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December 19, 2011
Dear Community of Light,

Oh boy! Hanukkah is coming, what is better than that? When I was a child, Hanukkah was my favorite holiday.  Everyone home to light the candles, presents, latkes, and playing/gambling with the dreidel… what’s not to like? It’s a cheery holiday at the beginning of winter that brings warmth and fun.

Yet there is an irony here, because the story is not as lovely as the holiday that celebrates it. The rabbis had trouble with the holiday and downplayed the bloody war in favor of the miracle of the oil. It was not simply a war between the wicked Assyrians and the good Jews. It began between the Jews, between the citified Jews who were eager to become part of the graceful Greek culture, and the farmers in the countryside that favored traditional Judaism. The Hellenists and Pietists were fighting each other when the Assyrians came in and tried to put an end to the conflict by siding with the Hellenist Jews.

It was the heroic Maccabbees, we are told, that won the war for religious freedom, and we have them to thank for having latkes and Hanukkah today. It’s not that simple. The Maccabbees continued their zeal after the war and killed their fellow Jews that refused to be traditional. When they took power over Israel, they were as corrupt as foreign rulers.

This is more than history. It is the dilemma we face today. Abbie Hoffman said, “The test of a democracy is in the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives assimilated conformists.” No one wants to be a dissident, especially during the holidays. Just as our ancestors wanted to participate in the more exciting and universal Hellenistic culture, so it is that many of us are uncomfortable at this time of year. We feel different and left out. My grandchildren want to know why they can’t celebrate both; they’d like to celebrate with everyone. They want to be Jewish but not too Jewish.

Hanukkah has always been about how to live in two worlds and still keep one’s identity. How can we enjoy the richness of a multicultural society and not be absorbed into it? Despite the length of the holiday, it is called minor. For many Jews, however, it has become a time of celebrating one’s difference. If there are Christmas trees in public places, they want a menorah beside it so that they can claim their place with a small ancient people that believes in miracles: that they are here to celebrate is evidence enough!

The light of Hanukkah comes at a dark time of the year and its brightness increases night by night. In matters of joy, Hillel teaches, it should always increase. May the Hanukkah candles reflect the light burning within that keeps us from giving up and keeps courage alive. Although the candles may seem quite earthly, the sages teach that it is not ordinary light that can be seen but the light of the first day. On that day God said, “Let there be light.” On the fourth day God made the sun, moon, and stars, i.e. visible light. While the Hanukkah candles physically burn, their light is even brighter than can be seen. It is the light of the world to come, the radiance that will allow us to see God in everything. One day we’ll see that light everywhere, and in the meantime we have Hanukkah to remind us what we are waiting and longing for.

Hanukkah means “dedication” and the Maccabbees rededicated the Temple after the Assyrians left. We don’t have to be zealots to be Jewish, but it must mean more than ethnicity. Each year the holiday reminds us to rededicate ourselves to nurturing and valuing what Mordechai Kaplan called Jewish civilization in ourselves and our communities.

I look forward to spinning the dreidel with you Sunday, December 25 at 5 PM at our Hanukkah party, eating latkes, lighting candles, and singing songs. Wonderful Deborah Avren will host the festivities at her home. Directions to follow or email Remember to bring latkes, you favorite beverage, and of course your menorah and candles. We will light candles together that night and be awestruck by God’s light in the room.

This is the first year in many that we did not make and sell rugelach as fundraiser. Should you miss our rugelach and want to make it yourself, know that a donation to HaMakom at Hanukkah can get the recipe into your hands! And if you don’t bake, consider donating in gratitude for all the years you’ve had sweetness and light in your life. Click here to donate now.

I’ll be ten years old again and I hope you”l join me in the fun. Rumor has it we’ll have vodka and latkes, so it will be the best of child and adult worlds.

Tomorrow morning I’m on Mary Charlotte’s Radio Café at 8 AM making my best pitch for why it’s great to be Jewish at this time or any time of year!

Hanukkah Sameah!
Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
December 13, 2011

As Pat Carlton drove me to the airport on my way to see the grandchildren, we talked about HaMakom and how good it feels to know you’ve got a friend when you’re part of our community. May every member experience the support, help, and encouragement I’ve received, and then we’ll know why we’re in business.

We are reading the narrative of our Jewish family at this time of the year, and really, it’s not pretty. Cowardice, deception, betrayal… and we’re not even slogging through the wilderness in ‘Numbers’ yet.

To add to the mystery, we have the splendid cheery holiday of Hanukkah that celebrates a bloody military victory of questionable morality. We recognize that without the brutal zeal of the the Maccabees, we wouldn’t be eating latkes in a couple of weeks. Judaism would be mere memory. This is a hard lesson for those of us who wish that peace and love would be all we need. The narrative of our people intends to cultivate humility: life is not perfect and neither are we. The test is how we live with the imperfections we find all around us. The Maccabees were heroes who turned into thugs. The story of Hanukkah has its roots in a civil war between the Pietists and the Hellenists.

The holiday that celebrates the miracle of the oil has a bigger miracle: we didn’t give up when we had no chance of winning, and we remained a people.  We’re still here to celebrate the first victory for religious freedom. We didn’t give in to the powerful forces that encouraged assimilation and disappearance, nor did we all become fundamentalists. We still balance precariously our uniqueness and our evolving identity that reflects the world in which we live. Whether you light a giant menorah in the Plaza or in your homes, you’re part of the miracle.

