Ape House is a very readable book for many reasons. It is based on a love of animals, and in particular, bonobos chimpanzees. It offers intrigue with the capture of the bonobos who are very human-like. It is a tale of how science, business, and well-meaning fanatics can collide – to the detriment of both animals and humans. Characters in the book range from straight intellectuals, to hippies and computer geeks. We see ups and downs, esp with the lead character, Isabel Duncan, who has a family-like relationship with the chimps who can communicate with humans. She is a woman whose sole mission in life is to protect and learn from apes. This book is relevant to our times because it cares about life on the planet and how we treat our environment. The book is exciting, illuminating and engaging. Ape House is a fun read, a great story of love between man and animals and love between women and men. It is funny, sad and heart-warming.
“In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener and a tender love affair being to blossom.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichmei and his family – like thousands of other Japanese Americans – are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.
Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care workers struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco’s charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly 70 years.
Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of he Spirits, The Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world full of unceasing change.”
Taken from an article on www.isabelallende.com
Submitted by Barbara Brown
This is very dear and sweet book for lovers of books. A.J. Fikry is the quirky owner of a small, independent bookstore on the fictional Alice Island in New England. He is cynical, cranky, and depressed…and not without reason. The recent death of his beloved wife has torn his life apart. As the story develops, Fikry finds love and fatherhood gratifying. His choices in fiction change at the opening of each chapter where he quotes and comments on books he has read. The opening to each chapter becomes softer and less tutorial.
A.J.’s crankiness is balanced by Maya’s youthful intelligence and Amy’s light-hearted charm. The book contains a good cast of eccentric townsfolk in a small community. The various characters are well developed, and we come to love all of them. The young child named Maya is especially precious in her sense of awe and wonder. She grows up in the bookstore. It is a true delight to see the world from her point of view. Amelia is a very independent and devoted bookseller whose life is filled with kindness and eclecticism. The book has a couple of mysteries related to a book that is stolen from Fikry, and the parentage of the little child left in Fikry’s unlocked bookstore. The mixed race element is also present in this book. The child is born of a black mother and a white father. A.J. also has a white mother and an southeast Asian father (Indian). The story speaks to embracing people of all backgrounds. Through the love of books, the community of Alice Island comes together. This is a very readable and a very endearing book. It also inspires us to want to see and support the return of our neighborhood bookstores.
This book was read and enjoyed by the Lev Eisha Book Club.
Submitted by Lillian Laskin
The Light Between Oceans is a multi-layered, tragic story of a lighthouse keeper, his wife and the course of action they took upon discovering a 2-month old baby and a dead man in a rowboat which had washed up on the shore of the island where they lived. Tom and Isabel are decent people; he is a World War I veteran who served honorably and she is a local girl who is young and unworldly. They are very content with their isolated life on Janus Rock except that they are unable to have a child. This baby appears to be the chance they have been waiting for. They rationalize keeping the child as their own, unaware of the terrible consequences for the parent(s) who have lost their child.
The story is set in Australia immediately following World War I. The descriptions of the area, the people, and their lives are beautifully drawn. Stedman skillfully weaves a compelling tale which causes us to ponder the moral and ethical questions and each character’s position. Tom and Isabel, Hannah and her husband, the baby’s grandparents, and the townspeople each seem so real. The author’s use of language draws the reader into the story, making it come alive.
The Lev Eisha Book Club unanimously recommends The Light Between Oceans. It is a story with no easy or pat answers about what to do in difficult situations. As readers, we cared about each character and felt emotionally connected to them. We hope you will enjoy this read.
Submitted by Barbara Brown
We are very excited to have an article about Lev Eisha published in the Jewish Journal! Please follow this link to view the original article: Jewish Journal Article
Lev Eisha is a modern-day Red Tent, except instead of gathering in a portable desert shelter, this women’s minyan congregates just miles from the beach in a West Los Angeles synagogue on the vast, summer-camp-like premises of Vista Del Mar.
Don’t be totally misled — there are a handful of men who attend the services on the first Saturday of each month, including the occasional tag-along husband. One man even attended services solo recently, trying it out after undergoing some tough times. He said he was in search of a healing service, especially one with no shortage of “maternal energy.”
What makes the services so particularly comforting?
“Our goal was to find a place where people can come to be very joyous or very sad, or anything in between,” said Rabbi Toba August, 64, who founded the group about 15 years ago. “I really wanted to have a place where the emotions are available, where you’re feeling something and connecting with something deep within your soul, your psyche, your essential being.”
