Kvell and Tell

Kvell and Tell

  • Food Forward Update – May 27 2022

    Food Forward, Or Ami’s partner in righting food insecurity, …

    “On an average day, Food Forward supplies over 150,000 people their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables.”

    This is just one of the many wonderful updates in Food Forward’s 2021 Annual Report – Click Here to see the full report!

    To read about Or Ami’s Food Forward Truck…

    Food Forward Truck Update November 24, 2020

    Food Forward Truck Update September 15, 2019

  • Our Protective Shells – January 21, 2022

    A sermon from Rabbi Julia Weisz, Co-Written by Rabbinic Intern Mira Weller 

    Shabbat Shalom. First let me thank Agoura Hills Mayor, Deborah Klein Lopez, Calabasas City Councilor Peter Kraut and Immediate Past President Lesli Kraut, Calabasas Mayor Mary Sue Maurer, Westlake Village Mayor Brad Halpern for being with us this evening and for participating in our Shabbat services.

    This past week I keep thinking about…

    Bananas. Pomegranates. Almonds.

    A list of items that all have one thing in common.

    What is it?

    These are all fruits

    And these fruits all have a tough outer shell or peel.

    And these fruits, like many others, grow on trees.

    This past weekend we celebrated trees for Tu Bshvat, one of the four “new years” in the Jewish calendar. Tu Bshvat is the New Year for the trees, the birthday of the trees and we celebrate by being out in nature and eating fruit from the trees. Like Bananas. Pomegranates and almonds. This past week I have especially resonated with the bananas, the pomegranates and the almonds. Because, each of them have this outer layer protecting the sweetness of what is inside yet hiding the sweetness from view. This protective shield holds the fruit and allows it to grow in its own time amidst harsh weather, insects, and even intruders. When we’re ready to eat the yumminess inside,  we can remove this layer. But until that moment, the fruit’s own peel or skin or shell keeps its sweet interior safe so that the fruit can ripen and flourish despite its difficult environment

    Perhaps another reason we celebrate Tu B’shvat is because people aren’t so different from fruit. We too have skin that keeps our bodies intact. Our communities keep us together just like the pomegranate’s white insides hold its many seeds in place. Torah, prayer, and synagogue life helps to keep our Jewish community together. These in turn give us a safe place in our hearts and in our lives that helps us grow and ripen to our sweetest selves.  

    For some of us, hat happened this past Shabbat in Colleyville, was as if our protective peel, our outer shell, broke open. Watching the news, scrolling social media, hearing no significant updates for hours upon hours left some of us feeling vulnerable and afraid. If this happened in Texas, during Shabbat,  in a synagogue – a sanctuary where we should all feel free enough to pray and gather together – is there any place left where we can live without fear?– I am vulnerable and I am afraid.

    What happened in Colleyville is only one of many instances in the past two years where we as a people felt vulnerable and afraid. This pandemic, the spread of Covid-19, vulnerability and fear were driving forces behind decisions we were and still are making in our daily lives. Our protective shell was exposed. Our bodies were vulnerable to Covid-19, to a disease we knew little about except that it could make us and our loved ones really sick. Should I travel with my family this winter? No, I am worried I will get sick and have to quarantine or worse, go to the hospital. Should I have coffee, tea, lunch or dinner with a friend. No I am afraid. Should I attend that birthday party? NO! And on and on. 

    Fear because of the hostage situation in Colleyville. Fear because of Covid-19. Fear felt by the Israelites who in this week’s Torah portion prepare to receive the 10 commandments from Mount Sinai. Imagine this: The people stood at the foot of a mountain covered in thick smoke that rose high above them like the smoke in a kiln. The whole mountain shook violently. The blare of a a shofar grew louder and louder as lightening and thunder crashed and then suddenly, God spoke.

    Moses could sense the people’s fear. The terrifying scene stripped their protective shell and they were vulnerable. He responded to them: And Moses responds to the people’s fear by saying, “Do not be afraid. God only spoke directly so that the fear of Adonai, God, may forever be with you, so that you do not go astray.” In that very special, rare moment, God peeled away the protective shells from the Israelites, and inspired something amidst their fear. When God asks the Israelites to accept the Torah, they respond, for the first time in the Torah, in one courageous and unified voice: “Na’aseh”. We’ll do it. Together. 

    Why did Torah use the word fear to describe this transformative moment at Mt. Sinai? Dr Zachary Sikora a Northwestern Medicine Clinical Psychologist explains that “Fear is a natural and biological condition that we all experience. It’s important that we experience fear because it keeps us safe.” The Hebrew word for fear, found in our Torah portion, is yirah which can also be translated as awe or respect. So, amidst all this vulnerability and fear around the Colleyville crisis, the pandemic, God’s revelation of the 10 commandments, could we also be experiencing awe and wonder amidst the fear?

