2018 January 16 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Where can you get so much interesting diversity in one Shabbat service! First of all, there’s a delicious Shabbat dinner with the Merage Israeli Executive Fellows, whose specialty is “Homeland Security” – an always relevant topic in both Israel and the United States. Each table will have one or more fascinating Fellows to meet, learn from and perhaps connect to your business and personal networks.
Then, we’ll share in our Shabbat Alive jazz and pop service with a band, our Young Cantors and Cantor Braier! The music is always exhilarating and our liturgy truly comes alive when sung to new melodies. Also, it’s always fascinating to match our Merage Israeli Executive Fellows (who will be singing on the bima) experience this very novel Shabbat service – egalitarian, musical, joyous and Reconstructionist – for the first time, something they have never seen before in Israel. Each group of Israeli guests tells the Merage Family and others that our Shabbat Alive service was one of the highlights of their two-week program of intensive learning.
Moreover, how much do we really know about the “folk religion” of Judaism – beliefs about magic and superstition, bubbe meises and incantations, amulets and secret mantras? These are the topics that will be explored by our speaker, Haifa University Professor Yossi Chajes, in a talk that will be fun, fascinating, humorous and psychologically and spiritually insightful.
So, sign up for Shabbat Dinner today and “eat, pray and learn” on Friday night.
Don’t miss this memorable Shabbat.
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
2018 January 16 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Many people have asked for the eulogy that Rabbi Rachlis delivered at Blaze Bernstein’s funeral yesterday. Here it is below:
Eulogy for Blaze Nathan Bernstein
Delivered by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
University Synagogue, Irvine CA
January 15, 2018
All of us have shared and are sharing an incredibly painful experience with Blaze’s family. And this pain will be with us for a long time.
We are angry and numb and emotionally depleted and sleep deprived. Yet, our focus needs to be on one family only – Gideon, Jeanne, Jay and Beaue, Blaze’s grandparents, Richard and Leah and Regina and Gary, and the rest of his loving and grieving family.
It’s about a death we never expected and still find hard to believe, and the preceding week of psychological torture – during Blaze’s disappearance – before we had to face the worst outcome.
I have known this family since before Blaze’s birth. I have celebrated simchas with them and kvelled as I watched their children grow up. I have always had such respect for Gideon and Jeanne’s commitment to their children, to the Jewish community and to University Synagogue. Because of Jeanne, we created the “Mom’s Club,” precursor to our wonderful Pre-School. Because of Gideon, we are part of the Legacy Society of the Jewish Community Foundation.
2018 January 10 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
It is with the most profound sadness that I share with you the news that Blaze Bernstein’s body has been found in the park where he disappeared. An autopsy is being performed. The Orange County Sheriff’s office considers the death a homicide.
I know that everyone has been talking with me, and each other, day and night, for the last week, asking about Blaze, offering comfort to his family and wanting to know if there’s anything that they can do.
This is a devastating time for the Bernstein/Pepper family and for all of us, who have known Blaze for all of his life. Grief counselors from the Jewish Federation will be on hand at University Synagogue today from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and also again on Sunday, January 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. during our Religious School/Living Judaism Program for those who may need help in dealing with all that has happened.
Thank you to all those who passed out flyers and emailed friends and family to spread the word and to those who let Gideon and Jeanne and Jay and Beaue know – directly or indirectly – how much you care for them. We will keep updating you on information as it becomes known.
At our 7:00 p.m. Shabbat services this Friday night (when conservative broadcast journalist Hugh Hewitt speaks), I’ll talk about Blaze, as well and how we can comfort his family, and ourselves, going forward.
May Blaze’s memory be for a blessing.
Rabbi Arnie Rachlis
2018 January 8 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Since last Wednesday evening, when I first heard that 19-year old University Synagogue member Blaze Bernstein was missing, I haven’t been able to seriously focus on anything else. Like so many of you who know his parents, Gideon and Jeanne, and his siblings, Jay and Beaue, this horrible situation is so painful and confusing and it becomes more so each day.
