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One People - Many Faces: Inclusivity & Diversity - FREE EVENT

  • Congregation Shomrei Torah 2600 Bennett Valley Road Santa Rosa, CA, 95404 United States (map)

Tikkun L'eyl Shavuot 5776 at Congregation Shomrei Torah - FREE EVENT!

Join us as we celebrate receiving the Torah atop Mt. Sinai. 

Our county-wide Tikkun Leyl Shavuot celebration will begin with a brief service featuring beautiful music with Cantor David and Rabbi George, followed by  a catered smorgasbord of delicious dairy delicacies. 

There will be multiple learning tracks: Text Study, Subcultures & Politics, Mind & Body, and Spiritual & Pastoral. 

Teachers include Rabbi George Gittleman, Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde,Rabbi Meredith Cahn, Rabbinic Pastor Judith Goleman, Reb Irwin Keller, Shoshana Hebshi, Sarah Levin, Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores, Sherry Knazen, Morty Wiggins, Adam Kinsey, Alice Pennes, Steve Schwartz, and Dr. Laurie Lippin. 




Text Study

Subcultures & Politics

Mind & Body                                

Spiritual & Pastoral




7:00 – 7:30                    Opening Ritual

7:45 – 8:45                     First Session

8:45 – 9:15                      Refreshments

9:15 – 10:10                     Second Session

10:15 – 11:10                     Third Session

 11:15 – 12:10                        Fourth Session


FIRST SESSION - 7:45PM                 


Intermarriage and Us

Teacher:  Rabbi George Gittleman

What Torah "says", what we do and what it all means to us and the greater Jewish world.  Join Rabbi George in a dialogue with tradition, each other and the reality of Jewish life in the 21st century.


Dominance and Marginalization in the Jewish Community: Dealing with our own internal diversity issues

Teacher:  Dr. Laurie B. Lippin

This workshop will define the concepts of majority/minority and identify who gets "othered" in our own community.  As a microcosm of the larger inclusivity issues, this will an opportunity for those present to personalize the topic and share their own experiences as well as identify ways to address inequities at home.  


Awaken and Renew: A yoga journey of breath and movement

Teacher: Shoshana Hebshi

Tap into your deepest self during this hour-long, flowing yoga class. We will breathe deeply, find gentle movement and expand into relaxation. No yoga experience required, but come with an open mind and heart ready to connect to yourself and the community.


Walking the Mourner's Path: How the Jewish Community Can Support and Embrace You in Your Time of Grief

      Teachers:  Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores and Sherry Knazan

When the ancient Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was a designated path for mourners to tread to be acknowledged and supported by the community.  How can mourners get this support today?  In this session, we'll address how we can often feel isolated and separate after a loss, as well as how traditional Jewish mourning rituals can assist those in grief to connect or reconnect with the community.  We'll also share information about the Grief and Growing weekend, co-sponsored by the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, Jewish Learning Works, and Sinai Memorial Chapel, a unique opportunity for grief support in the Jewish community.  There will be time for discussion and sharing.




The Elder as Other

Teacher: Rabbi Meredith Cahn

In this session, we will explore Jewish texts - from Torah to Talmud to Maimonides to Heschel as well as liturgy--and what they say about seniors and aging. Does the tradition honor seniors? If so, does Jewish life do so? If not, then what?  Does being a person of age equal being a sage or someone who is out of touch? What about older women? While diving into the texts of our tradition, we will also dive into the texts of our lives.  


JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North America) - Ways we can contribute

Teacher:  Sarah Levin

Explore how our experience can teach on assimilation, how our culture can enrich the mainstream Jewish community, how our "spiritual flexibility" can answer tough questions related to the NA denomination problems - How we have 2,500 years of continuous history in the MENA that can help create continuity between our Jewish communities in North American and Israel and the Arab world.


Art as Revelation - Uncovering Your Connection to Judaism Through Creating

      Teacher: Alice Pennes

                Using the wildly popular style of mindful doodling we will explore Hebrew letters and words as a design tool to create beautiful, meditative, repeating patterns. Think Judaic mandala! Using pen, paper and color we will investigate a deeper visual relationship with Hebrew words, the meaning they hold and possibly even look into the numerical value given to each Hebrew letter. With this practice we will take a close look at what words and values ring true in our hearts. Leading us to uncover a new layer of connection to Hebrew lettering and our own creative powers.   


 Ayin and Shunyata: Exploring Jewish and Buddhist Teachings on Emptiness

TeacherRabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde

Ayin and shunyata, generally translated as nothingness or emptiness, are core concepts in Kabbalah and Buddhism. In this session, we'll look at texts on emptiness from these two traditions. Where do the concepts overlap or differ? Is this a point of commonality and connection between Jewish and Buddhist spiritual traditions? We'll also engage in some guided meditative practice to make the meaning of ayin more experientially real.

