for me, not so much. I personally don't like advertising my circumcision to the world. Perhaps, my hesitation is because of Tsniut.... Oh Tsniut....

Tsniut is the Jewish concept of modesty. We may be all too familiar with stories of women with covered elbows and long skirts. But Tsniut applies to men as well. Granted, I haven't brushed up with the code in a while, but I'm pretty sure running naked across campus isn't on the "ok with modesty" list.

But I will offer my classmates the benefit of the doubt, or as the Sages call it, Chaf Zechut.....

Gan Eden Mikedem

Perhaps they were attempting to physically manifest the atmosphere of Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden. Perhaps they were channeling Shechinat Hashem, the feminine resonant aspect of God, and delving back into the nakedness of our ancestors Adam and Chava (Eve). By bearing it all, they asserted that they strive for the close relationship between human beings and their creator, the continuous former of the universe, the Holy One Blessed Be He. As Rabbi Nachman Of Bratslav suggests, God is always calling out to us "Ayecha!?", "Where are you!?" In response, the students of UCSC reenacted the first people to answer that message, and brought an equivalence of Paradise to the forests of Santa Cruz, K'Gan Eden Mikedem, like the Garden of Eden in the beginning.

Har Tzion
Many students who participate in the First Rain debaucherous dash agree that there is a miraculous sense of unity. The run is not sexualized, but rather envigorated with a fervor of bonding and brotherhood/sisterhood. There is a common goal of embracing the moment, feeling the rush of adrenaline, and embracing a campuswide sense of community. Just as our ancestors stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, surrounded by fog and mist (Semitic Special Affects), and experienced the miracle of revelation, so too do participants, knee deep in fog, experience revelation as well. It is a single moment in the academic year when they come together as Kahal Santa Cruz, and witness the unity of the campus. Just like when we feel a sense of familiarity among the tribe, and we claim it was because we saw each other at Mt. Sinai, so too is there a familiarity amongst those who bare testament to the miracle of First Rain.

Choni HaMa'agal
There is a story in the Mishnah (oral law) which tells of a guy named Choni, who is given the title, HaMa'agal, The Circle (Drawer). I won't go into the story, but the basics are that in a time of drought, he drew a circle in the ground, stood inside, and challenged God that he wouldn't leave till God brought rain. God does, people are happy, end of story. Perhaps UCSC students are attempting to draw one big, massive, naked, circle on the UCSC campus to usher in a time of rain to sustain the harvest. They make with their feet (and sneakers) an Eruv, a boundary for which they refuse to leave until God grants them a rain-filled (organic) crop yield. Ok, that's a bit of a stretch, but I wanted one more example.

Or maybe I give them too much credit!

What is more Halachicly (legally) wrong, and absolutely more shameful, than breaking tsniut is Busha, embarrassment. I do not believe that the runners felt much embarrassment. But one of the worst sins one can commit in the Jewish faith is embarrassing someone in public. It is said that all people go into the next world, Olam Haba, except people who embarrass others in public. This may seem a bit extreme, but the Sages explain more in the Talmud. It is just despicable that people would take pictures of the running, choosing not to run, and then post them online. If the internet is not public, I don't know what is. This is definitely the worst case of Busha I have ever seen. *tear*

Choni HaMa'agal.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Spend a weekend in New York with Chabad!

This just in (or actually, it came in about 23 hours ago) from the Chabad Student Center:
We have an opportunity to offer the famous Chabad NY weekend for just $275 – if we get a big enough group we will do it! If you are interested you must commit by Saturday Night!

Trip Details:

Depart SFO Thursday night November 2nd at 10:40pm

Return to SFO Monday afternoon November 6th at 12:09pm

We arrange transportation to and from all airports. We arrange lodging in NY. We arrange most meals in NY. We take you for tours of Brooklyn and Manhattan. We provide a Shabbat experience with over 400 college students from across the country. We hook you up with a Saturday night Jewish Hip Hop concert.

You pay for one or two meals that we eat out. You pay for subway rides and any additional touring that is not on our agenda. You have a good time.

If you are interested let me know RIGHT AWAY!

See you tonight,

Yeah, sorry for the late notice. Sign up ASAP if you want that phatty price. (Sometimes a flight to NYC and back alone costs that much... or more!)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Look out JewSchool and Jewlicious, there's a new player in town. Ohiso is a brand new blog featuring hip insights into the Jewish world of pop culture. Formed by some of the hippest (oh, maybe second hippest ;) ) Jewish bloggers on the net, Ellie and Akira, Ohiso boasts to give you your fill of "Jewish gossip, tshirts, and more..."

So far, there are not many articles, since they are brand new. Give 'em some time! (They just added me on Myspace today). They have a HUGE tshirt/sweatshirt/yid-gear store (through our dear friends cafepress... of course). Their stuff is funny. I'll admit, the end of the Jewish Punim (Puns plural, Hebrew) gets a little lame... you can tell they were pushed for ideas. But some of their t-shirts made me run through the halls of the 12 Tribes CoOp yelling silly t-shirt slogans (Holla 12 Tribes! Yo!)

Overall, great start. Now, if only Chanukah was a little closer so I could afford those shirts!