    I think Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, helps answer this question in her article found in yesterday’s New York Times. The article is titled: Why I Almost Didn’t Read My Poem at Inauguration. The article begins: It’s told like this: Amanda Gorman performed at the inauguration, and the rest is history.

    The truth is I almost declined to be the inaugural poet. Why?

    I was terrified.

    Then she goes on to explain what were her fears and why her fear almost stopped her from reading her poem last year.

    And this is the part I want to share with all of you-how fear and awe can sometimes be one in the same.

    She writes about the impact of the pandemic and how some of our fears from a year ago are still the same. But, we are not. Amanda writes, If nothing else, this must be known: Even as we’ve grieved, we’ve grown; even fatigued we’ve found that this hill we climb is one we must mount together. We are battered, but bolder; worn, but wiser. I’m not telling you to not be tired or afraid. If anything, the very fact that we’re weary means we are, by definition, changed; we are brave enough to listen to, and learn from, our fear. This time will be different because this time we’ll be different. We’ll be riper, more tender, and richer inside. We already are.

    Just like the Israelites at Mount Sinai who stood before God and received the 10 commandments in fear. They were brave enough to listen, they were changed in that moment in time. In fact, it was not until they received the Torah that they were considered the PEOPLE of Israel. We ripened that day.We became a community.

    Just like we have changed during this pandemic. Our fear has made us reprioritize our social relationships, be conscious and helpful towards others who are sicker and older, be especially grateful for our own health.

    And then there is Colleyville. It is too new and too hard at the moment to see that any awe in this because the hostage situation was so AWFUL but definitely not awe-filled. However, I do believe that our fear on that Shabbat a week ago is moving jewish communities around the country towards change-implementing tighter security systems, feeling gratitude and support for the Jewish people and the communities we build within our synagogues.This Shabbat, we stand, is also Repro Shabbat where communities celebrate the crucial importance of reproductive health access. Like the Israelites, together in solidarity against threats to reproductive rights – the protective shell that helps young people flourish in their own time, just as fruits ripening for Tu B’shvat.

    And together in this community of resilience and support, may the words of Amanda Gorman ring in our ears this Shabbat: 

    “So do not fear your fear. Own it. Free it. This isn’t a liberation that I or anyone can give you — it’s a power you must look for, learn, love, lead and locate for yourself.

    Why? The truth is, hope isn’t a promise we give. It’s a promise we live. Tell it like this, and we, like our words, will not rest.

    And the rest is history.”

    Shabbat Shalom my friends.

  • Strongly Condemning the Amnesty International Report – February 4, 2022

    I add my voice, with the strongest possible endorsement, to the call of our Reform Movement to strongly condemn the report produced by Amnesty International entitled: “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity” which wrongly accuses Israel of, “perpetuating the international wrong of apartheid.” The term “apartheid” is commonly understood to refer to the institutions of formal and rigid segregation, the denial of political and social rights, and the basic dehumanization practiced by the South African regime over decades. Using it to describe the relationship between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people does not reflect an understanding of the history, context, and nuance of the current situation. 

    Jewish tradition teaches us that words matter not just because of their meaning, but because of the actions those words inspire. A quick look at the text underscores this point. While we generally define the word “d’varim” as “words,” the Mishnah (Peah 1:1) states “eilu d’varim…” and what follows isn’t a list of words, but a list of actions (honoring one’s father and mother, gimilut chasadim, and making peace). And it is for engaging in these actions that the Mishnah teaches we receive our reward.

    Our movement clearly rejects this report which seeks to incite those who want to delegitimize Israel’s very existence who will now try to cite it as equating Israel with South Africa as an apartheid state. Israel’s detractors will use it to justify encouraging anti-Zionism and antisemitism. 

    At the same time, I urge us not to use issues with the report as an excuse to avoid grappling with the day-in and day-out realities of occupation and the moral and strategic catastrophe it represents for Israelis and for Palestinians. 

    Most significantly, as a longtime AIPAC member, a supporter of ARZA, and one who travels to Israel every year or two, I am proud to join the leaders of the largest religious and Zionist Movement in Jewish life in North America and declare my commitment to Israel’s Jewish as well as its democratic character, which must ensure the civil, political, and human rights of all citizens. 

    Here you can read the full statement of our Reform movement.

    Here you can read the teaching of the Association of Reform Zionists of America on “What are we talking about when we talk about Amnesty?”

