Shabbat Symposium IV: Messiahs and Messianism in Jewish History

Continuing our Shabbat Symposium program this past Saturday, a group of B’nai Emunah-ns stayed after services for about an hour for a presentation and discussion about the concept of messianism in Judaism. We looked at how the messianic idea evolved from a few references in the Torah and Prophets, was greatly expanded and debated by the rabbis of the Talmud, added to by medieval philosophers and Kabbalists, and ultimately redefined in the modern period. Along the way we learned about some of the most (in)famous Jewish messiahs in history, including Shimon Bar Kochba, Shlomo Molcho, Shabbetai Zevi, Jacob Frank, and the last Chabad rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

A list of sources and recommendations for further research is attached here: Messiah References. Please contact Andrew Nusbaum if you would like a full copy of the source sheet.

Many thanks to those who stayed after services for the class. We hope you enjoyed it! (If you did attend and would like to share your reactions or suggestions, please add a comment below.)

B’nai Emunah believes all members of the community have something to teach each other. One way of putting this into practice is through our Shabbat Symposium program, a rotating adult education opportunity happening every fourth Saturday following morning services. Each class is led by a knowledgable community volunteer on a topic of their choice. From holidays to history to religious studies, Shabbat Symposium is a fun chance to learn something new from fellow CBE members. Join us for engaged learning and enthusiastic discussion!

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Be The Match

Be The Match Bone Marrow Drive
By Sharon Bleviss
A hardy crowd braved the wind and driving rain to participate in the Be The Match bone marrow donor drive. All it took was 10 minutes to complete a health questionnaire and take a cheek swab, and the participants were added to the registry. People with leukemia and other blood disorders need a bone marrow transplant and more people are needed in the registry.
If you missed this event, there is another drive happening on March 8 at Congregation Beth Sholom. Or go online to
and register there.

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Bone marrow donor registry drive

Bone marrow donor registry drive on February 8, from 12pm-2pm

Bone marrow donor registry drive on February 8, from 12pm-2pm

Congregations B’nai Emunah and Beth Israel Judea are sponsoring a bone marrow donor drive on February 8, 2015 from 12-2 at BIJ. The flier is attached.

As you may know, my sister, Ilana, has been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and her only hope for survival is a bone marrow transplant. Most patients in need of a transplant find the donor through the Be The Match National Bone Marrow Registry. We are asking those ages 18-44 to help Ilana and thousands of other patients in need of a marrow transplant. Join us at the event to register to be a donor through BE THE MATCH Registry and see if you are a match for Ilana or any patient in need. All it takes is 10 minutes of your time and you can help save a life! Come complete a health questionnaire and do a simple cheek swab!

There is a match out there somewhere for every patient…you could be the one to save a life!

Please post on your websites, blogs, Facebook pages, other social media sites, email blasts and newsletters. The more people this reaches, the more people of the targeted age range will show up!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Sharon Bleviss

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A Tu B’shvat Celebration!

2nd Annual Festival for the Trees

California Spring

Congregation B’nai Emunah is proud co-sponsor of TuB’shvat

We are proud to be a sponsor of this community-wide Tu B’shvat event. Join us along with EcoJews of the Bay & friends to celebrate the Jewish New Year of the Trees!

Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, 6:00-9:00 pm

@The Women’s Building, 3543 18th St., San Francisco

Live music. Conservation inspiration. Organic food & drink. Community.

Unplug in Reboot’s National Day of Unplugging Photo Booth and plug back into the world around you.

We’re honored to welcome our esteemed guest speaker:

Jared Blumenfeld, EPA Region 9 Administrator, appointed by President Obama in 2009. Mr. Blumenfeld previously served eight years as Director of the SF Department of the Environment.


ECOnnect with cosponsoring organizations in our Tikkun Olam fair!

Presenting Sponsors: Friends of the Urban Forest, Reboot

Contributing Sponsors: Congregation B’nai Emunah, Hazon, New Israel Fund New Generations

Media sponsors: Congregation Emanu-El, NorCal Community Resilience Network, Wilderness Torah, Temple Beth Abraham


Pre-order tickets & save:

$21 online, $18 until Jan. 18. $25 at the door. Tickets include food and the customary four cups of wine (or other beverage)! Get your tickets here:


Event committee: Alli Darrow, Ilana Gauss, Carter Lavin, Ethan Lipman and Susan Silber

Honorary Host Committee: Adam Berman, Ilyse Gerber, Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Jeanine Sidran and Adam Teitelbaum


Contact: /


The mission of EcoJews is to inspire environmental action through Jewish values.

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A Boutique synagogue by the sea

By Rabbi Mark Melamut


boutique“It is you, the Jewish people, not a building or anything else that makes a community.  B’nai Emunah is not a temple.  Rather, it is a beit knesset, a place of gathering for our people.  This is what makes us special.”  During Shabbat services, a couple weeks ago, I paused in my drash to share a moment with Rabbi Ted.  After I spoke of some of the important customs that were a part of his 38 year legacy at the congregation, I stepped down from the bimah to sit by his side for a few moments, as a colleague and as a student as well.  He stood from his seat, and shared with us his teaching about the essential quality of our community on the auspicious occasion of our synagogue’s 65th Anniversary.  Some were in tears and many of us were touched by this unique moment in time.  I also felt the honor of sharing the legacy of leadership of our community with him and was proud to receive his blessing.

