January 20th
7pm - 10pm

Congregation Beth Am
26790 Arastradero Road | Los Altos


Donations gratefully accepted in white boxes or online at

Session One
7:40pm - 8:40pm

Beit Kehilla
A Muslim a Christian and a Jew: Their Sacred Texts Looking at Jerusalem/Al Quds
with Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, Maha Elgenaidi, and Pastor Danielle Parish

We often hear: ‘it’s in the bible, scripture says, or according to the Quran’, but we need to ask what we really know? What’s really written. Let’s look at this critical topic together using our source texts, not those limited to 140 (now 280) characters.

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusanis the Chief Program Officer and a Senior Educator at Lehrhaus Judaica.  In the 1970’s the Palo Alto Jewish community was tolerant and patient with his youthful enthusiasms.

Maha Elgenaidi is the founder and Executive Director of the Islamic Networks Group, focused on outreach and education about American Muslims -- engaging and teaching multicultural and religious groups throughout the Bay area and beyond. She has taught at universities, and received the Civil Rights Leadership Award from the CA Assoc. of Human Relations Organizations, and Citizen of the Year from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

Pastor Danielle Parish is one of the founding pastors at Spark Church in Palo Alto, CA. A sought after Bible teacher, Danielle leads study tours to Israel, focusing on the Second Temple Period. She also partners with Rabbi Ari Cartun on Jewish Christian dialogue through joint teachings and their podcast, “A Rabbi and A Pastor Walked In.” 

Room Bet
Partisans and Parallels
with Ilona Schechter and Michelle Taylor

We’ll be comparing the life of the Jewish Partisans in World War 2, along with Jewish experiences throughout history, when true grit was truly needed.  We’ll be discussing the Expulsion from Spain and the Conversos, the Crusades, Pogroms, early Zionists and more.

Ilona Schechter retired from a 25+ year career teaching Jewish Studies at the Gideon Hausner Day School and now keeps busy teaching at three area synagogue after school programs. She is a winner of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, and holds international museum affiliations in Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem.

Michelle Taylor is the Director of Congregational Learning at the Congregation Sinai Limmud La’ad.  Previously she served as Coordinator of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University, and has led religious school programs in Sarasota, FL, the Philadelphia area, and Baltimore.

Tu Bishvat- The Resilient Holiday: How a Minor Holiday Survives and Remains Relevant in Hebrew
with Tova Birnbaum

כמו כל חג בלוח השנה היהודי, גם ט"ו בשבט מספר את הסיפור שלנו כעם: מהו סוד ההישרדות של תאריך נידח ונשכח במשנה? כיצד המציא את עצמו מחדש בכל דור ביצירתיות מעוררת הערצה? ומה ניתן ללמוד מהפלא הזה על עצמינו כעם וכתרבות?

Tova Birnbaum is the Director of Jewish Content at the Oshman Family JCC. She is one of the founders of the BINA Secular Yeshiva in Tel Aviv, and recently served as the Director of the NA Region of the WZO

From Temple to Talmud: The Rabbis’ Revolution
with Rabbi Sarah Weissman and Rabbi Heath Watenmaker

After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish people and religion were left without their most powerful symbols and rituals. We’ll explore how the Sages responded to this crisis, and in effect, saved Judaism.

Rabbi Sarah Weissman is an associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Am, where she has served since 2008. In addition to her pulpit and pastoral roles, Rabbi Weissman oversees the adult education program and teaches a weekly Talmud class.

Rabbi Heath Watenmaker is an associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Am, where he has served since 2014. His work includes a focus on member engagement and as well as families with young children and teens.

Room Gimmel
Who is A Man?  (Me Ha'Ish, #Me Too)  
with Chaim Koritzinsky and Mo Fisch

Join us in a text-based discussion, as we wrestle with the positive and negative roles Jewish men can play in the current environment of sexual (and other) misconduct in relationships.  We will

probe the notion of what constitutes the Jewish ideals of masculinity and how these ideals intersects with the culture we live in.

To create a safe space for sharing, this session is for men only.  

Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky is the rabbi of Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto.  One of the highlights of his job is reflecting on what it means to be a man, and also a mensch, at the annual Etz Chayim Men’s Retreat. During Rabbinical School at Hebrew College in Boston, Chaim was one of the original trainers of male mikvah guides at the Mayyim Hayyim in Newton, Massachusetts.

Mo Fisch is a dynamic Jewish educator with a diverse background in fine art, music, Eastern religion, and Jewish spirituality with almost 20 years of experience in and out of the classroom.  He holds a MJEd from Hebrew College[MA.] and Pardes[Jerusalem], and has taught students of all ages in New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, Jerusalem and Miami. Mo is also a curriculum designer and pedagogic coach.  


Social Hall
Jewish and Islamic Wisdom on Character-Building: "More Similar Than You May Think"
with Rabbi Amy Eilberg and Ejaz Naqvi, MD

In a time of widespread xenophobia and attacks on many core values, there is much wisdom in our religious traditions to guide and sustain us.  Rabbi Amy Eilberg and Dr. Ejaz Naqvi, a Muslim interfaith activist and author, will reflect on Jewish and Islamic teachings on virtues such as courage, resilience, patience, hope and tolerance to help us respond to the challenges of living in these times.

Rabbi Amy Eilberg, adjunct faculty at the Pardes Center for Jewish Studies, works nationally on issues of Jewish civil discourse and locally as an interfaith activist.  Her book, From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace, was published in 2014.

Ejaz Naqvi, MD is chief of Chronic Pain Management and Director of Graduate Medical Education at Kaiser Permanente.  He is the author of  The Three Abrahamic Testaments and The Quran: With or Against the Bible?  He is on the board of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County.



Room 5/6
Building a Resilient Jewish Community on Campus
with Sarita Bronstein, Ben Blechman, Mitch Reitman, and Daniel Piaskowski

A panel discussion about challenges and adversity facing Jewish students on campus, and how Hillel and the wider Jewish community can engage in these issues to become a stronger community.

Sarita Bronstein is the Executive Director of Hillel of Silicon Valley. She has been active in the Peninsula Community for over 20 years, being one of the founders of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School Kehillah Jewish High School, Shalhevet, along with creating a SF Chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Ben Blechman is the Program & Engagement Associate at the Hillel of Silicon Valley. A recent college graduate, Ben recently served as a MASA Israel Teaching Fellow in Netanya.

Mitch Reitman is Assistant Director at the Hillel of Silicon Valley.  His career in the Jewish community spans over 30 years, serving at Jewish Community Federations, as Regional Director at the USCJ and USY and as Executive Director at several area synagogues.

Daniel Piaskowski is an Israel Fellow with the Hillel of Silicon Valley. He served in the IDF, interned at the Knesset, and worked at a new media/marketing agency.

Room 8
Books of Memory Across Three Generations
with Gennady Farber

During Perestroika (1986), three friends and survivors of WWII started publishing Books of Memory with the names of fallen Jewish soldiers. 100,000 names were identified and published in 11 volumes between 1995 and 2010. 100 of these books were found in the Bay area. Come learn how a Jew from the post war generation did the ‘right thing’ for this extraordinarily resilient generation.

Gennady Farber moved to the Bay area in 1992, working in tech and joining the boards of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews, JCRC and Jewish LearningWorks.  As the heir to these 100 books, he created a proper burial and monument in our local Jewish cemetery.

Room 9
Rabbi Yochanan and the Spreading of Resilience
with Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman

The Rabbis front-loaded the issues of suffering and resilience in the Talmud.  They placed crucial discussions in the first 10 pages of the Babylonian Talmud because of the centrality of the topic to Jewish life.  We will concentrate on the crucial role played by R. Yochanan in these segments.  

Yitzchok Feldman is the rabbi of Congregation Emek Beracha in Palo Alto.  He grew up in Evanston, IL, and attended Yale College.  He came to Palo Alto in 1995, after spending 10 years in Yeshiva in Yerushalayim.

Room 15
The Exodus From Egypt: How to Read a Resilient Myth
with Rabbi Jeremy Morrison

We’re in the midst of our annual reading of the Exodus from Egypt. Read often as history, the story of the Exodus is actually a myth: metaphors told as a story. We will explore the meaning of this myth within its ancient Near Eastern context, and how its metaphors ensured its resilience as the central myth of Judaism.

