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Congregation Shomrei Torah

Farewell from Rabbi George

05/28/2024 11:10:15 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Being the Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Torah has been a dream come true. From the start of my rabbinical training, I was looking for a spiritual home. A place where I could share my love of Torah in the broadest sense of the word.  A place where we -- my family and I, along with the congregational family -- could grow, and grow up, together. A place where we could celebrate and mourn,...Read more...

My Final VIEW Article

02/23/2024 11:02:32 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

As I write this, a transition is underway: spring is coming!  For the Jewish world, this is a time of celebration and renewal. I hope you’ll join us for our “Classic Rock” Purim Schpiel this...Read more...

My Upcoming Retirement from Rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Torah

07/05/2023 09:22:08 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Today, I’m both sad and excited to share the news that in June 2024, I will be retiring as rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Torah.

Over 27 years have passed since Laura, Levi, Sophie, and I arrived in Santa Rosa in July of 1996. We love...Read more...

Reflections on Tu B'Shevat

01/31/2023 04:16:51 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Plants and Trees with Non-Invasive Roots: Our Top Picks | Ultimate BackyardJust after mid-winter, in January or early February, the Jewish calendar brings us Tu B’Shevat, the "New Year of the Trees." Judaism’s connection...Read more...

Shavuot, Revelation & Pride Month

06/28/2022 09:59:01 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about the ideas and thinkers that accompanied me on this walk.  If you’d like more information, click on the hyperlinks.

I recently returned from a couple days of fishing in Oregon. On the way home, I stopped...Read more...

A Moment Away From Being Free

04/07/2022 09:28:23 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

So, I’m walking in the Sonoma Regional Park. It’s the early evening and I am in deep thought over what to write for Passover, which is just a week away. I bet I look preoccupied, like when someone is talking to you while checking their...Read more...

The Eerie Echo of Purim in the War in Ukraine

03/14/2022 09:45:32 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

We celebrate Purim this Wednesday. Most folks think of Purim as a pediatric event with costumes, hamantaschen, fun music and revelry; a good time for all ages, especially the kids! Celebrating Purim is a lot of fun, but even a cursory look at the the biblical book of Esther, the basis for Purim, reveals that it is not really a kid’s tale. What you find instead is a story full of dread and...Read more...

Return from Sabbatical

04/05/2021 08:03:29 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

I returned from Sabbatical at the start of April and I’m gradually getting back into the familiar rhythm of life at Shomrei Torah. I’ve missed being with you, even virtually! Thank you for giving me the time to rest and recharge.

The pandemic kept me close to home, with many trips to the coast and days outdoors around Sonoma County. Being able to spend time reading, writing...Read more...

Personal Reflections on Race, Responsibility and the Jewish Community

06/15/2020 08:01:11 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Sometimes the Torah seems archaic and irrelevant. And then there are moments when the ancient text leaps across the 3,500-year divide as if the words were written for this very moment. That’s how I felt when I read this passage from last week’s portion:

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married: “He married a...Read more...

Religious Imagination

05/18/2020 09:10:24 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Being hopeful is perhaps our greatest spiritual challenge. That is why I love Norman Fischer’s latest book, The World Could Be Otherwise.


“The imagination is powerful…(and) essential for our humanness.” He writes.  “The Bible and other religious texts, folktales, myths, … poems, plays, novels, …music, ritual,...Read more...

The World Could Be Otherwise

03/11/2020 09:15:58 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Being hopeful is perhaps our greatest spiritual challenge. That is why I love Norman Fischer’s latest book, The World Could Be Otherwise.

“The imagination is powerful…(and) essential for our humanness.” He writes.  “The Bible and other religious texts, folktales, myths, … poems, plays, novels, …music, ritual, dreams – all imaginative productions rise up from the unconscious to expand...Read more...

Noah and the Kinkade Fire

12/09/2019 03:56:32 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

As the Kinkade fire ravaged northern Sonoma County, synagogues around the world were reading about Noah and “ha-mabul”, the great flood, the archetype of natural disasters.

According to the Torah God brought the flood to cleanse the earth of, “lawlessness” or...Read more...

A Guide to the Holy Days

09/10/2019 03:18:33 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

By definition, Reform Jewish Practice is hard to summarize.  Nevertheless, I thought it would be helpful to have an outline of the essentials.

The Month of Elul

We often think of the Holy Days as beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur.  In fact, the Yamim Noraim (The Days of Awe) officially begin a month before the start of Elul. I think of Elul as the month of...Read more...

Open Door, Open Heart

06/12/2019 03:19:39 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

The summer Torah readings are all b’midbar, in the wilderness, part of the story of our ancient ancestors’ mythic 40-year trek from Egypt to the Promised Land. Most of the story is laid out in the Book of Numbers (the Hebrew name is actually B’midbar). Some of Numbers is captivating, like the story of Bilam and his talking donkey, and other parts of the book are, well… pretty boring, like all the censuses: the lists of the...Read more...

Marley, Reggae and Passover

04/17/2019 03:24:35 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

With Passover just a few days away, I am thinking about Bob Marley. I fell in love with Bob Marley’s music before I fell in love with Judaism. I was a freshman in college at the University of Vermont, a long way from my home in Louisville, Kentucky and even farther from...Read more...

Freedom is an Inside Job

03/27/2019 03:31:11 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

With Passover around the corner, my mind naturally turns towards its many themes. This year I am especially interested in how we can relate Passover to our inner lives.

The story of the Exodus from Egypt that we retell at Pesach is rich with metaphor. Many years ago, my...Read more...

Companionship or Death

01/09/2019 03:35:27 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

As we approach Tu B’shvat, I am reminded of the story of Honi Hamagil, Honi the Circle-Maker and the carob tree.

