CCAR Shacharit – Embracing the Perfect and Broken

There is something exciting and totally terrifying about leading worship at the CCAR. First, it’s a huge honor to be invited. Then there are the thoughts of, ‘who am I to lead all these rabbis in worship?!?!’ But the moment it begins, the moment we all start to sing, it all comes together and I breathe!

I was thrilled to include my Cantor and clergy partner, David Reinwald in the morning service. It was awesome for us to share what he and I create and do together on a weekly basis. We have a rhythm in how we pray together and we wanted to share that with this sacred community of rabbis.

We were surprised to see the listing of our shacharit as the Energetic Shacharit. Wow! Someone knows me! We weren’t exactly planning any kind of movement, but the group seemed open to a few laps around the hotel, burpies and sun salutations! However, without our running shoes, the energy was found within each person in the room and it filled every space inside and outside the room.

As the service progressed, voices caught their breath, warmed and elevated. There is nothing like 50 voices rising up in prayer and harmonizing with one another. Our bodies warmed and we swayed with each note and word. When do we as rabbis find the time to be in prayer without being worried if we have everyone on the right page? Shacharit this morning became a gift to ourselves as each individual claimed this prize.

Within this energy of prayer I allowed myself to be vulnerable and share in my own journey of personal growth. Each of us are a work in progress; as Dan Nichols writes, “I’m perfect the way I am and a little broken too.” I love who I am but I know that there is always work to be done. I’ve been finding the courage to acknowledge my brokenness and own the work it takes to grow. And it is in this sacred space and within this sacred community that I know I can do this because I look around and see how we are all perfect the way we are and a little broken too.

This day has been all about health; body, mind and spirit. To open this day in prayer, to raise up our voices and give thanks for the gifts we have and reach for strength to be and do better, this was shacharit at CCAR. What a gift and I thank you all for sharing it with me. I hope you found your breath, your voice, and your courage to see how you are perfect and embrace the brokenness to always be a work in progress.

Now go and breathe!

A Swirl of Emotions

Do not mistake my silence yesterday for indifference. I am as angered, confused, sad, dismayed, and scared as so many others. But yesterday was a Shabbat of so many emotions and not one where I was in a place to put into words what I was feeling about Charlottesville, VA. Shabbat, from right before we lit candles to the end was filled with joyous moment with our congregation as we had a Friday evening like none other, filled with “Wow!” (I’ll have to fill you in with that later); one of blessing a couple celebrating 44 years of marriage; one of studying Torah with an amazing group of learners and teachers; one of celebrating a young man being called to Torah as a Bar Mitzvah; one of celebrating a 70th birthday, (which our Rabbis teach, is the age signifying a full life); and one of comforting the bereaved of two families who lost a loved one as Shabbat was ushered in and a second whose loved one died as the sun began to rise on Shabbat morning. It was a Shabbat of many moments.

During the few moments I had to see the news: the car plowing into a crowd with no regard for life; the crowd carrying torches that evoked memories of 70+ years ago; the reporting of a group of worshippers and clergy whose gathering was to pray for peace but were met with those who came with brass knuckles and the intent to harm; to empty words by the one who is supposed to lead our country but can’t seem to commit to strong enough condemning words and for not wanting to insult some of those who put him in to office, the emotions continued to swirl.

Elie Wiesel taught us and we continue to repeat, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” But it’s easy to write and express our thoughts on Facebook, blogs, Twitter and any other social media. And it’s a good start because we cannot be silent and we need to make sure our voices are louder than those who spew hate, masking it as, ‘I’m promoting my race and my culture.’ I want to say, Wake Up! to these people and remind them that there is no place in our country or our world for only one color, one race; one religion, one belief! I want to tell them, look closer at yourselves and you will see, your DNA is mixed with many colors, with many races, there is no “Pure Race” and if you think there should be, that’s going to create a host of other issues in the DNA stream.

So here is where I am, where like so many of us are (well some of you might still be asleep this early morning), I am sitting at my computer writing and sharing my thoughts. I am a swirl of emotions as are many of you. And I am asking the same question many are, what can we do?

