Bet Haverim "Bridging the Jewish Secular-Religious Divide" with art, discussion and a deli lunch

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Exploring the vibrant history and contemporary richness of secular Jewish and Yiddish culture is the focus of “Bridging the Jewish Secular-Religious Divide,” a weekend of engaging adult education at Congregation Bet Haverim, Friday, Nov. 16 through Sunday, Nov. 18.   The synagogue is located at 1715 Anderson Road, Davis. Thanks to an anonymous donor, all programs are free of charge and no RSVP is required, other than for a Saturday afternoon deli luncheon.    Lawrence Bush, the recently retired editor of “Jewish Currents” magazine, will present four programs over the course of the weekend.  “Jewish Currents” is a 72-year-old progressive publication promoting secular Jewish identity and a “counterculture” approach to Jewish arts and literature. “We are very excited to welcome Lawrence Bush to our congregation,” Bet Haverim’s Rabbi Greg Wolfe said. “The Jewish people have long been a community that encompasses a rich and varied kaleidoscope of belief, practices and approaches to Jewish life and culture, including the religious and the secular. It is our hope that his visit and the wonderful presentations that he will share will stimulate a creative and dynamic conversation about the role that Jewish culture has played on the world stage. This is an important opportunity for secular Jews to see that they have a welcome place in the life of the synagogue here in Yolo County.” Raised in what he describes as a secular household, Bush said that he felt nonetheless that his Jewish identity was affirmed by his upbringing.  He envisions synagogues that serve as meeting houses for non-observant, as well as observant Jews, encouraging “cross-fertilization” and collaboration in developing a “countercultural” Jewish identity. “Unaffiliated Jews have long seen synagogues as places where Jews pray, period — an activity that holds little attraction for them,” Bush explained.  “I’m arguing for unaffiliated Jews not to let God stand in their way — that there is much in Jewish history, Jewish texts, Jewish ethics and Jewish identity that can be of value to them personally, and to America at large.  I’m also promoting a universalist message within Judaism and Jewish identity that should be of interest to non-Jews — neither the Bible nor the history of social progress in America, after all, belong exclusively to Jews.”   The weekend will begin with Bush’s presentation, “Judaism as a Counterculture,” on Friday, November 16 at 8:30 p.m. in the synagogue’s Social Hall, following Kabbalat Shabbat (evening Sabbath) services and refreshments. The hour-long program will explore fundamental ethical values of the Jewish tradition regarding economics, community, paradigms of masculinity, teachings on justice and compassion and more.  Bush plans to share his perspective that these values constitute a counterculture within contemporary American attitudes, as well as a culture of protest against them.   Vital questions of conscience, freedom, culture and ethics will form the core of “36 Reasons to be Radically Jewish,” a talk by Bush during Shabbat (Sabbath) morning services on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 10:00 a.m. in the Sanctuary.  At 12:30 p.m., a vegetarian luncheon in the Social Hall, catered by Solomon’s Deli in Davis, will feature a harvest-inspired selection of warm fall salads and roasted vegetables, hummus and rye bread, snickerdoodle cookies and more. An advance RSVP for lunch by Friday, Nov. 9 is preferred, along with a suggested $18 donation, at   Following lunch, Bush’s “Resistance is the Lesson” program will be based upon a poster art exhibit of the same name, on display in the Social Hall.  The series reflects the history of more than twenty stirring acts of armed resistance against Nazi oppression in ghettos, concentration camps and the forests and fields of Central and Eastern Europe, France, Italy, Greece and beyond.  Portraits of Jewish resistance heroes and heroines will be included, as well as a special section on Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to assist Jews. “Putting God in Quotation Marks,” a dialogue led by Bush, will conclude the weekend on Sunday, November 18 at 10:00 a.m. in the Social Hall.  Over bagels and coffee, attendees will experience a discussion about the role of God and prayer in synagogue life and the extent to which this may discourage the interest and inclusion of secular Jews and the values they offer to the community. “During my time as editor of ‘Jewish Currents,’ I translated classically religious texts and holiday themes into terms that non-theists could get excited about and found that such translations excite observant Jews, as well,” Bush shared.  “I have found that putting quotation marks around the word ‘God’ works for nearly everybody and deepens the capacity for dialogue between believers and non-believers. These and other insights, small and large, are what I hope to share in dialogue with the Davis community.”  The only synagogue in Yolo County, Congregation Bet Haverim includes nearly 270 member households and is affiliated with the Reform movement.  To learn more about the “Bridging the Jewish Secular-Religious Divide” weekend, visit, or contact the synagogue office at or 530-758-0842. ]]>

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