shabbat online

If anyone would like to share a short Shabbat morning with me and Andy, we will be on Facebook and Zoom tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 9:30.

For Facebook: 
For Zoom: 

Wishing you all peace, safety, and health.  Please follow the guidelines of your local governments, and do not go out unless needed.  But do still get some fresh air!  Just keep a safe distance from others.

I know we all feel lonely right now, but truly, never (at least in my lifetime) has every human had more in common.  

We are all in this together.


Online musical offering

Hi all,

Just a note that for this week, Tuesday-Friday, at 9:30am, I am going to do a short musical offering (just 15 minutes) online to help us center and prepare for our stressful days. Andy (my husband and musical wonder) will join me for some of them as well. If there is a need for it, we will continue on next week as well.

Join us either on Zoom at or Facebook

Be well, and please follow all of your local guidelines!


Calm in the presence of coronavirus

 I am not calm.  

Like all of you, I’m a mess… facing the possibility of school closures, trying to figure out what to do at Cool Shul, and trying to help my kids whose sports and speech and debate seasons are over, with a senior wondering if she is going to get to have a graduation.  I know some of you are planning Bar/Bat-Mitzvahs, graduations, or weddings, and now everything is up in the air. It is understandable if you feel nervous and uncomfortable about health or simply about all of this uncertainty.  

So, let’s take a deep breath together (well, virtually together), and see if we can create some calm in this storm.

I talked to my class of middle schoolers yesterday about the fact that many traditions acknowledge an aspect of light within dark and vice-versa.  In our prayer book, we thank the universe for the coming of day AND the coming of night.  We acknowledge these cycles, and understand there is no light without dark.  My rabbinical buddy, Walter, always said in class, “Don’t be so sure dark is all bad — there is magic in the stars and beauty in the unknown.”  So, here we are, definitely dealing with a time in history some may label as “dark,” but it is our job as spiritual beings to find the magic in the dark, and uncover the light shining through as stars.   

So, yesterday, I asked my students what light we could create from this scary time. Here is what we came up with: 

  • Appreciate the little things.
  • Be less stressed about small problems
  • Although it sounds “fun” if school is closed, enjoy the parts you love because you will actually miss school if you can’t go.
  • Hope that medical advancements that come from this will help generations to come.
  • Hope that new habits such as washing hands and being respectful of other peoples’ space lasts so that we will have better health for our lifetimes and teach this to our children.

Our challenge is for ourselves and for our children, to go find the light.  If you must be at home for awhile, enjoy the simple pleasures of curling up on the couch, snuggling with the family, watching a dumb movie you never would watch under normal circumstances.  Step into your yard or your balcony, or even just open the window (they say fresh air is good!) and breathe in the freshness.  Enjoy the spot of sun coming through and touching your face.  Pet your dogs, your cats, your birds, your chinchillas, whatever pets you may have, and allow the natural stress relief wash over you of caring for them. If you live alone (or not), find a neighbor or friend to chat with, maybe even invite them for a cup of tea (as long as everyone feels healthy!).  Laugh together, and feel what laughter can do to relieve worry.  And when you catch yourself finding relief in these moments, say Modeh/Modah Ani.  I am grateful.

Just a few times in each of our lives, the universe demonstrates to us how connected we all are.  The whole world is concerned, and that makes us One.  For at least this moment, we are one people, as we should always be if humanity was vulnerable enough to allow itself to acknowledge it.  Let’s bring light from today into the future, that perhaps this can be one of those moments that changes the course of history.  Maybe this is the moment when we truly all start caring for one another, no matter what.

Every morning, I sing that Modeh/Modah Ani, a Jewish chant of gratitude, to help me manage my own anxieties.  Today, I sing the Shema, where we declare “Hear this, everyone, Adonai is One!”  For me, Adonai is the potential for connection, hope, love, and yes, a little bit of fear and awe in the understanding of how delicate the balance of the world is.  This balance lives in all of us, and we live in it.  So we are all One.  We are in this together as one humanity.

Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.  Hear this Israel. Hear this Humankind.  Adonai is in all of us, and we are all called One.

