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CBB Voices Blog2020-06-22T14:35:19-07:00

Becca Wrench: Mi Shebeirach List

Becca Wrench: Mi Shebeirach List

I had my name added to the Mi Shebeirach list – the prayer for healing – on January 7, 2021.  Two days before that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Every time I go to services I hear this list read and see if I recognize any names. If I do, I think good thoughts for them, and if I know someone I’ll I say their name aloud at the appropriate time.

But suddenly here I was, at 44 years of age, unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer, asking for my name to be added.

Since that initial request I have had a whole bunch of imaging, more doctor appointments than anyone should go to, three surgeries, 16 sessions of chemo, and 33 sessions of radiation.  I just had my last session of radiation on December 2, 2021.  The next day I emailed Rabbi Steve, Rabbi Brenner, and Cantor Mark and let them know it was time to remove my name.

I met with Rabbi Steve as my treatment was beginning to wind down and he asked me what it was like to hear my name read when I was at temple.  He indicated that not many people are actually present to hear their own name being read aloud.

I have thought a lot about that. When I attended services in person and heard my name being said it made me feel uncomfortable, but at the same time I appreciated hearing my name being said.  It made me cry every time I heard it, but it also reminded me that others were thinking of me.  If my cancer is cured and it does not come back and/or my life is prolonged in the future, then I truly believe I have science to thank.  But having my name read each week couldn’t have hurt my chances.

My older daughter Adele’s bat mitzvah was in January 2021.  I have to say, being at Adele’s bat mitzvah and having my name read when I had only known about my cancer for a couple of weeks was very challenging.  In retrospect, in an odd way, it made her Bat Mitzvah even more special.  We had so many family and friends participating on Zoom (and a small group in person) that I was really thankful that I had so many people thinking of my wellbeing and wishing for my health all at the same time.  And more importantly, despite my health issues, we were all celebrating Adele on her very special day.

At this point the doctors say I am cancer free.  I will begin taking monthly ovarian suppression shots and medication on a daily basis that will stop my body from producing estrogen and progesterone – the hope is that this will stop the cancer from returning. And we hope that the aggressive treatment I received stopped the cancer from escaping to somewhere else in my body.  Within the next year or so I will have my right breast removed (so I will have one less place to worry about cancer wise) and reconstruction on both sides.  But right now I am cancer free.  It will take a while to adjust, but I am not sick anymore.

I think that when someone is sick with cancer or other major illnesses people don’t always know what to say.  Something that I appreciated was having people just let me know they were thinking of me.  Having my name on the Mi Shebeirach list reminded me that people were thinking of me and wishing me their best and hoping that I would be healthy soon.

I can’t tell you how much I hate cancer and how unfair it is.  But my name no longer needs to be on the Mi Shebeirach list.  And that is something to be thankful for.


Becca Wrench loves camping, skiing, swimming, and going to the beach with her husband Dean and daughters Adele and Leorah.

2021-12-17T10:39:21-08:00December 20th, 2021|

Elizabeth Mason: Thanksgivikuh

Elizabeth Mason: Thanksgivikuh

Our Hebrew calendar found us segueing from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah within a matter of days this year. As such, the gestalt of Thanksgiving evoked a background for gratitude, light and dedication of the soul.

Within the microcosm of the Mason family, there emerged a small-scale miracle around this period of time, its presence not dissimilar in substance to that of the Maccabees all those many years ago. On the Saturday before the 24th of November, the ignition device in my oven gave up the ghost. In the machinations of my musings, a plaintive query arose: “what am I going to do?!” I had committed to making several dozen muffins for CBB’s monthly contribution to nourishing our local homeless population. As such, I needed my oven and appliance repair services in the Santa Barbara area are scant. It has been my customary experience in the past, that all of these services tend to book their appointments well in advance of the desired date and the window of opportunity for me, was narrow.

Early on Monday the 26th, I contacted a store and left a voice message on their machine. Certain that personnel would be receptive to calls upon opening, I was dismayed at the impending delay. To my relief, I received a return call a half an hour later and just prior to noon, my oven was fixed! Another nerve-wracking concern however, thrust me into mild paralysis. I had never made muffins in bulk and was now faced with the dilemma of how to navigate the appropriate measurements. It was too late to consult with Doug Weinstein for a tutorial, so I simply crossed my fingers and forged ahead. The recipe called for eleven eggs, but I had to approximate the rest of the ingredients. Wednesday morning found me tenuously removing the first batch from the oven. I paused, took a bite and sighed with relief. The muffins were moist and flavorful, another small “miracle”.

With this task behind me, I found myself reminiscing upon 66 years, a lifetime of memories. Two “miracles” during these years, impacted my life enormously. The first involved my marriage to Joe and the second was comprised of  uncanny circumstances which had  culminated in the advent of our baby. All my previous dreams, aspirations and fulfilled goals, though significant, paled in comparison to these two manifestations of my soul’s deepest desires.

