Changes at Coffee Shop Rabbi

Image: Logo of HaMaqom | The Place

As Ecclesiastes 3 points out so eloquently, there is a time for everything.

I began Coffee Shop Rabbi and this blog in March of 2010. I wanted to write simple explanations about Jewish life, and to correct misconceptions about Jews and Judaism. At that time, if you Googled “Talmud” the first page of citations that came up were antisemitic web sites. Thanks to changes made by Google, and an explosion of Jewish participation in the World Wide Web, that’s no longer the case. MyJewishLearning.com came into being, with articles from genuine experts, not just one rabbi. Sefaria.org came into existence, making Jewish texts available to anyone who wishes to “Ta Shma” — Come and Learn!

Over the past four years, my mission shifted: I tried to address the challenges of living in a world of what seemed like increasing darkness. What I learned was that in such a time, we Jews need community, not lone voices. I spent more time teaching classes at HaMaqom, more time on social media, and felt that here on the blog, I was mostly repeating myself.

Then came March of 2021.

HaMaqom | The Place has hired me as their new Executive Director. I will still teach Intro to the Jewish Experience on Sunday afternoons and evenings, but the bulk of my time will be spent nurturing its brilliant staff, raising funds, and representing the organization in the community.

HaMaqom | The Place creates inclusive communities through Jewish learning and practice. That is its mission statement, which is perfectly in line with my own mission, which you can read in another post, Passing the Torah. I’m going to put my heart, my soul, and my energy into building HaMaqom into a place — The Place — where Jewish friendships and connections are nurtured and from which new Jewish leadership can bloom.

I invite my readers to join me on this journey. How?

I haven’t decided what to do with this blog. I suspect that its job is done. I will keep the domain name and make sure it is maintained — it is, after all, ten years of work, still useful when someone wants a quick answer to a simple question! — but I don’t expect to post new material here, unless I use it to tell you about programs at HaMaqom.

Thank you for reading, thank you for your questions, your feedback, and your encouragement. I hope at least some of you will follow me into my next chapter.

We pass the Torah from hand to hand
and make sure all the Jews who want can hold it:
can write it on their hearts,
speak of it in their homes,
teach it to their children,
bind it on their hands,
hold it before their eyes,
and write it – in golden letters! –
on the doorposts of their gates.

Rabbi Ruth Adar, Passing the Torah

FREE Passover classes at HaMaqom | The Place!

HaMaqom | The Place in Berkeley, CA is offering free online Passover classes and events over the coming month. Are you ready to learn? Ready to get ready? Worried about how you’re going to get into the mood for Passover this year? Interested in learning some new and interesting possibilities for enjoying the holiday? Help is one the way!

All events are free of charge, but you need to register in order to attend. To register for each event, use this link.

Passover 101 (Tuesday, March 9, 2021, 7-7:30 pm Pacific Time.

Passover, also known as Pesach or Chag HaAviv, celebrates the Israelites Exodus from Egypt and includes themes of liberation, redemption, and renewal. Join us to learn more about this holiday and its traditions in this interactive session with Rabbi Ruth Adar.

Bsisa 101: Celebrating the New Jewish month of Nissan with Libyan and Tunisian Jews (Tuesday March 16 7-7:30pm Pacific Time

The new Jewish month of Nissan brings with it themes of renewal and hope for prosperity and health, as Passover is just around the corner. Join Asher Grinner and Tamar Zaken as they share the home-based tradition of Bsisa, where family members gather to bless and be blessed, celebrating the season of renewal marked by Rosh Hodesh Nissan.

Come to the Seder Table (Thursday, March 18 7-8pm Pacific Time

At HaMaqom, we celebrate and lift up the diversity of our Jewish community and practice. Passover is the perfect time of year to showcase the ways different families celebrate this holiday of liberation and new beginnings. This event will feature 6 family seder traditions from HaMaqom and One Table community members and staff. Get ready for Passover with us!

Community Cafe: Stories of Liberation, Deliverance, Revelation, and Rebellion (Tuesday, March 23 5:30-6:45pm Pacific Time)

Stories connect us and add meaning and depth to our lives. Come to HaMaqom’s community cafe event, where you will hear inspiring, Passover-themed storytelling this Spring. This semester, HaMaqom’s Community Cafe participants workshopped true stories from their lives about liberation, resilience and other Passover themes.  Join us to hear these moving stories as our participants perform them for a live zoom audience.  

Mimouna 101: Moroccan Post Passover Celebration (Sunday April 4, 7-7:30pm Pacific Time)

Mimouna, a celebration that marks the end of Passover, is celebrated in Moroccan and North African Jewish communities. Mimouna includes themes of renewal, joy, coexistence, and inviting in neighbors. Join Ziva Trau as she shares her family Mimouna traditions, featuring special foods, music, and other rituals.

Passover @ The Place is generously sponsored by The Douglass-Pearlmutter Family, the Kabat Family, and Fred Isaac & Robin Reiner.

HaMaqom’s commitment to keeping our learning opportunities affordable and inclusive is a part of who we are and is only possible because of the generous support we receive from our wonderful community.

New Online Class: Sampling Judaism!

Image: Samples of food. Photo by Jose B. Garcia Fernandez | Pixabay

Sometimes a whole loaf is too much. Sometimes we want a sample. I’ve been thinking for a while about offering something for people who want to learn a little about Judaism, without a huge investment of time and money.

— What do Jews believe about God? How do Jews pray?

— Why are Jews called the People of the Book? Which book? What is Torah? What is in Jewish scripture? What is the Talmud?

— What is the biggest Jewish holiday? How can some Jews insist on their Jewish identity, and at the same time say they are “not religious”?

Starting November 9, HaMaqom |The Place is offering a new class, Sampling Judaism. It will be a three week series of one-hour classes with short presentations by a rabbi (me) with plenty of time for questions.

This class is a short dip into Jewish culture and practice, not intended to be the equivalent of a full “Introduction to Judaism” course. The content will follow a basic structure of Jewish ideas about God, Torah, and the Jewish People, but the details will be driven by students’ questions.

For more information about Sampling Judaism, take a look at its page in the HaMaqom online catalog. Tuition is on a sliding scale, and further financial aid is available to those who need it.

If you are curious about Judaism, or know someone who is curious, please share this information with them. I’ll see you (or them!) in class!