Hope to see you throughout the Eight Days of Light, especially at our Hanukkah Party on December 25th at 5 PM!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
December 2, 2011

It is now just about a month since I’ve moved, and I’m the luckiest rabbi in the world. The help I received from the community was like nothing I’d ever dreamed of. Ya’el organized a caravan of volunteers to move everything but book boxes (so many!) and the furniture. I thank the caravan and those who came by later to help unpack books with me. I may forget a name or two, but I’ll try: Ellie and Margie, Myrna, Mannie, Pat, Alia, Joalie, Deborah, Chana… and I know there were more of you that made the transition joyful. The work was made light by your loving hands and hearts. Thank you. I hope that every member of HaMakom comes by some time for tea or a great espresso from my spiffy Italian machine.

A couple of weeks ago I watched Gabby Giffords on Diane Sawyer’s TV show. At the end of the interview, Sawyer asked her if she was angry at the assailant. She answered immediately: “no, it’s life!” Yes, it’s life, and it could have been you or me or anyone that was shot. Our lives: are they a right or a miracle? Gabby Giffords remains a remarkable spirit and now knows something of the Mystery.

At my final sageing retreat last month, we did an exercise around “entitlement.” What are we entitled to? What is blessing? What is miracle? Giffords’ answer was the most complete vision of selflessness I can imagine.

How do you mark a miracle? One way is to celebrate personal milestones. Member Ellie Edelstein became a Bat Mitzvah several years ago, but wondered what her Torah portion would have been had she come to the Torah at thirteen. Two weeks ago she chanted from Chaye Sarah, her actual portion. Her birthday followed a few days later!

Rabbi Leonard Helman surprised us with a visit that same Shabbat, and announced that his birthday was a couple of weeks away. He would come to HaMakom, read his portion and donate a dollar for every year of his miraculous life.

Three more people (younger) volunteered to learn their portions. What a win-win for everyone! If you’re reading this and thinking ‘I can’t do that’ rethink it right now. We have a dedicated evangelical group of teachers, including Hazzan Cindy, who can help you find your Torah portion, and then create a tape for you to memorize. An important part of my work is the transmission of our tradition, so this new level of your involvement delights me. Consider this an invitation to express gratitude for your life in an way that supports and inspires our community.

Please remember that we have a special mid-week opportunity to rejuvenate each other and experience connection to the Source. The HaMakom Hour of Power, our weekly Ma’ariv service, offers prayer, study, and conversation. We are currently studying Pirke Avot, a self-help manual teaching us all the subtlety and grace of a godly life. We’ll also be learning about Hanukkah in the coming weeks, making the holiday better understood and more meaningful. Please join us. We had a full minyan this week. We hope for the same next week, so others and I can continue to say Kaddish for our departed loved ones.

I went to services last Friday night in Tucson with my sister and together we said Kaddish on our mother’s yarzheit. The service was comforting, but there is no place like home. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Shabbat Shalom.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
September 27, 2011
Dear Cherished Community,

I am so looking forward to being with you tomorrow night, September 28, for the start of Rosh Hashanah at 7 PM.  I encourage you to arrive by 6:45 PM to experience the full beauty of our service, as we celebrate the world’s birthday.

For those of you with children, please bring them to hear the blowing of the shofar on Thursday morning. It’s not easy to take children out of school, but they are our future and they need to know how important it is for us to have them with us at this time of year. It is how they will come to appreciate a Jewish identity.

I also invite non-Jewish spouses, grandparents, and significant others to join us, so that we can bless, thank, and honor you for supporting your families and our community on Thursday morning, September 29. Services begin at 9:45 AM on Thursday and Friday mornings.

As I write this, the UN’s General Assembly will be discussing the Palestinian Authority’s request that the territories be granted the status of a nation-state in a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. (UDI) You are probably aware that the United States and Israel stated their opposition to this request, but may not be fully aware of some of the core issues. We’ll explore this critical matter together on Yom Kippur afternoon, between the morning service and Yizkor.
Some rabbis go on cruises at this time of year to lead High Holidays. I’d like to invite you to join our High Holiday cosmic journey as we sail into reflective and hopeful waters. Join us for all the HaMakom ports of call: Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat morning, Wednesday night’s Hour of Power, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, all the way to Simhat Torah; when we arrive at the dock as new people!

L’Shanah Tovah u’Metukah!
May the New Year drip goodness and sweetness upon you!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

September 20, 2011
Beloved Friends,

Join us  for The “Hour of Power” at 5:30 PM Wednesday evening. We meet on Wednesday evenings for a brief service and teaching.

To honor my father’s memory, we’ll be reading from Pirke Avot, “The Sayings of the Fathers.”  It happens to be the traditional time of year for this study before the High Holidays. Pirke Avot is part of the Mishnah; the primary commentary of the Talmud. It is an anthology of ethical, moral, and philosophical sayings such as, “Get yourself a teacher, find yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.”

Remember, we need ten people for a minyan in which to say Kaddish. If you haven’t said Kaddish for a parent, this could be your year to let the practice teach that while life ends, relationships don’t. I hope to see you Wednesday at 5:30.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
September 20, 2011
‘Drosh and Nosh’  with the Rabbi and Hazzan
Kabbalat Shabbat Friday, September 23 at 6 PM

Join us in a jubilant celebration on Friday September 23 at 6 PM, as we welcome Shabbat and prepare for Rosh Hashana at this very special ‘meet and greet’ Kabbalat Shabbat. Bring your questions for me and Hazzan Cindy about the holidays! We look forward to greeting old friends and meeting new ones. We will serve a vegetarian Shabbat dinner after a brief service, meaningful teaching, and joyful music. Please remember to invite your friends. They too may have questions we can answer! At St. Bede’s, 1601 St. Francis Drive/San Mateo.

