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April/May President's Column by Amy Gerstein: Always Be Ready
As I write these words at the end of February, there is at least one indication that things are as they should be. Baseball Spring Training is underway. 

I’m not much of a baseball fan myself. But, I did grow up watching the Yankees with my father, so I am a Yankees fan and I also love Spring Training. I like the sense of promise it brings, the notion that everyone has a clean slate, and that at least until Opening Day, every fan of every team can indulge their fondest dreams. Like the first flowers or first robins of spring, the return of baseball demonstrates that even the longest winter does, indeed, end. 



Welcoming Leah Shapiro as Youth Engagement Program Director
Leah will serve as our Youth Engagement Program Director, primarily focusing on teens and tweens as well as other experiential and community-building initiatives. Leah comes with years of experience leading community education and program facilitation at Temple Emanuel in SF, Santa Cruz Hillel, URJ Camp Newman and more. Leah started in her position and onboarding earlier this month. Please join us in welcoming Leah to the Beth Am team!

Chevra Kadisha Candle Project
One of the three important tasks of Congregation Beth Am’s Chevra Kadisha (Jewish burial society) is to support those in our community who are mourning the death of a loved one. Recently the Chevra Kadisha partnered with our youth programs to find a new way to reach out to those marking a first yahrzeit, a first anniversary of death.


Support Israel
We continue to grieve for the families who lost loved ones on October 7th and pray for the immediate return of all the remaining hostages being held in Gaza. As a community, we know that we are not whole; a rise in antisemitism locally and nationally, the threats of an expanded regional war, the constant anxiety and discomfort of going to school or work. Learn how you can become involved.

Welcoming Yael Karmi as Youth Education Program Directorr
Yael will serve as the Youth Education Program Director, picking up much of Alex's portfolio and focusing her work on teaching and instruction. She comes to us most recently as the director of the Hebrew language immersion program “Beged Kefet” at the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos and a lecturer in art history at Foothill College. She has also taught Hebrew and art at Beth Am for many years. Yael has been shadowing Alex over five days in April/May for onboarding and observing programs, then will take a break until her official start July 1.

Caregivers Sh'ma Groups
Are you caring for an elder or spouse or loved one? If you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone. You can take part in a Sh’ma Group — not therapy, but a safe and friendly virtual space for sharing stories. This group format has proved successful here at Beth Am, helping us to start meaningful, supportive conversations. You will have guidelines for suggested topics and respectful interaction. You can easily form or join a group; the leadership duties are minimal and help from clergy is continually available. 


Crisis in Ukraine
During these trying times, our friends in Ukraine need us more than ever before. Many have had to flee their homes with nothing more than what they can carry. Others are still in Kyiv, Poltava and Odessa to fight for their freedom and  democracy. Innocent people are suffering. At this point, Beth Am is evaluating the needs of our Ukrainian friends and is providing funds for special projects. Find out how you can help.


April/May Staff Column by Sarah Lauing Cohen, Director of Learning and Educational Innovation — Tasting Judaism’s Abundant Rewards: The Inspiration and Guide for Beth Am’s Youth Education Programs
Our strong values and ambitious goals have powered our successes in recent years. Parent satisfaction has been steadily increasing since 2020, up to 4.44 out of 5 in Spring 2023. Due to our vibrant tween and teen programming, post-B’nei Mitzvah retention has improved more in the past two years than the previous five. And Youth Education is also a membership pipeline, with newly enrolled families representing almost half of our past year’s new members.


Counting of the Omer
The period between Passover and Shavuot is called the “Counting of the Omer” (Sefirat Ha'omer). Omer means "barley sheaf" and refers to the offering brought to the Temple on the second day of Passover. Starting from that day, the Torah also instructs that “you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week — 50 days” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

Help Beth Am Thrive

May Fund in Focus: Israel Awareness Fund
The Israel Awareness Fund supports programs that educate our Beth Am community about Israel and celebrate the beauty of Israeli culture through speakers, discussions and events such as our Oneg Israel series.


Builders Circle Profile: Darlene and Steve Feldstein
These days you’ll see Darlene and Steve at Shabbat services, enjoying their longtime “Empty Nesters” Chavurah, and with their Sh’ma Group (out of which sprung the Dayenu Circle for Sustainability). After all, says Steve, “Beth Am is all about the people. People we have known for years or people we are meeting right now.” They love how, together with like-minded other members, Beth Am makes it possible to take action to improve the world around them. Says Darlene, “Beth Am is a place to share our concerns and do something, not just complain about it.” Steve and Darlene believe wholeheartedly that people are healthier when they are in a community. Their legacy gift to Beth Am will help ensure that the opportunities that they have enjoyed and supported at Beth Am are here for future generations too. 


Beth Am's May Tzedakah Box: The United Effort Organization
The United Effort is a Mountain View-based non-profit whose mission is to help unhoused people move towards self-sufficiency and find a safe home in our community. The United Effort provides individuals comprehensive and integrated services to find affordable housing, public assistance programs, resources and mentors.

Postcarding Has Started!
Once again Pursue Justice is partnering with The Center for Common Ground/Reclaim Our Vote (CCG/ROV), a non-partisan voting rights organization led by people of color. The Center for Common Ground provides voting information and support to under-represented voters in voter suppression states.



Beth Am Youth Education Registration Is Now OPEN for the 2024-2025 School Year!
We hope you will join us for another year of exciting Youth Education programming! Our programs build community and identity through deep and dynamic Jewish learning. We offer programs for everyone, from Chavurah (our program for families with children ages 3-5) to Hagigah (our theater education program for 2nd-5th graders) to Teen Nights (our learning program for 8th-12th graders), and much more!

Wed, May 29 2024 21 Iyar 5784