First, continue to write, continue to speak; but take the words beyond your own friends or community on social media. Write letters of support to the communities who are directly affected right now. Continue to speak out to Senators, Representatives, all elected officials and remind them that just because the one who sits in the big chair thinks he’s the be all and end all, that they need to take the example of those like Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe, and not be afraid to call out a growing group of people who think it’s ok to spew words of hate and racism. Teach our children that just because the one who sits in the big chair thinks its ok to spew hate and incite violence, including provoking our country’s police force to rough up those whom they take into custody, remind our children, this is NOT OK! This is not how we treat others. It is NOT ok! 

My emotions are swirling with disbelief that this is 2017 and not 1937! This is not something that is going to just go away if we wait it out, it’s only starting to grow. But maybe we can start something else growing instead. If together we speak out, take action, and teach, maybe, just maybe we can snuff out the torches of hate. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere. 

Where are you going to start?

Another Vision of Purim

Today was an amazing Purim on so many levels. From the amazing spiel our youth performed this morning, to the hundreds who came out for a carnival, to the kind act of a neighbor who ensured that no cars were ticketed, it was an incredible day, but it didn’t stop there.

I left our synagogue and went to the Islamic Center of Central Orange County and was honored to participate on a panel of fellow clergy, state and local representatives, and other officials to stand in solidarity with one another as we remember that every person should be treated with respect.

I shared with the group of over 100 people, many who are Muslim and those of other faiths, that today, Purim, is very much the right time for us to stand in solidarity with one another. I shared a bit of the Purim story and how one woman, Esther, was able to defeat one who wanted to destroy the Jewish people. However, Esther did not do this alone. She turned to her people, the Jews, and asked each of them to send her strength that she would go and speak on behalf of each of them in order to defeat such evil. I then reminded everyone in the Mosque today that each of us have a voice. That each of us have the ability to speak up when there is injustice. That each of us are able to pursue peace. Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof, justice, justice, shall you pursue. That is what we are all commanded to do. Each voice is powerful on its own, but when we come together we are even stronger.

And then I was interviewed by a middle east television station who while they could not say I am Jewish, they asked that I mention this. The question was, why at this event did I feel they chose to pass out a copy of the United States Constitution. I told them, the Constitution represents who each of us are. We are all a part of this great nation called the United States of America, and as such, each of us, no matter our religion or gender, all are afforded the rights set out by our Constitution. Each of us, each person in this great country of ours, is deserving of equality and respect.

So today, Purim, held more meaning because of one woman whose voice rose up to defeat hate and reminds each of us that we have a voice and that each of us can and should work to create peace in our time and forever.

Reflections on November 9, 2016 – after the election

President Obama made a prediction, that the sun would come up today no matter the outcome of the election. And it has. It may not be the morning (or the night into the morning) that we expected or hoped for, but yes, the sun came up this morning. And we must uphold and preserve what our Founding Fathers established for our country: A smooth transition of power. And each of us, no matter how we cast our ballot yesterday, should be proud to be Americans and only hope for the best for our country and all people. 

While Secretary Hillary Clinton may not have shattered the glass ceiling, she certainly put a number of major cracks in it, and for this we should be very proud. That ceiling will be broken, I have no doubt. As women, we can be proud of how far we have come and we are grateful to the men who have supported our cause. I just pray that some day we will not have to keep referencing how far women have come but rather to say that all leaders who create change should be praised, regardless of gender.

Today I reminded my daughter and my son that while there is a cloud of disappointment – how could there not be after working so hard over these many months – they are both capable of creating change and working to ensure success for themselves and for the world. They are both young adults who will take on the mantle of leadership in our world soon enough and need to be champions for justice and compassion for all. We must all work together to ensure we leave this world a little better than it was when we first arrived. 

Yesterday, I studied with adults and 7th graders the following from the Rashbam on Exodus 23:2: “(2) לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעות, if, in your opinion, the majority are about to commit an error in judgment, do not remain silent because they are the majority, but state your view. This applies even if you know beforehand that they will not accept your viewpoint but that of the majority.”