Here is our Shema.  Andy and I hope that if you choose to play it, and sing along with it in your times of worry, it will help you find the light.   

Listen below or click here if it didn’t come through.

I’m here to talk as needed.

Rabbi/Cantor Diane

A Sermon about hope

Hi all, I just wanted to share my sermon from last Shabbat and a musical offering on the theme of hope. On this day… soon after New Year’s Day, immediately after a weekend honoring MLK, and the beginning of an impeachment trial, it seems like we could all use a little hope. 🙂

MLK/New Year’s Sermon

When we were in New York over the Winter Break, we stayed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  If we hadn’t read the news while we were there, all we would have seen and experienced were trendy new restaurants, young couples, families pushing strollers and walking dogs, and the occasional Chasidic Jew asking me if I needed Shabbat candles for that night (I guess I look Jewish).  But since we DID read the news, we knew, day after day, that there was yet another anti-semitic attack of someone on the street, or a horror taking place in the Orthodox community at one of the Rabbi’s homes, literally in our neighborhood or a couple of miles away. Two stories happening at the same time… amazing pasta and cabernet and croissants without a care in the world, AND suffering… all in the same place.

Last week, when the situation with Iran started to unravel, a popular MSNBC news show host talked about two realities, two stories happening at the same time… a “split screen” that we are all going to have to get used to, because the news is so eventful in this time in history, we can’t possibly focus on only one story at a time.  The split screen was, yes, literal, but my gal, Rachel, was also suggesting that our brains are going to have to be split screens, because that’s how the world works these days.

With the secular New Year now come and gone, a time when nearly the entire human population thinks about starting over and new goals, we can accept this split screen, but rather than allow it to cause us insanity, invite it to carry us through these interesting times.  On one side, yes… awareness, reality, caution, understanding, even fear. But on the other side… balance and hope… dogs and babies and croissants.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that while we were staying in New York, we went to see the most recent, and theoretically, final Star Wars movie.  And what is the thread through all 9 movies? Hope. As Gyn says in Rogue One, “Rebellions are built on hope.”  

For several decades, we, as Jews (or those of us who love and live with Jews), didn’t have to “hope” too much as a peoplehood.  We were pretty settled, except for certain activities here and there. We weren’t in the news all the time. We didn’t find ourselves oddly unsurprised when we heard of an anti-semetic action.  In fact, we were shocked at such a thought. We didn’t have to hope.  But now, it’s time to take hope out, dust it off, and experience just a little taste of what some of us or our parents or grandparents had to feel when outward anti-semitism was more normal and expected around the world.  When one of them, maybe on the streets of Brooklyn, on their way to school, got knocked down and called “Dirty Jew,” they got back up, dusted off their backpacks, and marched on… with hope. And so we will have to do again.  We need hope that this bizarre chapter in our history will evolve into a new one decorated with more acceptance and civility. Hope that there will be a time of healing for our country, when we can see and hear each other again.  Hope that our leaders will eventually have the “beytzim,” (which means eggs and is, I just learned, the polite way of saying testicles in Hebrew, to stand up and call out madness when they see it. It’s here, around the corner. It’s the message of Chanukah, of Pesach, of, on this weekend, Martin Luther King, even of Star Wars… rebellions are built on hope.  In Egypt. In Jerusalem. In Selma. On Yavin 4. And yes, in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

I hope you have many ways that in the New Year you might choose to start over and improve yourselves or the world.  And I invite you to welcome the split screen rather than be afraid of it. Yes, be informed. Yes, march and donate and volunteer and cry when you need to.  And then when you need a break, focus on the other side… the side that says there is hope and beauty in the future. It’s exactly what our ancestors and Martin Luther King and Gyn from Star Wars would want us to do. 

To quote Martin Luther King Jr. on this eve of his celebration weekend, 

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.  I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”


Don’t Let Them Win — Yom Kippur Sermon

My husband, besides being a stunning musician, makes the perfect cup of coffee.  I don’t know if it’s the variety of coffee, our particular machine, or if he lovingly talks to the beans before grinding them, but there is little in this world that makes me smile more than when he appears in the bedroom with a cup of it, on a lazy weekend morning.