Selichot Dessert Potluck, Service, and Debbie Friedman Film Screening
The very next evening, on Saturday September 24, at 8:00 PM we will gather at Deborah Avren’s lovely home to begin the High Holidays with Selichot, an evening of forgiveness. Please join us for a dessert potluck, havdalah, and the Selichot service, but as importantly, to see  ‘A Journey of Spirit’ a documentary film we will screen about Debbie Friedman (z’l), who died on January 9th  this past year. Films are often part of the ritual, and in years past, we’ve seen some that directly address forgiveness. This film offers a healing that I hope will open our hearts and minds to the rigorous self-examination and self-judgment that the season asks of us. Just as Debbie’s music has healing power, so does the story of her too-brief life.  Click here for directions to Deborah’s home. Remember to bring a dessert to share with 4-5 people.

Forgiving those who have hurt or harmed you, including yourself, is essential to the healing of the heart. Selichot asks God for forgiveness. If we want forgiveness, we have to offer it. As we are merciful, so is God merciful to us.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
September 16, 2011
Dear Friends,

On September 24, at 8:00 PM we will gather at Deborah Avren’s home to begin the High Holidays celebration with Selichot, an evening of forgiveness.
What does forgiveness have to do with welcoming the new year? Ours is a remarkable tradition that recognizes our need and ability to change.

I spoke about this recently on the Mary Charlotte radio program and have attached the podcast link here:

Forgiving those who have hurt or harmed you, including yourself, is essential to the healing of the heart. Selichot (the penitential prayers said from the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur) asks God for forgiveness. If we want forgiveness, we have to offer it. As we are merciful, so is God merciful to us.

The word for the process of self-examination, making amends, and asking forgiveness is called teshuvah. It means both return and answer. It carries circularity in its definition. And the word for forgiveness, mechila, is from the root, muchol, which means circle. We turn within ourselves to find answers; it’s our creative process. And when we enter the courageous and creative work of self-judgment, we too turn within for answers.

C.P. Snow described the process best when he wrote, “I like the man who takes the trouble to know himself, is appalled, and then forgives himself.” Our process is exactly right, with the addition of making direct amends to the one we have harmed.

To face ourselves, to face the one we’ve hurt, to say I’m sorry, is so hard! It reflects teamwork. First, the individual has to choose the path. Then we gather as a community to strengthen each other to walk it. Finally, we recognize that the lightness of heart that follows the deed is God’s gift. I don’t believe it is solipsistic to say that the reason we ask forgiveness is not only because it’s the right thing, but because it frees our hearts.

It is equally difficult to forgive those who have harmed us. Yet if we harbor resentment within us, it’s as if we’re keeping a thief in our hearts who steals our well-being, our joy, and our strength. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting; it simply means that I will no longer take responsibility for your behavior by being victim to it. I sever that relationship to you when I forgive you for what you have done to me. Offering forgiveness will bring a surprising grace. By doing teshuvah  and forgiving others, we demonstrate that we are in God’s image, the One who forgives and pardons abundantly.

We’ve seen the circularity of the penitential process in the words teshuvah and mechilah. There is a third understanding. When Samuel judged, he left his home in Ramah and traveled all around Israel. The word for his circuit is uteshuvato, “and he returned to it (Ramah).” One might think that each step he took from home took him farther away, yet the rabbis said no, each step was on his way home. So it is with us. No matter how far we travel, we are always on our return to God. The day after Yom Kippur may seem a step away from the power and lift of these days, yet it is also a step closer to next year’s powerful days.

Please join us for dessert, havdalah, and the Selichot brief service on Sept 24, but as importantly, to see  ‘A Journey of Spirit’ a film we will screen about Debbie Friedman (z’l), who died on January 9th  this past year. Films are often part of the ritual, and in years past, we’ve seen some that directly address forgiveness. This film offers a healing that I hope will open our hearts and minds to the rigorous self-examination and self-judgment that the season asks of us. Just as her music has been a healing power, so is the story of her too brief life.

Speaking of films, I don’t know if there are tickets to this Sunday’s showing of ‘Ahead of Time,’ a documentary about the journalist Ruth Gruber. It is brilliant, because Gruber, who is turning 100 at the end of the month, has lived an astonishing life. If you can see it, you will thank the film committee for this gift to our community. Please visit our website to find out more and to purchase tickets. Make it a full HaMakom weekend, and join us for Shabbat services tomorrow at 9:45 AM.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
August 20, 2011
Dear Ones,

Elul, the Fruit of Love
It’s been more than three weeks since we planted the apple tree in memory of my father, near our congregational sign. As I said the night of the planting, it is good to have a “bimkom kever,”a place to remember a loved one who is buried far away. Our beautiful remembrance has five different varieties of apples grafted to it.
Reb Zalman is sometimes called Johnny Appleseed because he has planted so many seeds that are flourishing and bearing fruit. He writes of a Delicious apple tree that had to be cut down. Someone takes one of its branches and grafts it to a Macintosh tree. I n the spring the tree is full of white blossoms. When they turn into fruit, the Delicious branch produces its own variety.