By my mid-thirties no prospects of a soul mate had crossed my path, and I imagined myself as one approaching her “expiration date.” Six years before, I had left Santa Barbara to pursue graduate studies in what I considered to be a questionable area of California. The locale was situated several hours North West of Santa Barbara, a city I would have never normally have considered for the next leg of my life’s journey. But peculiar circumstances in the past three years had directed me to this large and unattractive city and its university. A seer from my religious community had also egged me on in this endeavor.

Time elapsed and I had completed my academic goals. One Sunday in May of 1987, I found myself perusing some books in the foyer of the religious community to which I belonged. In a dissociative state of mind, I inadvertently filed in the recesses of my brain the presence of a young man. Retrospectively, this person reminded me that he had been standing about three feet to my right. Four months later while attempting a call to a close friend, she briefly relayed to me that she had been speaking with someone on the other line and that she would return my call shortly. Before returning to the initial caller, she paused briefly and hinted in a curious manner that I would be surprised about who she was speaking with, but would fill me in when she had the chance to explain.

The call turned out to be with a gentleman who had been inquiring about me. He lived several miles North of where I was currently residing and was affiliated with a religious group similar to mine. He had noticed me while visiting our group the previous May. Within a day, we were talking on the phone. Five months later, we were married. Our “miracle” commenced when we both left Southern California to take up residence far away from our cities of origin, but had nonetheless “found” each other during a three hour window of time. We were the same age, had never been married and had waited patiently for the “right one.” That was thirty-four years ago.

As I approached forty another situation haunted me; infertility and scant resources with which to pursue the options necessary to become parents. Many sources considered us an “older” couple, and as such, from the vantage point of social services, we were not perceived as ideal prospects for adoption. In the circumstances leading up to my “second miracle,” once again intuition set the stage.

A few years prior and in anticipation of our move back to Santa Barbara, I began to envision working with clients who were severely marginalized. Although I had previously counseled populations who were compromised financially and often with culturally-divergent worldviews, I had never imagined myself working with the homeless or severely drug-addicted populations. Quite frankly, the thought of doing this felt intimidating to me and clearly out of my comfort zone. Nonetheless, once back in Santa Barbara, that is precisely what I did!

I ended up as a case manager at a local shelter working with women who were either chemically addicted or what is referred to as “dually-diagnosed”. During the previous year, the men’s counterpart of the shelter had accepted a young African-American man who had recently completed the program and returned home. Not really so unusual in and of itself. Several local men of ethnic diversity had attended this program. What differed however, is that this young man had resided in Chicago and had been directed  to our program from a church there. From a ghetto environment, he somehow managed to travel the 3,000 miles to our facility in Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, his cousin Inez was herself struggling with addiction and was pregnant as well. Impressed with the success of their young man, her extended family were eager to give Inez the same opportunity that he himself had been blessed with. They pooled their resources and sent her West to recover. Her intention, as well, was to find a home for her baby. She was already the single mother of two, and felt incapable of caring for a third. As case manager, I thought I had the ethical obligation to assist her in finding an African-American family who would be willing to adopt her baby. Inez had not been raised among caucasian people, so it was assumed that she would choose a black family to provide a home for her child. Instead, she expressed to me that she was open to giving  up her baby to any loving family who would be amenable to raising her. She had met me, and eventually Joe, and knew that we were unable to have biological children. It was in this way that Inez determined that Joe and I should have her baby.

On August 18, 1993, Janina Marybeth Mason was born. Upon her birth, she not only inherited caucasian parents, but cousins of mixed ethnicity as well. She fit right in. I was the first to hold my long-awaited, longed for little girl. Joe, Inez and myself agreed to an open adoption: three people hoping and praying for a meaningful life for this baby. Another miracle? A compassionate adoption attorney, charging us but a fraction of the cost that most people pay during the adoption process.

Elizabeth Araluce Mason is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a social advocate for the marginalized populations who reside in Santa Barbara and an author of several published poems and articles pertaining to social issues, both local and nation-wide. She is the wife of Joe and mother of Janina, who reside in Goleta and Santa Barbara, respectively.

2021-12-15T10:51:16-08:00December 15th, 2021|

Michael Wasserman: Visiting GHIS in Israel

Michael Wasserman: Visiting GHIS in Israel
I had the privilege to be the “special guest” at GHIS this past week.  Can you imagine?  GHIS is a private, not for profit high school in Israel that our CBB Community has taken under our wings helping them to fly and even soar.  GHIS is doing the unique work of bringing Israeli Arabs and Jews, and high schoolers from other countries (many of which counties also experience conflict and internal struggles) together, and in my opinion, proving our common humanity, making space for all narratives, and realizing, of course, peaceful coexistence.  The “kids” are living this at the boarding school and we hope the adults “In the many rooms” are taking notes.
I am part of CBB’s GHIS Committee. We are about 10 people and it’s truly a super star group that has given tremendous amounts of thought and action directed at helping the school succeed.  Our Committee has raised money, tutored students, connected the school with experts in marketing and other areas to make the school stronger.  We have even helped to recruit new students.
Truly, while on campus, and attending the Israeli Advisory Board meeting, I represented our entire Committee and when I say that the Israelis are amazed at the work little SB is doing you can believe me.  They thanked us personally and expressed awe for our efforts, commitment and achievements.  I sensed envy because their communities are not typically uniting and working together as we do!  We can be so proud of ourselves and our community’s values and collaborative spirit!
Michael Wasserman, his wife Liat, and daughters Sarina and Leora have been members of CBB for almost 20 years.  Michael works in Wealth Management and his clients span from Latin America to Israel.
2021-11-24T11:36:38-08:00November 24th, 2021|