The day I started to write this sermon, I walked into my yard with a hot cup of this decadent coffee in hand, sat on the steps with our Maltipoo, enjoyed the gentle breeze coming in off the Pacific Ocean, and exhaled.  It was August, and the marine layer overhead was a welcome respite from the heat that had been and would follow. Etsy, our little rescue dog, tucked her face under my arm for a bit of love and protection, and I gave her a scratch, sipped another sip of my coffee, and got lost in the fact that there were so many varieties of the color green in my eyeshot.  It was one of those perfect summer mornings when I didn’t have to be anywhere quite yet and could just be and enjoy the moment.

And then, the guilt set in.  I literally ripped myself out of the stillness in a rage of internal anguish.  It was the week of both the El Paso and Dayton shootings, on the heels of the murders in Gilroy, Ca, and the morning of stabbings in Orange County.  That week I had attended a protest at City Hall about the treatment of asylum seekers, was considering a caravan to Adelanto detention center, and planning on attending another event at a different Detention Center downtown that weekend.  With all of the pain and dangers in the world, with all that so many are facing , how dare I enjoy my little yard, my maltipoo, my perfect cup of coffee, or the color green? How dare I feel joy or be nourished when there are too many without joy or nourishment?  How do I not spend every waking moment writing, marching, screaming at the top of my lungs about the state of our world? And if I’m not doing that, at least be writing my sermons (which I guess in a way I was), working on the curriculum for our classes, brainstorming about growing our community so I can maybe provide others with a tiny slice of sanity and calm from the storm through our Kehillah Sababah, our Cool Shul?  Ocean breezes and maltipoos? I’m a spoiled brat, and I have no right to either one.

But I decided, that summer morning, to try to quiet my mind for a little while, and enjoy the coffee, the dog’s snuggle, the gentle breeze, and the color green.  And here is why… 

If there is any gift for us in this time in history, it’s the gift of paying attention to the little joys of life…  To remember to breathe, to eat something delicious, to admire nature, and to hug our loved ones (be they furry or not).  Because not enjoying them isn’t helping anyone and will leave us drained and exhausted. We can’t fight 24/7.  We can’t stress 24/7. If we do, we will not have the strength to face everything we may have to face in the future months and years.  And that’s what those who would separate nursing babies from their mothers’ arms at the border, want us to do.  They want us to ignore our kids, our work, our fun, and obsess over them, and run out of steam, and give up.  But we won’t.

Plus, with the trauma of the news cycle, as I spoke about during Rosh Hashanah, we are often reacting a bit too strongly to the little things because our nerves are frayed.  Taking a few peaceful breaths and sips and cuddles is what we need to center ourselves. We need to remember that many of our problems pale in comparison to what others are going through, so we might as well not make ourselves suffer through them and enjoy what we have instead.  So, our kids aren’t perfect. So, camp cost more than we expected. So, our car needs repair again. So, the printer jammed. So, the cell phone got dropped in the toilet. All of this is mild in comparison to overcrowded detention centers, or another shooting. So we might as well just tackle our issues one at a time, in gratitude for the instances when our problems are not crises, and try not to lose it over the small stuff so we have the strength to battle the big stuff.  

I have mentioned that I recently took a class in modern Jewish thought, and one of the authors we studied, Emil Fackenheim, wrote a book entitled, The Commanding Voice of Auschwitz.  Fackenheim believed that the existence of the Holocaust created a message as loud and as clear as any heard at Mt. Sinai in the Torah.  This message, which he calls a new, additional commandment for all Jews (and in my mind, for all people), is the 614th commandment. That commandment is to not do the work of the Nazis for them by extinguishing ourselves.  To uphold this commandment, Fackenheim says we should never, ever stop telling the story of the Holocaust. He says we must not abandon the promise of Jewish existence, either through our own Jewish practices, or through the support of the Jewish people.  But most importantly, Fackenheim says we must do this, by living in joy.  Yes, we should mourn the tragedy of World War II, but he warns us against allowing Judaism to exist only for the sake of existence or to have the main thrust of Jewish culture and practice be one of mournful remembrance.  He says we must find song, and love, and beauty and meaning and passion and joy in how we demonstrate our Jewishness. If we do so, if we find glory and peace in Jewish spirituality, culture, food, and community, then we will have performed the ultimate resistance against Nazism.  Fackenheim believed that Hitler would want nothing more than for the Jews remaining on this planet to allow themselves to survive only in states of despair. If Judaism is only about beating ourselves on our chests, only about sad melodies, only about the pain of the past, then we have destroyed ourselves.  We have let them win. Yet everytime we find happiness in Jewish expression, it is a fist in the face of Hitler.

