Some New Changes for Tonight’s “Texts & Tasting” Event

Bottles of rye whiskey sponsored for tonight's event
Bottles of rye whiskey sponsored for tonight’s event

Tonight, I will be hosting a rye whiskey-tasting and discussion of Jewish texts in Long Beach.  While I have, over the past two years conducted ten such events, in a bimonthly fashion, tonight’s event will involve some new aspects.

Moreover, inasmuch as my series focuses on three primary objectives – (1) educating about various spirits, (2) taking a deeper dive into the Jewish tradition than either I or attendees may usually get to experience, and (3) raising funds for my various professional activities – this final category usually does not do tremendously well.  Sure, donations come in sometimes, but it tends to be hit-or-miss as far as coming out ahead, financially.  One thing, I realized a while back, is instead of having people sponsor the entire tasting, it would be easier for them to sponsor bottles.  However, over the past several tastings, usually only a couple of bottles get sponsored, so it’s still a fundraising gamble. For tonight’s event, I made sure that the bottles I purchased were sponsored (and other people have purchased bottles to bring, as well), which would assure the event of successfully achieving goal #3.

Additionally, while I have made the first ten “Texts & Tasting” events essentially free, I am requesting attendees make a minimum donation of $20 (or, if they’re a student, only $10).  Not only does this minimum donation help with achieving goal #3 of the series, but it does something else.  I have heard other Jewish educators discuss the need for charging for the content they are bringing to their classes, as well as, of course, their time and effort.  Of course, there is a certain anxiety about doing so, as well: will people come if they have to pay?  Inasmuch as it may turn some people away, it also sends a clear message: there is a value to this material and content.

Finally, an interesting content experiment I’m doing is to cull sources from various classes I’ve done with Hillels and young adults in order to give folks who may not typically get the opportunity to engage directly with the material I use for discussions with students and young adults.   I’m hoping that attendees will appreciate that exposure; of course, it’s culling from several different classes I’ve run, so it should have more content than a regular Hillel or young adult class.

Now, I’m excited for tonight’s learning event!

Beer, Bible, & Brewery” Series Restarts

Leading a discussion last night on romance in the book of Genesis at Bottle Logic Brewing
Leading a discussion last night on romance in the book of Genesis at Bottle Logic Brewing
Last night, I led a discussion on romance in the book of Genesis for young adults at an Orange County brewery. Restarting the monthly “Beer, Bible, and Brewery” series for young adults in their 20s-30s, last night’s event took place at the one-year old Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim. I decided to look at scenes of romance in the book of Genesis, in particular, because it has a few of them. However, I did also refer to the most romantic book in the Bible, Song of Songs/Solomon. I chose the topic for this event, since romance has been a popular topic of interest in February.

Next month’s “Beer, Bible, & Brewery” event will be taking place at The Bruery in Orange County.

Discussion for Beach Hillel on Sex in Judaism

Leading a Torah on Tap discussion at CSULB last week for Beach Hillel
Leading a Torah on Tap discussion at CSULB last week for Beach Hillel

Last week, I led a Torah on Tap discussion with California State University, Long Beach students for Beach Hillel.  As it was not only going to be Valentine’s Day, so a lot of people were hearing about relationships and sex, as well as the day before the theatrical release of Fifty Shades of Grey, so people were curious to hear about sex.

For the first half of the discussion, we utilized sources from the Talmud on consensuality and sex.  For the second half of the conversation, the students got to have an open Q&A (similar to last spring) about sex and Judaism.

This was the first of three Torah on Tap learning events of the semester with Beach Hillel this spring.

Learning about Hanukah Candle-Lighting and Irish Whiskey-Tasting

IMG_7784 - CopyThe second “Texts & Tasting” event of 2014-2015 took place last night in Long Beach. Combining learning through texts from the Talmud to the Shulhan Arukh and beyond with an Irish whiskey-tasting, more than fifteen people attended this enjoyable event. I was glad to be able to facilitate the learning, which centered on how many candles we light and how we light the candles of Hanukah, which was appropriate for the current festival of Hanukah.

IMG_7770 - Copy
Stay tuned for the next “Texts & Tasting” event for February 2015.

