Petaluma's Inclusive Center for Jewish Life

This, That, and This+

This, That, and This+

Mar 21, 2018


This "this" is a serious one and I need to call it to your attention. A lesson taught to new parents came to the forefront last week in Gan Israel Preschool. The general lesson is to keep medicines out of the reach of children. Some homes hide medicines, put them way up high, or put child-proof openers on doors and drawers. Another lesson is to not keep medicines in candy containers. It is confusing enough that vitamins and such looks like candy. Add to that the mask of medicine in a candy container and problems are awaiting.

Someone unknown left an Altoid container somewhere in the Community Room where 25+ children come to learn in our preschool. We don't know quite where it was left, but a child found it, opened it and, possibly, shared some of the Altoids with others. Then the container was taken home and a child consumed a pill that was determined at the hospital to be a mild anti-anxiety medication. The child was treated and was fine and back in school the next day like nothing had happened. Needless to say, waiting to know that she was alright and trying to figure out where the container came from was a harrowing period of time.

The specific request of all of you would be to please remember that our building is to be a place of learning, safety, comfort, compassion, and spirit. All of us, no matter our age, are the guardians of the children who come through our doors. 


The title of the Haggadah we use for our community Seder is "A Night of Questions." Most of us might be familiar with the notion of the Four Questions that are asked by the youngest during the Seder. "Why is this night different?" has always seemed to me a clarion call to reach deep inside to figure out what is so special about the notions of freedom presented to us as the Jewish people. Over the years there have been many versions of the Haggadah that have brought the teachings of liberation and freedom up to date. There have been Soviet Jewry Haggadot and Feminism Haggadot and Peace Haggadot and on and on. 

A lot of the questions circulating in people's souls, it seems to be, have to do with violence and trying to grasp a world where there is mass killing, revenge, anger, bullying, rape, harassment, and that list goes on and on.One of the most profound teaching for me around this occurs, not in the Haggadah, but in the rituals of the days following. It center on a group of psalms called the Hallel which is recited on holidays. During the days of Passover after the Seder, the Hallel is recited in an abbreviated version to highlight an ancient teaching. It stated that as the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea during the escape from Egypt, the people started chanting Hallelujah over and over again. According to that Midrash, that teaching, God stopped them and said, "How can you be so jubilant in praising me when my creatures are dying in the water?"

As centuries passed, the Rabbis were more and more bothered by the violence portrayed in Biblical lore and searched for ways to reach a world in which violence would be curtailed and peace attained, a sometimes very elusive goal. The questions we ask at the Seder about our world and about ourselves should lead us to answers that bring that world closer.

In these days of social turmoil and increasing violence and, I must say, anti-Semitism, may we always make sure we are asking the right questions and, thus, leading us to answers for that better world.

Happy Passover!


In addition...

In case you haven't heard, I am beginning a radio program through our local community access station, KPCA on April 12 at 10:00 a.m. The program will be a talk format and will be dealing with issues of community welfare and interfaith understandings. My first guest will be Kevin Jones, Chair of the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission. During the second segment, Sam Tuttleman, a member of the coordinating committee of the North Bay Rapid Response Network, and Abraham Solar, Director of the Hispanic Ministry at St. Vincent's Catholic Church, will be my guests.

The program will air every two weeks on KPCA, 103.3 FM and live streamed at There will be a Facebook page set up where you will be able to listen to the program at your leisure.

Please stay tuned for future announcements.


Rabbi Ted Feldman
B'nai Israel Jewish Center