I sat in awe as Rabbi Steve Cohen described the Givat Haviva International School (GHIS). First, he told me about the composition of students living and learning together. Then he explained the mission and vision. I heard words like “conflict resolution,” “peacemaking”, “leadership opportunity.” These high school students from around the world (25% are Israeli Arabs, 25% are Israeli Jews, and 50% come from other countries, many from impoverished areas and war zones) take advanced academic courses, all taught in English, while learning to engage in respectful dialogue and peaceful dispute resolution, volunteering in the community, and engaging in extra-curricular activities. With passion and commitment, in the fertile climate of GHIS, they are becoming global catalysts for change.
The purpose of my meeting with Rabbi Steve was my desire to be engaged in a meaningful endeavor at CBB, after retiring and moving permanently from Michigan to Santa Barbara. I was mesmerized by what I was hearing. I was told that Nurit Gery, GHIS’s Executive Director, would be visiting Santa Barbara the next weekend and it might be a good idea for me to meet her and learn more. I am fortunate to have done so.
What came out of all this was an opportunity for me to become the CBB volunteer tutoring coordinator. That is, I, along with Sissy Taran and Toby Donner, match volunteer tutors here with GHIS students. This is facilitated through GHIS administrators and faculty.
We provide two streams of student assistance. One is tutoring in English, oral and written, and the other is helping with college admission essays. Currently, more than 30 individuals have offered their time, energy and expertise in working over Zoom with GHIS students since early last summer.
I feel honored to be part of the GHIS program at CBB, especially in seeing the amazing volunteers who generously share their wisdom and in knowing what a difference they make as they contribute to each student’s success.
For more information about volunteer tutoring opportunities, please contact me. Diane Blau, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Diane Blau lives in Santa Barbara with her husband Dr. Larry Blau, having moved here permanently from Michigan in December, 2020. Diane is President Emerita of the Michigan School of Psychology and Larry, a specialist in occupational and preventive medicine.
Current events have illuminated how our culture has become complacent with outdated, non-inclusive policies and practices that marginalize minorities. Unfortunately, as a result most of us have faced unintentional as well as explicit forms of antisemitism. Being Jewish requires a refined inner grace to know when to not take things personally and when to speak up against antiquated systems that perpetuate hostility, prejudice, and exclusion. This is what brings me to share the following story.
Third grade started a little bumpy when a school event was scheduled on Yom Kippur. I sighed when I saw the email notification hoping I misread it. I then took a deep breath and reminded myself that the world does not stop for our high holidays and most people are unaware of their significance. The recent emails from the school district proclaiming its commitment to inclusivity, awareness, and sensitivity to its diverse student population felt empty as Jewish students were eclipsed (hopefully unintentionally) on this occasion.
Like any good Jewish mother, I brought my concerns about this event to the school principal. I was eventually reassured that the school intends for all students and their families to feel included and represented. Although the event was rescheduled, my questions were left unanswered about the accountability systems that are in place and/or needed to be established to support the district’s commitment to building awareness, inclusivity, and respect.
Fast forward through numerous emails and conversations with the school board and assistant superintendent about the district’s role in building a more inclusive culture that breaks down unkind habits that marginalize minorities. Through these discussions it became clear to the district’s decision makers that the staff position responsible for accountability had long been vacated.
Then, compounding an already disturbing situation, my nine year old daughter experienced her first encounter with antisemitism at school. My heart broke and my blood boiled. Unfortunately, her teacher’s response leaned more towards being dismissive than reparative or inclusive. This was not alright with me.
First, I doubled down on empowering my daughter about her Jewish roots to make sure she felt proud of who she is despite outside input.
Next, I leaned on our CBB community who showed up, as always, with mountains of support and resources. I educated myself about successful and inviting ways to create partnerships within the school setting that address this kind of challenge. I then teamed up with Edjudaica in an effort to build awareness by distributing Hanukkah kits to every class at my daughter’s school and throughout the district. I continued my long-term strategies of working with the assistant superintendent. I kept encouraging the district to evaluate and improve the culture and curriculum into a more safe, inclusive, and respectful environment, and to examine their policies and professional education opportunities.
