From Holland to Curacao: Sisterhood Brunch

Manfred Wolf speaking about his memoir at brunch

Manfred Wolf speaking about his memoir at brunch

Seventeen women and four men attended the annual Sisterhood Brunch at B’nai Emunah, Sunday, October 19th.  The brunch table was replete with delicious foods enjoyed by everyone.
After round-the-table introductions we had a  brief Sisterhood meeting to share information about the upcoming Hannuka Bazaar and Craft Fair, Sunday, December 7th, the synagogue’s 65th anniversary weekend celebration of Dec. 12 – 14th  and collect ideas for future programs.    We also learned from the treasurer’s report that Sisterhood donated $7,500 to the congregation last year.
The piece de resistance, however, was B’nai Emunah member and guest speaker, Manfred Wolf.  Manfred, a retired San
Francisco State University professor, has taught at USF’s Fromm Institute for fifteen years.  He delighted us with snippets and excerpts from his recently published memoir, Survival in Paradise: Sketches of a Refugee Life In Curacao.”   He shared his memories of escaping with his family from Holland in the early 1940s via a lengthy journey through France, Spain, Portugal, Suriname and finally Curacao.  His stories of family life and being a refugee during the Holocaust elicited the sharing of stories from some of the attendees.
More copies of his book were in demand than what he brought for the after-talk book signing, so arrangements were made to provide more copies.
Many thanks to the women who helped with set-up and/or clean-up:  Linda Wertheim, Janis Seeman, Susan Tauber, Jennifer Joseph, Flori Green and Bonnie Lindauer.
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Kol Nidrei Appeal 5775: Stretch, don’t Kvetch!

By Andrew Nusbaum

Andrew Nusbaum is on the board of directors at CBE.

Andrew Nusbaum is on the board of directors at CBE.

I am told that people like me are rare. First, I am a native San Franciscan who still lives here, at a time when most of my peers have had to move out of the city or burrow underground to save on rent. As if that weren’t odd enough, I am under thirty and belong to a synagogue. Not only that, I regularly attend services! And am on the board, serve as co-treasurer, and help with various activities, and so on. According to various pundits and surveys, people like me shouldn’t exist.

I grew up about 40 blocks away (just up the street) in a secular family with a mezuzah on the door, a menorah at Hanukkah, and burritos for Passover (not instead of matzah, just because my parents didn’t know what day it was). I never attended Hebrew school or received a Jewish education. I didn’t go to Jewish summer camp and haven’t been on Birthright. The Pew study would say I shouldn’t even know what a synagogue is, much less be on the board of one.

In eighth grade I read Chaim Potok’s The Chosen and was fascinated by the rituals and community it described. It turned out Jewishness and Judaism went far deeper than just not having a Christmas tree! In high school I started reading everything about Judaism I could find. I started going to High Holiday services with a friend’s family. I traced my family’s Jewish roots back to New York and Poland. In college I celebrated holidays and Shabbat with friends and the Jewish student group. After college my wife Amanda and I came back to San Francisco and started looking for a community.

I’d love to say we fell in love with B’nai Emunah’s charm right away, but that’s not precisely true. We appreciated the warm welcome from Jeff and Cantor Linda and Henry, of course, but back then, without a rabbi, and with very few young people, we weren’t sure how well we fit in here. So we continued to shul-hop, eventually making it to every non-Orthodox synagogue in the city. Some places had nicer buildings, some had a younger crowd, some had more modern music, but none of them quite “clicked” for us. Something always seemed to be missing. After 5 years of celebrating High Holidays at a different shul every year, my wife pointed out that I couldn’t just walk in and expect a community to be perfect, that this just wasn’t the way synagogues (or churches) worked. “You have to commit to something and work to make it better!” she said.  She’s smart.

When we started visiting B’nai Emunah again, we noticed how different it felt. Rabbi Mark and his family were invigorating the congregation with new energy. Membership had expanded and now included more people in their 20s and 30s. There was a range of programs and opportunities to get involved. Most impressively, despite some changes, B’nai Emunah continued to be defined by its accepting and non-judgmental spirit.

Despite our city’s open reputation, we have found that not every community is necessarily as welcoming as they advertise. At one shul we visited, people were too busy talking to their friends to even say hello to visitors. At another, the rabbi told Amanda, right after meeting her, that he’d “be happy to convert her!” B’nai Emunah has welcomed us unconditionally and let us both grow Jewishly at our own pace, and never made either of us feel uncomfortable because of our backgrounds. We are living in a time when almost everyone is a “Jew-by-choice” in one way or another. It is inspiring to belong to a community that means it when they say everyone is Jewish enough for —and welcome at—B’nai Emunah.