HaMakom is a tree with many grafts. We have never claimed ourselves in a specific movement as we have grown as a community in the last ten years, because we weren’t sure exactly what kind of apple we were. Now we know that we are a tree of many flavors, and what a divine taste when enjoyed together!

My father loved our unique community and recognized that its strength came from a love of tradition that met its people where they were.  The new Jewish communities may indeed be grafts of many branches that share a common root. Places like HaMakom may represent the next synagogue.

Elul, the month of love approaches, and then the High Holidays!
I look forward to seeing you very soon. When you come, be sure to visit the apple tree.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
August 7, 2011
Dear Friends,

Tisha b’Av commemorates the destruction of the Temple and is the saddest day in the world. Many tragedies, including the expulsion from Spain, occurred on Tisha b’Av, the Ninth of the month of Av. It is the culmination of three weeks of increased mourning, in which we don’t marry, cut hair, or go to parties. For the nine days preceding Tisha b’Av, we don’t drink wine or eat meat.

In contrast to the joyful fast on Yom Kippur when we wear white, this is a black fast and we are in mourning. Tomorrow, Monday, August 8 at 7 PM  in the St. Bede’s library, we will sit on the ground and read Lamentations by candlelight. The ark will be draped in black, and we will observe the holiday without the grace of our usual good cheer and smiles.

I invite you to bring some meaningful and heartfelt piece to read such as a favorite poem, letter, or song that is an elegy of lamentation or mourning. The 42nd and 49th psalms of lament are such examples.

Even if life is going smoothly for some of us, this is a collective experience to remember a shared past tragedy. It is not only for those who bear special burden and need a place and time to express lament. All you have to do is read the newspaper and have some measure of humanity to feel broken-hearted over the world.

You may find yourself resisting what I’m saying. Why intentionally bring yourself into sadness when every day you work hard to be positive? We guard our happiness like a crown jewel that is fragile and maybe unstable. We fear suffering so much that we deny its right to exist. Its fiery wind will melt the precious ice cube of happiness.

It is a day to share the anguish of this time in history, the anxiety of being a Jew in a world of renewed antisemitism, the despair of watching America change, and the heartbreaks of our personal lives. When we mourn the destruction of the Temple, it is grief over the diminution of the sacred, the destruction of beauty, and the failure of love to redeem the world.

In this season of loss, we allow what we usually resist: we admit that we are in pain. There are many ways in which we experience G!d, and this is one of them. We ask for consolation only on this day of searing honesty. It is tempting to turn away from long ago unhealed griefs personally and as a community. We “move on”, without deriving meaning and comfort from the experience. Only by making the vessel to hold these feelings can we move through sorrow with wholeness.

Many of us find it difficult to cry and to pray. The image of the tear-stained siddur is a mystery. Perhaps we don’t offer these human expressions because we don’t believe anyone is listening. Like the child on the playground who falls and, not seeing her mother, gets up with withheld tears, and keeps playing. Only when she can run into her mother’s embrace can she allow her feelings and let them be brushed away. When we join together, our unspent tears finally have a place where they will not be ignored.

On Tisha b’Av, we weep for the destruction of the human heart. Grief has trumped joy and the city is empty. We face devastation and doom one day a year unflinchingly. We know, we know, what human beings do to one another. Our desperation humbles us and we ask for help. We’ve made a mess, we admit it, we can’t do it alone. Help us, G!d, to listen to what You want. It’s not so much prayer and sacrifice than simple acts of loving-kindness that keep the world together.

Please join us tomorrow night. Bring your lament as a poem or song, hear the traditional kinot of the people, and gain strength and solace among all who mourn every act of violence and loss in this world.

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
July 26, 2011
Dear Friends,

Love, Loss, and Learning
Being a rabbi has shown me how turning points in one’s lives that are shared with community bring sanctity to everyone in the community. When we show up for one another at weddings, births, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and funerals, we create a village that demonstrates a compassionate universe. At such times we know that we are not alone. We belong to more than we realize.

Not only have I had the privilege and honor to accompany you through life’s passages, but you too have accompanied me through my own losses, most recently, my father. I have also felt you share my joy when my family has come to visit, and I’m immensely grateful for such a generous and empathic community.

We are in the Three Weeks of Caution that precede Tisha B’Av. More about both later. For now it is enough to say that in the kaleidoscope of human experience that the Jewish calendar reflects, we mark a time for the darkest, saddest, and most desperate of days. It commemorates the destruction of both Temples, i.e. the death of our spiritual life.  Tisha b’Av takes us into the heart of destruction, personally and collectively. It is a container that allows for the expression of grief, a place where we allow our tears to fall. Only when we admit the pain can we move from the dark night into joyful morning of the High Holidays that follow soon afterwards.

This is a teaching for the season and a prelude for a difficult announcement. After much reflection and consideration, my partner Gay and I have decided to separate. As my father and teacher-may his memory be blessing-would say: “It’s not so much what happens, but how we handle it that matters.” Our intention is to remain loving friends. In this fragile and unknown landscape, we would ask you to understand that at this point we need privacy and would prefer not to discuss our situation. We hope that you will respect our wishes.

I would also ask that you not hold back what you need from me at this time. Not only do I want to serve wholeheartedly, it will help me to heal. I’ve taken my vacation, I’m around, so be in touch.
Since I’m making requests, I have one more: I’d love to see you. Please show up at our weekly Shabbat service and weekly minyan on Wednesday night. I need you for more than Kaddish. I need to see G!d’s face, and you’re it.