    Here you can read the joint statement released by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, and the Jewish Federations of North America.

    Here you can read the joint statement from the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly.

    Here you can read the statement released by J Street. 

    Here you can read the statement from the Orthodox Union.

    Keep abreast of the news in Israel with Times of Israel news site. Keep your eyes out for an announcement of a family trip to Israel in 2023, and an adult trip too. 

    -Rabbi Paul Kipnes


    Developed with input from statements by Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, the CCAR, AIPAC and ARZA. 

  • Kvell and Tell – August 18 2021 – Kadima Fellow Testimonials

    Our amazing Kadima Fellowship is a cohort of high school and college students that seek to pursue an intended career by learning skills in leadership, project management, professionalism, storytelling, gain a professional mentor, build a professional network of mentors, colleagues, and friends who can advocate for them in future professional pursuits, sharpen their proficiency in project management and work on a career-path-inspired project that will highlight their unique skillset to future employers and repair the world by collaborating on a group social justice initiative while simultaneously strengthening their resume.

    How great is the experience for our Fellows? Here is what some of them had to say:

    Leah Kelly
    Junior at Washington University in St. Louis
    Field: Law/Non-profit

    leah kelly

    “My favorite portion of this experience was probably meeting my mentor Jody. I really enjoyed the seminars and project, however, developing this relationship with a working professional feels very valuable to me moving forward . She offered me a window into my profession of interest and helped me understand how I can enact change in my own life.”

    Sam Kelly
    Freshman at the University of Cincinnati Music Conservatory
    Field: Music Performance

    sam kelly

    “My favorite part of Kadima was the time I spent with my mentor. He made me feel capable in the face of the harsh music industry, while keeping me humble in the face how much I can learn, grow, and change. It was so special to get to spend that one-on-one time with such a seasoned and accomplished musician, especially since it was so fluid and we could talk about whatever we wanted, whenever.”

    Michael Wagner
    Senior at Crespi Carmelite High School
    Field: Business Entrepreneurship

    michael wagner

    “Although I enjoyed every aspect of the Fellowship, I would say my favorite part was our Social Justice Initiative event that we organized! Honestly it was very fun to finally see everyone in person and help out TreePeople.”

    Becca Deutsch
    Junior at Texas A&M University
    Field: Social Media Marketing

    becca deutsch

    “One of my favorite things about the Kadima Fellowship was being able to collaborate with the rest of my cohort on a social justice project. It was an amazing experience to work with peers who are just as passionate about social justice as I am. I also had a great time speaking with my mentor and learning more about the different paths to the career I want. I am so grateful to the Kadima Fellowship for connecting us and I hope to continue to talk with her in the future!”

    Dylan Shapiro
    Sophomore at UC Santa Barbara
    Field: Law

    dylan shapiro

    “I loved learning skills through the leadership development seminars that will aid me significantly in navigating a somewhat scary and unknown at times professional future. I have a newfound understanding of skills that I should be utilizing to get me to my desired career and what to expect on the way. Additionally, being able to meet with a mentor who has over thirty years of experience in the field I want to be a part of was amazing. I was able to ask so many questions to ease my nerves as I begin my career journey.”

    For more information, to participate, or be a mentor, contact Rabbi Paul Kipnes (rabbipaul@orami.org)
  • Kvell and Tell – August 11 2021 – Fish Food Pantry

    Or Ami partnered with the Congregational Church of Chatsworth to support the Fish Food Pantry. Prior to shutting down due to COVID, the Fish Food Pantry provided free food to those in need including fresh produce, canned food, and other items. Last week they served 134 individuals but expect to feed up to 1000 per week, once word gets out that they are back. Or Ami is proud to have provided sponsorship for many week’s of food distribution to the unhoused and for direct distribution to seniors in the area.

  • Kvell and Tell – August 1 2021 – Don’t Wait: A Message for the High Holy Days
    RJ-feature- murray

    Don’t Wait: A Message for the High Holy Days
    By Rabbi Paul Kipnes
    As posted at reformjudaism.org

    Meet 88-year-old Murray, an astounding man. Quiet, sometimes reserved, Murray became my father-in-law thirty-one years ago, when God softly whispered to me, “don’t wait.” I confess I didn’t appreciate him fully until recently.

    Murray grew up in Brooklyn as the only child of a father who died so young that Murray has few memories of him, and a mother, Ethel, who had the incredible strength to clean floors to make a living and keep a roof over their heads. His family had so little that on a trip to revisit the Brooklyn of his childhood, he told us he needed only to visit a few places, as his family never had the means to go anywhere that far from their home. 