I think the same is true now in this world, and specifically in the United States.  Every time we don’t allow ourselves to go insane with the next news update or spend dinner arguing around the table about the latest tweet… every time we, instead, choose joy, we win.  If we share a meal, share affection, share a job – yes, with those we know and love, but especially with a stranger, or with someone who might be considered “undesirable” in this new American dynamic, or a person of a different faith than our own, a person of a different color than our own, a person from another country than our own… then we are spreading love, not fear.  Doing so is shaking our fists in the face of those who are anti-immigrant, anti-diversity, and are thriving on a message of fear and hate not so different from the one Fackenheim is begging us to remember.  

It is our mandate, and I never use that word, but I feel it so strongly right now, to step boldly and fearlessly into the light, as dangerous as it might be, and spread joy and live in joy, and scream out to the world, “I am here!  I won’t hide! I will live joyfully! You can’t take that away from me!” We owe this kind of thinking to our children, who are hearing us discuss the news, or are themselves reading or hearing the news, or worse learning about it from their friends.  Many of them are confused and afraid, and we must be examples for them of dreams still being alive, hope still being alive, and discovering solutions together in a world with endless possibilities of reconciliation and beauty. If we live in fear, anguish, hatred and anger, especially in front of our kids… If we spend our time fighting and screaming, the more “fun” the other side is having watching us fall apart.  Then we have done their work for them. We have allowed them to rob us of our very souls.  

If we could band together, not just in protest, but arm in arm in pride, we win.  We already have Gay Pride Parades, and now a Women’s March, but let’s also organize Diversity Pride Parades, Immigrant Pride Parades, Minority Pride Parades, Interfaith-Pride Parades, Education Parades, I Believe in Science Parades (I think there actually was one of those!) and take to the streets not only in despair but with hope.  Let’s celebrate the world we know we can mold. That will annoy them the most.

And so, yes, now it is time to beat our chests and admit the times we were wrong, the times we were selfish, the times we were petty, the times we were mean, the times we were jealous,  the times we didn’t see or didn’t listen. We will try to shake it all out, and let go of the guilt of the past and start with a new day, so we can be like Jacob of the Torah after his wrestling match… who faces his past, earns a new name, loses the title of his past errors, and finds a second chance.  He leaves that wrestling match with a limp, and perhaps we, too, after the past year will have some remaining scars, but then it is time to move on. Let’s not wallow in this regret. Let’s say our sorries (especially to the next generation who will have to clean up our world), march boldly into the light, and live this life with joy.

If we don’t, we will have let them win.

Humbly Correct Yourself

Hi all! Just sharing my Rosh Hashanah morning sermon because a few people have asked for it. Enjoy and feel free to share it. 🙂 – Diane

I have noticed that in our current social/political climate, people seem a little on edge.  

When I was crossing the street on a green light recently, but had not pushed the button to turn on the walk symbol, a man in his truck chose to lean out the window and scream at me that I didn’t have the right of way.  He’s correct I should have pushed the button, but his reaction was mildly extreme.  

When my daughter and I were leaving a protest a month or so ago, no longer at the protest, just walking to our car, someone must have seen our cluster of people with our signs, and chose to lean out of, again a truck, and holler “America First!”  Again, there is a right to disagree, and then there is the choice to lean out one’s window and yell at strangers.  

One more person leaning out of a window… In my neighborhood an injured lady was crossing the street with her injured dog… very… slowly.  They both had bandages around their legs. A driver leaned out the window to yell at her that she was taking too long.  

And finally, when my daughter and I were at a recent book signing with Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotamayor, there was a near brawl about how long it was taking to get through the line to meet her and who was pushing in front of whom.  Once again, lots of screaming, finger pointing, and hot tempers.  