      THIRD SESSION – 10:15PM

Readings in Tanya

      Teacher:  Morty Wiggins

Tanya, written by the Chasidic master Shneur Zalman of Liadi, forms the basis of Chabad philosophy. It is an inner work teaching that is suitable for the “householder” as a practice to bring spirituality into everyday life. We’ll read and discuss a section of the book and see how we can relate it to our everyday lives.


In Search of Tikkun Olam – It Takes More Than a Village: A Perspective Rooted Beyond the Shtetls of the Jewish Diaspora

      Teacher: Steve Schwartz

We’ll look at firsthand stories of collaborations across tribal, religious and ethnic lines from pre-WWII Eastern Europe to modern California and beyond. Then we will discuss opportunities to build bridges across lines that typically separate people through Tikkun Olam focused on: welcoming refugees, addressing food security and protecting civil rights.


Inclusive Meditation - Loving Kindness Practice as a way to embrace all beings and heal the world

Teacher:  Rabbi George Gittleman

This late night meditation will use a Buddhist form – Metta – in a Jewish context.  Sometimes called “Blessings Practice”, we will wish ourselves and others well.  Like ripples in a pond our awareness will radiate from ourselves to all beings everywhere.  No previous experience is necessary. Expect to spend a good part of our time together sitting in silence. We may chant in Hebrew a little as well.


Finding God - with the Help of Sufi Muslim Poetry and Jewish Spiritual Poetry

Teacher:  Reb Judith Goleman

How do we move toward an experience of God?  Life causes us to give up our childhood pictures - and then what?  We might sometimes feel "something" underneath our ordinary way of looking at things.  In this session we will look at several traditional methods of moving toward an experience of God - then we'll look at the Sufi Muslim poets and our own poets who are wildly in love with God in remarkably similar passionate ways.  We'll see whether their deep love of God, and our own late-night tiredness, can draw us closer to the mystics of our two traditions





Transgender in Talmudic Times

Teacher:  Reb Irwin Keller

While the existence of people who defy typical expectations of sex or gender seems to surprise many Americans, the North Carolina legislature not the least among them, Jewish tradition has recognized sex and gender variation all the way back into antiquity. At this session we will look at texts from Talmud and Midrash that seem to be talking about intersex people - i.e. people with sexually variant bodies - or perhaps individuals whose gender expression was atypical. And: what do Abraham and Sarah have to do with this?


“Funny You Don’t Look Jewish!” -  Life as a JOC (Jew Of Color)

Teacher: Leah Frost

Who’s a JOC? What’s a JOC? The Do’s and Don’ts when meeting a JOC. Leah will share her story and that of her family on what it’s like being JOC pioneers.


Companions on the Journey:  The awareness of our death as a universal human heritage      

Teacher:  Adam Kinsey

What binds us together as humans? We are the species that lives with the fact of death—our own and that of others.  While people, tribes, cultures, all respond differently to this, it’s a fact through which we all shape our days. To use the humbling reality of our own finitude, and our own grief, as a place to root ourselves, and then to reach out in compassion to those we consider to be Other, helps us to fulfill the mitzvah, “You shall love [the Stranger] as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I Adonai am your God."




Rabbi George D. Gittleman holds a B.A. in American History from the University of Vermont, a Masters in Hebrew Letters as well as Rabbinic Ordination from the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion. Rabbi Gittleman is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a graduate of the Rabbinic Leadership Program of the Institute of Jewish Spirituality.  Since 1996, Rabbi Gittleman has been the senior rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Torah, in Santa Rosa, CA. 

Dr. Laurie B. Lippin, PhD is a passionate presenter whose commitment to diversity inspires all who work with her.  She is a     founding director of Lippin & Associates and teaches at the University of California, Davis. Laurie is co-author (with Helfand) of the popular text: UnRaveling Whiteness (Kendall-Hunt, 2009). She has been involved in diversity work for most of her adult life, but only in the last 20 years did she begin to interrogate her own whiteness, and through that, her own Jewessness. The goal of her diversity commitment is to change “isms” into “wasms”. AND, when that happens, we will remove some existing barriers to a truly multicultural society.  

Shoshana Hebshi found yoga in 1999 when a friend invited her to a hatha class at an ashram in San Francisco. That class launched Shoshana on her yoga journey, which has allowed her to feel more open and connected to her body, her spirituality and the world around her. She has been teaching since 2010, hoping to bring that same inspiration that was ignited in her years ago to people of all ages and abilities. Shoshana's philosophy is that anyone can do yoga, and her classes are formatted to respond directly to students' needs. She lives, teaches and practices in Santa Rosa.

Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores, MFT, is a practicing psychotherapist and Certified Jewish Spiritual Director, who specializes in grief/loss, life transitions, and spiritual issues.  She formerly directed the bereavement program at Hospice by the Bay, where she created a bereavement youth program and family camp.  She is currently the Assistant Clinical Director for the Grief and Growing Program.  Her book, "This Whole Wide World is Just a Narrow Bridge," explores her experience working at hospice while navigating the death of her mother and birth of her daughter.   