    Yet Murray wasn’t destined to remain in that circumscribed life too long. He joined the army, serving on bases in New Jersey, Texas, and Washington. The army was his ticket out into the greater world that he couldn’t wait to see. There, as a medic, he first learned to drive – would you believe, practicing in ambulances. 

    Then, on a weekend trip to the Los Angeles, he was introduced to Teri. Teri quickly became his girlfriend and when he returned to his base, they wrote letters every day. To read their letters is to witness a love story that wouldn’t wait. They made plans… until their next letter… until their next visit. How’d it turn out? Together they raised three children, who made them grandparents five times over.  

    As Teri’s world shrunk – first from agoraphobia, a pervasive anxiety disorder, and later from Multiple Sclerosis, Murray simultaneously took care of her and found ways to explore the world around him. On days when Teri’s discomfort kept her home, Murray was both by her side and out in the world. He did the grocery shopping, and the driving, yet followed her lead. Or rather she took the lead, and he just followed. Over the years they teamed up to share responsibility for their retail craft store, Arts N Crafts N Things, in Orange County. 

    As Teri’s MS progressed, from needing a walker to being confined in a wheelchair, Murray was by her side at every point. Together they transitioned through various stages of her illness, always sharing an abiding love. Teri insisted that Murray not wait behind. She told him to keep going: keep deep sea fishing, keep up as a Century City realtor, keep shooting photos at the zoo and at Descanso Gardens, keep exploring his love for nature’s beauty. 

    For some, life might shrink and expand; for them, life expanded and sometimes shrunk. But this once poor Brooklyn boy kept going. He didn’t wait for everything to fall perfectly into place. He adapted to new circumstances, living and loving as best he could.  

    And then, Teri died. 

    Sometimes widowers shut down, closing themselves off. But not Murray. Heartbroken though he was, Murray fell back into the healthy habits he developed over the years. He continued to take walks. He continued to hang out with the group of guys for breakfast. He continued sharing life with his children. He doubled down on his photography, a hobby he picked up later in life, which energized him.  

    Soon after his beloved died, Murray accepted an invitation to join his daughter Michelle and me, and 28 others, on Congregation Or Ami’s trip to Italy. We wanted to stay by his side, and we hoped that on the trip he would find some comfort. But what happened was amazing beyond our wildest dreams.  

    We were a group of empty nesters – all experienced travelers, and as we made our way through Italy, Murray emerged as our rock and our inspiration. When the early mornings and long bus trips began to fray our nerves, he remained patient and resolute. When walking over city cobblestones tired us out, he kept going, motivated by the desire to capture every new sight on his camera. When the staircases ascended too steeply, he put one foot in front of the other, until high above the city, he marveled at the views. And then he called down to us to join him at the top. When we wanted to kvetch (complain), he continued to kvell (praise). Why?  

    Somewhere over the course of his 88 years, Murray made a choice. Instead of succumbing to the sadness of limitations and loss, he chose hope and the promise of a new day. He refused to stop and wait for things to get better. 

    Unetaneh tokef, the stirring prayer synagogues will sing on the High Holy Days, about who shall live and who shall die, propels us to follow Murray’s lead. It says that in the face of all the challenges in life – broken relationships, illness, financial stress, death, loss – don’t stop to wait for it all to get better. Instead, do teshuva, tefilah, and tzedakah: Repair your relationships. Build up your spiritual core strength. Give to others to lift them up.  

    Or as Murray taught us in Italy and taught our family throughout his life: it means “don’t wait.”  

    Don’t wait – To say “I love you” 

    Don’t wait – To say “I’m sorry” 

    Don’t wait – To climb out of the cesspool into which you might have descended. 

    Don’t wait! 

    You’ve been given a gift, Murray shows us. It’s called “your life.” You only get one. Don’t waste it by waiting. Instead, redirect your life so that you can celebrate it.  

    After a particularly long day in Rome, as we shared a glass of wine over dinner, our teacher, Reb Murray, waxed philosophical. Reviewing the pictures he had taken, this Brooklyn boy – who hadn’t been on a plane in over 6 years – exclaimed in wonder, “It’s a miracle! Maybe I’m already in heaven,” he said. “I’ve got three wonderful kids and five beautiful grandkids. I had 60 years waking up next to my beloved wife Teri. I’ve got my health. I get to travel. God did a good job. God shared goodness with me. Maybe this is a sample of heaven.” 

    This, from a man who buried his wife just six weeks before. 

    Amar Reb Murray. Reb Murray teaches: Count your blessings. Repair your relationships. Live a life of kindness. 