Check em Out at


Hookah: The Middle Eastern Killer

Yes, when most people smoke a cigarette too close to my breathing radius, I cough as if to say, "Get that nasty cigarette smoke out my face. OUT MY FACE!" But I'm always down to hit the hookah; not only does it smell and taste great, but it's a lot healthier than smoking a cigarette... Or is it? As posted on
“People who use these devices don’t realize that they could be inhaling what is believed to be the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes in one typical 30-60 minute session with a waterpipe, because such a large quantity of pure, shredded tobacco is used,” said Christopher Loffredo, Ph.D., Director of the Cancer Genetics and Epidemiology program at Georgetown University Medical Center.

…”People think the water absorbs the toxins, and that is true to some extent if the toxins are water soluble, but tar isn’t, and tar contains the carcinogens,” he said. “We believe that, compared to the typical cigarette smoker, waterpipe smokers are exposed to larger total amounts of nicotine, carbon monoxide and certain other toxins.”

And because the tobacco is burning at a lower temperature, it is more tolerable to inhale deeply, and in fact you need more force to pull air through the high resistance of the water pathway,” Loffredo said. “That means the tobacco smoke can be penetrating deeper in a person’s respiratory tract than cigarette smoke does. The damage could be even worse than seen in cigarette smokers….”
Full story here. Be careful out there.

Hillel Creates Its Own Blog

Check it out on the Hillel website.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Know Your Bible

Daily NaCh starting today!

Did you know that by reading 2 chapters every day, you could complete the entire Bible in one year?

Take part in AZAMRA's free Internet Bible-in-a-Year Study Cycle and get acquainted with the world's greatest Book of eternal wisdom – for an investment that could be no more than 10-15 minutes a day.

The cycle is set to start Monday 24 Tishri 5767 / 16 October 2006 and end Friday, 23 Tishri 5768 / 5 October 2007. The daily study will consist of approximately 2 chapters from the Neviim (prophets) and the Ketuvim (writings), the two parts of the Bible that come after the Torah, together known as "NaCh". Along with the standard weekly Torah portion, one can thus learn the whole Bible in one year. In addition, sign up for the free daily Know-your-Bible emails.

Many Jews, including those raised in traditional environments, lack familiarity with NaCh, and are put to shame by Christians who can quote whole lines, citing chapter and verse. This fact is commonly exploited by missionaries and others. Mastering the whole Bible is helpful in guarding against such exploitation, and is a key to understanding later texts.

So get your daily NaCh today!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Read Hebrew America

Congregation Kol Tefillah presents:

Read Hebrew America

Learn to read Hebrew in five easy lessons! Congregation Kol Tefillah is teaming up with the National Jewish Outreach Program to bring "Read Hebrew America" to Santa Cruz.

When: Sundays, Oct. 22 to Nov. 19, 10am to 12pm

Where: Santa Cruz Hillel (222 Cardiff Pl., next to the 7/11)

Instructor: Dianne Sigman


RSVP Required: 457-0264 or email Tammi Benjamin: tbenjami [at]

Saturday, October 14, 2006

JUST for a day

I have been informed that Hillel buses will be traveling to this event from UC Berkeley. (Particpants will also be coming from USC, UC IRVINE, UC RIVERSIDE, UCLA, CSUN, SD State, UCSD, UCSB, Long Beach, Occidental, Claremont, and UofA.)
Join more than 1,000 students who will take to the streets and beaches of Los Angeles on November 12 when Hillel launches JUST for a Day, a one-day social-justice blitz that will make a difference in lives of Angelinos.

Meet students from all over the west coast, volunteer your time and learn about the issues affecting LA. Organizations with volunteer opportunities include:

P.A.T.H. (People Assisting the Homeless)
Heal the Bay
Los Angeles Regional Food Bank
Midnight Mission
Venice Family Clinic
Beit T’shuvah
Downtown Women’s Center
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

And after all is said and done…

GUSTER and the LeeVees will perform a closed show for all JUST for a Day participants at the Henry Fonda Theatre in LA!!

In order to take part in this event, SIGN UP NOW.
Or conctact your local Hillel.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Tsniut and Tsreaking - First Rain and the Semitic Brain

Soon to come, I promise!!!!

Forgiveness 2.0

Forgiveness 2.0

If you havent seen, I created a facebook group called "Do You Forgive Yonah Feinstein?" to try to bring the concept of Tshuvah, spiritual return, (goyisha-transgression and repentence) into the 21st century. An overwhelming number of people joined, both of those that I invited because I know that I have done wrong to, and those that were not invited but wanted to show their support. I believe the highpoint was at 98 (crossing fingers for 100).

Ok, Here We Go:
Thank you all so much for your forgiveness this year. It makes me truly glad that we can actually seek a second chance after our wrongdoings.

Over the course of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the progress of this group, I have thought a lot about the things I have done, aka, the ways ive pissed yall off, and how I can make ammends.

This group is definitely a frist step. It has enabled self reflection, primarily on my behaf, and I hope it has made you think about the ways we can all become better people.

Seeking forgiveness electronically has been an interesting endeavor, no doubt. I have received both well wishes and criticism for this feat. But overall, I believe it has made a positive impact.

That is why....
I'd like to brainstorm about taking it one step further. How can we utilize the casual and anonymous nature of the internet to both rid us of guilt and regret, as well as help us seek forgiveness, and ultimately, become better people because of it.

Any Ideas?
Would a PostSecret model work? A blog? a YahooAnswers model?
Let me know what you think.