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December/January President's Column by Amy Gerstein: Why Beth Am is a Running Stream
“Happiness consists in activity. It is a running stream, not a stagnant pool,” observed 18th Century English writer John Mason Good. Good may or may not be right (I tend to think he is), but if he is, then Congregation Beth Am should be a very happy place right now! We all enjoyed glorious High Holy Days together in the early fall, and now are relishing in a host of other wonderful activities on campus and virtually.


Support Israel
Libeinu bamizrach — our hearts are in the East. On October 7, what should have been a day of rejoicing and delight in Torah was turned to one of darkness and tragedy as we received the terrible news of terror and devastation in Israel. Our hearts ache for the loss of life, the pain and suffering, and the uncertainty cast over Israel. Hundreds of Israelis have been killed, with thousands wounded, thousands of rockets have bombarded Israel, and an unknown number of civilians and soldiers are being held hostage. Learn how you can help.

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.

The JWeekly results for its 2023 "Readers' Choice" survey are in! THANK YOU for voting Beth Am best synagogue in the category of Innovative Synagogue Programming in the South Bay/Peninsula region!


Weekend with Author Abby Pogrebin
Save the Dates: February 2-4, 2024
As part of Beth Am's One Book, One Congregation program, we are delighted to welcome Abby Pogrebin, author of My Jewish Year, for a weekend of learning and discussion. A schedule of events will become available online in January. In the meantime, check out these helpful and informative resources...


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.

Community Circles: Building community and friendships through shared interests.
Beth Am Community Circles are your place to connect more intentionally with other members around a shared interest or life stage. Community Circles are affinity groups open to members of Congregation Beth Am and coordinated by congregants. Help start the group you are looking for!


Beth Am Welcomes Jeremy Ragent, Our New Executive Director
As Beth Am President Amy Gerstein shared with the community in a message before the High Holy Days, the Executive Director Search Task Force has been working hard to find the right person to help lead us into an exciting new future at Beth Am. We are delighted to introduce you to Beth Am’s talented new Executive Director, Jeremy Ragent.

Registration Is Now Open for the Summer 2024 Beth Am FAMILY Trip to Israel!
Trip Dates: June 12-23, 2024

Next summer, join Rabbi Heath Watenmaker, his wife, Amy, and their family, on a 12-day Beth Am Family Trip to Israel (operated by J2 Adventures)! A trip itinerary and details are now available.


Sign Up for Beth Am's Adult Trip to Greece and Israel — Only a Few Spots Left!
Join Orna Morad and Rabbi Sarah Weissman for an unforgettable trip to Greece and Israel, March 4-18, 2024. Together, we will explore some of the most famous sites in Athens, then travel to the "Jerusalem of Greece," Thessaloniki, to learn more about the Jewish community that once flourished there. We will then make our way to Israel, where we will spend time in Jerusalem, Sde Boker and Tel Aviv. This trip is open to Beth Am members as well as other members of the wider Jewish community. Please contact Orna or Rabbi Sarah for more information.

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. 


December/January Clergy Column by Cantor Jaime Shpall: Warmth at Chanukah
Chanukah has always been one of my favorite Jewish holidays. I mean really, what’s not to like? Between the fried food, the twinkling candles, the beautiful songs and blessings, the dreidels and chocolate gelt and of course the gifts, it’s hard to find fault with this wonderful holiday.

Celebrate Chanukah With Beth Am
Chanukah, which means “dedication,” is the festival that commemorates the purification and rededication of the Temple following the defilement caused by the Greeks during their occupation of that holy place. Today, the holiday reminds Jews to rededicate themselves to stand against forces that would destroy Judaism, and to keep alive the flame of Jewish religion, culture and peoplehood so that it may be passed on to the next generation. Click through for a schedule of Beth Am Chanukah celebrations as well as Chanukah resources and Chanukah shopping suggestions.

Help Beth Am Thrive

December 2023 Fund in Focus: Hunger and Homelessness Fund
Local organizations providing food and shelter face a high demand for services from people whose incomes cannot keep pace with inflation and the already high cost of living in our area. Many local individuals and families, including members of our Jewish community, rely on support from organizations that we fund with our Hunger and Homelessness appeal. Your contribution helps the Beth Am community fulfill our sacred obligation to comfort and support the less fortunate in our midst. of Year Giving: 2023
As we approach the end of the calendar year, here is a reminder of the many ways to make end of year gifts to Beth Am to support our community and provide you with tax advantages for this year’s filing. We hope you will consider Beth Am in your year-end charitable plans. 2023 Tax-deductible contributions must arrive by Friday, December 29.

Builders Circle Profile: Barbara and Dan Illowsky
When Barbara and Dan Illowsky came to Beth Am for the very first time, our then-Cantor David Unterman (z”l) gave them a very warm greeting when they walked in the door (and continued to do so each time they attended services.) And that first night, members of the Confirmation class, who has just returned from a summer trip to Israel, spoke about their experience from the bimah. Barbara and Dan immediately felt that any synagogue that helped nurture a love of Judaism like these teens were showing, was where they wanted to raise their family. And so, 34 years ago, they joined Beth Am.


Beth Am's December Tzedakah Box: New Israel Fund (NIF) Emergency Safety Net Campaign
NIF is providing aid to Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, who have been affected; advocating for the immediate release of the more than 200 hostages being held captive by Hamas in Gaza; safeguarding human and civil rights in Israel and the occupied West Bank; and working to advance a shared, peaceful future for everyone in Israel.

Gearing Up for the 2024 Elections
Pursue Justice: Winter Update

Pursue Justice will once again partner with The Center for Common Ground/Reclaim Our Vote in a non-partisan grassroots volunteer campaign to increase Black and other minority voter turnout through post-carding, texting and phone banking.


Beth Am Heat Pump Project Wins SVCE Electric Showcase Award
Last year Beth Am, with the assistance of consultants funded by Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE), completed a major electrification project to replace our gas-powered heating system for the Sanctuary and Social Hall with an efficient electric heat pump. As an added benefit, our new system provides both heating and cooling. We were recently notified that the project won the SVCE Electric Showcase Award for demonstrating leadership and experience in transitioning to electric technologies.

Beth Am Hunger & Homelessness Winter Campaign
As our calendar turns to winter months and the temperatures on the thermometer drop, at Beth Am we take the time to recognize that there are many in our local community who are struggling to find adequate housing and food. We ask you to be as generous as possible with your end of the year giving.



Mitzvah Opportunity
Congregation Beth Am and The Orchard are collecting diapers and formula (unopened) to donate to  Ayudando Latinos A Soñar (ALAS), a wonderful organization in Half Moon Bay that works directly with individuals and families on the San Mateo Coast. ALAS is dedicated to working for social wellness through multicultural practices, mental health care, individualized and collective support related to education, immigration processes and work, as well as advocating for the wellbeing of the whole community. Diapers can be a significant expense for many families, and ALAS's diaper distribution is a way to help families on the margins. Please consider bring any diapers, and unopened wipes or baby formula for donation. Thank you!


Adult Education Opportunities: Come Learn Something New!
Our schedule of learning opportunities continues. Please visit the Adult Education webpage for full class descriptions and registration information.

Parent Wisdom Circle
All parents of PreK-5th Graders are welcome to drop into any session of Parent Wisdom Circle. We start our morning with coffee, bagels and schmoozing, then discuss parenting challenges, and share resources and ideas with each other. Parent Wisdom Circle is facilitated by Melissa Kelley, LMFT, a Beth Am member and parent.


Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784