    The High Holy Days are coming. There’s work to be done. Don’t wait.  

  • Kvell and Tell – February 26 2021 – Reaching Out to the Unhoused with Pastor Kathy Huck

    Reaching Out to the Unhoused with Pastor Kathy Huck
    By Nina Treiman

    What’s the difference between hearing about people who are house-insecure and food-insecure, and becoming a person who interacts with them? EVERYTHING!

    On a clear but windy Sunday I went out with Pastor Kathy Huck from About My Father’s Business to deliver food and PPE to people experiencing homelessness in Canoga Park and West Hills. My expectation was that people would be hesitant to open up to me … a stranger. I could not have predicted the warm family culture and the kind way that people look out for each other. People were happy to see us and to accept the supplies we were offering. And they were thrilled to see us! 

    What I quickly came to realize is that these are not faceless “encampments.” These are people and Pastor Kathy knows them all by name. 

    Kevin is an articulate man who repairs bicycles. He has been approved to move into The Willows, a new Permanent Supported Housing development. 

    Irma is an older woman who likes socializing with her unhoused brothers and sisters … her tent area overflowing with the miscellany of a hoarder.

    The one constant among all these people is the relationship that Pastor Kathy has with them. And as we moved from tent to tent, I became aware that these people are even more appreciative of the time the pastor spends with them than of the food and supplies she brings. I became aware that she, and her small team, were giving a tremendous amount of their time (and money) to making sure each of these people get a visit and food several times a month.

    But why do they have to do it all? Why can’t we set up an “adopt a friend” program where each family/individual visits a tent twice a month bringing some food and clothing, and spending some time talking or playing games. While people wait to get into supportive housing, this program would make their lives on the street a bit more bearable and allow respect to grow from both sides. It’s really a “win-win”!

    And I learned that Pastor Kathy and About My Father’s Business are struggling to receive the wonderful donations of food and clothing, and to distribute them. The missing component is a van large enough to receive and transport the donations. I am proud that Congregation Or Ami is partnering to help make sure this important organization has what it needs to continue its holy work. 

    My take-away … I’ll be back. I got a taste and I’m ready for more. I hope that some of you are, too!

  • Kvell and Tell – December 21 2020 – Homelessness: Addressing the Human Needs

    Kvelling at Past President Michael Kaplan’s article in the Valley Lawyer Magazine about Congregation Or Ami’s sacred work and partnerships focused on Homelessness: Addressing the Human Needs:

  • Kvell and Tell – December 4 2020 – Adult B’nai Mitzvah Service

    Our Adult B’nai Mitzvah class would like to thank Congregation Or Ami for creating a warm, welcoming, musical, spiritually uplifting community in which to learn about Judaism, to study Torah, and to be inspired by the beauty of Jewish spirituality. Thank you for the opportunity to fulfill our dreams of becoming B’nai Mitzvah.

    heart hands

    We especially want to thank our teacher Diane Townsend, Cantor Doug Cotler, and Rabbis Paul Kipnes and Julia Weisz, our President Lesli Kraut and all the leaders of the synagogue, and our incredible office staff Susie Stark, Lisette Tuohy, and Jenny Mazzella. You all do the holy work that makes this community so amazing.

    We feel so blessed to be called to the Torah and would like to share these words of appreciation:  

    Lynn Franklin:  There are many important people in my life who helped make my long-awaited Bat Mitzvah possible. Firstly, I would like to thank my beautiful mother for always loving me, believing in me, and teaching me that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind and heart to. Mom, you are my “#1 fan”! I am forever grateful to my amazing children, Alexandra and Matthew. I am in awe of you. Witnessing and participating in your own Bat and Bar Mitzvah journeys gave me the strong desire and inspiration to finally take the leap to become a Bat Mitzvah. I so admire all the hard work you did at a young age and I appreciate all the abounding love and encouragement you gave me while I was studying and preparing. Thank you, Eddie, for saying to me, “Go for it”!  Many thanks to Diane Townsend, not only for your enjoyable Hebrew teachings unmatched by no other but your immeasurable patience, dedication and devotion as a mentor to me and our B’nai Mitzvah classmates! Diane, your caring, supportive, and loving friendship has permanently touched my heart. Rabbi Paul, Cantor Doug, and Rabbi Julia . . .  because of your guidance as clergy, the special way you are as people, and your smiles and laughter, you helped me too to travel this incredible B’nai Mitzvah road. I can’t say enough to my classmates how much I enjoyed getting to know each of you these past two years and how blessed I feel sharing this awesome experience together. We are a true Mishpacha! Lastly, to my wonderful family and friends watching here tonight on Zoom. You mean the world to me and I am incredibly grateful that you were able to join me in my milestone.  

