2018 New Year's Resolutions

By Samara Cogan

We are now into the solar calendar year of 2018! I try to make at least one New Year's resolution every year. Some are successful (buy fewer books by going to the library instead!), and some are ... not (start running every day; yeah, that's not happening). This year, I'm going to take on three Jewish-centric resolutions. 

1. Learn how to cook Jewish food

My first experience with attempting to cook Jewish food was trying to make hamantashen with my Grandma Yetta and my sister. I have no idea what went wrong with the dough we made, but those cookies were hard as rocks. My next Jewish cooking experience was many years later when I was finally deemed old enough by my family to contribute my own dish to our Passover seder. I made a delicious batch of charoset that I was pretty proud of. One failure and one success so far. At some point last year, I bought matzo so I could test out a fried matzo recipe. One thing led to another, and I was very busy, so it just never happened. I still have a full box of matzo in the cupboard, waiting to be fried. It's probably stale by now, but honestly, I'm not sure I would be able to taste the difference anyway. So, this is the year! I'm frying that matzo and hopefully testing out some more recipes. 

2. Read more works by Jewish authors

I was completely spoiled in college because I took so many Jewish Studies courses that I always had something Jewish to read. As a college graduate, I now have to find my own reading materials. So far, my list of books to read includes Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Born to Kvetch by Michael Wex and I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. There are plenty of works to choose from, but I'm starting with a small sampling of Jewish American writers first. Of course, I'm always open to recommendations!

3. Take a more active and structured approach to tikkun olam

This is perhaps my most meaningful resolution, but also the most difficult to get started on. There are so many worthy causes that I could devote my time to, so my first step is going to have to be picking a lane and committing to one thing. Once I've done that, I'm hoping to find a local group to volunteer with on a regular basis. I already donate monthly to several non-profits, which I highly recommend if you have the means! Recurring donations, instead of one-time donations, are vital for an organization that needs stable funding. However, I would also like to incorporate my time and effort, as well as my money, to my tikkun olam activities.

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year!

My Journey to Become a Madrika

By Jamie Ireland

Have you ever taken courses that you felt were designed for you? Well, I have. Having been a long-time CSJO-er, it was nice to be certified as a Madrikha earlier this month in Detroit in a beautiful ceremony at the Birmingham Temple. As my certification suggests, now I may legally perform all of the similar duties as a minister, priest or rabbi- pretty cool! As a Secular Humanist Leader, I can be the legal officiant at weddings, conduct memorials and other ceremonial functions and engage in moral counseling upon request. 

During my 5-year leadership program, I learned about the history of the Secular movement, the history behind our holiday and life cycle celebrations, as well as educating our youth and managing our organizations. Much of my studies reinforced ideas that I knew but bolstered my knowledge in these areas. But there was new learning as well when I took courses on Sephardic and Israeli Jewry. My favorite, because I knew the least-therefore learned the most- was the course with hands-on practical skill learning of philosophic guidance and counseling.

As a teacher of our Jewish Culture School and serving on the board I have been active in our Tri-Valley Cultural Jews community since its inception 12 years ago. I wanted to have more background knowledge of our movement and as a lifelong-learner, I knew there was always more to learn so I went for it, tackling the feat of this program that I had heard of as a teen and now I have completed it … it feels so good to accomplish this long-held goal.

Jamie Ireland
Tri-Valley Cultural Jews
November 2017

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Let the Lights Shine

By Joan Kurtz

Last year at this time, I chose not to display my electric menorah in the window as we celebrated Chanukah. My community had experienced an increase in anti-Semitic activity – spray painted slurs on the high school walls as well as on rocks at the top of our local mountain. I felt intimidated and nervous about showing the lights. I let "them" win. But not this year!

Since then, I have joined a local Resistance group. I have called and wrote letters to my senators and representatives. I have marched and protested locally as well as in my state capital. I have read magazines and blogs, listened to the radio and watched the news, both the liberal stations and the conservative ones. It’s always good to know what the other side is hearing and thinking. So now I am empowered and nothing is going to stop me now.

Chag Sameach to all, and may your menorahs burn ever so bright this year for all to see.