Dec 3, 2010

A "Big Fat Jewish Email" & New Adult Learning!

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here
Congregation Netivot Shalom
from Rabbi Shalom Bochner,
Director of Life-Long Learning
Dear Chevreh,NSLogo

I'm writing to share with you an upcoming opportunity for Adult Learning, a series which promises to be one-of-a-kind. 

As you may know, Josh Kornbluth, a comedic monologuist based in Berkeley, joined Netivot Shalom after collaborating with Rabbi Creditor and Dan Schifrin in the monologue "Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?"  Josh's Jewish journey has been touched by our community's approach to learning and living, and I'm proud to share that the next step Josh plans to take is an invitation to us all as he prepares for his own Bar Mitzvah!

Josh will be learning with Rabbi Creditor in preparation for his planned Bar Mitzvah in Israel as part of the CNS Israel Trip this July!  (Josh's email is below this introductory note.)

You are invited to join Josh and Rabbi Creditor in "My Big Fat Jewish Learning," a wide-ranging course that will explore many meaty topics (which, as Josh assured us, will not be mixed with milky topics).  The course curriculum and schedule are online on Josh site here: register with Rachel in the CNS office at  She will provide registration costs, and be helpful with any questions you might have.

The first meeting will be a public event on Jan. 16, 11 a.m. at Afikomen Judaica (which has kindly offered a discount on all the books in our syllabus), followed by six sessions atCNS.  Each class will be 90 minutes long.  

There are many other Adult Education opportunities at CNS, and I'd love to hear any ideas for future courses you might have!  Please email me at

Shabbat Shalom, and Channukah Sameach!

Rabbi Bochner, CNS Director of Life-Long Learning



Hi Friends:

One of the most unexpected turns of my life -- and career -- has been, in my 50s, becoming captivated by Jewish culture, history, and religion.  Ironically, the inspiration came from a lifelong Catholic, Andy Warhol: in 1980 he took a detour from Marilyn, Elvis, and Campbell's soup cans and did 10 portraits of famous 20th-century Jews -- and last year the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco commissioned me to create a solo piece that responded to those portraits.  The result was my latest show, Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?, with which I'll be touring next year.  (See the "
gigs" page of my website for the confirmed dates; Berkeleyites can catch it at the lovely Ashby Stage in February.)  But while that was the result, the process has continued: I have found myself in the thrilling position of being a lifelong casual Jew who has, somewhat belatedly, stumbled onto the gates of Jewish learning.  And as with Kafka's protagonist in his novel The Trial(originally titled Der Process, actually), I have encountered an intimidating guard at those gates: myself, with my complicated (and largely unexplored) relationship to my own Jewishness.

Fortunately, a great new friend has taken my hand and offered to lead me past that guard: Rabbi Menachem Creditor, of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley.  As I describe in the Warhol show, Rabbi Creditor has shared with me a vision of God -- as a creation of the collective human imagination -- that has finally permitted me to explore the rich intellectual and mystical traditions of "my people."  And ironically (or not), this exploration has brought me closer than ever to the power and beauty of the progressive political tradition that was my birthright -- as well as leading me to inspirational prophetic writings in other religions.  And everywhere I go, I keep encountering one of Warhol's 10 subjects (and the one with the most impressive beard), Martin Buber -- which is as it should be, since Buber, the author of I and Thou, was a philosopher who believed that God could be found only through encounters between human beings.

So when Rabbi Creditor recently suggested that he and I put together a tour of Israel next summer, with the goal of having authentic, Buberian encounters with a wide range of Israelis -- of various religious, cultural, and political stripes -- I was overjoyed.  I've never been to Israel -- when I was growing up, the "holy land" for my family was the Soviet Union -- and the thought of going there now, as I am focusing on Jewish stuff for the first time in my life (not counting my long-held love of knishes), makes great sense to me.  So we're going to do it -- from July 13-24, 2011!  And I'd like to invite you to join us!  There are a limited number of spots available for this tour (a bus can hold only so many), and several folks from Congregation Netivot Shalom have already signed up.  Rabbi Creditor has led many trips to Israel, and I have led none -- so on average we've led quite a few.  The rabbi knows quite a lot about Judaism, and I know just a little bit (so far) -- so together we represent a wide range of Jewish learning.  We will go to amazing places and encounter amazing people -- including one another -- in what I expect will be a peak experience of my life.  (You can see a provisional itinerary on my blog.)  I'm sure it will at least be pivotal, as I am planning to have my long-overdue bar mitzvah during our Israel trip; yes, my fellow travelers will actually see me become a man before their eyes!  (Hmm, that came out sounding kind of weird.)  So if you're interested in going on our Israel trip, please email Vicki at for more information.  (Use the code CREDITKORN for a special early-bird discount, if you order before Dec. 15.)

And if that's not enough Jewishness for you, from January through April of next year Rabbi Creditor and I will be co-teaching a short course in introductory Judaism, "My Big Fat Jewish Learning" -- beginning with a public event at Afikomen Judaica bookstore in Berkeley on Jan. 16 at 11 a.m.  Well, to be more accurate, the rabbi will be teaching the course -- and I will be engaging with the other students in dialogues relating to our shared reading (yes, like our Israel trip, the whole experience will be quite Buberian!).  The topics will be wide-ranging and mind-blowing, and I am almost certain that there will be very strong coffee available.  (See the class schedule, along with an early draft of the syllabus, on my blog.)  For more info on this short course (six 90-minute sessions, plus the Afikomen event), please email Rachel at  (The folks at Afikomen have kindly offered to give us a discount on all the books in the reading list.)

Please also feel free to email me directly for more details on either the trip or the course -- or to express your deep concerns about what's become of me.  In any case, I wish you and yours -- Jewish or otherwise (some of my very best family members are Gentiles!) -- a very happy Hanukkah, as well as a lovely holiday season, in these times that so greatly test our spiritual buoyancy.

Take care,

P.S.: Speaking of Jews and progressivism and spirituality, it has recently been my honor to write some quite silly humor columns for Tikkun magazine.  If you subscribe, you can see all of my articles (along with others of much more substance) online.

P.P.S.: On March 22 I will be engaging in an onstage conversation with Rabbi Creditor at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.  We will wrestle with all the deepest problems of humanity, and sketch out our plans to remake the "road pictures" of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, only reset in a series of shtetls and possibly without singing "White Christmas."

P.P.P.S.: My online store is having its annual holiday sale: you can get $10 off your order with the code JOSHOLIDAY.  By my calculations, this amounts to a savings of thousands of shekels!