I’ll return to these experiences in a moment.  

This morning, we will hear the first portion of the Torah, Breisheet, the creation of the world. We celebrate this New Year (some say the birthday of the world) with this mysterious, poetic story about how our ancient people imagined it all began.  It’s about building, creating, newness, imagination, and taking the time to reflect on the work done to assess its beauty. The God of the Torah puts forth effort for 6 days, and then rests and beholds the results.

And yet, just one portion later, this same God is ready to destroy every living thing on the planet.  God creates humankind along with all of the animals of the land, sea, and air, but once the world is full of people and birds and fish and cattle, God sends down rain to destroy everything except for one family.

There are flood stories in nearly every culture’s history from every part of the world.  Many of us know of the Epic of Gilgamesh and how closely it parallels the story of Noah and his ark, but there are similar stories in the Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions along with Greek, Roman, Egyptian and many, many other mythologies.  What is it about the flood that appeals to so many? Is it water’s potential for renewal and starting over? Is it, as some dream analysts say, that the rain represents tears, obstacles, or depression? Or is it simply that there have been horrific floods in history around the world, documented by each culture as a supernatural event because at the time, it was believed that surely only such a deluge could be at the hand of a destructive god.  

I often ask my students when we learn about Noah and the flood, “What do you think could happen in the world to make all creatures, not just humans, but pigeons, camels, and even bunny-rabbits, be so evil that a god would want to wash it all away and start over?”  The answer at which we often arrive, is some kind of ecological catastrophe… a drought, a famine… all animals with their ecosystems so out of whack, that everyone from the lion to the gnat are searching for a way to adapt and survive, willing to kill anything that might result in a meal for itself or its family or tribe.  And even if there is no God, the way the story can be true, and not true, is that a real drought led to real famine which led to deviant animal behavior, and that was followed by heavy rains that the earth could not contain because the land was so dried out. And so, a great flood, or perhaps even a mudslide, having nothing to do with a god, destroyed the local suffering animals and plant life. 

In synagogues around the world today, communities will either read the story of the binding of Isaac or the creation story of Breisheet which we will hear, but I think it would actually make a ton of sense if we read the story of Noah.  For these holy days are all about returning to a place of knowing within oneself, restarting, redoing, washing away mistakes. And in just a moment, we will sing B’Rosh Hashanah – when we ask the Universe, Who, this year, will live and who will die?  And of those who die, who by fire and who by water?… Like a flood. We will also add more modern tragedies to our list that were unthinkable when our machzor was composed, but some of those modern tragedies are wrapped up in this more traditional text and in the story of Noah.  After all, with the state of our planet, with rising tides and rising temperatures, it is not unthinkable of a great drought and a great flood coming upon us again, not because of a god, but because we didn’t do what we had to do to turn our climate crisis around. The ancient questions of who by hunger, who by thirst, who by storm, are not as far reaching as they used to be.

Yet, this flood, be it a symbolic or literal flood, may come upon us not just because of the global warming climate, but because of our current political climate (and once again, I promise you this isn’t really a political sermon).  Many of us are speaking out against the policies that go against our understanding of human rights and ecological sanity.  We are marching, signing petitions, writing to officials, and soon, voting!… We are making a lot of noise to scream out to the world that we are not okay with how things are, and all of that is necessary and glorious.  But are we also listening? Are we learning about others? Are we remembering to search, no matter how hard, for the spark of holiness in the “other?” When we recite the Shema, are we only asking to be heard but not willing to be the ones who listen?

If we can’t find some small shred of common ground, some place to start… like, can’t we all agree that it stinks when people don’t pick up their dogs’ poop?… Then we can’t talk about agreeing on the bigger things, like how nice it would be if our children and grandchildren had clean air to breathe and livable temperatures.  When we point the finger at the “other” for being intolerant, impatient, selfish, angry, ignorant, it may be true, but we are doing the entire world and the next generation a disservice if we don’t at least ask ourselves, “Am I, also, even just a little bit, any of that?”  Intolerant of another person’s opinion.  Impatient when someone doesn’t understand what we think we understand.  Selfish when we expect more or better for ourselves or our families than another’s.  Angry at another side of an argument. Ignorant to the ways even our treasured figures may be weak or have been in error.  We have to at least point that finger, for a moment, at ourselves. Or we may participate in our destruction. 