As a younger person, it is also encouraging to be part of a congregation that encourages new ideas and voices. As my friend Shais says, “If you want to see something here, you just do it.” One example is our Cab Shabbat service, which evolved from a brief conversation with the rabbi, then an impromptu service at the synagogue retreat, to now a regular monthly event. There were no hoops to jump through, no committees to convince, no gatekeepers. The rabbi and the community were open to the idea and gave us the freedom to try something new. This same trust and opportunity for ownership was present at our Young Leadership “Dream Team.” The nine of us ranged from our 20s through 40s, married, single, and with children. Some of us had been members for years; others had just recently joined. Some of us were board members or attended services regularly, others came when they could. Somewhere else we might have been subdivided into all sorts of different demographics, but at B’nai Emunah the only thing that really mattered was that all of us were seen as having something valuable to contribute.

B’nai Emunah is never going to be a mega-shul. However this creates a special opportunity for everyone who walks through its doors. Here, we have a chance to become connected and create authentic community. Here people can get to know each other, encourage each other, comfort each other, and learn from each other. From our very beginnings we have never fit into a single mold, and I believe that this identity has been key to our ongoing openness to others.

After spending some time on the board, I have come to the radical realization that B’nai Emunah is not perfect. The surveys we sent out over the last year have been a great source of information and input from the congregation. I would like to close by giving you the same challenge my wife gave me two years ago: this year, find a way to help make BE better. If you have an idea, a suggestion, something you want to try, some way you want to grow, or think you know someone that might enjoy spending time in our community, please, let us know. If you have been trying to find a way to get involved, please, reach out. If there is something you feel is missing here, help us work to make it happen. This year, let’s make our slogan be, “Stretch, don’t kvetch!” We can only call B’nai Emunah “ours” if we all take ownership for it.

Lots of places talk about being welcoming and encouraging their congregants to get involved, but B’nai Emunah gives you a chance to really live it. I am proud to be part of our community, I think it has a lot to offer, and I sincerely hope we will all continue to support it and each other.

I wish you all an easy fast, happy chagim, and a sweet and meaningful New Year.

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Sukkot Celebrations

Build your own sukkah with sweets.

Build your own sukkah with sweets.

By Rabbi Mark Melamut

Our K-2nd grade B3 Sunday School students learned about what makes a sukkah “kosher” and then went to work on their own candy sukkot.

Some details include:

-Walls can be made of any material as long as they don’t move too much in the wind.

-Sukkah should be large enough for 1 person, 1 table and 1 chair.

-The roof is made of “schach” (once living materials like tree branches, etc)

-Needs to be located in open space

Candy sukkot materials included: graham crackers (walls), starburst (windows), icing (“glue”), skittles and sprinkles (decoration) and parsley for the roof’s green materials.

It was a sweet and happy sukkot celebration, and then we finished with Pizza n’ the Hut!

We are all looking forward to our Simchat Torah Candy Parade – this Thurs evening 6-8 (with a veggie potluck)


“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

Happy Sukkot,

Rabbi Mark Melamut

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Sukkot – time for happiness!

By Rabbi Mark Melamut

Dear All,
Welcome to “z’man simchateinu/the time of our happiness!”
Please join us to shake the lulav, nosh, enjoy the sukkah, relax, and connect.
We follow this with our GRAND CANDY PARADE MARCH and unrolling of the torah (details below).
As always, all are welcome.

Oh what a joy to be Jewish!
See you soon with smiles in the sukkah,

Rabbi Mark Melamut


Sukkot celebration at B'nai Emunah with Rabbi Mark Melamut. Photograph by Gabriele Lange, 2012

Sukkot celebration at B’nai Emunah with Rabbi Mark Melamut. Photograph by Gabriele Lange, 2012


  • Thursday morning, 10/9, 9:45 Services, Shake the Lulav and enjoy the sukkah @ BE
  • Friday morning, 10/10, 9:30 Services with Ner Tamid @ Ner Tamid
  • Sunday afternoon, 10/12, 12:00, Join the B3 Sunday School for
  • Thursday morning, 10/16, 10:00, Shmini Atzeret/Yizkor Services with BIJ @ BIJ
  • Thursday evening, 6:00 VEGGIE POTLUCK, 7:00 SIMCHAT TORAH GRAND CANDY PARADE MARCH AND UNROLLING OF THE TORAH (bring along candy for the parade)
  • Friday morning, 9:45, Simchat Torah morning service and L’chayim!
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Rosh Hashana’s delicious “Triple Scoop”

From Rabbi Mark’s 5775 Family Service:

Rosh Hashana’s delicious “Triple Scoop” (3 sections of the musaf/additional service) offers each of us, no matter our age, opportunities to reflect, to remember and to hope.  And, just when you thought you’ve heard it all, check out this “jam band” version of our traditional “Avinu Malkeinu” on youtube by the band Phish:

Since this year’s Yom Kippur corresponds with Shabbat, we’ll only hear one of my holiday favorites at the very end of services on Saturday evening.  May its refrain inspire us in the new year:

“Avinu Malkeinu, Our Holy One, be gracious to us and respond to us.  What are our actions?  Treat us with charity and kindness and sustain us!”