You’ve heard the story on TV and read it in the papers each day. A University of Pennsylvania sophomore, home for winter break, Blaze met a friend at a park and soon disappeared. Helicopters, drones, law enforcement professionals, friends and strangers have searched for him, and sent emails and flyers to everyone they know.
Blaze’s family has been surrounded by love and support from University Synagogue members and so many others. Their agony is great and so, too, is ours.
Someone knows something. Someone has seen something. Many tips have come forward. More are needed.
Gideon and Jeanne are obviously emotionally crushed and focused on the details of the investigation. I have shared with them the love and support for them that our congregation feels and that was profoundly expressed to me, for them, at Shabbat services a few days ago.
Please read and listen to the news stories. Contact everyone whom you know that lives in the area of the disappearance or that knows Blaze and his peers. Google the latest and stay current on any details that emerge.
Again, someone knows something. Someone has seen something. Let’s do everything that we can.
Rabbi Arnie Rachlis
Don’t Miss Hanukkah For Kids (And Their Parents And Adults Of All Ages) On Friday, December 8 and Hanukkah For Adults (And Older Children) On Sunday, December 10 With Singer/Songwriter Craig Taubman
2017 December 1 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
On Friday, December 8, we’ll have our annual Pre-Hanukkah Shabbat dinner (6:15 p.m.) and service (7:00 p.m.) with latkes and dreidels, chocolate gelt and plenty of singing and joy. It will, as always, be fun for all ages, but especially geared to families. Click here to RSVP or call the office for Shabbat dinner.
A more adult Hanukkah event will take place on Sunday, December 10, at 5:00 p.m., when we’ll hold our final “big event” of 2017. This will be a “Hanukkahpalooza” with joyous melodies and celebration. Orange County needs a big concert at Hanukkah time, like we used to have, and this is it! Craig Taubman, one of America’s most famous singer/songwriters in Jewish life, will perform a rare concert with his band. There will be a few Continue reading »
Israeli journalist, Chemi Shalev, will speak on “Israel: Democracy, Religious Liberalism And Listening To The Concerns Of The American Jewish Community.”
2017 November 27 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
2017 November 16 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
This Friday night, November 17, at 7:00 p.m., I’ll give my annual “White House Report” at services. I cannot begin to describe the despair in Washington, DC by long-serving Republicans and Democrats within and outside the Administration, on Capitol Hill and in governmental agencies, and the chaos and confusion over Administration policies and Presidential tweets, the understaffing of Cabinet agencies and the demoralization of serious men and women, of both political parties, who feel demeaned and dejected. In all of my years of attending my annual three-day White House briefings for White House Fellows, I have never seen such dispirited leaders. It’s not the polarization of Republicans vs. Democrats that stands out – it’s the establishment vs. those who are inexperienced and radical.
From The Balfour Declaration To Today – Meet Our Jewish And Arab Israeli Speakers This Friday Night!
2017 November 8 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
A hundred years ago on November 2, 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, declaring its support for “a national home for the Jewish people.” Thirty years earlier, the First Zionist Congress had met in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, as Jews were split over Zionism, and six months from now, during this Jewish year 5778, Israel will celebrate its 70th birthday with virtually all Jews (and many others) fully rejoicing in the moment.
The State of Israel has been a great achievement in Jewish and world history. But Zionism’s work isn’t yet done, because our Jewish home has not yet given its non-Jewish, primarily Arab citizens, full equality. Continue reading »
Meet My Friend, Danny Rubin, Writer Of The Film (And Broadway Musical) “Groundhog Day” – This Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.
2017 November 6 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
“Groundhog Day” is an iconic movie. Even its title has become a colloquial expression for “becoming stuck” and repeating the same thing again and again.
We’re showing the film this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Regal Westpark 8 Cinemas, 3735 Alton Parkway, Irvine as part of our Film Festival. It’s a very funny comedy with profound moral lessons about rejecting narcissism and embracing altruism, finding meaning in the everyday, living “in the moment” and opening yourself up to caring and love.