    Lynn Friedman: My journey leading up to this special evening has been very personal, but would not have been possible without my family, friends and community by my side. I am grateful for having so many people in my life and I’d like to acknowledge everyone who has helped make this moment possible for me. Thank you to my husband Kevin for all his support and understanding how important it was for me to become a Bat Mitzvah. To my incredible kids, Jacob, Brooke and Carly for being my biggest source of inspiration every single day and for giving “Mom” Tuesday nights off for the past two years. 

    I want to thank my wonderful parents, Mike and Pearl, for always being there for me, raising me with Jewish traditions, laying the foundation for my faith and being a source of strength for me, and I cherish you always! My brother Lee, Deb and Evi, thank you for your never-ending support – it means the world to me. I’d like to thank my Mother-in-law, Sharon, for your encouragement. I thank all my extended family members, including aunts, uncles and cousins for sending me good wishes for this achievement in my life. From childhood to now, I’ve been so fortunate to have best friends who are like family to me. You’ve all been my biggest cheerleaders and I value your support more than ever.

    To my fellow classmates, congratulations to each of you! I couldn’t imagine going on this journey with anyone else. We have built friendships to last a lifetime. This literally would not be happening without my amazing teacher, Diane, who never let me give up! Your patience and guidance have been immeasurable, and you will always be a treasured friend. I want to thank Rabbi Paul, Cantor Doug, and Rabbi Julia for helping this dream of mine come true. While we all wish we were standing together in a room instead of seeing each other on a Zoom, it does not diminish the meaningfulness of this ceremony, with beautiful music and prayer.

    Dan Germain: There are a number of people I would like to thank. First, thank you to my phenomenal teacher, Jewish guide, mentor, and friend Diane Townsend. I am grateful for your vast knowledge, calm disposition, bottomless patience and unending support. Not only are you a fantastic teacher, but you are also a loving and caring person. I could never fully express how much you mean to me—truly I have been blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for guiding me through this journey.

    Thank you to my magnificent and talented classmates, Lynn Franklin, Lynn Friedman, Shelly Gluck, Lucille Goldin, Pamela Goldstein, Susie Guldbeck, Holly Hollander, and Dana Shine. You made two years fly by and I am so proud to call each of you my friends. We have accomplished so much.

    Thank you to our incredible and supportive clergy, Rabbi Paul Kipnes, Cantor Doug Cotler, and Rabbi Julia Weisz. You are a constant inspiration to all of us. Your encouragement and advice have led me to places I never thought I would go. You have immeasurable deepened and strengthened my spirit and I am forever grateful to each of you.

    And, last but not least, thank you to Bonnie Germain and our two loving daughters, Michelle and Kayla. Thank you for putting up with my daily singing and chanting (which was usually off-key and incomprehensible).  I love each of you.

    Shelly Gluck: To my Family, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your love, and support, encouragement. To my parents, you brought me up in a home filled with so much love, laughter and devotion. You have passed on to me all your Jewish values and traditions and enabled me to pass them on to my children. I went on this journey of becoming a Bat Mitzvah to bestow honor to you as well as myself. To my wonderful husband, Gary and my incredible children, Adam and Rachel, I thank you for all your love and support and for the many hours of singing and practicing with me the prayers and for knowing my Torah portion as well as I do! You bring love and laughter into all my days and make me want to be the best Daughter, Mom and friend that I can be. Thank you to Rabbi Paul, Cantor Doug, and Rabbi Julia for your inspiration and deep commitment. Diane, without you, I would not be here today and although you were 10 feet away from me while I stood on the bimah, I felt your presence as if you were standing by my side. Your teaching ways have been inspirational and so has your love, dedication, friendship and incredible support. To my classmates, you made Tuesday Nights so fun and very special. I will cherish our dinners before class, learning Hebrew together, and all the checking in with each other. You are all so special and I thank each and every one of you for your love and support and for helping make this dream of mine come true. I have loved every minute taking this incredible journey with all of you.

