Rabbi’s Blog

You are here now : University Synagogue > Rabbi's Blog

Some Things I Learned at the Tony Awards, the 9-11 Museum, Several Excellent Broadway Shows and their Implications for University Synagogue

2017 June 16 by

Tony Awards 2017bJudaism asks us to always see the sacred in the everyday, the holy in the secular and the transcendent in the wonders of nature, human creativity and artistic expression.

A few days after our incredible University Synagogue 30th Anniversary Gala, Ruti and I were off to New York to see our son Adam, attend some Broadway shows, visit a few museums and get together with some friends (including 89 year-old sex expert and former Haganah fighter, “Dr. Ruth,” whom we took out to dinner for her birthday, as we often do).

Many of you know how much Ruti and I love theater. (One of our sons and our son-in-law are actors.) Each year, in addition to seeing plays in Orange County and Los Angeles, we spend two weeks in Manhattan, in the fall and spring – seeing seven shows in a week each time! (Some people know “sports stats” – we know theater trivia!) This recent visit was even more special because we were guests of a friend, the CEO of CBS, at the Tony Awards. (See the picture above.)

Walking the red carpet (surreal!), sitting in the orchestra section, going to the after party until 3:00 a.m. at the Plaza Hotel and casually mingling with Broadway’s Continue reading »

“Two Important Changes at University Synagogue – Earlier Service Time 7 p.m. and Free Membership for Ages 40 and Under”

2017 May 25 by

Earlier Shabbat ServiceSome synagogues slow down during the summer, but not University Synagogue. For us, summer means Beach Services in Laguna Beach (June 23, July 21, Aug. 11 and Sept. 1), Shabbat Alive services (June 16 and Aug. 25) and weekly Shabbat services on Friday nights at a new time, 7:00 p.m.! 
Recently, families, who want to bring their children to services more often than just on Family Nights, have asked for an earlier time than 8:00 p.m.; others coming directly Continue reading »

“When Dreams Come True” – 30th Anniversary Gala on June 3, 2017.

2017 May 23 by

save the date boxWe will be honoring at our Gala our three founding Presidents and all those who joined in the early years of our congregation. Even if you don’t know David Sandor, Carol Richmond or Hinda Beral well, even if you don’t like Gala dinner dances, even if you are not the most active University Synagogue member, I’m asking you to be with us.

We have so much to celebrate and we have come so far in such a short time. From a tiny havurah to one of the largest congregations in Orange County, from wandering Jews, who met at UCI and in hotels and churches, to our large and beautiful congregation’s building, Continue reading »

“Erwin Chemerinsky: An Honored Member of University Synagogue Now and In The Future”

2017 May 18 by

Erwin Chemerinsky 2So many people have called or emailed me to say how sorry they were to hear that UCI Law School Founding Dean and beloved University Synagogue member, Erwin Chemerinsky, will be leaving Irvine for a new position as Dean of the Law School of UC Berkeley. This is a wonderful opportunity for Erwin and we’re excited for him, his wife, Catherine Fisk, who will be a tenured law professor at Berkeley, and their daughter, Mara. Erwin’s legal brilliance and his incredible talent as an

administrator brought UCI Law School not only into being, but advanced its reputation, in less than a decade, to one of the top 30 law schools in the country. Professors wanted to teach at UCI so that they could work with Erwin and students wanted to go to UCI because of his dynamic reputation. Continue reading »

Israelis and Magic

2017 May 15 by

puzzel us israel merageA few weeks ago, we celebrated Yom Ha’Atzmaut/Israel’s Independence Day. Sixty-nine years ago, the Jewish state was reborn and, with it, our hopes and pride for the future.

One hundred and twenty years ago, the first Zionist Congress was held in Basel. One hundred years ago, in 1917, the Balfour Declaration gave world Jewry hope that Israel might come into being.

