Thanksgiving in any other year would bring its share of blessings and challenges. This year, thoughts such as what to prepare, who to spend time with, how to make this Thanksgiving meaningful, high and low feelings, missing loved ones, and just plain getting through the week are even bigger, somehow compounded, and can be overwhelming.
Whatever you are feeling, and wherever you find yourself, know that you are not alone. This week, I remind you to be especially kind to yourself. For some of us, that means just taking an intentional full belly breath. And then another.
If you are in the enviable position of feeling ok, take this opportunity to reach out to someone who might not be feeling ok this week. A phone call, email, hand-written note, delivery of food, flowers, or even just a smile, can and will make a difference. If we each reach out to even one person, collectively our small gesture will touch more than a thousand others.
For everyone, I share a Thanksgiving prayer that touched me deeply. I am so very grateful for my family, for this strong and vibrant community, and for each and every one of you. Wishing you a Thanksgiving of peace, good health and happiness.
A Thanksgiving Prayer
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, from All Breathing Life
Thank You, God of Eternity,
for the great wonder of Your creation,
for the earth, the stars, the sun and the moon,
and the beauty of Your universe,
with which in Your great kindness You have blessed me.
Thank You for granting me life, in all its richness,
for its brilliant moments of joy
which allow me to soar as the birds,
and even for its anguish and pain,
which somehow seem to precipitate inner growth and change.
For all these things, God, I am grateful.
But thank You, especially, God, in Your abundant love,
for having chosen to make me a human being,
blessed, among all the fruits of Your creation,
with a mind to reason and seek truth and justice;
with a soul which can feel pain, ecstasy, and compassion,
and has the freedom to choose life and goodness
over cruelty and destruction;
and with a heart which can love and care,
and reach out to touch the hearts of my brothers and sisters,
as together we walk through the years of our lives.
~~~~~ Elizabeth Gaynes is the Executive Director of Congregation B’nai B’rith.
The recent passing of Judy Meisel, such a remarkable woman, brought back meaningful memories for so many of us in Santa Barbara. Judy’s children and grandchildren spoke so eloquently at her recent memorial on Zoom just a few weeks ago. Her legacy and example of her commitment to humanity is truly a remarkable story that continues to live on.
One remembrance that we have is of her love and generosity of baking. When our daughter was going to Beit HaYeladim preschool in the early 1990’s we were first introduced to her delicious sugar cookie recipe. Using her recipe over the years we have made dozens of cookies especially at holiday time. The secret of rolling the dough in powdered sugar (not flour) made this recipe a holiday treat for all of our friends, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
As we share her recipe, please help us honor Judy in this special way by sharing one of her recipes that you may have.* We are all so inspired by Judy who taught us so much and especially about the sweetness of life.
Judy Meisel’s Sugar Cookies:
2.5 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
Blend all ingredients. Mix at low speed until dough forms. Cover and chill.
Roll out in powdered sugar. Cut into shapes and decorate.
Bake at 375 degrees, 8 minutes
*Want to share your own Judy Meisel memory and/or recipe on the Voices blog? Our whole community would appreciate your sharing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stacy Baron has lived in Santa Barbara and been a member of CBB for the past 30 years. Read her and husband Eric’s prior post on the CBB Voices blog, here.
From a global pandemic, climate change, systemic racism, and other challenges there is no doubt that 2020 has been a stressful year filled with change. From a Jewish standpoint, I found myself asking why would God let these kinds of things happen? Maybe it’s the world’s way of saying that we can no longer turn a blind eye and continue to move forward in the way things were going. It was time to stop everything, take a breath, and reassess not just our own lives, but our communities, our country, and our world.
It made me realize that there is no better time than to start using my ability as an illustrator to leave a legacy not just for my own kids, but for the entire next generation. The next generation is where change can start and that is where it can be most powerful. This led me to create 30 illustrations, one every day in the month of October of inspirational life lessons that I wanted to pass down to my own children. By the end of the month, I had an entire book that I titled “Smile Now: Life lessons from 2020.” It is filled with illustrations that address Jewish related themes of love, community, resilience, and tikkun olam. I decided to make the book free on my website for anyone that wants to download a copy and share it with the little ones in their life.