Tomorrow night is especially important, because it is the secular yarzheit of our grandson, Owen Gerson, and we will be planting an apple tree in my father’s memory by our HaMakom sign, after the service. The reason for the choice of tree will be revealed at its planting.

Members Ava and David Salman of Santa Fe Greenhouses have graciously helped to make this happen.

For those who are inclined to worry, please don’t. I am learning that there is a good way to do everything. May it make me a better rabbi (and human being).

Peace and Blessings,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

July 13, 2011
Beloved Friends,

I’d like to say Kaddish as much as I can in the coming year. To do that in community is a blessing. The “Hour of Power” on Wednesday evenings at 5:30 has resumed so we can be together. Will you join me tonight?

To honor my father’s memory, we’ll be learning this year from Pirke Avot, “The Sayings of the Fathers.”  It happens to be the traditional time of year for this study before the High Holidays. Pirke Avot is part of the Mishnah; the primary commentary of the Talmud. It is an anthology of ethical, moral, and philosophical sayings such as, “Get yourself a teacher, find yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.”

We need ten people for a minyan in which to say Kaddish. If you haven’t said Kaddish for a parent, this could be your year to let the practice teach that while life ends, relationships don’t.

I hope to see you tonight at 5:30.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
May 19, 2011
Dear Ones,
Join Me for This Special Shabbaton!

While we savor the joy of the moment, it’s also good to look forward, and we have so much to look forward to during this special Shabbaton weekend, beginning with this Friday night’s Kabbalat Shabbat and community Oneg Potluck at 6 PM, when we host special guests Laurie and Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer. Please bring something kosher and vegetarian to share.

Many of you know my affection and respect for the Santa Barbara Jewish community, and Laurie and Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer’s visit feels like bringing two of my dear friends together. I know you’re going to like one another!

Laurie will speak about her body of work that expresses the numinous in synagogues and private collections all over the world. She will also talk about the reason for the visit: she has been chosen to create a new Torah cover for HaMakom.

After meeting our Board President Atma Wiseman at Debbie Friedman’s funeral, Laurie wanted a personal encounter with our unique community to get the direction for her work. She and Rabbi Arthur decided that they would take a little vacation to Santa Fe, and they’ve both generously offered to teach as well as to daven with us. I’ve heard many of Rabbi Arthur’s insightful interpretations of the Torah portion, and we’ll have the pleasure of his teaching Shabbat morning, which will be followed by a sumptuous Kiddush.

If this was not blessing enough, I will risk pride in describing our remarkable community’s spiritual growth. It is no secret that when HaMakom began, many didn’t know which way to open a prayer book let alone know what the funny letters said. Since most of us hadn’t come out of traditional homes and communities, basic Jewish values such as philanthropy were unknown. Now we’re a community with lay service leaders, a board that never forgets our business, which is to bring people close to G!d, and members who support HaMakom with love and a hope for the future.

Doris Francis came to me one day and said she wanted to give HaMakom something for its beauty, which is a Jewish principle called hiddur mitzvah. It means that beauty is a way to experience God. We need a new Torah cover and Doris liked the idea and Laurie’s work. She originally asked for this to be anonymous, but I forgot and announced the gift one Shabbat. I hope she won’t mind being a role model as well as benefactor, and being thanked by all of us for her kindness.

I’m not finished with good news. On Friday night we will welcome Ashton Jeffrey Woods into our cosmic and local community. He is the grandson of Sharon Woods, the son of Shane and Deb Woods, and the first cousin of Nolan Robert Woods, son of Robert and Christa Woods, whom we named several months ago. Sharon is hosting the dessert for the Oneg Shabbat following services.

Our brains are created to be glad for one another. Your good news cheers me up. Come and be cheered by the good of this moment in our community.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

April 26, 2011
Dear Ones,

As we enter the seventh day of the Omer counting and eight days of matzah, I’m still enjoying the memory of our Seder at Bishop’s Lodge, last Monday night. The day before, Ya’el, Vicky, and I went to the kitchen to kosher it for Pesach. The young chef, Chris McLean, had taken a corner of the kitchen and had cleaned it so thoroughly any germ would have died of starvation. He had been blasting an oven for four hours, and had cauldrons of boiling water. “It’s a privilege for us to have a Seder here,” he said. “We’ve never had one before.”

The room was beautiful, we had lots of help, and the food was delicious.  We had many guests.  We’ve never had a disappointing Seder; from the Santa Fe Women’s Club, St. Bede’s, Museum Café, Café Café, to Vanessie’s.

This was the best yet, and we’d be happy to have the Seder at Bishop’s Lodge forever!

What is the Counting of the Omer? We are born as a people on Passover and on Shavuot, we receive our instruction manual with the Ten Commandments. Pesah brings redemption and Shavuot revelation. To be able to receive this gift, we prepare for fifty days by counting each day from the second night of Passover until Shavuot.  We count each evening until we reach the fiftieth day. Each day takes us one step away from slavery into the holiness of freedom.  A slave is someone without options, unable to make decisions and with impaired discernment. If we don’t test our perceptions to build confidence in our own judgment, we stay trapped in insecurity and fear.

Counting the Omer reminds me to number my days, each day a chance to get rid of a bad habit or start a good one. A lot can be changed in fifty days. I’ll begin to wake up earlier, start a new project, or simply remember to number every day as a blessing. It is a time of seriousness, historically a period of semi-mourning that forbids haircuts, weddings, and concerts. We remember that a terrible plague occurred roughly two thousand years ago among the students of Israel because they didn’t respect one another.