Fifty years ago, our people worried, in June 1967, if this new state would even survive. Am Yisrael Chai – we are still here – and Israel continues to amaze, comfort and even challenge us. Too often we think of Israel in the abstract. But whenever the Merage Continue reading »

Coffee With The Rabbi

2017 May 11 by

untitledDear University Synagogue Members,

Please join me for a “Coffee With The Rabbi” on Friday, May 26 at 6:30 – 7:45 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 »

Love, Love, Love

2017 May 8 by

loveOur two previous vow renewal ceremonies at our “Evening of Love” services were extraordinary events. Thirteen couples who had been married for only a few years renewed their vows on the bima along with others who were married six decades ago! They brought friends and family from inside and outside the congregation and a large crowd of University Synagogue members – single and married – joined in the celebration, shouting mazel tov from their seats. Continue reading »

“Someone You Should Know”: Dr. Colleen Coleman

2017 May 4 by

Collen Coleman ArticleEvery so often, we hear of someone who has performed an incredibly selfless act. We read a story in the paper or watch it on television, and we smile with admiration at his/her profound altruism. Our faith in humanity expands and we are reminded of the pivotal role that one person can play in the lives of others.

In our tradition, “Pikuach Nefesh”/saving a life is one of the greatest mitzvot. We save one life and we rescue a whole world of friends and family, including children and descendants not yet born. Saving one life saves a world, says our tradition. Continue reading »

“Sharing Our Past, Creating Our Future” – RSVP today for our 30th Anniversary Gala on June 3, 2017.

2017 May 1 by

GalaAt High Holiday services, I spoke a bit about the Jewish mystical tradition of Gematria. Each Hebrew letter, in Kabbalah, is assigned a numerical value, so that this Jewish year 5777 equals 26 (the total of 5 + 7 + 7 + 7) and 26 also equals Adonai/YHVH (Divinity) as well as 6/3/17 – the date of our 30th anniversary Gala dinner. It’s “bashert” – June 3, 2017 will “align the cosmos” for an incredible celebration!

Obviously, I’m not speaking literally, but I am celebrating with transcendent and overflowing joy. I am kvelling, as I know so many of you are, that University Synagogue has shaped our Continue reading »

Rescuing Holocaust Rescuers

2017 April 10 by

un-holocaust-victimsEach year, dozens of University Synagogue members generously support Righteous Holocaust Rescuers.  It’s time for our synagogue to collect these funds again to support heroic non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.  So many of these elderly men and women live in dire poverty, often shunned by their neighbors as “unpatriotic,” because they defied their governments to save us.

So would you be so kind to support these heroes by mailing a check, payable to RRDF (Rabbi Rachlis’ Discretionary Fund), by Monday, April 24, Holocaust Memorial Day/Yom HaShoah, so that we can send funds to the Continue reading »

“Love, Love, Love”: Renew Your Vows on Friday Night, May 12, 2017 – RSVP by April 6

2017 March 27 by

lovePesach is the time of year when we read the romantic and sensual Biblical book “Song of Songs.” We don’t just focus on slavery and freedom (important as they are), but also on spring, rebirth, renewal and love. Now is the perfect time to prepare for our third annual “Love” service in May.

Over the last two years, our renewal of vows ceremony at our “Evening of Love” service was an extraordinary event. Over forty couples who had been married for only a few years Continue reading »

“Israelis Need Our TLC (Tender Loving Care) – So Come To Shabbat Dinner This Friday Night”

2017 March 21 by

symbol_flagofisraelIt’s been a hard time for Israelis over the last few months.

Too many Israelis are feeling isolated and unloved by many in the world. These are human beings, our brothers and sisters, and their pain and worries about the future are real. We need to bring them comfort and support.

So, please be with us for Shabbat dinner at 6:00 p.m. this Friday night to share a meal and talk with some fascinating Israelis – the Merage Israeli Executive Fellows – about their feelings and fears as well as their professional work in New Media. We know that their inventions, products and services will change lives in Continue reading »

Can’t Stop Thinking About Yesterday And Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

2017 March 13 by

The last three and a half weeks at University Synagogue have been incredible and memorable, intellectually stimulating and morally stirring. Thank you to Dr. Miriam Piven Cotler and Arkady and Ella Serebryannik for, once again, sponsoring our annual Biblical Trial, that brought over 525 University Synagogue members and non-members together on a Sunday afternoon to study both the humor and ethical meaning of the Book of Jonah. It was a thrilling experience for everyone. 

