This month, April, includes most of the month of Nisan the first month in the Jewish calendar year and the start of Iyar, the second month. What makes this unique is that within this time frame we go through all extremes of Jewish life experience: from the joy of celebrating the Exodus from Egypt and our beginnings as a people, to the depths of despair in confronting the worst catastrophe in Jewish history the Shoah that darkened the 20th century. From the historic fears surrounding Passover time due to its proximity with Easter, when so many Jewish communities in Europe had to endure Pogroms, attacks on us for alleged responsibility in the death of Jesus, to the highest joy in our own days, the celebration of Israel’s reemergence and independence, 64 years ago.
As we enter this period of highs and lows and highs again, we do so mindful that we are living history with all its unknowns in terms of the future of Israel in a time when a hostile neighbor is on the verge of activating weapons that threatens Israel’s continued existence, as well as that of the world as we know it.
For us at B’nai Israel, we are poised to participate in unique activities that engage all these themes in personal and vivid ways not to be missed.
Even before our Passover Seder on Saturday night, April 7, we are invited to a very special shared experience that confronts the history of our mixed feelings around this time of year. Instead of musing about what others might be thinking or doing around Easter time in their attitudes about us, while we prepare for Passover, we are invited to a special visit at First Presbyterian Church, to join with my friend and colleague, Pastor Hampton Deck in exploring the meaning and impact of Passover and Christian Holy Week on our relations in these times. Specifically, First Presbyterian will be hosting us on Tuesday, April 3 at 6 PM for a kosher (vegetarian/dairy) dinner and conversation/discussion/dialogue led by myself and Rev. Deck as we share feelings, perspectives and insights on how to turn what was a period of discomfort and torment into a time for affirming common and shared values in our spiritual communities. This wonderful gathering which I hope you will all attend (the church is 2 blocks west of CBI on Nebraska, catty corner from the high school) will lead into a pulpit exchange in which Pastor Deck and his congregants will join us for Friday evening Shabbat on April 20, with him giving the drash (I will also be present) followed by our going to church that Sunday, April 22 for a 10:30 service where I will be giving the drash.
In lieu of our doing a Yom HaShoah (remembrance of the Holocaust) program as originally penciled in for April 22, we will (and this is breaking news as I write these words) join in co-sponsorship of a Yom HaShoah commemoration on the night that ends Yom HaShoah, Thursday, April 19 at Beth Sholom in Napa. I am particularly looking forward to this program because the guest speaker will be Elsebeth Schoenberger, author of Birgitte’s War, a historical novel about Danish resistance in a small town as the Germans came for the Jews, and how the Danish people responded as one in confronting this assault. What is particularly moving to me about this is that the reason Elsebeth wrote the book was because of a question I raised to the Napa Tour Guide Guild some years ago at a WineSpirit meeting, of a special early memory of a glass of wine, and that sparked her remembrance of her family’s involvement in defending Denmark and in particular Jewish folks with whom they were friends. The triggering of that memory inspired this highly engaging book. So, plan on coming to hear her and join our friends at CBS in doing so that evening.
The month of highs and lows comes to closure with our commemoration of Israel’s 64th year on Sunday, April 29.
Indeed, we are living history, and in so doing we can see that beyond our prayers and celebrations and special times that characterize life at B’nai Israel is an extension into relationships with other wonderful folks of different traditions, each and all dedicated to turning this world in the direction of Shalom, the goal for which we left Egypt in the first place.
I look forward to sharing all these powerful moments with you, beginning with Passover, not only the second night Seder, but also the Passover Shabbat service that morning, on April 7 and the close of Passover with Yizkor April 14…and this also just in: Save Sunday May 27! We are invited together with CBS for a joint celebration of the Shavuot Giving of the Torah holiday at Diamond Creek vineyard in Calistoga, a day of celebrating and picnicking and swimming!