At Lev Eisha (Hebrew for “a woman’s heart”), a key part of that is accomplished through constant music. It has its own particular groove, fronted by the prowess of cantorial soloist Cindy Paley on acoustic guitar, two backup vocalists, a percussionist, a violinist and a whole congregation playing tambourines.
In the midst of the service, women get up on a whim and dance around the pews, exuding a joyful reverence. At times, the minyan feels more like a hippie colony, which makes sense when you consider August is a product of the 1960s flower power counterculture. But the service can be devout and traditional, too, as when the Torah service starts and the ark opens. The energy changes, becoming more silent and thoughtful.
Each woman here has her own reason, her own story. Board member Janis Cohen, for example, who was recently named the next president of Lev Eisha, was raised as the only daughter in a testosterone-fueled household. She said she was originally skeptical of the concept of a women’s minyan.
“I was turned off by the women’s liberation movement because it has a tendency to bash men,” she said.
But after attending a service at the suggestion of a friend, it soon became apparent that Lev Eisha was an inclusive community, not at all what she expected.
Another member, Barbara Axelband, said that after battling cancer and undergoing a mastectomy, it was the thought of August that pulled her through. When Axelband’s granddaughter was having a bat mitzvah, she told her daughter that she’d attend under one condition: The service didn’t conflict with her commitment to Lev Eisha. She got her wish.
After many years with the minyan, Axelband — who, like many in the group, dons a yarmulke — makes sure not to miss a single service. But that’s a typical story with these women. Lev Eisha has become their community, their monthly spiritual shot of adrenaline. Current president Barbara Brown said she schedules family trips around the gatherings, and the group even has its own dedicated resident poet, Sarah Barash.
“I’ve missed only one service in 10 years,” said Barash, who attributes the development of her poetic craft completely to August and the congregation.
Barash isn’t the only congregant who said she experienced self-fulfillment after attending services.
“When I come here, I’m not playing a role. I’m not somebody’s caregiver, daughter or wife. I’m me,” said Robin Winston, Lev Eisha’s head of membership.
Lev Eisha started as an annual weekend at Camp Ramah, part of the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University) Wagner Women’s Retreat, a getaway designated solely for women. But over the past 15 years, the community has transformed into what it is now — a full-fledged congregation with some 100 people attending a typical service.
That’s not to say Lev Eisha didn’t encounter some major shifts along the way. Until five years ago, services took place behind the main sanctuary of the Conservative shul Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles. That was when August was that synagogue’s rabbi as well, a position she no longer has.
A New York native, August was among the first class of women to enter the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school in 1984. Nowadays, August is the rabbi at Temple Shalom of the South Bay, a Reconstructionist congregation in Hermosa Beach, and she teaches rabbinics at the transdenominational Academy for Jewish Religion, California.
“I have three part-time jobs, but that’s three board meetings, three columns, three newsletters,” she said as her voice trailed off into a listing of threes. “Three this, three that.”
She said she tries to divide her time evenly among her responsibilities, not to mention reserving some down time for herself and her husband.
And although she initially started her career as a Conservative rabbi, August said her Judaism is constantly evolving, becoming more meditative and personal.
“The rabbi I was at a Conservative shul was not the person I really am. But at Lev Eisha, I’m totally able to be myself,” she said.
At the unaffiliated Lev Eisha, August is free to design her own brand of Judaism.
“There’s a Judaism for everybody,” August said. “You’ve got to find your own way back.”
A joyous community of Jewish women engaged in
prayer, study and spiritual growth
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ISRAEL! On April 23, corresponding to the 4th of Iyar, the Jewish people celebrated Israel’s 67th birthday, Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day. At that time Israel was a blessed haven for European refugees and survivors of the Holocaust. For American Jews, the idea of Israel is one we struggle with. Yes, we love to visit, and some of us made Aliyah. Yet we are concerned about the politics and the tension with the Arabs and the intractable issue of a separate Palestinian State.
What was it like to be an American Jew right after the Holocaust and the establishment of the state of Israel? One great writer, Bernard Malamud, explored these questions of identity in his novels and short stories.
Join us for breakfast beginning at 8:15am, on Saturday May 2, when Rabbi August will teach and lead a discussion on Jewbird, Bernard Malmud’s most famous and thought-provoking short story. Our breakfast is sponsored by the Lev Eisha Book Club.