Rabbi Jeremy Morrison is the Executive Director of Lehrhaus Judaica. Before beginning his tenure at Lehrhaus, Jeremy served as Associate Rabbi of Temple Israel of Boston for 15 years.  While at Temple Israel, Jeremy founded The Riverway Project, a nationally recognized outreach and engagement initiative for adults in their 20s and 30s. Jeremy also has a PhD in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University

Room 16
Personal Resilience: Two Different Paths in Talmudic Aggadah
with Nechama Tamler and Tzippi Zach

Our session will look at two case studies from the lives of the two most famous women in the Talmud, Beruriah and Yalta. Each was a highly respected member of her community. When adversity strikes, the behavior of each woman differs greatly. We will read two stories, discuss their reactions—especially how both Beruriah and Yalta can be said to have taken matters into their own hands. When faced with extreme situations, what are the various options to how we respond?

Nechama Tamler currently facilitates study groups for adults on the Peninsula, at the Oshman Family JCC and in private homes with a curriculum she co-designed with Tzippi Zach, Israel Bonds: Traditional Texts Meet Israeli Pop Culture. She has been a faculty member at several Jewish institutions and educational events as well as a consultant to synagogue schools for Jewish Learning Works.  She held a variety of positions on the staff of the JCF of San Francisco and the BJE for over two decades.

Tzippi Zach, a native Israeli, develops innovative programs in Judaism and contemporary Israeli culture as well as ways to create and strengthen the connections between the Israeli and the Jewish communities in the Silicon Valley.  As part of the founding team of the Israeli Cultural Center (ICC) at the Oshman Family JCC, she was the program manager for adult programming, initiating programs like Tikkun Leil Shavuot, Gvanim leadership program, and more.


Room Aleph
Voices vs. Hands: Keys to Jewish Resilience in Turbulent Times
with Rabbi Sheldon Lewis and Dr. Bruce Feldstein

What sustains you? Living amidst uncertainty and danger is nothing new for Jews.  Through studying sacred texts and hearing personal stories, we will uncover keys to Jewish resilience in times of stress. Please join us.

Rabbi Sheldon Lewis is Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Kol Emeth which he served for 33 years. He is the author of Torah of Reconciliation and, for children on the same theme, Mini Adventures in Jerusalem. A sequel is to be published shortly.

Chaplain Bruce Feldstein MD is honored to teach with his longtime hevruta study partner, teacher and friend, Rabbi Sheldon Lewis.  Bruce brings 18 years experience as Jewish chaplain and educator at Stanford where he is founder and director of The Jewish Chaplaincy at Stanford Medicine and an Adjunct Clinical Professor at Stanford School of Medicine.

Even in the Sorrow, Radiance: Spiritual Resilience in the Poetry of Zelda
with Rabbi Janet Marder and Rabbi Sheldon Marder

Zelda Mishkovsky (1914-1984), one of the great poets of modern Israel, was unique -- an Orthodox Jew whose poetry was celebrated by the secular literary establishment.  We’ll explore a selection of poems: deeply personal, suffused with faith and doubt, expressing a powerfully resilient spirit that speaks to our time. Texts in Hebrew & English, no knowledge of Hebrew required.

Rabbi Janet Marder is in her 19th year as Sr. Rabbi of Congregation Beth Am, creating a community embodying the highest values of Torah. With Rabbi Sheldon Marder, she co-edited, wrote and translated: Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe (2015) and Mishkan HaLev: Prayers for S’lichot and the Month of Elul (2017), both published by the CCAR.

Rabbi Sheldon Marder is in his 19th year at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living.  His recent articles include “Doorways of Hope: Adapting to Alzheimer’s” and “What Happens When We Use Poetry in Our Prayer Books - and Why”, and “Translating Faith.”



Session Two
8:50pm - 9:50pm

Beit Kehillah
Resilience and Renewal: The Radical Mission of the Mishnah to Recreate the Jewish People
with Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan

Resilience = adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy and threats, and not complying with bullies and tyrants. The first words of Pirkei Avot and Berakhot (both found in the Mishnah) are crucial examples of resilience and renewal. This session will include chevruta study - bring a friend or make new connections.