Sherry Knazan, M. Ed. currently serves as the coordinator of the Exploring the World of Judaism program, an adult learning program through Jewish LearningWorks. She is also the director of family programming at the yearly Grief and Growing Camp and teaches a 6th grade Hebrew/Judaica class at Congregation Rofef Sholom.  Sherry is currently working on her doctorate in Jewish Studies. She was awarded the national Harold Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Education as well as the Bay Area Helen Diller Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.  

Rabbi Meredith Cahn has connections all over Sonoma County: She interned at Congregation Shomrei Torah; serves as director of the Community School for Jewish Learning (J School), a collaboration of B'nai Israel Jewish Center and Congregation Ner Shalom; provides spiritual care as a chaplain to the interfaith community of Kaiser Santa Rosa; leads a monthly Shabbat program at Spring Lake Village; and joyfully officiates weddings all over the Bay Area. No longer a spring chicken herself, she has lately been inspired by Rabbi Rachel Cowan to study and teach about Jewish approaches to aging with wisdom. She lives outside Petaluma with her husband, Sam Doctors, daughter Olya, 3 cats and a dog. 

Morty Wiggins has been studying Tanya for 15+ years. He has studied esoteric Judaism with Rabbi David Zeller, Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, Rabbi Zushi Cunin, and Rabbi Eliyahu Klein. Morty also completed the two year Jewish Meditation Program at Chochmat HaLev.

Sarah Levin, Executive Director of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, has conceptualized and developed a number of campaigns and projects for Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews to explore, share and preserve their heritage and identity. Sarah will discuss why and how our Jewish communities can and should integrate the culture and teachings of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East." 

Alice Pennes is an artist, Jewish educator, holistic creativity coach, a certified wellness coach and wellness program specialist. Alice received a master’s degree in Integrative Health from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in 2013. For over 15 years Alice has been teaching Jewish culture, text and helping students create Jewish identity through the visual arts in communities around California. 

Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde: A longtime meditator, Rabbi Josh draws from the Jewish mystical and contemplative traditions, as well as other spiritual traditions. He is the rabbi and co-founder of ZMANIM (, a nature-connected, spiritual Jewish community in West Sonoma County. A certified Torah Trek Guide, he is passionate about drawing on Jewish teachings to deepen and heal our connection to the natural world. He was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is also a member of Ohalah, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal. 

Steve Schwartz has done organizing with diverse communities in Thailand as a Peace Corps Volunteer, in Sacramento with Congregation B'nai Israel's Social Action Committee, and since 2013 as founder of the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative.  In 1998 he founded California FarmLink to help farmers secure land and financing. He has worked on agriculture and food policy advocacy since 1993 including as a legislative staffer. He lives on New Carpati Farm outside Sebastopol with his wife and two young daughters where he grows mushrooms for the farmers' market and raises 'Jewish sheep'. New Carpati is named after the Carpathian Mountains on the Czech/Hungarian border, where his father grew up. 

Reb Judith Goleman, MFT, RP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Sebastopol.  In 2011 she was also ordained as a Rabbinic Pastor (basically a chaplain) in the Jewish Renewal Movement. She belongs to Congregation Shomrei Torah and to Ner Shalom, and is an occasional service leader there. She performs life cycle rituals - weddings, funerals, baby namings - for people who don't belong to a synagogue or who otherwise feel distanced from Judaism. She herself, however, is wildly in love with Jewish spirituality.  Concepts such as:  that our basic nature is sparks of holiness, that we each have a unique part of healing the universe to do, other life affirming Kabbalistic concepts inspire her in her counseling practice. 

Reb Irwin Keller has served as Spiritual Leader of Congregation Ner Shalom since 2008. His sermons and essays, speaking to issues of Torah, Israel, God, community, disillusionment, hope, and finding inspiration on the fringe, can be found on his blog, Itzik's Well, which can be found at 

Leah Frost is the new Executive Director of Congregation Beth Ami. Leah and her family have lived in many Jewish communities across the U.S. (particularly in Northern California), thus realizing the term, Wandering Jew. As pioneers to the phrase, Jews of color, experiences within the Jewish community have not always been pleasant; and at times extremely hurtful. As a result, Leah has made it her personal goal to increase Community engagement; either by volunteering or working in the Jewish community and the community at large in the hopes of bringing Tikkun Olam to the world. Leah holds a Baccalaureate in Biology from Sonoma State University and an Associates in Psychology from Mendocino College.

Adam Kinsey studies interfaith spiritual care at California Pacific Medical Center’s Institute for Health & Healing Clinical Pastoral Education program, and is a long-time volunteer with Hospice of Petaluma. He also is training as a guide with Rites of Passage. Adam is a northern California native, grew up in a spiritually curious, nonreligious home and became a bar mitzvah at Congregation Shomrei Torah when he was 45. A writer and beekeeper, he lives in Petaluma with his wife, Rachel Kaplan, and their daughter, Esmé, on a small suburban homestead. He can be reached at (415) 794-2695 or and his writing about death, chaplaincy and the passage of time can be seen at




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