The breakfast teaching is immediately followed by Shabbat services at 9:30am, led by Rabbi August and Cantorial Soloist Cindy Paley. Torah readings are Parshat Kedoshim from the book of Leviticus. Be sure to stay for a delicious kiddush after services, sponsored by Lynn Beliak in honor of her mother, Edith Ballonoff, on her 93rd birthday; the yarhzeit of her mother-in-law, Regina Beliak, and in honor of Joan Siegel for all the delicious cakes she has made all year for kiddish; by Sandy Terranova in honor of her birthday; by Barbara Goldstone in memory of her husband, Bob Goldstone; and by an anonymous donor.
Thank you to all our sponsors for this month’s Shabbat. Would you like to sponsor a kiddush or breakfast? Look for the pink business cards on each table with the address to mail checks and Lynn’s email address. She is starting to take sponsorships for next year. Email LYNN or call her at 310-286-2831, to make arrangements.
In This Issue Membership Fundraiser Recap Message from Rabbi August Our Resident Poet Trivia Corner
Quick Links Visit our website!
Join Our List
Get a Free Year of Membership!
If you haven’t renewed your Lev Eisha membership, here is an opportunity you just can’t miss. Join now, at the basic or any of the higher levels and you get next year free! Don’t wait – sign up HEREYou can also mail your check to Lev Eisha at 10736 Jefferson Blvd. #706, Culver City 90230.
We welcome new and renewing members:
Dedicate a Prayer Book!
- Joann Blumenfeld donated a prayer book in memory of Barbara Axelband’s beautiful daughter, Laurie
- Sara Fields donated 2 prayer books in honor of Barbara Brown’s Lev Eisha Presidency
Share a simcha or remember a loved one. It’s only $18 to dedicate a prayer book, or 8 for $100. ContactRUTH to order your prayerbook dedication.
Lev in the Afternoon – What a Great Day!
by Barbara Brown
On Sunday, April 19 our Lev community enjoyed a fabulous afternoon of folk music, friendship, delicious homemade goodies both sweet and savory, and the opportunity to buy a wonderfully diverse assortment of auction items. The event was our annual fund raiser – “Lev in the Afternoon.” Janis Cohen and her husband Ken Morris opened their beautiful new home to us, and if you were able to attend you know what a joyous time we had.
Cindy and her talented musician friends, including our own Robin Winston, performed the music of Pete Seeger. After schmoozing, noshing, and bidding, we sang along to these timeless songs. The mood was festive and filled with the Lev spirit!
Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make this event successful, with particular appreciation to the following: to Janis for so ably chairing our afternoon; to Rose Ziff for her skills with publicity, silent auction signage, and decorating; to Lynn Beliak, Gail Heim and her committee for buying, organizing, and setting up the food so beautifully; to Robin Winston for making signs and performing in concert; to Cindy for performing and handling all of the musical program details; to Judy Fishman for setting up and organizing the silent auction.
Special thanks to Holly Factor, Barbra Bolle, Judy Sherman, and Joan Spiegel for their invaluable assistance in preparing for and helping with the set up.
To the many Lev members and friends who made baskets, solicited donations, gave us handmade items for the auction, and brought guests, we thank you for your support. Our community is indeed blessed with talented and caring people. We count on each of you to continue to make Lev Eisha the fabulous congregation it has been and continues to be.
Our event was held at Janis and Ken’s brand new home Olivia Goodkin and Bruce Winston at
JoBeth Cohen and Holly Factor Perusing the auction items…
Sweet and savory goodies!
Barbara Brown, Sara Fields, and Marla Osband, enjoying the day Even the men got in on the fun!
Our fearless leader, Rabbi August We donated our balloon arrangements to Kindred Hospital after the event
Services: 9:30am – 12:00pmBreakfast & Study at 8:15am – 9:25amKiddush immediately following servicesPlease note: breakfast will be available at 8:15amRabbi’s teaching to start promptly at 8:30am
Breakfast & Brucha, followed by Shabbat Services June 6
Shabbat Services – our last service of the year
*Breakfast teaching before services
Counting Each Day – Making Each Day Count
by Rabbi August
For the last two weeks, I have enjoyed picking up my newspaper from the driveway. Why? The reason is the blooming jasmine bush in front of our home. Each morning I stop, close my eyes and breathe in the intense sweet perfume-like fragrance. For an instant I am smiling, content, filled-up with gratitude for the small miracles of beauty and aroma of nature. This moment is enough. What a great way to start my day!Our lives are sustained by moments of joy, sorrow, love, resentment, hope and despair. Moments come and go – and the secret is to savor and be present in each particular moment.The Jewish tradition has a ritual called ‘Counting the Omer’ (Sefirat Ha’Omer) which encourages and aids us to pay attention to the sacred moments. It is a seven-week period, 49 days of counting each day, beginning on the second day of Passover and ending at Shavuot.