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan is the Chief Program Officer and a Senior Educator at Lehrhaus Judaica. In the 1970’s the Palo Alto Jewish community was tolerant and patient with his youthful enthusiasms.

Room Bet
Healing the Political Divide through Mussar
with Greg Marcus and Barbara Gottesman

The current US political divisions constitute a spiritual crisis of the first order. In this highly interactive session, learn how to become part of the solution by practicing the Soul Trait of Kavod (honor).

Greg Marcus is the author of Spiritual Practice of Good Actions: Finding Balance Through the Soul Traits of Mussar and creator of American Mussar, a 21st Century Jewish spiritual practice.  He worked for 10 years in the biotech industry.

Barbara Gottesman is a communications trainer, author, executive and leadership coach, and former attorney. As a trained facilitator for The Mussar Institute, Barbara leads Mussar groups around the Bay Area.


Tu Bishvat- The Resilient Holiday: How a Minor Holiday Survives and Remains Relevant
with Tova Birnbaum and Rabbi Michael Schwartz

Like every holiday on the Jewish calendar, Tu Bishvat also tells our story as a People: What is the secret of survival for a forgotten date in the Mishnah? How did it reinvent itself in every generation with admirable creativity and spot-on relevance? What can we learn about ourselves as a People and as a culture?

Tova Birnbaum is the Director of Jewish Content at the Oshman Family JCC. She is one of the founders of the BINA Secular Yeshiva in Tel Aviv, and recently served as the Director of the NA Region of the WZO.

Rabbi Michael Schwartz is the Director of Education at Congregation Kol Emeth.  Prior to joining Kol Emeth, he served as rabbi and Jewish Studies teacher at Hebrew Academy in NC, and Education Director at Congregation Hod v’Hadar in Kfar Saba and the rabbi of the United Jewish Congregation in Hong Kong, and International Jewish Congregation in Brussels for the High Holidays.

Conference Room
Artificial Intelligence, Consciousness, and the Soul: A Study of the Ethical Boundaries of AI Research
with Rabbi David Booth and Scott Roy

We will explore the latest in AI research as well as pose a number of ethical questions.  We will discuss the boundaries of consciousness, pondering whether AI is really leading to awareness or instead, just to extremely fancy calculators. In particular, we will ask about what would be required to count an AI in a minyan, and what are the ethical responsibilities inherent in creating such an entity? Will it contribute to resilience or shrink our community?

Rabbi David Booth is the spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto. In addition to his responsibilities at Kol Emeth, Rabbi Booth has published several articles and op-ed pieces in local and national publications. He is passionate about learning and exploring the intricacies of Jewish practice.

Scott Roy is a senior AI researcher at Google. He is currently working on using deep learning to allow computers to understand and use language, and thinking about the ethical issues associated with creating machines that may ultimately be smarter than we are.

Room Gimmel
Rabbi Hillel's Gritty Sayings from Pirkey Avot
with Rabbi Ari Cartun

After many years of using heavily male-oriented "youth" versions of Pirkey Avot /"Ethics of the Fathers" in his Bar/t Mitzvah Family Class, Rabbi Cartun decided to create a better translation. It is called Parents' Talk. In addition to making the translation more gender friendly, this version does not try to interpret these pithy, gritty, maxims in the act of translation, rendering them less memorable. These shorter translations, like the newly translated title, leave more room for interpretation, exactly like the original.

We will discuss Hillel's two Aramaic sayings from Pirkey Avot, and you will meet a Hillel you may never have imagined. 

Rabbi Ari Cartun is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto. Prior to that, he was Executive Director of Stanford Hillel. He was Founder and President of Stanford’s Associated Ministries.



Room 5/6
Israel and Palestine on California Campuses
with Ari  Kelman

Everyone worries about college students, and people worry specifically about the political climate on campus, as it impacts Jewish students. Based on a study of Jewish students on California campuses, Professor Kelman will examine some of the issues and trends from the perspective of the students, and what they reveal about campus anti-Semitism, and political discourse.

Ari Y Kelman is the Jim Joseph Professor of Education and Jewish Studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He also serves as the interim director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. He's the author of a new book about Evangelical Christian worship music and an old book about Yiddish Radio, among other things.