Change can come from just a single message or a powerful image can resonate so strongly in the mind of a child. The next generation can’t do it on their own. It’s up to us to instill these Jewish values. I invite you to come spend some time with this book and see if it resonates with you and your children as well.
Daniel Sulzberg is CBB member and professional illustrator. You can read more of his writing and download the book here: www.danvillage.com/smilenow
Diane Zipperstein: The Amazing Adult B’Mitzvah Journey
This Saturday and next, 14 adults will chant from the Torah before the congregation for the first time. The B’nai Mitzvah will be the result of eleven months of study.
Our class is made up of students young and not as young. We have a wide variety of life experience. Some of us never had the opportunity because it wasn’t offered or available to us or not deemed important by us when it was offered. Some of us found Judaism later in life. For all of us, we can now say our decision to pursue a B’nai Mitzvah came at the right time.
CBB is lucky to have many wonderful teachers. Alisse Block was ours. Alisse has been teaching CBB’s B’nai Mitzvah classes for roughly 20 years. She currently also teaches Hebrew and serves as a private B’nai Mitzvah tutor.
As our Director of Jewish Learning Programs Jen Lewis said, “She has helped so many young adults reach their B’nai Mitzvah with understanding and a love of Torah. Her humor, knowledge and dedication are what makes her an amazing teacher for any age student. The bar is high at CBB and her students continually rise above it!”
Every few years, CBB offers the adult B’nai Mitzvah class. Dealing with adult learners can have its own challenges, and Alisse handled our class with respect and a lot of humor. To many of us, becoming B’mitzvah was an intimidating item on our Jewish journey. Alisse held our proverbial hand and showed us the joy and excitement of study.
Our class began in January with learning to read and pronounce Hebrew words in the siddur. Month by month, Alisse would explain the history and meaning of each prayer. If a task seemed overwhelming, Alisse always volunteered to give us extra time to help us overcome each challenge.
She slowly built confidence in each of us to take this important step forward and has given us the keys to unlock the mystery of Torah. Her patience and breadth of knowledge has answered our questions and prepared us for this moment when we will experience the joy of reading and chanting Torah. She has explained beautifully the order and meaning of the service and by doing so, made services more accessible and relevant.
Todah rabah, Alisse, from each and every one of us. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in helping us reach this milestone.
And thank you to CBB, and to Cantor Childs and Rabbi Cohen, for offering this transformative experience which has been a blessing for us all.
First mentioned in 1238, one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the Czech lands.
In 1568 the Jews were expelled from the town. Historical sources refer to their number at the time as “sizeable.”
In 1853 the first Jewish family moved back, in 1880 there were 332 Jewish citizens, in 1900 there were 415 and in 1930, 215 people claimed their Jewish heritage.
The Jews in Pribram enjoyed a rich social life; there was a chevra kadisha, a Sisterhood, and charity and youth organizations. Before WWI there was even a kosher restaurant.
During the Nazi occupation, 171 Pribram Jews were killed in the camps, including 18 children under 15. The youngest was Pavel Schling, he was four years old.
In 1873 the building of the synagogue (in the then-popular Moorish style) began and in 1875 it was finished and the first Torah scroll was placed in the synagogue.
In the 1960s many Torah scrolls were sold to Western Jewish organizations all over the world.
The last Pribram rabbi, Dr. Emil Friedman, was killed in Auschwitz in 1943, along with 543 Jewish people from Pribram and the surrounding area.
During WWII, the synagogue was used as a warehouse and from 1946 to 1957 it housed collections of the town museum.
In 1966, due to only a very small number of Jewish people in Pribram, the congregation donated the synagogue to the town of Pribram.
The magistrate accepted the donation, only to tear the synagogue down in 1969.
The location of the medieval Jewish cemetery in unknown.
The new Jewish cemetery was founded in 1879. There are currently 150 beautifully preserved grave stones and a monument to the 543 Nazi victims, unveiled in 1954. The last Jewish burial took place in 1958. The cemetery is very well preserved and taken care of.