Every Jewish holiday has at least three levels of meaning: historical, connection to the land of Israel, and spiritual. The counting of the Omer is in the Torah and was the time the farmers in ancient Israel brought an “omer” – a specifically designated amount of their first crop of barley – to the Temple. Historically it reminded the ancient Israelites of the freedom from slavery (Passover) and the connection to receiving the Torah (Shavuot). We were not free to do whatever we chose, but rather to follow mitzvot (commandments) and live a civilized life in a community with an awareness of God. Bringing the omer also reflected their gratitude for having food and gave them the opportunity to pray that their next harvest of wheat would also be abundant.In contemporary traditions, our focus in on the third level, the spiritual one. Like the month of reflection before Rosh Hashanah, we use these seven weeks to appreciate the significance of the moment. There are many teachings in Hasidic traditions which help us focus on strengthening our good character traits, realigning our priorities and improving how we react daily to our work, family and friends.This year I am using a new approach found in Rabbi Karyn Kedar’s new book, Omer: A Counting. She created an original set of seven spiritual principles for these seven weeks. They are: 1. Decide, 2. Discern, 3. Choose, 4. Hope, 5. Imagine, 6. Courage and 7. Pray. In the first week of May, we are in the 4th week of the omer – the week of Hope.Let me share a part of her teaching and perhaps we can respond both to the quote and her poem below.For the 28th Day – “The eye has a dark part and a light part. One can see only through dark part.” (Midrash)HopeCreator of darkness and light,banish my despair,turn aside my indifference,soften the callousness of my heart.Open my eyesthat I may see thatbeauty abounds,and that love abides.Enlighten my life withholiness and grace.As it is written: Come, let us walk in the light of God. (Isaiah 2:5)
May it be so, and we say AMEN.
Offerings from Our Resident Poet, Sarah Barash
We are continuing our new column in the Lev Eisha Newsletter with a second offering by our resident poet, Sarah Barash. If you are interested in buying her book of poems, see Sarah at services.News report:Tonight, March 18, 2011, the biggest moon in decades will appear.HALO ROUND THE MOONOne winter past there were weeks when a bleakness settled in my bones,Wherever I turned fear followed.Sleepless,Ragged thoughts cut my breath in two.Would the bills be paid?Could I buy the birthday child a gift?Would we make it through the month?Inexplicably inspired I rose from bed to scribble a phrase or two across Scraps of paper.Standing at the window to illuminate my wordsI saw above the rooftops,Hovering in both time and space,To mesmerize,An immense Moon.Enthralled,I finally slept,Until a throbbing light opened my eyes toThe wall of window by my bed,Where I saw an ethereal halo circling the moon.The incandescent rings seemed filled with a spiritWhose essence intensified its radiance ten-fold,And, as if the waxing and waning of hope itself had first unmoored me,Now, a mass of despair dislodged,There was nothing in this moment but the moon and me.There are, I know, scientific reasons for halos round the moon:The clouds, the mist, the currents of wind, and particles of dust.But when I saw that glorious orb in that clear night sky,I felt bathed in a peace that onlyGod’s special effects could have created.MARCH APRIL MAY year upon year,How could I have known thenThat the moon that night would usher in a soul changeTo alter the very course of my life?09/05/2014
Here are the answers to last issue’s trivia questions, plus a couple new ones.Q: What Jewish comedian was TV’s first superstar and was so popular that NBC gave him a 30-year contract?
Answer: “Mr. Television” was Mendel Berlinger, aka Milton Berle.Q: What famous Jewish symphony orchestra conductor is the grandson of the King & Queen of the Yiddish Theatre . . . Boris & Bessie Thomashefsky?
Answer: Michael Tilson ThomasQ: What Jewish movie star he-man wore dresses as a kid?
Q: What Jewish man was the first & greatest swashbuckling movie hero known as the First King of Hollywood?Answers in next month’s newsletter!
Mazel Tov to the following April & May Birthdays:April: Holly Factor, Lynn Stevens, Sue Urfrig
May: Edith Ballonoff, Ruth Grossman, Julie Klee, Irene Perer, Marcy Perlmutter, Kate Rosloff, Suzanne Schweitzer, Stacey Serber, Sandy TerranovaIf you have a milestone to share, please send it to Rose Ziff at firstname.lastname@example.org.Birthdays, weddings, graduations, Bat or Bar Mitzvot, births, special awards/honors, and exotic vacations are some of the simchas that are fun to share with our community.This is also the place to ask our community to join you in prayers of healing for those who are ill or in memory of those who have passed away. Our newsletter is usually published the Monday before each service.