G’mar hatima tova/a good and complete soul-sealing,

Rabbi Mark Melamut

Rosh Hashana’s Triple Scoop

Malkuyot/Ultimate Rule  

If I was king/queen for the day what rules would I make?



Playing Memory – What do we remember about this year – the good and not so good stuff?


Shofarot/Calling Out

What hopes do we want to call out for the New Year?


“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

G’mar hatima tova/a good and complete soul-sealing,
Rabbi Mark Melamut

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Life Savers and Musings with Morey

By Rabbi Mark Melamut

Shalom to All,

It’s that time of year again. We can begin to imagine the sounds of the shofar calling us from wherever we’ve been since last year. The sweet taste of a dollop of honey drizzled on an apple slice or on round challah is almost here. Can you see yourself changing into your sandals to make the annual pilgrimage down to Ocean Beach? Facing the Pacific Ocean, we will cast away the breadcrumbs of who we’ve been so that we can become who we want to be in the coming year. In my holiday memories, I can also picture gripping tightly in my hand a pack of life savers, carefully eating them color by color. Life Savers?

Sweet childhood memories for Rabbi Mark Melamut - life savers during the High Holy Days

Sweet childhood memories for Rabbi Mark Melamut – life savers during the High Holy Days

When I was little my Dad used to bring along life savers to keep my brother and I occupied during most religious services. Though I can also remember the shofar, the white robes, the mixture of varied perfumes, as well as apples and honey, what sticks out in my mind are the life savers. Perhaps this is because candy makes a big difference to children, especially during a seemingly endless service. I wonder if there is something else about this colorful roll. After all, they are round and sweet. Perhaps it’s not about the candy, but about the perspective that may unroll for each of us at this time of year.

Of course Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide us with opportunities to be introspective, but this time of year can also provide us with perspective. These “sweet moments” often unwrap themselves, as we simultaneously look back, focus on the present moment and anticipate the year ahead. Indeed, the holidays are unique in the spiritual dimensions of Jewish time, literally being “the head of the year” and “the day for atonement” (or as I prefer, “at-one-ment”). In my personal practice though, I try not to wait until the holidays in order to gain perspective. Sometimes I find a taste of it on Shabbat, in meeting with those who are ill, in everyday conversations, and when I’m alone or with my family or friends.

Sometimes it takes an effort to find perspective. Whatever happens each week, I make time to saunter or hike along the Morey Point trail near our home in Pacifica. As I climb the trail, the salty air wakes me up and often rabbits and other animals cross my path. I reach the top, and from there I can make out the dot of the Cliff House to the North and Linda Mar beach in Pacifica to the South. Below, I watch the rolling waves crash ashore and their rhythm soothes my soul. Beyond, I’m awed by the horizon, and the wide expanse of the endless blue-green waters of the Pacific Ocean. From this vantage point, I’m able to reflect and ask my questions. Where have I been? What am I experiencing now? What is on my horizon?

From the vantage point of this New Year, what are your questions?

May this New Year be as sweet as honey for each of us, our families and our community.

May it be as colorful, varied, complete and whole as a roll of life savers.

May we all grip this precious time tightly in our hands, and allow it to be a true “life saver” for us.

Rabbi Mark Melamut

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BE Summer Picnic at Stern Grove – 9/7 1-4 PM

Dear BE Community,

Please join us for our annual picnic, which will be held on Sunday September 7th, 1-4pm. We will meet at the picnic site near Pine Lake, inside Stern Grove.  This is a dog friendly site, near the Stern Grove off-leash area.

Here is a map.

The food will be a delicious potluck, catered by all of us. Please bring a vegetarian or a dairy dish for 8 to share with others in our community.

Here are some suggestions on what to bring:

  • salads
  • fruits or fruit salad
  • bread
  • cheeses
  • chips
  • dips / spreads
  • pasta
  • crackers
  • desserts
  • eggs
  • drinks
  • cut up vegetables
  • hummus

B’nai Emunah will provide plates, napkins and forks.

If you have any questions, please contact Elena Ingerman at or Keith Halperin at

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