At my kid’s elementary school, the head once asked a parent in an all-school meeting, “What does it mean to humbly correct yourself?”  This parent said, in front of a hall full of young children, “Well, I don’t know what you mean by humbly correct myself, but I know what it means to humbly correct someone else.”

Well, there’s a foreshadow of our flood right there.  

Our country, and our world is in a state where we can’t hear each other anymore.  The ability to have any kind of civil discourse is disappearing and it’s disappearing quickly. Now, I don’t blame us.  We are all suffering from some variety of political PTSD. We don’t know whom to trust. We are having flashbacks to events in our own lives when we have struggled with dominating figures, bullying, or even abuse.  No wonder our minds are fried and our nerves are frayed. No wonder people are screaming from their trucks or pointing angry fingers at one another when standing in line at a book-signing. Many of us feel like ticking time bombs, ready to pounce at the first sign of any more injustice, even if it’s just the guy or gal who cut us off on the 10 freeway.

Yes, we are heading for a flood, because we only know how to humbly correct others and not ourselves.  Because if we don’t find a way to start with some kind of common ground, we will not change this course of history.  No, our behavior won’t lead, in my mind, to a god flooding us out, but if we can’t gather ourselves together and face uncomfortable and unsettling confrontation, we may not deserve this planet anymore.  Our self-righteousness may lead to disaster.  And we can’t only blame the other side. If we don’t find a way to communicate, even with those we despise most, as we attempted to do during our meditation a few moments ago, this planet may just shake us off.  Call it global warming, call it God, but our lack of decent behavior with each other will be the reason for the next biblical flood.

Johnny Holmes, who happens to be African American, was the head of security in the 90’s at a high school in Blue Island Illinois.  He knew a student named Christian Picciolini at the school who had ties to white nationalists. Christian once said to Holmes, while being hugged by him to calm him down during an altercation, “Get your filthy hands off me.  I live to see the day when a n—— will be hanging from every light pole in Blue Island.” Years later, after Christian changed his views, and he and Johnny Holmes reunited, Christian said, “It was that compassion when I didn’t deserve it that eventually stuck.”  Holmes found it in his heart to try to help turn that young man around, and to see the humanity in him. If he can, so can we.  

And Matthew Stevenson, an Orthodox Jew at New College in Florida was the only Orthodox Jew at school, so he used to invite over a mixed group of Jewish and non-Jewish friends for Shabbat dinner every Friday night at his apartment.  When his friend circle realized that there was a well-known white nationalist attending the same college, they discussed what to do. Rather than ostracize him, they invited him to Shabbat dinner. Not only did he come, but he became a regular member of the dinner group, and slowly changed.  If Matthew can stare into the eyes of a perceived enemy, so can we.

So what do we do?   We build an ark. Not with cubits of gopher wood, but with ahavah rabah, abundant love, rachamim, compassion, chesed, kindness, and shalom, peace.  We build it, not to sound corny, by going high when others go low. We build it by never, ever, succumbing to taunts or teases or claims of false victories meant to provoke us and demonstrate our most basic, unrefined selves.  We build it by finding the ruach, the spirit of God that Johnny Holmes and Matthew Stevenson found within themselves and in others. We build it by remembering the words of Rabbi Chaim Nachim of Breslav who said the words we will sing during Yom Kippur:

Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tsar m’od, v’haikar lo l’fached klal: The whole world is a narrow bridge, but the essence, is not to be afraid.  Do not be afraid of this challenge. Do not be afraid of a lack of clear results. Do not be afraid of seeing goodness in someone who appears only evil at first, second, and even third glance.  We owe it to the next generation to leave a world of civility and progress so they can get to work fixing the mess we have made. And this means humbly correcting others, but mostly humbly correcting ourselves.

As we read last night, “Now is the time for the world to know that every thought and action is sacred.  This is the time for you to deeply compute the impossibility that there is anything but grace.”