Map & Directions Lev Eisha Shabbat Services are held at Vista Del Mar3200 Motor Ave., Los Angeles 90034Click on the map for directions.
Welcome to Lev Eisha, a spiritual prayer service by and for women. B’ruchot Ha’baot– we invite you to join us with great blessing. We provide a joyous environment with opportunities for soulful prayer, energetic song and dance, deep Jewish study, and meditation. Each person, in their own way, finds what they need for their personal and spiritual growth at Lev Eisha.What makes our community so unique? The answer is reflected in our name. “Lev” means heart, and “Eisha” means woman. When women come together with open hearts, we figuratively hold each others’ hearts in profound acceptance, understanding and love.Join us and support Lev Eisha. By attending you are giving yourself the greatest gift; time for yourself, a “spiritual fix” to keep you balanced and centered for the month. Lev Eisha will transform your Jewish soul.
By Suzanne Gallant
Torah does not command
The wearing of a tallit,
It only instructs the Israelites
To add fringes to their garments
And to tie knots on them.
Until modern times, in progressive communities
Only men would wear this garment
With its fringes,
They would wear the tzitit, fringes
All the time.
When this woman had an adult
B’nai Mitzvah, I bought one for myself.
And put it on whenever it was right.
I learned the prayer before donning one
Wearing it with pride.
But recently, a rabbi helped to make it
Even more meaningful to me.
How to hold it and swing it up:
“Lift the tallit, swing it high
And make a tent.”
Welcome, greet and feel the Presence
“There you are my God,
I’m here to praise your name
And feel the joy and blessing
Of Shabbat and prayer.
One inspiring moment in the film Selma was the response to King’s call for support. He waited until thousands of religious and secular people arrived from all over the country to begin the third protest. In that moment of decent people marching for civility and democratic ideals, there was a display of hope and courage. When I saw the newspaper’s front page photo of the January 2015 march in Paris with the disparate leaders marching together, I was again inspired and filled with hope.
Sometimes I feel that the world’s current level of violence and hatred will never subside. Then, there are these moments of hope and the expectation that sanity, tolerance, compassion, and peace can prevail when people march together in solidarity.
Though I am not a political analyst, like many of you I am obsessed with reading everything I can to make sense of world events, and, being a Jew, the rising threat of anti-semitism. In an interview with Professor Deborah Lipstadt, author of the celebrated book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, she asserts that what happens to Jews (like the murders in the Kosher market) are a “litmus test and a weathervane” for hate crimes in general. The multicultural, liberal, and democratic societies, she claims, should be very concerned. It starts with the Jews but it never ends with the Jews.
In her article in the Jewish Journal, Dr. Tamar Frankiel, the president of the Academy for Jewish Religion in California, explained “Why Religion is a Laughing Matter.” The role of humor and satire, she says, is a “disruptive, liberating force,” and can be an outlet to release hate and defuse violence. Judaism has produced a large repertoire of humorous religious satire. Frankiel points out that in the Exodus narrative, which we have been reading in January and February, the Bible makes Pharaoh a laughingstock, a helpless victim of forces he thinks he controls. Unlike the literal Islamic terrorists, our tradition uses irony and satire because we are human and everything, even God, is subject to critique.
In the fight against intolerance, humor and satire can liberate the mind. There is much irony when we take ourselves and our God too seriously. Frankiel says:
“The best humor comes not with bitterness or revolutionary zeal, but with love and appreciation for the precarious and tender efforts of humans and divine partners to be in relationship.”
One of the cartoons that angered Islamic radicals depicted the founder of Islam holding his head in his hands saying, “It is so hard to be loved by idiots.” Frankiel tells us that this cartoon could have been one of God as the old bearded man in the sky looking down on His human creations. “It must be hard,” she says, “for God to be loved by those idiosyncratic creatures who forget what God is all about.”
Mark Twain said, “humans are the only animals who love their neighbors as themselves and then cut their throats if their theology is different from their own.” And Voltaire is attributed to saying, “I hate what you are saying, but I shall fight so that you are able to say it.”
It is not Islam which is evil; it is the extreme, literalist interpretation of Islam with its support of strict Sharia law which is a threat to peaceful coexistence. David Suissa, a writer for the Jewish Journal wrote,
“If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, it needs to be modernized and reinterpreted to affirm and promote universally accepted human rights and values.”
May we all be motivated to continue to speak out, march, sign petitions, and learn about each other as we fight for a truly civilized and peaceful world. AMEN.