So, with the buoyancy of spring, we soak in each lovely day as an opportunity to become a better person and for remembering the preciousness of our lives.

Hag Sameah!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

April 15, 2011
Dear Ones,

A Ziesen Pesach!
Dear Ones,

Even if you knew nothing about Passover, you’d know that it was a big deal by the four Sabbaths that that precede it. Each one helps us to prepare collectively to relive our birth as a people. This week takes us to the great Shabbat, Shabbat HaGadol, named because of the grandeur of Passover. Another reason is because it was one of the two times a year the rabbi gave a sermon, and the service lasted much longer than normal. Not to worry-we’ll pack the service full and it will still be over at 12:20. Bring every question you’ve ever had about Passover and we promise to answer. Just remember, though, that we are a tradition that values the question even more than the answer.

Learning, cleaning, and cooking take up a lot of the preparation for the holiday that comes in the first month of the Jewish calendar to rejoice in the season of love.  We hope that you join us on the first night of the holiday for our Seder. You will leave full from a delicious dinner at Bishop’s Lodge, carrying the sound of celebration in Cindy’s musical leadership, and awakened to the deep meaning of the holiday that journeys us all back to the moment we declared our freedom.

Below is my Pesach offering that I hope will add to the joy of the Seder:

On Passover four is the magic number: four cups of wine, four questions, four children, and God’s four promises to free us from slavery. Here are four views of the season:

1. Passover celebrates the season of our freedom. We watch tender shoots push toward air and sun, and we remember our own emergence from the darkness of slavery. Three times a day we mention that we were slaves in Egypt. Why remember such a time? First, there is nothing like our own pain to get our attention, and what we do with our experience makes us who we are. Shall we become embittered, defensive, and aggressive? Or shall we thank God every day that slavery is only memory for us? We were slaves so that we might become compassionate; God freed us to work to free others. Finally, how we begin is not as important as what we become.

2. Passover celebrates birth in the season of birth, spring. When the Israelites took the risk to leave Egypt and enter the unknowable depths of the sea, the Jewish people were born in the broken fetal waters of the Sea of Reeds. Children are central to the seder: we make the night different to awaken their curiosity, because every child’s birth is a celebration of hope and promise. Just as Baby Moses was the one chosen to lead the people to freedom, we pray that this generation of children be chosen to demonstrate justice and mercy.

We hide the larger piece of the broken middle matzah as the afikomen. A child is our hidden, future life. Our own children carry us with them on an unknown journey. The child represents the tenderness with which we were born, and the part of ourselves that we work to keep soft, even when frightened, angry, or confused. We remember Pharaoh’s hard heart and God’s response to our cries, and we use our freedom to choose who to imitate.

3. The temple isn’t the only place to experience God. Every home is a mikdash me’at, a little sanctuary. The Seder is traditionally at home, without a rabbi, Torah, or synagogue. Our homes become sacred space as we retell a 3500 year-old story and overlay our personal memories of past seders. Every year I hear my grandfather’s gentle voice telling me that I am to learn the four questions, and for the first time I really want to be at the seder, because they, the adults, need me. May we always feel that we are necessary in this life to do our part in perfecting the world.

4. On Passover Jews eat history. Food plays a key part in the story of liberation. Dry, tasteless bread reminds me of the food of the afflicted and it also reminds me that a simple life is best. We live so much of the time puffed up with pride in our possessions and accomplishments; for a week we take a rest from the hubris, the chametz, we build our identities upon. Those first Jews wandering in the wilderness owned nothing and all was provided. It was the best time in Jewish history for clarity, strength, and gratitude.

Being Jewish has a lot to do with telling stories, and on Passover we tell the most important story of all. Sometimes the Jews despair, sometimes Moses is ready to give up, and even God has trouble keeping the faith! Let’s reveal ourselves to each other and not let pride keep us from telling our truth. I’ll confess that the preparations for Passover throw me into near fanaticism of inadequacy because I’m never sure that I’ve done enough to clean the hametz from my house. If you share this worry, you’ll like the following story.

One year the rebbe took ill on the day he was to inspect the baking of Passover matzah. Since the matzah is called shmurah, guarded, matzah, he chose his most gifted disciple, Mendel, to oversee the baking.

As the rebbe described the various steps and what Mendel was to look for, he saw that the disciple was taking copious notes and asking questions of almost absurd detail. “Mendel,” he said, wearily. “Put down your pencil!” The young man jumped at the unusual sharpness in the rebbe’s voice. “This is all you need to do to be able to call the matzah shumurah. There is an old woman who works there. She will be wearing grey, because that is the only dress she owns. She is poor and sick, but she works all the time to provide for her family. See that she is paid promptly and fairly.”

This is the story that always brings me back from the brink of excessive zeal and allows my heart to soften towards myself and all of us who labor to make Passover different from all other days, including the hard working members of the HaMakom team that are organizing our community Seder. The rabbi is making charoses, the president is making the matzah balls, and all we need now is you!

A ziesen Pesach! Shabbat Shalom!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

April 13, 2011
Dear Ones,
I invite you to join me for the first night of Pesach at our Community Seder next Monday, April 18, 5:30 PM at the beautiful Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort. This is not merely a lovely meal, but an opportunity to share a remarkable and uplifting experience, as we celebrate this season of liberation.

