Schools are back in session and the new year approaches. In this final message of 5774, we share curated High Holiday resources, invitations to attend events, special initiatives and more. We open with thoughts about forgiveness from our associate director, Rabbi Joshua Fenton.
On behalf of my colleagues and our board, thank you for your partnership, thank you for your participation, thank you for your support. With your help, we are changing the way Jewish learning works.
Shanah tovah u'metuka (best wishes for a good and sweet year)
CEO, Jewish LearningWorks
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Forgiveness and Letting Go
For a second year our friends at G-dcast invite us to download their delightfully fun Yom Kippur e-Scapegoat, an app to anonymously submit, showcase and view "sins" to be "absolved" by the digital Yom Kippur goat. A favorite of mine from last year was "I said it was gluten free."
The app is great because it's fun. It's fun to read other people's submissions and it's fun to participate as a penitent. But does it work? Did the gluten free saboteur feel absolved of their sin following last year's confession?
G-dcast's approach towards repentance didn't come from thin air - the roots of the scapegoat, (the origin of the expression) are found in the Torah and in the original Yom Kippur ritual where the High Priest would symbolically heap the collective sins of the community against God- sins that hurt no person, but broke religious law - onto two sacrificial goats. A symbolic act of communal repentance, absolution, and forgiveness all wrapped up in one.
Through introspection and repentance, the people of Israel would be born anew, cleansed of all their wrongdoings; but only those against God, ben adam l'makon. For the sins we commit against each other, ben adam l'adam, those require an apology and forgiveness.
Asking for forgiveness is scary, especially if you're not sure you're going to be forgiven. But being forgiving, that's something else. To be able to forgive can be as transformative an experience for the forgiver as it is the forgiven. In a 2012 Study at Iowa State University, researchers found "[forgiveness] to be very effective at helping people not only cope with anger and work through those negative feelings, but also to move the person to a 'better' place of acceptance and even human flourishing."
So how can we cultivate a culture of forgiveness in our homes, workplaces, and communities?
Listen to a shofar. It is said that the sound of the shofar evokes forgiveness. The story goes, the shofar reminds God of the Ram sacrificed in place of Isaac, Abraham's son. It reminds God that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son if God wanted, and because of that willingness, God is then inspired to be merciful and forgive.
Look inward. The introspective weeks leading up to the High Holidays is an opportunity to make a cheshbon nefesh, an accounting of your soul. "Search your life, inspect your deeds and repent" says the High Holiday liturgy. This year, while you reflect on the people you've wronged, also spend some time thinking about the people who've wronged you. Who suffers because they treated you poorly? Which relationships are mired down because you can't let something go? Take an accounting of your soul and then give yourself a gift, forgive.
Let go. The Mayo Clinic advises us to "move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life.... As you let go of grudges, you'll no longer define your life by how you've been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding."
Say the Shema at night before bed. In the traditional liturgy of the Jewish bedtime prayer, you'll find the following paragraph: "I hereby forgive all who have hurt or wronged me, deliberately or by accident, through speech, deed, word, thought, or notion, whether in this incarnation or in another. May no one be punished on my account..." It suggests forgiveness as a constructive kavanah, intention to take with you at bedtime.
Read a book. This year, the book selection for our One Bay One Book program is The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis, a story with themes including forgiveness, the ways in which we do forgive, the ways in which we don't forgive, and how those choices impact our lives. So do read the book and join one of the hundreds of conversations that will spring up all around the bay area this year. Join in the conversation.
Maimonides explored repentance and all of its angles In chapter 2:9 of his Mishnah Torah he writes, "If the person does not want to forgive him, then he must bring a row of three of his friends and entreat the person to forgive him. If they still won't forgive he must ask him two or even three times. If they still won't forgive him he should leave him alone and go away. This person who did not forgive is now the sinner."
Devoting an entire chapter to forgiveness, Maimonides acknowledges that asking for forgiveness is not easy. He describes in great detail the important steps of apology and repentance. But in the end, Maimonides challenges the one who was wronged to forgive.
Can you move on? Can you forgive? Perhaps we can bring the intention of forgiveness with us into the holiday season. Perhaps we can bring the intention of letting go.
By Rabbi Joshua Fenton
Associate Director, Jewish LearningWorks
Make the High Holidays your own.
in your classroom or in your home.
ANNOUNCING This Year's Selection:
The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
Join us September 30th @7pm
for the highly anticipated
Opening Program and Book Launch
Presented by JCCSF & the Jewish Community Library
Zoetrope: All-Story Editor
Join with a diverse Bay Area readership for ongoing Jewish learning:
* lively conversations * fascinating lectures * panel discussions * and more *
Introducing the opening programs for this year
Voices & Visions is about art, about powerful messages, about starting conversations, about continuing the Jewish journey. A collection of eighteen images, the series pairs leading figures of contemporary art and design with powerful quotes from Jewish thinkers across the ages. At the Addison-Penzak JCC running through October 14th.
Special Workshop for Educators with Visiting Artist:
Piyut with Yair Harel is a hands-on workshop with world-renowned Israeli musician, performer, artistic director, and community organizer, Yair Harel, one of the main figures behind the revival of the ancient art of Piyut, liturgical Hebrew poetry.
By integrating the arts in Jewish education, we seek to enrich
and increase Jewish identity and Jewish knowledge for Bay Area learners of all ages.
Join us and unleash the power of the arts!
Upcoming Opportunities for Embodied Jewish Learning:
Coming This Fall!
Adult learning at:
Congregation Kol Shofar, Tiburon
Temple Sinai, Oakland
Peninsula Temple Sholom, Burlingame
Broaden your Jewish horizons, enrich your Jewish experience and show your kids that Jewish education is important!
Now in Marin!
Shalom Explorers is provided by Jewish LearningWorks, the Osher Marin JCC, Congregation Kol Shofar and Congregation Rodef Sholom and funded in part by the Covenant Foundation
and the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.
September 2014 / 5774
Special High Holiday Edition
Voices & Visions
An Art Exhibit
A selection of 18 images, the series pairs leading figures of contemporary art and design with powerful quotes from Jewish thinkers across the ages.
Thursday September 18
7:00PM - 8:00PM
From the Holocaust to Darfur
Friday September 19
12:00PM - 1:00PM
The San Francisco Darfur Coalition leads a weekly campaign called 'Darfur Fridays' where individuals can take action weekly to address the genocide in the Sudan.
Sunday September 21
2:00PM - 4:00PM
Experience a gentle, grounded Iyengar-based yoga and movement practice infused with themes of realignment and renewal for the Jewish New Year.
Connect with the author and fellow readers at the opening program for One Bay One Book, a year long conversation that transforms reading from a solitary activity into a communal one.
The Florence Melton School Adult Education Series
Tuesdays Sept 30 - Dec 16
7:30PM - 9:00PM
Kehillah Jewish High School
Join students from over 40 sites in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning's educational series.
Sacred Dance Circles
Oct 5, Nov 2, Dec 7
2:00PM - 4:00PM
Free your mind, body, heart and spirit through movement, music, and free-style dance to deepen your spiritual practice among a community of women.
Hebrew Storytelling for Young Children
Sunday October 11
Children ages five and younger will enjoy singing, playing, and listening to stories in Hebrew.
Sunday May 03, 2015
8:30AM - 4:30PM
For anyone interested in participating in the work of creating a more inclusive community. We ask educators, Rabbis, administrators, parents and beyond to share this invitation with friends and colleagues.
For more details, visit our
Event Calendar and
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Our mission is to improve and extend Jewish learning because learning is fundamental to Jewish life, identity, community and continuity.
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