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Message from Rabbi Kramer

01/28/2020 09:15:56 AM


Dear Shomrei Torah Family,


With a mix of gratitude and blessing, I head out on a three-month Sabbatical on Thursday, January 30.  Being a rabbi is both incredibly...Read more...

Disagreeing with Dignity

09/24/2019 02:06:03 PM


Rabbi Stephanie Kramer

When his mother asked a child whether his Lego guys were the good guys or the bad guys, he responded, “We think we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys, but they think they’re the good guys and we’re the bad guys.” 

This insightful youngster can teach us so much about life. Domestic arguments, wars and political discourses can all be boiled down to this simple lesson: everyone thinks they are the good guys. I...Read more...

Hartman Graduation

08/01/2019 02:03:02 PM


Rabbi Stephanie Kramer

Dear Congregation Shomrei Torah,

I want to use this moment in time to express my deepest gratitude for your ongoing support in deepening and developing my rabbinic skills.

My time at...

Baseless Hatred

11/26/2018 12:00:00 AM


Rabbi Stephanie Kramer

The destructions of the first and second temples in Jerusalem are seen as two of the most devastating events in Jewish history. Rabbinic literature and tradition draw a direct line between sinat chinam, baseless hatred, and the destruction of these temples.

We read a story in the Talmud about two men with similar names, Kamsa and Bar Kamsa. A wealthy person in the town was throwing a party and sent his servant to invite his friend...Read more...

Insights from Israel

08/21/2018 12:00:00 AM


Rabbi Stephanie Kramer

After landing in Ben Gurion in June, my first four days were spent on an Encounter trip. Encounter is a nonpartisan educational organization cultivating more informed and constructive Jewish leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The program I was invited to participate in was for North American Jewish Leadership. Before the trip started, we had two webinars and read a lot about Encounter’s philosophy and background. It was...Read more...

Dear Micah and Noa --

07/19/2018 12:00:00 AM


Rabbi Stephanie Kramer

I can’t believe summer has come and the time for our big adventure is finally here. You’re so lucky that you get to experience Israel for the first time at four and eight. I hope you will behave on the flight from San Francisco to Tel Aviv. Please, watch, as many movies as you want, don’t kick the seat in front of you, try to sleep and be nice to daddy.

I am delighted to welcome you to Israel, a country that holds a piece...Read more...

The Glass is More than Half Full!

06/20/2018 11:27:44 AM


As I packed the trunk and buckled the kids in and set off for Camp Newman by the Bay, it dawned on me that this would be the longest drive I have ever taken to Camp Newman. Until this summer I have been the most blessed rabbi living only ten minutes from camp, my home away from home. I could spend all day at camp and still sleep in my own bed, and shower in my own shower (really what could be better?). Additionally, my favorite time of year...Read more...

Passover is Coming

02/21/2018 11:35:35 AM


Passover is steeped with many lessons, all of which are relevant in the 21st century. Most years, when thinking about the symbolism of the seder plate, I focus on the sweetness of the escape from slavery while eating charoset, the complicated tears while dipping parsley into salt water, the smearing of the lamb’s blood while lifting up the shank bone or the brokenness of the world while breaking the...Read more...

Hurricane Harvey

08/31/2017 12:20:39 PM


As the High Holy days approach, I turn inward. I take a personal accounting of my actions, words and thoughts. I also start to focus on the liturgy. I find that some of the metaphors and prayers offered throughout the days of awe are more easily digestible than others. Some years, the God who sits upon a throne weighing each person’s actions on a scale before inscribing him or her in the book of life or death is comforting, and other years,...Read more...

Sheet Cake

08/22/2017 12:22:16 PM


I have never liked cheap humor, slapstick comedy or potty humor. I love satires, which is not completely surprising, since I am a tad bit sarcastic. Satire is cerebral and pithy, carefully crafted to make you think. It contains elements of truth twisted with fantasy, and it is up to the viewer to interpret a deeper meaning. Good satire is multilayered, multidimensional, sickening and funny all at the same time.

Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live sheet cake skit about Charlottesville moved me for all of these reasons. The entire skit was giving voice to the majority of Americans who are frozen with shock. In our Sonoma County bubble, I cannot count the congregants who have told me, “I just don’t know what to do; I am so scared.”

Clearly, supporting a local Jewish or African-American owned bakery would not help at all. Clearly stuffing your face with cake or screaming into an American flag decorated sheet cake as you stab it with a grilled cheese sandwich is not a solution to anything. Just the opposite: stuff your face with sheet cake and end up with a sugar high and stomachache. Yet, how many people stress eat?

How many people really don’t know where to turn in the face of chaos that seems to be surrounding us?

At the same time, Tina also states many truthful, deeply troubling facts. We did steal America from the Native Americans! When the Native Americans protested, we did shoot rubber bullets at them, even though we allow white supremacists to protest.

The skit brought to light the powerlessness that many of us are feeling these days. Tina’s words were poignant, and that’s why every news outlet has had to respond! My favorite response was from Playboy… never thought I would say that!

Tina really pushes viewers to check their privilege, to ask deep questions about how they can be change agents rather than passive viewers. After all, only privileged people get to sit around in sweats eating cake.

Tina’s voice is inaudible during parts of the segment, even though we know that her words are carefully crafted… if they are inaudible, maybe they don’t count! Maybe screaming into a cake– a not so subtle metaphor for America– won’t solve any problems. Ironically, her voice in this nationally televised segment sparked such controversy, such fanfare and even a grassroots movement of sheet cake parties. I can’t count how many Shabbat tables delighted in sheet cake this past Friday night!

The sheet cake parties are one step in the right direction. Yes, they are fun, and, in moderation, the cakes taste good. But the sheet cake parties need another element. We need to gather around a sheet cake to listen, discuss and figure out productive and necessary actions!

Tina clearly discourages people from counter protesting this weekend (the same advice our Jewish agencies have given), yet she does it with brilliance by telling people to treat these rallies like “the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: don’t show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air.”

How can we give a voice to all those who feel silenced? How do we fight against white supremacy, racism and hate in a safe nonviolent way? There is no silver lining with the rise of anti-Semitism and racism in America. Now we need to look for adaptive methods for education, cross-cultural dialogue and eradicating hate from our hearts.

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive our hate; only love can do that.”

Trip to Hebron

07/06/2017 12:51:50 PM


Trusting my chaver, colleague and friend, I signed up for a trip with T’ruah, a U.S.-based organization of rabbis active in promoting human rights and Breaking the Silence, a group of former IDF soldiers dedicated to fighting the Israeli occupation, who collect and publish personal testimonies about their military service in locations like Hebron. The trip to Kiryat Arba and Hebron was intended to teach rabbis about the realities and...Read more...

Wed, May 12 2021 1 Sivan 5781