The 25th anniversary of “Groundhog Day” is coming up and my friend, Danny Rubin, the film’s writer, is traveling from his home in Santa Continue reading »
2017 November 1 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Ruti and I feel profoundly fortunate to be safe and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in New York City yesterday. We were/are in New York yesterday and we were waiting to hear back from our son Adam as to when we would meet him for coffee. Adam, a mergers and acquisitions attorney, is an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, a block from the World Trade Center. Ruti and I decided to stroll along the water on the bike/pedestrian path when we received texts and then a call from Adam telling us that his building was on “lock down” and that, from his office on the 32nd floor, he was watching the atrocious attack unfold. We were only a half-block away from the final moments of the attack site when we got Adam’s messages. We immediately turned around and warned others walking and riding bikes near us and, moments later, saw the police and ambulances arrive as helicopters flew overhead and the sound of sirens filled the air.
An hour before, we had visited the 9-11 Memorial Fountain and talked about how the rebuilt area of Ground Zero truly made a powerful statement about American resiliency in the face of terror. It was our third visit to that site since 9-11 and, each time, we have experienced the sanctity of that sacred space.
Writing this letter a day after the attack, Ruti and I feel grateful, mournful, angry and anxious – all of these emotions repeating themselves within us in random order.
We look forward to seeing everyone next week when we return to Irvine. It will be comforting to be home with all of you.
Life is fragile and precious. Never waste it or take it for granted. Make every moment count. Resolve to meet evil with courage and, in a world of so much hate, bring more love.
Rabbi Arnie Rachlis
2017 October 19 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
The young people, whose families have belonged to our congregation over the years, have grown up and spread their talents and achievements around the world. Some have gone into journalism, like Ezra Klein at MSNBC and now Vox, David Molko, formerly at CNN, Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC, and Eli Stokols, Wall Street Journal White House Reporter and MSNBC political analyst, who will be speaking at services tonight about the challenges of reporting on the White House. We’re proud of all of our young people and we admire those whose work improves the lives of others and furthers the Jewish vision of Tikkun Olam/repairing the world.
Eli is well-respected by so many in D.C. and around the country for his articulate, fearless and cogent perspectives on contemporary politics. He has a keen mind that passionately searches for the truth and an unwavering dedication to his craft. Still in his thirties, Eli has an even brighter future. (Click here for his bio.)
Rabbi Arnie Rachlis
2017 October 16 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Eight great days! Are we talking about the fun-filled Sukkot that has just passed? No! How about the joyous Hanukkah that will arrive in just 8 weeks? No, again.
The “Eight Great Days” that you shouldn’t miss begin this Friday night, October 20, when one of Hollywood’s most interesting and successful writers and producers, Howard Gordon, speaks at University Synagogue on “Terrorism, Anxiety, Politics And Popular Culture.” Many of us have been riveted, season after season, by his Showtime breakout series “Homeland,” based on the Israeli hit “Hatufim/Prisoners of War.” (I remember when Howard told me years ago that he was flying to Israel to negotiate for the rights to “Americanize” the series. Little did we know then how “Homeland” would become one of the most suspenseful and politically insightful shows of the 21st century.)
2017 October 3 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
control measures, too many members of Congress are so afraid of the NRA, that they are willing to leave us completely unprotected and vulnerable. Continue reading »
2017 September 18 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Dear University Synagogue Members 40 & Under,
Please join me for a “Coffee With The Rabbi” on Friday, October 13 from 5:45 – 6:45 p.m. at University Synagogue. I would like to get to know you better and find out what University Synagogue can do for you. Almost 50 new members – singles, couples and families – have joined University Synagogue in the last two months through our “40 and Under” offer! Free childcare will be available for those who sign up by October 2.more–>
There will neither be fundraising nor will anyone be made to feel uncomfortable if his/her level of synagogue involvement is minimal. The only reason for this Coffee is to learn more about you and your needs so that our synagogue can truly reflect the diversity of our membership. I’d love to have you be with us.