Imagine us all at Sinai together!

You do need to remit your Seder reservation right now, as we are only 5 days away from the date.

Please know that we may be able to help with limited subsidies should you have financial concerns.

If you would like to carpool with someone else or offer a ride,  please call 505.992.1905 and leave your information.

See you next Monday!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
March 25, 2011
Dear Ones,

Here is an unabashed pitch for a performance art piece I saw Thursday that radically amazed me.

Gay and I were thinking of going to the movies, so I picked up the Pasa to see what was doing and before I got to the listings, I saw a double page spread with the headline, “Midlife Mitzvah.” This is not New York, so I was really surprised in non-Semitic Santa Fe. It was an interview with a guy named Josh Kornbluth doing a show called Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?

It was 6 PM, and showtime was at 7. I turned to the movies and nothing was playing I wanted to see. Funny how God shows up.

A confession. I dislike most comedy. But I’m a rabbi and the white space on my ordination diploma has always meant that anything Jewish going on is my bailiwick. OK, we’d go, sit on the aisle with the other seven people I expected would attend. Expectations were very low.

Unlike most Lensic performances, no one was outside and only a few inside, as I predicted. Maybe 20 percent of the theater was filled and they invited everyone to sit in the front. We had great seats but not on the aisle. Uh oh.

Within three minutes we knew that we were seeing something rare and beautiful: a performance piece that actually made me laugh. What I didn’t expect were my tears.

Like a Hasidic rebbe who might speak about seemingly disparate things and then brilliantly pull everything together in the last two minutes, we watched a man describe his Communist upbringing, Andy Warho”s “minyan” of ten “Jewish geniuses” as the artist called his ten portraits of 20th Century Jews, Martin Buber, and Kornbluth’s discovery of his Judaism.

Bob Martin, who introduced the performance, looked out at the small turnout, and asked us to tell our friends if we liked the show.

More than liked it, the audience gave him standing applause at the end. The theater is dark Friday night because it’s Shabbat, and it’s playing on Saturday night at 7 PM at the Lensic.

Please go see it and send this note to your email lists. These days we need Jewish fans, and if this performance doesn’t do it for you, I’ll give you your money back.

We spoke to Josh after the performance and invited him to our Shabbat service. Like me, his rabbi is a student of Reb Zalman’s, and it is he who brought Josh home to God and Judaism.

I hope to see you Shabbat and maybe you’ll meet Josh. Even if you don’t, go meet him Saturday night.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker
March 23, 2011
Baruch Dayan Ha-emet
In Loving Memory of Lynn Kraidin, z”l

It is with great sadness that The HaMakom Board and I announce the sudden passing of cherished member Lynn Kraidin. Lynn and her husband Marty were traveling abroad, when she fell ill and succumbed to malaria.

Lynn was a past Board member whose contribution will be greatly missed. Lynn was instrumental in creating the HaMakom Film Series and brought “Colors of the Holocaust” to Santa Fe. She was a lover of the opera and fine arts, and had a passion for gardening.

Lynn had a tremendous zest for life and sense of adventure, and volunteered weekly at “Kitchen Angels.” She is survived by her husband Marty, her adult children Julie Roitman and Stephen Levenson, and her beloved grandchildren.

Arrangements have not yet been made for funeral or memorial services.

We dedicate the HaMakom Film Series to Lynn’s vibrant memory.

Zich’rono l’vrachah. May her memory be a blessing, and may the family be comforted with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

March 9, 2011
Dear Ones,

Last Wednesday evening as I sat next to Cindy and davened the beginning of evening at the Ma’ariv chanting service, I watched a brilliant sunset and the descending darkness. As we sang the words, “limnot yameinu”, the verse that teaches us to treasure each day to get ourselves a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90), I was moved me to tears, perhaps because it represented such beauty and nature’s reminder of the constant change of our lives. I think of Yeats this morning in his poem, “Sailing to Byzantium”:

An aged man is but a paltry thing
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress.

While I don’t feel “tattered” quite yet, I recognize that the best way to hear the soul clap its hands and sing is to do it together and to sing it to each other. If you haven’t attended our Hour of Power mid-week, I invite you to receive this delicious gift of reminder that comes from such a gathering that witnesses the daily miracle of the coming of nightfall. The service began when we wanted an opportunity to say Kaddish more than once a week, the prayer for which we need ten, a minyan. Come and join us to make the minyan and to open our eyes to our lives deeply. I also offer a brief Mussar teaching after the service.

Speaking of aging/sageing and its relationship to prayer, I read something remarkable in the New York Times this Sunday. The Gallup Poll has called a thousand randomly selected Americans for the last three years to ask them about their emotional well-being, work satisfaction, eating habits, illnesses, stress levels and other measure of a well-lived life. Geography also was a factor. The statistical profile of the happiest person in America. Here is what they came up with: he is a tall Asian-American, observant Jew, is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year.

Alvin Wong is the winner. He is 5-foot-10, 69 years old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. He has a health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year. Who knew!  We can’t change our gender, height, or race, but we’ve got something going here that can make us happier the more we show up to celebrate our lives together. Hope to see more of you with big smiles soon. By the way, when Mr. Wong said, “My life philosophy is, if you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to be pretty terrible for you.” What people are funnier than Jews? Come on Wednesday for a radically amazing show of light and darkness and a good laugh.