    Lucille Shalometh Goldin: When I was growing up not having attended a Temple there was no focus on becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Instead, the big party was my sweet 16. I want to thank my parents for always making sure I knew I was Jewish much of this through our involvement at North Valley Jewish Community Center. We have been Or Ami Partners for over 15 years. I watched my husband Paul become an adult Bar (2008) Mitzvah followed by my son Ryan (2009). As the years passed, I watched other Adults encouraged by Diane Townsend, our Hebrew teacher, Rabbi Paul, Cantor Doug, and Rabbi Julia take the class, study and get on the bema to read Hebrew from the Torah. They sang together chanting the prayers, all ages of adults most never reading Hebrew before. Finally, two years ago it was my time I was ready for this journey. Week after week with the Encouragement from Diane Townsend our Class met on Tuesday evenings at the Temple we quickly bonded together. When the pandemic hit and we had to switch over to meeting on Zoom for a good portion of this past year of class, we didn’t miss a beat. I am honored to be able to share this special milestone with each of my classmates and thank them for all their support. My husband Paul and son Ryan know how much my studying becoming an adult Bat Mitzvah meant to me. I thank them for allowing me the time and space for my Tuesday night classes and the studying that followed.  I love you both with all my heart.

    Pamela Goldstein: I want to thank my wonderful teacher, Diane. She is such a dedicated, devoted person with unlimited patience! She “claims” to have a hearing loss and yet she could hear when I didn’t pronounce the “Chas” or dropped a final sound of a word. Diane unselfishly gave of her time and was my biggest cheerleader. I want to thank Rabbi Paul and Cantor Doug for my desire to become a Bat Mitzvah. Going to Israel with Rabbi Paul and Cantor Doug was a life changing experience.  After that trip, I wanted more. I wanted to thank my classmates.  You made this journey to become a Bat Mitzvah even more special.  We laughed, we cried, we supported each other. For my dear family and friends, thank you for your ongoing encouragement. Thank you to my sons, Jared and Zachary, my daughter in laws Nicki and Debbie, and my grandchildren Jackson, Conor, and Emma. Now best for last, I had my in-house audience of my husband, Mike.  While you “encouraged” me to practice my Hebrew where you couldn’t hear me, you ended up humming my Aliyah without realizing it.

    Susie Guldbeck: I extend my heartfelt love and appreciation to those who have assisted in making this evening come to fruition. The collective wisdom, leadership and spiritual guidance given generously by Rabbi Paul, Cantor Doug, and Rabbi Julia were immeasurable and a true blessing. Thank you to my 8 B’nai Mitzvah classmates … we laughed, studied, stressed, and accomplished so much beginning with the Woolsey fires thru Covid-19. We stuck together through it all. Your friendships on this shared journey will be cherished forever.  To Diane Townsend… thank you for the gracious giving of your time, energy and commitment.  You kept me focused and motivated when I didn’t think I could master the Hebrew letters, words and prayers.  Your continuous encouragement, your teaching skills, your endless patience, and fond friendship enabled me to achieve my aspiration of becoming a B’nai Mitzvah. To my Mom and Dad, thank you for instilling within me a solid foundation of the importance of Jewish values and traditions. I love you and I thank you. Jason and Danielle, you are my shining lights and inspiration who teach me daily the meaning of unconditional family love. You bring incredible joy into my life every day. To the rest of my family and friends, thank you for being here tonight to celebrate this simcha with me. You have enriched my life in all ways and I am so grateful to every one of you.  

    Holly Hollander: I want to thank quite a few people for seeing me through these two years of Hebrew study that culminated in my becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Our beyond-amazing teacher Diane Townsend has a never-ending well of patience and encouragement, and she used every bit on me.  I want to thank Congregation Or Ami for making this possible in the first place and Rabbi Paul, Cantor Doug, and Rabbi Julia for their constant support. My Hebrew classmates are a terrific group of new friends who continually cheered each other on and made this so incredibly fun and feeling possible to accomplish. I am extremely grateful for each one of you.  

    I want to thank my children, Ethan, Colin, and Aviva, who had to listen to me practice chanting. They were understanding and empathic when I struggled, reminding me that since they had done it, I could too. All three of my kids pushed me to take this challenge on, knowing it was an unfulfilled dream, now accomplished. I was continually supported by my group of close friends: Debbie, Melissa, and Shawn who heard about my struggles and successes. Shawn served as a role model for me and knows what I needed to hear to keep at it.  Several of my co-workers also cheered me on. I also want to thank Maryann for all she’s given and taught me and all of the others in the group for their love. My brother Andy and sister-in-law Karen have always come through for me and my family and I could not do it without knowing that they are in my corner always. Life is about people and I’ve got great ones in my life who held me up as I took on learning the prayers of our people in our Hebrew language. Thank you so very, very much!