Susan Levine: Creating Peace One Student at a Time

Susan Levine: Creating Peace One Student at a Time

CBB has formed a partnership with the Givat Haviva International School (GHIS) in Israel – a diverse community of student leaders promoting cross-cultural cooperation – as part of our community’s Tikkun Olam initiative to heal the world and build a more peaceful future. CBB members donate time and financial gifts to support the work of this transformative high school. To learn more, contact CBB Director of Community Engagement, Mariela Socolovsky at In today’s CBB Voices Blog post, CBB member Sue Levine reflects on her experience as an academic tutor to a GHIS student. – Ed.


“Kayf halukum,” I was instructed by my young student, meant “how are you” in Arabic.  I repeated those words over and over and still I struggled with remembering.  How was I to tutor a student in English who has already mastered Hebrew and Arabic and was also teaching herself Spanish?

Yet “Kayf halukum” began some of the most illuminating, inspiring (and yes, even entertaining) sessions that I have experienced in a long time. My brief conversations with friends  often paled in depth to my upcoming dialogue where my student practiced her evolving English.

I had flashbacks to my early teens.  Was I as poised, winsome, respectful, feisty, clear-headed, and honest as the student to whom I was assigned?  I think not.

Once I had accepted an English tutoring assignment with a new Givat Haviva International School (GHIS)10th grade student, I felt the jitters associated with the responsibility and preparation.  I worried that a 15 year old Muslim surfer wouldn’t respond to a white-haired woman equal to or older than her own grandmother.

Aisha and I agreed to meet weekly at a designated time on Google Meet, a program similar to Zoom.  I recognized that she, too, was apprehensive as she often fidgeted with her long brown waves, alternately wrapping them into a bun and then letting them drop to her shoulders.

We quickly became friends.  I expected an adequate exchange but walked away from each session with an ever-increasing admiration for this young woman and for the school that selected her among its many applicants.

Aisha lives in an Arab town in Israel surrounded by close family and friends.  As devout Muslims, her parents are raising 5 career-oriented daughters and 1 son, the youngest.  The oldest three currently attend university in Israel and Aisha hopes to earn her medical credentials in an English-speaking country.

In many ways Aisha’s family is not much different from ours.  Even though both parents work, her mother takes on more child-rearing responsibilities.  She is determined to provide opportunities that were unavailable to her when she was growing up. Travel and integrated (Jews and Muslim) camps are part of her plan.  Consequently, Aisha counts many Jews as her friends.

Most schools are segregated in Israel.  Aisha’s Arab schools expected students to “think the same way”.  Children are discouraged from questioning.

In contrast, Aisha loves her first year at GHIS; in fact, the string of Jewish holidays only made her anxious to return to classes sooner. She enjoys the range of creative activities that both cement relationships and give her a better understanding of the subject matter.  Teachers are approachable and determined that their students understand all content. They encourage questions and sit in on political discussions only to ensure respectful dialogue.

Students are exposed to foreign customs and traditions—experiencing the costumes (Halloween), food and dances (Cultural Day) of other students’ homelands.

Tutoring is not difficult or time-consuming.  Talk about family, friends, interests, values.  Branch off into American sports, fashion and celebrities. Laugh over some of our ridiculous American expressions (did you know that some Americans refer to “it’s raining cats and dogs” as a “frog strangler”?).  It takes no longer than ½-1 hour a week.  (For more information or to sign-up, contact CBB member and GHIS Committee member, Diane Blau.

My months-long association just ended and I feel honored to have had Aisha in my life.  As a teen with a sound moral compass who embraces her womanhood and who embodies drive and vision, I am certain she has a promising future.  I am confident she will weigh the complexities of life with intelligence and leadership.

Sadly, not all GHIS students are as fortunate as Aisha.  Many have little familial support, both emotionally and financially.  That’s why I urge you to join me in supporting GHIS with a charitable donation made out to CBB/GHIS.  Together, we can provide those at the frontlines of controversy our support.  Together we can turn our dear homeland into a kinder, more peaceful place.



Sue Levine is a CBB member who loves Rummy Cube, foreign movies, chocolate (preferably See’s),  family, genealogy and Daughters of Abraham (not in that order).






2021-11-19T14:17:06-08:00November 19th, 2021|
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