This is good medicine in a time when the Middle East is reorganizing and the right is telling us to prepare for the worst and the left is waxing lyrical about democracy. I don’t mean to make light of what is a historic moment in the world, yet while we wait and see, I’ll be remembering G!d’s great lesson found in the happiest person in America: Pray and laugh!

Peace and Love,
Rabbi Malka Drucker

January 12, 2011
Dear Ones,

Sunday began with the death of our beloved teacher and friend, Debbie Friedman. The phone rang just after 8 AM in Boulder, as I was leaving to daven downstairs. It was Debbie’s sister, Cheryl, with the sad news that she had died five minutes earlier.

I entered the Bet Midrash and told Reb Marcia Prager, the Dean of Students. After the Amidah, the shaliah tzibor (prayer leader) tearfully told the community and led us in Debbie’s Mishberach for her family and the families grieving in Tucson.I could not daven-it’s not always possible–yet was deeply comforted by the tallit of prayers embracing me. When Reb Marcia led us in Debbie’s blessing for our teachers and students based on the Rabbi’s Kaddish, we made a tight circle and sang it over and over. I felt a dread for its ending.

Despite the heartbreak, I witnessed one of the great blessings of my life on Sunday, Yafa’s ordination. Like Moses, I placed two hands upon Yafa, along with her angelic smicha team. We stood amidst the other nine ordainees and their angels, and all at once I felt Reb Zalman’s eyes once again upon all of us in all directions.
Earlier, in speaking to the musmachim (ordainees), in response to Yafa’s request that he help them with the loss, he spoke of the descending angels on Jacob’s ladder. Debbie is now one who brings down heavenly presence to us to help us bear life.
Her songs alone will be our descending angels. All of us, the ten new leaders today, and all who know that Debbie’s life was committed to the Jewish transmission of love, are called more than ever, to push back against events that diminish and unbalance us. Even with the day’s sadness, and perhaps because of it, the joy and gratitude on everyone’s faces was transcendent. We were one in both grief and joy.

Holding balance between these feelings is the wisdom we seek at such times. I’m grateful that we will be getting together for just such guidance in the Sageing class. Because so many have had difficulties with Tuesday night, we are changing the day to next MONDAY JAN 17, 6:30 PM. This will be the first of five classes.

Please get Reb Zalman’s book “From Ageing to Sageing” and read a little before class. If you’re interested and haven’t emailed or called me,  please do so now: 988.1860 or . The class will be limited to fifteen and I hope to see you next Monday.

In frightening times, the balm comes from being in caring community. While we had gathered originally for Yafa’s smicha with the ALEPH community, I learned that being together in such times is the only balm.  Whether talking, praying, singing, or simply allowing silence between us, the weekend was a place of solace.

Now, more than ever, I look forward to being home in our community. With G!d’s protection, I’ll see you tonight at the Ma’ariv service, as a minion.

Peace and Love,

Rabbi Malka Drucker

January 12, 2011
Dear Beloved Community,

Yesterday I experienced one of the radically amazing moments in the life of a rabbi. Yafa Chase, whom I have known from her first tentative days in Santa Fe, invited Cindy and me to accompany her to the mikveh (ritual immersion) before her smicha (ordination) this Sunday afternoon. Reb Zalman had suggested mikveh to his ordainees.

Mikveh helps us to cross the river, as it is itself a joining of the four rivers that flowed from Eden. Water is a liminal agent that clarifies and purifies our path. As it touches every part of us like a lover, it calls for a letting go of what no longer serves, a letting in of what is, and a womb dream of the future.

Although we were at Ten Thousand Waves and not at the 79th Street mikveh, our intention for gathering immediately put us in sacred space and time. As Yafa immersed and Cindy sang a soft niggun, I sensed Reb Zalman. Forty years ago he saw that too many Jews weren’t feeling loved in Judaism, and without it, no one would want its continuity. He birthed a community that has encouraged infinite expressions of getting that love back, and HaMakom is one of them.

Yafa will be touched again at ordination. The ancient tradition has the teacher touch the student and to recite the formula that declares that the candidate is worthy to preach and teach in Israel. It isn’t enough to be called; we need the transmission to be hands on intimate, saying, “You’re ready, we need you.”

Some touches stay with you: a first kiss, a baby’s fingers in your hand. When I see Reb Zalman’s hands on Yafa’s head on Sunday, I will feel Rabbi Shohama Wiener’s hands on mine over twelve years ago. I imagine her feeling the gentle weight of her rabbi’s hands on her head, and all the way back to Moses and Joshua. Many came to my ordination, and it surprised me until I realized that my becoming a rabbi wasn’t just about me. It was about all of us who care about Judaism and the transmission of a good way to live. That’s why fifty of us from Santa Fe will be with Yafa. We’re grateful for her effort and desire.

I’m glad that Reb Zalman will be meeting our community and that this group will meet the one who has guided its teachers. I believe that we are living in an important time for our people, and the community that will be ordaining Yafa is the hope and future of Judaism.

We have watched Yafa in her decade long journey. She has had time to reflect and mature, and we as a community have rejoiced in watching her grow into her calling. Yafa is a mensch. That she has taken the trouble to become a rabbi causes this rabbi to rejoice. I can’t wait to see who she will become.

If you’re not among the lucky who will be in Boulder this weekend, you’ll be with us in spirit. When I put my hands into the circle of blessing for Yafa, your hands will be there, too. If you want to give Yafa a gift, please remember her wish for contributions to the Chase-Parry Baby Fund.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Malka Drucker