Honi lived in Israel around the year 100 BCE. He was a shaman and a miracle-worker.  He’s called “the Circle-Maker” because in times of drought...Read more...

Hanukkah and Hypocracy

12/05/2018 01:06:28 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

“Hypocrisy of Hanukkah: It’s a holiday that commemorates an ancient battle against assimilation. And it’s the one holiday that most assimilated Jews celebrate.”

More interesting than the title is its point that the heroes in the story, “The Maccabees”, were more like the Taliban (my words) in their particular, tribal religious zealotry, and the villains, at least some of them, were more like us, assimilated Jews who were...Read more...

Another Day

11/19/2018 01:07:49 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

It was a day like any other with the usual raft of email, follow-up phone calls, community building and program planning, a bar mitzvah lesson and a meeting with synagogue staff and then an emergency.

“I’ll come now. It will take me about a half hour to get there. I’ll see you soon.”

The way is familiar. We’ve shared a lot of life together. At the door, I get confused for a second but see the mezuzah and ring the...Read more...

Silence and Healing

05/11/2018 01:09:04 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

’m writing this on the plane back from a seven-day silent retreat offered by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. It’s the first of three I will attend as part of a Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teachers program. The retreat was at Isabella Freedman, a rustic but beautiful Jewish camp, built around a small lake in New England’s Berkshire Mountains, 70 miles northeast of Hartford.

Modeled after Buddhist...

A Lesson in Hope

03/20/2018 01:12:08 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

When you think about all the challenges we face, it is easy to be cynical or just give up. Remaining hopeful in a world where so much seems out of our control and where we know so much is an essential spiritual challenge.

Thank God for Pesach because Pesach is a lesson in hope. It’s all in this story…

The Israelites seem doomed from the very beginning: a nation of slaves pitted against the super power...Read more...

Trees and Hope: A Tu bish'vat Reflection

01/23/2018 01:50:14 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

There is hope for a tree;
If it is cut down it will renew itself;
Its shoots will not cease.
— Job 14:7-9

The wind and the smell of smoke woke us. We stumbled out of bed and joined our neighbors in the cul-de-sac to stare at the raw, red glow lighting up the hills behind our houses. Forty miles per hour gusts of wind fanned the flames, like billows blowing into a cosmic furnace.

We grabbed family photos,...

What We Take With Us

11/08/2017 01:53:16 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Rabbi George’s talk, “What we take from our homes when we flee for our lives”, was delivered as part of the interfaith healing service at The Center for Spiritual Living a week after the fire:

The wind woke Laura up. She smelled smoke, walked out our front door into the court and saw the fire coming from Calistoga Road.

“George, you’ve got to get up….”

We live in Rincon Valley and the first two times we...Read more...

Mourning the Fire

10/27/2017 01:55:01 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Over the past week, I came to the realization that the dominant framework for what we are all experiencing after the fires is loss, grief and mourning, as if someone or something died.

When we lose a loved one, shock and bewilderment come first. Next, comes brain fog – “Why can’t I think straight!” –, an inability to concentrate and a sensation of being out of focus, or bogged down in the mud.  Then comes irritation...Read more...

After Charlottesville

08/16/2017 02:38:41 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

The conflagration of hate and bigotry in Virginia is appalling but not surprising; Trump’s cozy relationship with members of the alt-right (think Steve Bannon) and his inflammatory language has emboldened the haters and bullies in our country. Half-hearted in his condemnation of the perpetrators, the President ultimately defended the “very fine people” who marched alongside and in lockstep with the Nazis and the KKK.

As members...

Rabbi Michael Was Larger Than Life

08/14/2017 02:40:58 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

These remarks were originally delivered at a conference of Reform Rabbis (PAR) in Palm Springs, the year of his death in 2006.

Michael Robinson was bigger than life in many ways. He was a tall man, well over 6 feet. I’m 5’ 10” and when we hugged, my head rested on his chest. He was a good looking man in an angular, proud, southern sort of way. He had sharp features, a roman nose, big, bushy eyebrows and piercing blue eyes. He...Read more...

An Ode to the Jewish-American Experience in Honor of Independence Day

07/03/2017 02:12:43 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Jews have been a part of the American experience from the beginning.  We’ve shared in her trials and tribulations.  We arrived with the first settlers in New Amsterdam, and later we participated in the great migration west.  We’ve plowed her fields, fought in her wars, and in general, participated in almost every aspect of her short but great history.

We’ve been here from the beginning but for most, the...Read more...

Pesach and Hope

04/11/2017 02:15:38 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

When you think about all the challenges we face it is easy to be cynical or just give up. Politics, the Environment, the Middle East; the list of serious issues is overwhelming, making it a great spiritual challenge to stay hopeful in a world with so many seemingly intractable problems. Thank God for Pesach because Pesach is a lesson in hope.

Let’s look at the story:

The Israelite’s seem doomed from the...

The Arc of History Bends Toward Justice

12/14/2016 02:17:10 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

Now that the shock of the election has passed, we are in a state of limbo watching, wondering, worrying what President-elect Trump and his administration will be like. In the congregation emotions are running high; more than anything, people are afraid and their fears mirror where they feel vulnerable. A mom calls frightened for her daughter at college where sexual assault is already a serious problem; will Trump, a man that was caught on...Read more...

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

11/15/2016 02:18:28 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

The following remarks were delivered at the interfaith Thanksgiving service at Shomrei Torah on November 13.

What a challenging week it has been since the election on Tuesday. We have had two large gatherings here since the elections and the overwhelming feeling of the congregation has been one of mourning. The last time I remember such a collective sense of despair was 9-11. Just yesterday I was sitting with folks eating lunch after...Read more...

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784