After multiple meetings and tirelessly following up, the school district approved the 2022-2023 school calendar with the inclusion of Yom Kippur as a day off for everyone! In addition, a black out date calendar was created that provided school sites with an overview of numerous holidays and occasions with clear expectations that prevent scheduling of events on those days. This translates into no more school pictures scheduled on Rosh Hashana, for example. Additionally, a multicultural resource list on the district’s website is in the process of being created to build community awareness. Lastly, the district reassigned two staff positions to ensure that all school personnel are informed and held accountable to supporting cultural awareness, sensitivity, and inclusion in an equitable way.
I hope my daughter has learned from my actions and the response from the school district that it is never alright to put anyone down for being different and that nothing changes when we remain silent.
Since this shift is for only one school district within our larger community, this is just the beginning. It is my hope that the foundation has been established for a more supportive and inclusive educational environment for all districts to emulate. If children are encouraged to learn about and respect the cultures and practices of others at school, it will create a positive rippling effect throughout our community and beyond.
Holly Goldberg, PhD manages community systems change initiatives and evaluation projects aimed at improving outcomes for children and childbearing families. She is a published researcher and subject matter expert with nearly two decades of experience in the fields of maternity care and early child development.
Charles during his mikveh immersion at Goleta Beach. Photo by Phoebe Light
Charles Perkins: Public Affirmation Speech
Author’s note: With much gentle nudging and calm reassurance, our own Rabbi Daniel Brenner convinced me that my public affirmation ceremony would benefit from a few short words about my conversion process — my “journey home” into our beautiful Jewish faith community. I’m not by nature someone who enjoys public speaking, and sharing these words with CBB was a challenge for me. But I’m so glad that I was able to. Taking just a few moments to share these words during the ceremony made it more meaningful and powerful than I could have imagined it would be. The words I shared are reproduced in the following paragraphs with some light editing.
I’m grateful for your presence here tonight. Without you, this would be a little bit like the classic example of a tree falling down in the forest when no one is around. If no one hears the tree fall, does it make a sound? [Rabbi Daniel explained that this is in fact why we require ten Jews to form a minyan.] And now I think I will share a few of the main reasons that brought me.
Jewish values, as I understand and try to live them, assign a positive normative and spiritual value to asking questions for the sake of asking questions. As a philosophy PhD student, I have been devoting much of my life to extremely speculative and abstract intellectual problems that have no clearly plausible practical value. These problems are not even philosophical questions that connect to morals or ethics. My research is currently focused on the extent to which the scientific method constrains empiricism through its dependence on typology. And I know that topic can seem like an unclear, useless, abstract problem to solve. But if we ask ourselves, “Why did God make us?” one viable Jewish answer is that humans are here to make meaning in the world that God has created. Without humans, the world that God has made would only go or play, like a boom box in a vacant room. God would know everything about that world, but there would be no one else to know anything at all. Such a world, if not completely meaningless, would be a pale imitation of this world that God chose to make. So I feel that the philosophical questions I engage with are important, not because they necessarily help us live righteous lives or become better people, even if they might do that incidentally. Rather, engaging with abstract problems of metaphysics and epistemology glorifies Hashem through study, by making meaning primarily for the sake of meaning. So my first reason is that Judaism validates my choice to work hard on these problems that can be difficult to justify as legitimate problems.
Observing the Sabbath, if only through my persistent refusal to clock in for a Saturday shift at one of the many service industry jobs I have had to pursue during my years in graduate school, has been radically empowering. If you had asked me to describe my “best life” before I started observing the Sabbath, I think most of my description would have been highly acquisitive and shallow. Things such as employment, recognition, and money would have played a primary role, even if (out of denial, or in an attempt to be tasteful) I attempted to downplay their importance. The Jewish imperative to rest does not condemn my efforts to pursue those things, but it does limit them. And that limitation makes room for things that are more important, such as a relationship with God, love, friendship, feeling well, empathy for others, and concern for the collective good. Largely because of the Sabbath, the “best life” that I would describe now really would prioritize those things. The Sabbath radically changed my idea of success. So that’s my second reason. Of course there are more reasons, but tonight I wanted to share only a few that are, for me, the most meaningful.