Condemning Violence in Houses of Worship

Today, I signed onto the following statement:


We, religious leaders and teachers from various faith communities, offer our condolences to the families and friends of worshippers around the world killed in the name of God or religion. We are especially dismayed that, more and more often, these killings occur in their houses of worship. We wish a speedy recovery to those injured in vicious attacks while they prayed and studied. The murder of innocent worshippers in a sacred place of prayer and reflection is an affront to all humanity.

We affirm the following as a universal Statement of Principles and encourage all people of faith to adopt it.

Houses of worship are sacred spaces. They should not be desecrated by acts of aggression, violence or terror.

Houses of worship should be safe for people who pray and study in them.

Weapons, munitions and the tools of war should not be brought into or stored in any house of worship.

Houses of worship should not be used to house hostages, captives or prisoners.

These combative and aggressive activities violate the sanctity of houses of worship and place the people within them at unnecessary risk.

We call upon all people of good will to commit themselves to the inviolability, safety and security of all places of worship in the world. We pray that our cooperation and mutual respect will lead to a more peaceful society in the United States and abroad.

To see the signatories, you view the statement by clicking here .

November 2014 Monthly Minute

My first Monthly Minute
My first Monthly Minute
Having been inspired a few weeks ago to post videos about my work, I have begun a new project. I am calling it my “Monthly Minute”, whereby I post a video lasting 60 seconds or less wherein I describe highlights of my work in the previous month.

I just posted the first video, describing highlights of my work in November 2014, which is available here:

Since it is my first attempt at this new endeavor, it is a bit choppy and I had to edit it down a lot, but I hope to make it smoother in the future.

Sukkot Activities with Beach Hillel

With students at CSULB upon putting up the sukkah
With students at CSULB upon putting up the sukkah

Last month, in addition to leading a discussion for young adults in Orange County, I was involved in several of Beach Hillel‘s activities for Sukkot.

For starters, I worked with students and staff to put up the on-campus sukkah at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), as well as to take it down.  Although we made this sukkah available for use by students, faculty, and staff on-campus, we also used it for a “Pizza in the Hut” lunchtime get-together during the holiday.  We also had a staff meeting in the sukkah, as well.

Pizza in the Hut at CSULB
Pizza in the Hut at CSULB

I also helped put up the off-campus sukkah, as well as taking it down,  where we held Shabbat dinner during the holiday, which had a nice feeling to it, being outside in the nice weather.

Finally, we had the annual Sukkah Hop, which, for the third year in a row, was held in Irvine.  Beach Hillel partnered again with Chabad at University of California, Irvine (UCI) for a great time with students from UCI, CSULB, and other schools, to visit multiple sukkot, ending up in a dinner at a big sukkah with music and dancing.


The Orange County Board of Rabbis stands with the people of Jerusalem and the State of Israel at this tragic moment of sadness. The inhuman murder of innocent worshippers in a sacred place of prayer and study is an affront to all humankind. Our hearts are joined with all who are mourning and with all who pray and work for peace.

We pray for the recovery of those injured, and we feel a deep bond with those who were murdered. We remember, along with all who mourn them around the world, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky, Rabbi Caiman Levine, and Rabbi Moshe Twersky. We recognize the heroism of SgtMajor Zidan Seif, the Israeli Druze policeman who gave his life preventing the terrorists from causing further harm. May all of their memories be a blessing, and may their families somehow find solace in this senseless moment of pain and grief.

We call upon all people of good will in Orange County to recommit themselves to the safety and security of Israel and of places of worship everywhere. May our actions lead to a more peaceful society in the United States and abroad.

Discussion at CSULB Focussed on Conduct of War in the Torah

On Monday, I spoke with students about conducting war in the Torah at CSULB for Beach Hillel
On Monday, I spoke with students about conducting war in the Torah at CSULB for Beach Hillel

On Monday, I led a text-based conversation for Long Beach Hillel at California State University, Long Beach on what the Torah says about conducting war. We focussed on several passages from the book of Deuteronomy, in which we see the most about this topic. The topic was chosen for the monthly “Torah on Tap” since it was the day before Veteran’s Day, which had us thinking about those serving in battle.