The week before, over 300 people heard D.C. political analyst Norm Ornstein analyze the Presidency and Congress and, the next night, once again, thanks to generous underwriters and sponsors, Ed Asner, Tovah Feldshuh and other wonderful actors presented the deeply moving play, “The Soap Myth,” to a crowd of over 400 people. Moreover, a Continue reading »

Security Matters To Us All

2017 March 1 by

Anti-Semitic incidents across the country over the last few weeks have alarmed not only the Jewish community, but all people of conscience. Bomb threats called into Jewish Community Centers and Jewish day schools, as well as cemetery desecrations, are the work of a few deranged people, tragically influenced by the growth of the “Alt-Right.” All of us had hoped that the religious and racial bigotry of white supremacists had decreased over the last 50 years, but unfortunately recent political events and personalities have exacerbated this moral stain in our country and around the world. As Jews, we need to demand that our elected representatives from Congress to the White House speak in the most forceful and decisive ways with zero tolerance for hate.

Continue reading »

The Next Incredible Ten Days at University Synagogue

2017 February 23 by

Norm OrsteinThe next ten days at University Synagogue will be amazingly thoughtful and memorable. Tomorrow night, Dr. Norm Ornstein will speak and there’s no one better to help us understand our political situation than him. Norm has been analyzing Congress and the White House since I was a White House Fellow over 30 years ago Continue reading »

“Why Is Sunday Afternoon, March 5, Different From All Other Sunday Afternoons?” – The Biblical Trial!

2017 February 15 by

Jonah Presiding

What comes halfway between the Oscars and Purim, between incredible actors and fun-filled joy? Our tenth annual Biblical Trial, and it combines elements of both the Oscars and Purim. Our cast is superb – UCI Law School Founding Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson and Justice Richard Fybel. Their timing, sense of humor, legal knowledge and commitment to Jewish learning are apparent in each dramatic word that they speak and in each argument that they offer. Continue reading »

From Joel To Jonah: Comedy, Drama, Ethics, History and Wisdom

2017 February 8 by

jonahDo you like comedy? Who doesn’t? Are you interested in Israel? Who isn’t! Then, come to University Synagogue this Friday night for a return visit by American-Israeli stand-up comic and storyteller, Joel Chasnoff, who “rocked the house” last year when he performed at University Synagogue. People couldn’t wait to have him back, so don’t miss him this Friday night during 8:00 p.m. services.

Then, on Saturday night, February 25 at 7:30 p.m., we will be presenting Continue reading »

Helping Someone Who Helps Others – Chef Bruno Serato

2017 February 7 by

bruno_chefChef Bruno Serato spoke at our University Synagogue Thanksgiving service a year ago. A “CNN Hero” for his work in the fight against hunger, Bruno’s passion for helping the poor and marginalized in our society is so inspiring.

In 2005, Bruno Serato and his mother, Caterina, visited the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim down the street from his Anaheim White House restaurant, where his mother noticed that there was a 7-year old boy eating potato chips for dinner, because his family couldn’t afford a proper meal. Continue reading »

Ed Asner Performed This Play at Lincoln Center and Now It’s at University Synagogue For One Night Only – Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 7:30 P.M.

2017 February 1 by

Soap MythThe most important University Synagogue cultural event of the spring is our annual Biblical Trial on Sunday, March 5 at 1:00 p.m.  

The multi-award winning actor Edward Asner (“Mary Tyler Moore,” “Lou Grant” and “Up” movie) and the multi-award nominee Tovah Feldshuh (“Golda’s Balcony,” “Holocaust” and “Law and Order”) will be at University Synagogue performing “The Soap Myth” with two other talented actors on Saturday night, February 25. I have been in touch with Jeff Cohen, the writer of this play, who is bringing it to California for only three, one-night play reading performances (San Francisco, Los Angeles and University Synagogue) prior to an anticipated return to New York.

“The Soap Myth” has been championed by many in the national theater and Jewish communities, including Continue reading »

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor

2017 January 31 by

refugees flag

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, whether you voted for President Trump or not, the callous and unvetted way in which his latest Executive Order was issued displays an appalling lack of empathy, governmental experience, and historical memory in regard to refugees.

For Jews, treating the stranger with dignity is essential.  Hospitality – hachnasat orchim – is one of our primary values.  We have been Continue reading »