Monday, June 20, 2005

So, Nu, Are There Jews in El Cerrito?

Well, there are farms in Berkeley...

This is the question, isn't it? Not the question for himself, the boyfriend, who eats kosher meat when it's put in front of him and observes with interest as the Balabusta nails mezuzot on everything in sight (doorposts, gates, the refrigerator, the minivan, large books...okay, just the doorposts, but you get the idea.) But certainly one of the Balabusta's first questions.

The synagogue I attend right now is a much better fit than the two that came before it. It's traditional and egalitarian, and I love the rabbi, and the politics are good by me. It is, of course, in San Francisco. Right now I could walk if I wanted to. From Contra Costa, it's going to be a shlep even by car. I don't drive. I don't even know if I drive on Shabbos, because I can't drive. That's going to change soon, but still...

I think I'm gonna need to find a new shul, for at least some of the time. So I checked to see if there were any shuls in El Cerrito. The answer, apparently is no.

Actually, the answer isn't precisely no. Kol Hadash is in El Cerrito.

Kol Hadash is, per their website: "a New Voice for Jews and their families who care about their Jewish heritage but want to celebrate it in a community based on humanistic rather than theistic beliefs. If you are looking for what it means to be Jewish, or what it means to be in a family with Jewish roots, we offer answers that are quite different from those found in traditional congregations."

Their Mission Statement declares: "We celebrate Jewish identity, history, and culture within a nontheistic secular framework."

Okay, well, no. The Balabusta is definately a humanist, and has no problem with secular or nontheistic, she just subscribes to the theory that 'atheist schmathiest, that's no reason not to go to shul and daven".

Elsewhere, the Balabusta gets the impression that there are actually Jews roaming the flat hills of El Cerrito, but that in order to access community you need to go south into Berkeley or Oakland. I suppose I'll be spending some of July and August investigating the possibilities.

Some contenders: Netivot Shalom is highly spoken of. They're egals, participatory (which means the Balabusta might eventually get over her fear of being on the bimah--weird for a rabbinic school dropout, no? And that wasn't even why I dropped out.) They also have a Tiferet Project connection, definately good.

Temple Beth Abraham seems very nice as well--egal, trad sounding, nice and heimish. Also a Tiferet congregation.

These, I think, are the first two I'm going to check out, but there are several others. There's a huge amount of Jewish life in Berkeley/Oakland, which the Balabusta has basically ignored for years, on account of not crossing the Bay too often. Until I started working in the East Bay.

So, I'll pack up my hat and tallis and check things out. I'm sure there's someplace out there that will feel like a good place to daven.

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