    Dana Shine: I would like to express my appreciation to Rabbi Paul, Cantor Doug, and Rabbi Julia for the love, support and guidance I have received over the many years.  A special thank you to my teacher, Diane Townsend, your dedication is why I was able to become a Bat Mitzvah. You helped me and supported me through 2 years of ups and downs in my life. You believed in me when I could not believe in myself. I will be forever grateful to you. Thank you to my mom for always being my number one fan and reminding me that I could do it when I wanted to quit. To my three incredible boys, Brandon, Spencer, and Blake, thank you for always supporting and encouraging me. I am so blessed to have you in my life. To my ex-husband Danny, thank you for always being there for me. To Eric, my boyfriend, thank you for your unconditional love and support. And to my B’nai Mitzvah classmates, thank you for your friendships. I am so thankful to have gone through this journey with all of you.

  • Kvell and Tell – December 1 2020 – #ThankYouTuesday: Rabbi Paul Thanks You!

    Dear Or Ami Family,

    On this #GivingTuesday, rather than ask more of you, I’m taking this opportunity to share how grateful we are for YOU – our partners, our extended family, our friends – and for all that you give to our synagogue and the greater Jewish community. For all of us here at Congregation Or Ami, this is not #GivingTuesday, but instead it is #ThankYouTuesday, a day on which we thank you for all the ways you support the Congregation Or Ami and each other.

    Even in the midst of such uncertainty, loss, and disruption, there is much for which to be thankful. At this particular moment, nine months into the pandemic, I am so deeply grateful for all the ways that you show up for each other and for Congregation Or Ami and our surrounding community. What we have managed to accomplish together in these nine months would have been unimaginable back in March, and yet, with your encouragement and support, here we are today.

    Thank you for believing not just in who we have been as Congregation Or Ami, but in who we could become in a time of crisis.

    Thank you for your help in sustaining the synagogue and our holy work, so that we could better support our partners with the programming, pastoral support, online gathering and education, and resources that were needed in this unexpected time.

    Thank you for saying Henaynu (we are here!) to help and guide each other, being the hearts and hands of our Henaynu Caring Community, helping each other in this incredibly tough time.

    Thank you for asking for help, and for offering help. Thank you for supporting each other and for supporting our staff and clergy.

    Thank you for kvelling (sharing the praise), and for kvetching kindly, showing us patience when we didn’t get something right and for lovingly helping us do better.

    Thank you for showing up for High Holy Days and creating community in the best way we could under the circumstances, and then for your generous outpouring of appreciation for what the High Holy Days provided.

    Thank you for using the computer and phones and tablets to find ways, despite the physical distance, to reach out to those in mourning, those celebrating, and those needing our care.

    Thank you for modeling resilience, even when you were exhausted, afraid, or anxious.

    Thank you for managing the needs of your family, your community, and yourself, for striving for balance even when it feels impossible, and thank you for the courage to say out loud how hard it is.

    Thank you for exhibiting generosity and love for each other and for Or Ami in this challenging time.

    Thank you to all of you who make Congregation Or Ami’s sacred work possible through your generosity of time, energy, talent, and financial resources. 

    And thank you for the manifold and meaningful ways you serve Or Ami, including: 

    • Serving as Or Ami officers and members of the Board of Directors
    • Volunteering as committee and project chairs and members
    • Making calls to other congregants, to support them through
    • Worshipping with us during High Holy Days 5781
    • Participating in the High Holy Day or Chanukah productions, as producers, singers, readers, Torah chanters, candle lighters, and more
    • Prioritizing Tikkun Olam (social justice), even when you were struggling
    • Participating in our Drive Thru experiences – High Holy Days, SOVA Sundays, Sukkot Drive Thru-lav, Simchat Torah’s Living Torah Car Rally – and for signing up for the upcoming Winter Wonderland Chanukah Celebration
    • Taking part in our programs, social action projects, and worship services to nurture your soul  
    • Commenting upon and sharing our social media to expand our reach  
    • Leading in the Village, LoMPTY, Sukkat Shalom, Henaynu, Social Action and more
    • Donating to our High Holy Day Appeal, our Emergency Tzedakah Fund and/or as sponsors for our Drive Thru programs
    • And, most importantly, for being kind, compassionate, justice-seeking, truth-pursuing people, who make the light of Or Ami shine brightly. 

    Thank you for your support through this incredibly difficult time of disruption and uncertainty, giving each other hope as we all dealt with trauma, fear, and grief, even as you have dealt with your own losses.

    I know the toll this time has taken on us collectively and individually. I am so grateful that despite all that, you make the time to give of yourself to our congregation and the larger community through your support of Congregation Or Ami. 

    I am so proud to be your rabbi. I am inspired by your caring every day. Thank you.

    With gratitude,
    Rabbi Paul Kipnes

    With thanks to my teacher and friend Rabbi Hara Person, Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, for her continued inspiration and leadership

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