Still there is a question, Why convert? I could still observe the Sabbath and justify my work through Jewish values without actually becoming a Jew. But if I did choose that path, I think I would be turning down an opportunity to be myself. Embracing the values I just described without converting would, for me, be living as “kind of a Jew” or “sort of a Jew.” I think I would be rejecting an opportunity for my true self, who is Jewish, to grow and flourish. In my personal situation (I cannot speak for anyone else) such an identity would not serve me or this Jewish community in a positive way. It would leave me with a vague, indeterminate, frankly blurry, sense of who I am. Answering the question, “Are you Jewish?” with “pretty much,” or “almost,” or “sort of,” is not, for me, that different from answering the question, “Who are you?” with “I’m pretty much,” or “I’m sort of,” or “I’m almost.” I don’t think this community should accept “sort of Charles” or “almost Charles” or “pretty much Charles.” I really appreciate that you are taking me in as Charles, who is a Jew.
Charles Perkins moved to Santa Barbara in 2018 to pursue his PhD in Philosophy at UCSB. He enjoys MahJong and is looking forward to welcoming his brand-new Bernedoodle puppy Tuesday into his home later this year.
Jason Prystowsky MD, MPH: Some Omicron reflections from the last week From your friendly, neighborhood, community ER doc (who worked 12 of the last 14 days). . .
1) Omicron is here. It is 3x more contagious than Delta variant and 6-8x more contagious than original variant. It is causing “breakthrough infections” in those vaccinated (more so in those with J&J or two doses mRNA vaccine rather than 3 doses and boosted). Thus far it appears to cause less severe illness especially in those who have already had COVID or have been vaccinated. If (or when) you get COVID, you may be asymptomatic or you may feel miserable. As of today, we are out of the monoclonal antibody infusions that have shown to be minimally to moderately effective at preventing severe disease. We also do not have the new Merck or Pfizer antivirals. If you come to the ER expecting unavailable or ineffective interventions, you will not get them so please do not make demands or threats. Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are NOT effective treatments. If you catch COVID please stay hydrated, rest, invest in a pulse oximeter (about $30) and check your oxygen level every few hours (should consistently above 96% in healthy lungs). Please notify everyone you had been in contact with for the 5 days before you got sick (indoors, >15 minutes, <6 feet apart, both not wearing masks). Contact your physician for a telehealth visit so that a health professional can monitor your symptoms. I have seen athletic, healthy, young people be completely bed ridden with COVID for 2 weeks, so set your expectations. If you do have COVID… do NOT go to work, go out to eat with friends, go to a house party, go to the grocery store, go to gym, go to hot yoga, get a massage, go to a wedding, watch Fox news, smoke/vape marijuana, tobacco, methamphetamines, knowingly expose other people to COVID, order unnecessary things on amazon (all are activities I have heard from COVID patients within the last week). Reasons to come to the ER or call your physician: pulse oximetry <90% consistently, dehydrated and unable to keep down fluids, severe chest pain, severe shortness of breath, confusion; or for children, persistent fever and symptoms that are worse than a mild cold (rash, diarrhea, inability to eat, short of breath, pulse oximetry <90%). Please see the CDC criteria for MIS-C.
2) Testing. There is a lot of misinformation out there about testing, so be sure you are getting your information from reliable sources. PCR (or nucleic acid amplification tests) are the most accurate, but they are also more expensive and take longer for results to come back. Rapid antigen tests are faster, can be purchased at pharmacies, and are currently being distributed by local public health agencies. These tests are usually accurate if you are symptomatic but are less accurate if you are asymptomatic, or pre-symptomatic (i.e. you have been exposed and are worried you may have it, but have not developed symptoms yet). Last I checked, CVS was sold out of rapid antigen tests and SB county public health ran out. I know that various local urgent cares are offering COVID testing including Cottage Urgent Care, MedCenter, and Sansum Urgent Care. There are some local businesses that can do same-day testing but can be expensive (such as South Coast Analytics). Teachers and students can get PCR screening at Earl Warren Showgrounds, but need to make an appointment. UCSB students have access to testing through student health. If you need to be tested for work or school, please check with your supervisor about where to go. If you come to the ER, we are always happy to evaluate you, but please do not come to the ER demanding to be tested unless you are sick or experiencing an emergency.
3) Vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective. Please get the vaccine if you are eligible and have not already gotten it. Please get the booster. If you do not believe in vaccines, please shut the hell up. Spreading misinformation is dangerous and hurts people. We stopped agreeing to disagree when I started missing family time so I could spend more time treating COVID patients who don’t believe in vaccines. Those who catch COVID and have had the vaccine and booster are getting a mild form, and are rarely hospitalized. Nobody should die from a preventable illness. COVID19 deaths are preventable with a vaccine.
4) Masks while indoors. Please wear a mask while indoors. Please feel emboldened to remind other people to wear masks while indoors. Surgical paper masks are more effective than cloth masks. Multiple layer masks are more effective than single layer masks. N95s are the most effective. If you refuse to wear a mask indoors because you have a medical exemption, then stay the hell home. Your medical exemption should probably prevent you from interacting with other people during a pandemic. If you refuse to wear a mask while indoors in a public space, then you are a selfish narcissist or you are < 3 years old (and an age-appropriate selfish narcissist).
5) Quarantine. This is a moving target as the CDC recently changed guidelines from 10 days to 5 days. The change was made because Omicron has a shorter incubation period, but, more importantly, is the HR component; we are unable to staff hospitals, fire stations, grocery stores, police departments, and all essential functions if everyone quarantines for 10 days given how fast this variant spreads. Consider your workplace safety, the new CDC guidelines, and how essential it is to have people at work or school when making a calculated decision about how long to quarantine after exposure or infection.
6) Avoid misinformation. This is a dynamic situation with constant changing science. Please fact check information and get information from reliable sources. If you live locally in Santa Barbara please review the local SB public health department resources (https://sbcphd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html…). You can also check the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) or California Department of Public Health (https://covid19.ca.gov). If you are a doctor, clinician, public health expert, then please continue to share public service announcements that are cited, and evidence supported. If you are not a clinician or public health expert, then please only share reputable sources that improve the quality of health in our community. If you are sharing conspiracy theories, your own fringe personal opinions, or dangerous misinformation… then stop. You are part of the problem.
7) Burnout. If you work in healthcare, EMS, public service, then you are burnt out or you are an enlightened bodhisattva and blissfully ignorant of your own fatigue. Thank you for your service. You are my people, and I love you. If you are not in healthcare or essential public service, then please be respectful of those who are. Show support or at least behave in a civilized respectful manner. I have seen more temper tantrums, entitlement, vitriol hostility, and frankly childish behavior in the last few weeks. We are exhausted and over it too. We cancelled our holiday plans and are desperately covering sick calls, and constantly looking for childcare so we can work overtime to keep our hospitals open and functioning above capacity. When you come to the ER and start making demands and threats, it impairs our ability to care for you and your family effectively. Be kind. Be patient. We will take excellent care of you in the ER, and if there are delays it is probably because there is someone more ill than you who has our attention. You reminding us that your brother is a malpractice lawyer or that you are calling the hospital CEO to complain just confirms for us that you are indeed an asshole. And be aware that our hospitals are either full or almost full. Now is the not the time to take up extreme sports, drive recklessly, or do anything that begins with “hold my beer, and watch this. . .” We may not have the staffing or resources to provide you with optimal care.
PS … if you are a troll who indulges in misinformation and has the time and lack of moral character to leave hostile adversarial comments, please make no comments. My diplomacy is struggling a bit these days, and losing your friendship maybe the small price to pay to advocate for the health of my community, my colleagues, and my own self-care.
Stay healthy Santa Barbara. We will get through this.
From your local, friendly, community, neighborhood emergency physician,
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.