We must all remember, even when there is a majority opinion, if we truly believe something is not right, then it is our imperative to not remain silent. 

The election may not have gone the way we hoped or expected, but we must strive to work together and build the bridges that have been torn apart from both sides. Let us always speak out for what is right in order that we may stand proudly in front of the world and say, “We are Americans and we are grateful for the freedom we have earned as a country and no one can ever take that away from us.” 

The sun has come up once again and it will continue to come up every day, the question that remains is, what will we do with each day?

Remaining Silent No More

This is what I shared on Facebook. Grateful for all the comments, likes, and shares. (And yes, even the comments that challenge this post because that’s what we do, we enter into dialogue. Agree or not agree, respect is the most important)

I have remained virtually silent about the election because I didn’t want to offend anyone. But all that keeps going through my head is the poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller, “First they came for…” I can’t remain silent anymore when I come out of Shabbat services and am overwhelmed by the news once again of Donald Trump’s misogynistic comments. I cannot remain silent and have my children think their mother does not care.

To Dahvi, you are strong, powerful and can do and become whatever you desire. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you are property or something to be flaunted.

To Yoni, you will soon stand on the bima as a Bar Mitzvah declaring your status as a young adult. Remember to always speak out for justice for all people and never let anyone degrade you or anyone else you love or anyone for that matter.

I cannot remain silent, yet I know I cannot say this from the pulpit, but we cannot allow Donald Trump to become our next President! You may not agree with Hillary Clinton, and no one is perfect, but we have a duty to ensure that our country is strong and not ruled by someone who thinks he can treat women however he wants and do whatever he wants to them because he has money and is a celebrity. And please, on November 8, don’t say there is no candidate to vote for and decide to stay home. Because if you do, then Trump could very well become the next President.

Vote! Do not remain silent but also, don’t let such a hate filled, bigoted, misogynistic, self-centered individual turn our country into his country club where he feels that just because of who he is he can do whatever he wants. No, Donald Trump will not make our country great again. So I’m going to say it, I’m with her! I’m with Hillary because I can’t remain silent any longer. You can unfriend me if you like, but for my children, for my family, for my friends, for our country, it’s time for me to not remain silent because who knows who will be left to speak for me?

Starting Elul with a Half Marathon!

DLHM366x306A good friend of mine has been challenging me to run the Disneyland Half Marathon with her. Her argument, “Heidi, you love Disneyland so much, you have to experience Disneyland this way too!”

Now, let’s get something straight, I’ve never been a runner and actually, my mom and I used to proclaim, “we will start running when we see someone running and smiling at the same time.”

Half MarathonYes, I’ve had my moments where I take up running for a short time, usually around the High Holy Days just to alleviate some of the stress. But even then I am only a short-term runner. When my friend suggested we do the Disneyland Half Marathon, I was able to find every excuse possible to not be able to register. But this year was different. There was nothing on the calendar and the date seemed too fortuitous. This year, the Disneyland Half Marathon is on September 4. What’s the coincidence? This happens to be Rosh Chodesh Elul. I realize this was fate telling me that this would be my year to get out there and run the race.

Elul is the month during which we prepare ourselves to enter the new year. We spend the month reflecting on the past and contemplating our future. I decided that my Elul would start a number of months earlier with preparing for this race. The culmination occurring on the first of the month seems like the ultimate way to enter the High Holy Days season.

Just as I spend months preparing my body for this long race, each of us prepare ourselves for these long moments of introspection. But this race is not only about preparing my body but also training my mind to know that I can complete 13.1 miles! I guess what they say is true: when you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!

So as this post is published on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Matt and I will be getting ready to hit the course and push our bodies and minds further than we ever thought we could. I look forward to crossing the finish line not only with a sense of accomplishment and a really cool medal but also with a smile!

(You can follow me on race day by texting: dlhm to 38909. My bib number is 6009. The race begins at 5:30 but we are sent off in waves.)