I, of course, added a few words of my own.  People sometimes ask me, “what does ‘B’nai Emunah’ mean?” I say that it is usually translated as the “children of faith” or “the faithful ones.”  It also means “those who remain steadfast, those who have faith in our heritage, our history, our culture and our future.”  And, it also means “those who truly believe in the importance of ritual, of making meaning, of being together in real community, and of taking seriously the idea of l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.”  I’m proud to be a leader in the community and to also be a part of the future of our people and our congregation.  Indeed, each of us can be proud, as we are all an important link in this chain, which connects Germany to Shanghai, and Shanghai to San Francisco.

Adding to Rabbi Ted’s words, I highlighted those essential qualities which make us who we are: warm, welcoming and friendly.  I also reframed this description because we are all of these and so much more.  To me B’nai Emunah is a boutique San Francisco synagogue by the beach – a community that honors tradition and innovation, and is fully egalitarian, intergenerational and authentic.

Whether it was Egypt or Europe or Shanghai, the Jewish people have always been on the move.  Our story now continues, as it has done both in the long legacy of the Jewish people and in B’nai Emunah’s 65 years in San Francisco.  Amazing things can happen to our people in new lands and among new people.  Though we are presented with many of the challenges of a contemporary synagogue, we also enjoy the rich benefits of our communal home.  Our refuge has been and will be – a sustainable community, where no matter what, each household is of utmost significance to the whole.  It is our customized and individualized approach to Jewish life which allows us to optimize and provide: comfort and support, nourishment and meaning, intellectual and spiritual stimulation, and friendship and fellowship.  Our essential obligation is to maintain and nourish Jewish identity, while we adapt, grow, and add our own contribution to the community which was built by those who came before us.

On the occasion of our synagogue’s 65th anniversary, I found myself perusing the Psalms and reading Psalm 65.  Mining it for parallel wisdom and now entering 2015, I share these blessings for our congregation, for our lives and for the world.

“May we all be sated with the blessings of Your House, of Your Holy Space…

May You make the lands of sunrise and sunset shout for joy…

May You bless us with growth and crown our year, this year, with bounty and plenty!”

Shalom u’vracha/Peace & Blessing,

Rabbi Mark

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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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65th Anniversary Celebration

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Happy 65th Anniversary, B’nai Emunah! What a weekend of celebrations!

Friday evening, December 12th, fifty guests enjoyed a meal of fish, bok choi and rice cooked by our own master chef, Frank Kurtz, and then listened to Leah Garrick share her experiences growing up in Shanghai. Leah showed slides, shared anecdotes and told the story of the three migrations of Jews to Shanghai. The audience paid rapt attention while enjoying the community dinner.

Saturday morning, fifty congregants joined together at Shabbat services. Rabbi Emeritus Ted Alexander and Gertrude were able to attend, as well as Eva Angress, daughter of founding Rabbi George Kantorowsky. Rabbi Mark Melamut retold the history of the shul in his drash and then asked Rabbi Ted to share some words. Ted’s words about B’nai Emunah being a community first brought tears to people’s eyes. The service was followed by a sumptuous kiddush which included a huge anniversary cake. People lingered and chatted for a long time.

Frank Kurtz and Ken Mitchell are setting up for the gala dinner.

Frank Kurtz and Ken Mitchell are setting up for the gala dinner.

Saturday evening, one hundred revelers gathered at Patio Espanol Restaurant for an elegant dinner dance. The event began with tapas as Roger Levinson’s band, the Sinaites, entertained. The room was awash in blue and white flowers, balloons and decorations. A slide show of memories ran continuosly while people caught up with each other. Congregation President Jeff Dielle introduced and honored longtime members, and Rabbi Mark made a toast to the future. Rabbi Mark and Cantor Linda then led the guests in Havdallah and Motzi and the meal of salmon or vegetarian lasagna was served. And then the dancing began! Hours later, the guests headed home clutching their etched 65th Anniversary wine glasses, with smiles on their faces.

Finally, forty-five folks arrived on Sunday afternoon for food, friends and memories. They perused the old photo albums and the newest addition to the shul timeline while Mimi Greisman entertained the young children with her music and stories and the slide show ran in the sanctuary. Rabbi Mark called everyone together to listen to a panel of long-time members talk about life in Shanghai and Europe. A common theme was how special B’nai Emunah is, especially the community. The rabbi and cantor led the group in a Hanukah sing-a-long and an anniversary cake replete with flaming candles was brought in while everyone sang, “Happy Birthday.” Folks excitedly opened their fortune cookies, hoping for the winning fortune or raffle ticket. Smiling guests clutched their prizes as they headed into the falling rain.

Special thanks to the 65th Anniversary Planning Committee, Sharon Bleviss, Frank Kurtz, Gabriele Edwards, Ken Mitchell and Carolyn Malestic, for organizing a wonderful weekend of memories. Happy 65th, CBE! To many, many more!

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