The coffee will start promptly at 5:45 p.m. and will conclude no later than 6:45 p.m. If you would like to stay for services, they’ll be at 7:00 p.m., but it’s up to you. Here’s the service announcement for Oct 13:
Shabbat Services led by Rabbi Rachlis and Cantor Braier. White House Reporter for The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC political analyst Eli Stokols will speak on “Covering An Administration In Which Truth and Reality Are Increasingly Subjective”.
Please click here to RSVP no later than September 8 to Heidi Altman or call the synagogue office at (949) 553-3535.
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
2017 August 28 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Imagine that you’ve been given dozens of vouchers, worth thousands of dollars each, to give as gifts to friends and family. There are no strings attached. Overnight you have been granted the ability to become a philanthropist.
You don’t have to imagine it. It’s true. It has happened. Everyone in our congregation and beyond now has the opportunity to help ensure the Jewish future by telling everyone whom they know – 40 years old and younger – that they can get a FREE MEMBERSHIP in University Synagogue simply by calling our congregation.
FREE. NOW. NO STRINGS. EASY.
Tell your children and grandchildren and those of your friends; tell your colleagues and neighbors and everyone you know. Continue reading »
2017 August 24 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
University Synagogue has always proudly engaged in interfaith and intercultural dialogues over the years. Our closest relationship is with Irvine United Congregational Church with whom we have shared a Thanksgiving service and adult education for almost three decades. We know each other and trust each other, and even more, we are both religiously liberal, inclusive and humanistic.
It’s harder, quite frankly, to dialogue with Christian evangelicals or Muslims who have a more fundamentalist and exclusivist theology, meaning they think that their beliefs are true, superior and even perfect. Continue reading »
2017 August 21 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
This Friday night, please be with us for Shabbat dinner at 6:00 p.m. with UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman, followed by 7:00 p.m. Shabbat Alive services (at which we will dedicate a plaque in memory of our beloved pianist Brian Sepel) and, then, at 8:15 p.m., continuing with an extremely timely discussion on “Free Speech” by Dean Chemerinsky and Chancellor Gillman.
To have a distinguished constitutional lawyer and an equally renowned political scientist – co-authors of a recent book on the subject (that will be available at the Oneg Shabbat) – is an incredibly rich opportunity to focus on one of the most crucial issues that our divided country faces today.
Many people – generally advocates of free speech – are having second thoughts about its limits in light of hateful anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on college campuses and white supremacist/Neo-Nazi rallies as in Charlottesville. Continue reading »
2017 August 16 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
A few days ago, I changed the topic of services for this coming Friday night because of the tragedy in Charlottesville. We need to be together to reflect, to express pain and anger, to discuss how to talk about this continuing hatred with our children and grandchildren, and to plan a group strategy for responding to this latest recurrence of shocking political ugliness.
The theme on Friday night will be “The Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, KKK and White Supremacists: How Should Jews And All Americans Oppose These Hate Groups?” and it’s a topic that few of us ever want to address. Still, we must.
As Republicans, Democrats and Independents, as Jews and good people of all faiths and backgrounds, we need to work together and with other groups to ensure that “Unite The Right” White Supremacy “never again” Continue reading »
2017 August 2 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Dear University Synagogue Members,
Please join me for a “Coffee With The Rabbi” on Friday, September 15 at 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at University Synagogue. I would like to invite anyone in our congregation who wants to get to know me better or who is interested in new ways to improve our congregation. It’s also a chance for me to get to know you better in an informal setting. Continue reading »
2017 July 26 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Judaism can be incredibly entertaining, and experienced not just through rituals, services and classes, but through music, television, film and theater, as well. The Orange County International Jewish Film Festival, sponsored by University Synagogue, beginning again in about a month, always proves the power of film to teach, inspire and transform us.
“Homeland” on Showtime, based on the Israeli television show Hatufim, gives us the character of Mandy Patinkin’s Saul Berenson, the moral conscience of the show. Whether the issues are peace between Israelis and Palestinians or if the CIA acts morally in a given situation, Berenson struggles to do the right thing as a Jew and an American. (By the way, Continue reading »