Commencement Address at Saddleback College

It was an honor to be a part of the Commencement Ceremony for Saddleback College 2016! You can watch my address to the graduates and faculty below. Sorry we can’t cut in only my speech. You’ll have to scroll to 43:00 minutes in. And yes, Saddleback spelled Temple Beth Sholom with an “A” – darn spell check!

Again, it was an honor to be a part of this special day!

(Scroll to  43:00 minutes in)

[update: event archive was deleted – boo hoo!]


Originally found at

Cypress College Yom HaShoah

screen cypressThe candle, the silent flame that illuminates the darkness. So gentle, so fragile, but also so powerful.

Tonight, we remember the six million Jews, one and half million of whom were children, eleven million people in total, whose lives were so quickly extinguished for no other reason but power and hate. Tonight is Yom HaShoah. How many of us know what those words really mean? We call it Holocaust Memorial Day, but the Shoah means catastrophe, destruction. And it was just that, an attempt to destroy the Jewish people, to burn them out of collective memory and future.

Heidi CypressThe flame, so powerful a tool. It was used to burn books, to destroy buildings, to burn bodies in the crematoria, the smoke rising up to the heavens as a burnt offering. But this was not an offering God sought. God wept as God’s people were destroyed – any person, any religion, anyone whose life was so violently destroyed, this was and is a Shoah, a catastrophe beyond words and understanding.

Yet, here we are today, 71 years after the war came to an end. Here we are standing together to hold on to the sacred obligation, Never to Forget and Never Again. Words that come easily to our lips, yet there is still need for action in our world because the flame of hate still exists. Each of us here tonight, we have the power and the ability to make sure the world never forgets and to bring a reality to never again. If we didn’t believe it, then why would we even come together?

Some may be here out of curiosity: I’ve never experienced a Yom HaShoah program, I wonder what it will be like? Some come out of habit: Every year I seek out a Yom HaShoah program to hear the memories as I have done year after year. Some come out of obligation: I have to listen, I have to remember, for if I don’t who will?

Rabbi Hillel taught, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

Yom HaShoah is an opportunity to hold on to our history and remember the destruction, those who were murdered, and face a part of our history that is ugly and painful. If we don’t participate in this time of memorial, then who will? Who will remember and carry it on to the next generation? It is up to us to listen to the words of the survivors and carry forth their stories. It will not be too long into the near future when these witness’s voices will be silent. But we don’t do this only for ourselves. We do this for our world, our children, future generations – for if we only take this moment for ourselves, then what are we but voyeurs into a gruesome past. And if not now, if we don’t take these precious moments, we never will. Time moves too quickly and the intentions we create somehow get lost in the shuffle of life. So when? Now, now is the time that we remember, that we turn the flame from destruction to life reaffirming. That the flame illuminates our history and sets us on a brighter path for the future.

Our world is still filled with hate and misunderstanding. It is all of our responsibilities to be bearers of the torch for justice, compassion and respect. Genocide is not something of the past, it is happening in countries such as Syria, Darfur, Iraq, Somalia and the Sudan, these countries are all on genocide watch. And even here, in our own communities, hate exists. And the question looms, what are we doing about it? It is not enough to only be aware, it is important to be active participants.

Pirkei Avot, the Sayings of our Ancestors teaches, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of creation, but neither are you free to desist from it.” We are given the gift of this beautiful world, yet, it is not complete. There is still so much left undone, so much loving kindness that we must put into this fragile planet and our communities. It is up to each of us to build and sustain justice, ensure equality for all, and maintain respect for all people, regardless of religion, race, or creed. We are the guarantors for future generations that they will have a world of peace, a world where they can live unafraid to be who they are and proud of the generations who came before them to ensure a life of shalom, wholeness and peace.

The single flame – in its simplicity it is beauty, in its depth it can burn. Tonight, as we are gathered here remembering the Shoah, the catastrophe that fell upon our people over 71 years ago, may we turn the flame of destruction into a light of peace. May we listen carefully to the words of our survivors and those who join us on this stage who share the light they entrust into each of us to become bearers of the light of justice, compassion, and respect.