Room 7
Quill, Pen and Keyboard: Writing for Resilience
with Rabbi Serena Eisenberg and Abra Greenspan

Join in the exploration of stories from the ancient past to the present, seeing how Jewish writers throughout time fostered resilience by voicing their struggles. There will be time allotted for a writing exercise to craft our own vignettes of resilience.

Rabbi Serena Eisenberg served as the Executive Director of Hillels at Stanford and Brown Universities.  She previously worked as a family welfare advocate in the Bronx, Oakland and W. Africa. She is currently writing a memoir about her father.

Abra Greenspan is the Director of Learning at Congregation Etz Chayim, and Projector Coordinator for the Lehrhaus Judaica Talmud & Philosophy Circles. She has been engaged in Jewish learning throughout the Bay area for over 30 years. 

Room 8
Lessons of Wisdom and Dignity
with Miron Balyansy in Russian

We’ll explore examples from the Torah of Jewish resilience, its source and purpose.  We’ll look at what these examples teach us about personal growth, and how to implement these teachings in our own lives.  How can we apply this wisdom to current events, within our lives and beyond?  

Miron Balyasny is a certified lecturer of the International Academy of Kabbalah, offering lie and streamed classes. Miron is also affiliated with the ‘B’nei Baruch’ center in Israel, and San Francisco American West Learning Center.

Room 9
Communal Resilience:  How the Talmud imagined a Jewish Neighborhood
with Charlotte Fonrobert

In this session, we will explore why the urban neighborhood is such an important physical space in the Talmud, and in other rabbinic texts, especially compared to how physical space is explored in the Torah.  We will discuss in which ways an actual neighborhood can contribute to a stronger sense of collective resilience.

Charlotte Fonrobert is a professor at Stanford University where she teaches Jewish Studies in the Religious Studies Department.  She is also the Director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies.  Her field of research is Talmud and Rabbinic Literature. She has written an award-winning book on the rabbinic and early discussions of Niddah, Menstrual Purity (2000), and edited the successful Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature (2007). She is a member of Congregation Kol Emeth.

Room 15
Joseph as a Portrait of Overcoming Adversity
with Rabbi Joey Felsen

Join our exploration of the Torah’s narrative of Joseph.  We’ll follow his destiny, from confrontation with his family through becoming the overseer of Egypt.

Rabbi Joey Felsen, Founder and Executive Director of the JSN. Rabbi Felsen teaches classes at the JCCs in Palo Alto and Los Gatos, as well as a host of other venues.  He is the founding Board President of Meira Academy and a recipient of the prestigious Grinspoon-Steinhardt National Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Room 16
A Woman of Valor, Who Can Find? Models and Methods of Female Resilience in the Bible
with Rabbi Lauren Ben-Shoshan and Rabbi Jessica Oleon Kirschner

From Esther to Eyshet Chayil, a multitude of heroines in the Bible persisted in the face of a variety of adversities. We will explore a sampling of these narratives and discuss what their choices teach us today.

Rabbi Lauren Ben-Shoshan is the first woman to graduate from the 2nd oldest institute of higher learning in the US and enter the rabbinate. She obtained her S’micha from HUC-JIR, along with an MA in Religious Education through a Mandel Fellowship.

Rabbi Jessica Oleon Kirschner was appointed the Executive Director of Hillel@Stanford in August 2017.  Prior to this appointment, she served as the CA director of leadership and congregations for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, after serving as an associate rabbi for Temple Sinai in Washington, DC.

Room Aleph
Resilience:  Judaism’s Secret Sauce, from Ancient Text to Contemporary Science
with David Waksberg and Rabbi Ilana Goldhaber-Gordon

Resilience has been a defining characteristic of Jews and THE Jews.  The Jewish people have endured expulsion, enslavement, even genocide, and have overcome each disaster to survive and even thrive.  Our history includes stories of individual resilience as well, from ancient to modern times.  We will explore how individual, collective, and spiritual resilience is embedded in Jewish thought through Jewish texts as well as contemporary scientific research about resilience.

David Waksberg has been CEO of Jewish Learning Works since 2007, having served as a software executive prior to joining the BJE. In a previous century, David was a leader in the movement to rescue Soviet Jews.