May this be our light of blessing tonight and always.


Love Your Neighbor – suggestion or mitzvah?

This past weekend the KKK, who are alive and well in Orange County, announced they were going to hold a rally against immigration in Anaheim under their “white lives matter” theme. First, it’s sad that the KKK still have an active presence here in Orange County and this hatred against the Jewish community and other minorities is still a part of our world.

Counter protesters attended the rally and what happened next was shocking. The protesters instigated attacks against the KKK. First, I am by no means condoning the KKK, however, violence does not solve anything. I was shocked to hear that it was the protesters who started to attack the organizers of the event. As the attacks began, Professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, stepped in and protected the national leader of the group. This was menshlekeit! Why did a Jewish man step in and protect someone who speaks hatred? Because, “Levin made it clear he was not protecting the Klansman on philosophical grounds, but rather to ensure that no one was killed in the violence. He later asked the KKK member how it felt to have his life saved by a Jewish man. “I thank you,” the Klansman replied. “I thank you.”

Our Torah teaches, “Do not stand idly by as your neighbor’s blood is shed.” (Leviticus 19:16) Professor Levin took this to heart and recognized that while this may not be his ideal neighbor, he could not stand by as others began to beat him.

door image 2Last week, one of our own families sent me a picture of what they found on the front door of their Anaheim Hills home. It says, “Blood Sucker Jew.” How would any of us feel to see this on our home? This family filed a police report as a hate crime and contacted the ADL. Still they are perplexed as to how could anyone in their neighborhood take such action as to deface someone’s home, let alone spew such hatred?

Unfortunately, over the past many weeks it has become more evident that there has been a loss of decency in how people treat one another.  People have easily forgotten to treat one another with compassion and respect. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus 19:18) the text is there as a clear reminder. Unfortunately, there is division, a separation in our society causing great intolerance.

We are a few weeks away from Purim, the holiday in which we are reminded how one evil person was filled with hate and vengeance and sought to destroy the Jewish people. The courage of one woman to speak out and not allow Haman to prevail is a reminder for us, generations later. If Esther did not reveal Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews,  Esther might have been spared because her Jewish identity was still undercover, but the Jewish people would have been destroyed. If we remain silent or indifferent to words and acts of hate, we are just as guilty as the perpetrators.

“Love you neighbor as yourself,” this is not a casual suggestion, it is is a mitzvah, a commandment in which each of us have the responsibility to speak out for a return to decency and respect for all. It is no easy task, but then again, this is not a task for one person alone. Even all the Jews of Shushan stood behind Esther when she spoke up. We as a congregation and a Jewish community need to speak up together.

During Purim we give sh’lach manot, gifts. This Purim, the gift we can give is one of a kind word, an act of respect, a moment of treating even the stranger with kindness. One act at a time can change the world for the better. And when you perform these acts of kindness, share them here in the comments. Let’s inspire each other to bring back respect and compassion for all. pcr_0210_articleimg1_kindness

Look Where We’ve Come in Two Years


It’s hard to believe that two years ago our synagogue was on fire. At first, we all said it was just a kitchen fire. But months passed and layer after layer was removed before we could not smell the smoke or see the smoke damage any more. The fire cost us our building, down to the studs.

Here we are, two years and 11 million dollars later and look where we are! TBS outside at night

We are better than ever. And not just with the building.
We are better because we built relationships and partnerships. We could not be where we are today with out the volunteer committee of our Living Legacy and our dedicated Board of Directors. We could not be here today without the generosity of our congregation contributing to rebuilding. We could not be here today without a very dedicated staff who is not afraid to roll up their 23133496521_ca16e455df_zsleeves, pack, move and unpack (more than just once). We could not be here today if we did not believe in ourselves, Temple Beth Sholom, and know that we would rise from the ashes even better.
Temple Beth Sholom is not only a house of peace, it is a complete and whole house. While we have walls again, our soul is more complete because every person who enters these doors contribute to the foundation of our ruach, our spirit.