Rodef Sholom: A Reform Jewish Congregation in Marin County, California

Kol Yisrael arevim ba’zeh/All Jews are responsible for one another.
Congregation Rodef Sholom stands as one with Israel
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On December 17, 2010, the “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010” was signed into law. The 2010 Tax Act raised to $5 million the exemption from the estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax.

In addition to raising the exemption to $5 million, the 2010 Tax Act extended through 2011 the provision in prior law that facilitated making charitable gifts directly from IRAs. Thus, an IRA distribution made before 2012 is excluded from gross income if the distribution is made from the IRA to a qualified public charity. There is a deduction limit of $100,000 per taxpayer.

This is an important provision in the law for someone whose IRA constitutes a significant portion of his or her estate and who wants to make lifetime charitable gifts to a charity.

IRAs are also an ideal vehicle to use to make gifts to charity at death. Because the assets in an IRA have not yet been subjected to income taxes, when the owner dies (or, if a spouse is the designated beneficiary, on the spouse’s later death) the IRA will be subject to a combined income and estate tax rate of about 50% before it passes to children (assuming the combined estates exceed $10 million).

One appealing way to completely avoid estate and income taxes on the IRA is to name a charity such as Rodef Sholom as beneficiary once the IRA owner and the spouse are gone. The effect of this is that the government contributes 50% of every dollar that passes to Rodef Sholom, and the husband and wife together contribute 5

Another effective IRA strategy is to convert the IRA to a Roth IRA. By doing so, one recognizes the deferred income in the year of conversion (or, if preferable, in the two years after conversion). But all income after the year of conversion accumulates tax-free. This is not for everyone. It typically makes more sense to make the conversion in a year of lower income or in a year when one has tax losses to offset the income resulting from the conversion. Also, a conversion makes more sense for people who have enough wealth to pay the income taxes from assets outside the IRA. This strategy also is more advantageous for people who don’t need the IRA money for retirement.

As with traditional IRAs, charities can benefit from a Roth IRA conversion. One strategy is to create a charitable lead trust where the charity receives the income from the trust and the donor receives a charitable contributions deduction to offset the income resulting from the Roth IRA conversion. After a period of time, the assets in the trust pass to family members. 

One attractive feature of the Roth IRA conversion is that one can look back, and if the assets have gone down in value since the conversion, the conversion can be undone. The IRA owner has until October 15 of the year after the conversion to re-characterize the Roth IRA as a traditional IRA.

Finally, prior to 2010, one could not convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA if one had adjusted gross income of $100,000 or more. That income limitation has been lifted for conversions occurring after 2009 so that anyone, regardless of income, can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

These are a couple of strategies involving IRAs that could benefit Rodef Sholom and give you significant tax savingThere are other strategies as well.

To learn more about planned giving, join us for the 2nd annual Estate and Legacy Planning event, Guidance for Giving: How Jewish Tradition Leads the Way, with a special presentation on Ethical Wills (Sacred Living, Sacred Dying) led by Rabbi Michael Lezak on Sunday, March 6, 9:30 am-11:15 am in the sanctuary. A light breakfast will be available in the social hall at 9:00 am. Please RSVP to Jane at or 479.3441. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 8 - Sunday, February 13, Connections 2011: Building our Jewish Future World Union for Progressive Judaism's 35th International Biennial Conference in SF

Join with Reform Jews from around the world to celebrate together and build on over 80 years of Reform and Progressive Judaism worldwide. Learn, explore, question, build bridges, and help to shape our collective future. Attend Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services only, choose from daily sessions, or better yet, enjoy the entire weeklong program featuring a range of topics and keynote speakers. San Francisco will be host to the conference this year, which will take place at the Market Street Hotel. For more information and to register, go to

In tandem with this conference, we will be welcoming a guest who will speak on the WUPJ during 6;15 pm Shabbat Services on Friday, February 11.  Please join us then to learn about how the WUPJ is helping to build our Jewish future. 

We are also looking for a family to host five conference delegates for Shabbat dinner after services. If you are interested in doing so, please contact Moji at or 479.3441.

This month marks the third annual Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month (JDAM), a transdenominational collaboration of movements, national Jewish organizations and local community efforts to raise awareness of the needs, contributions and possibilities of welcoming, including and throwing wide the doors to Jews with disabilities. The US government estimates that 17% of Americans have a disability that prevents them from participating on all the activities of daily living, and that percentage increases with age.

In the first JDAM, Rodef Sholom inaugurated the automatic door openers and joined with other Marin organizations to have a weekend of learning. This year, we offer information about the plethora of activities throughout the Bay Area and encourage you both to attend some of these and to think about ways to make Rodef Sholom that much more inclusive in the coming year:

•Widening the Tent: Special Education Speaker Series
February 6, 2011, 6 to 8 pm
Planning for a bar/bat mitzvah for a child with special needs
Discussion led by Vicky Kelman and Rachel Brodie
Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley

•Shabbat Meyuchad
February 12, 2011, 11 am to 12 noon
A special Shabbat morning service for families with children with special needs
Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkele

•5x5: A Continuing Education Series for Teachers
February 13, 2011, 1:30 to 3 pm
Differentiated instruction: How you can reach all types of learners
Led by Elana Naftalin-Kelman Temple Isaiah, 3800 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette

•Redefining Dance and Making it Accessible to All
February 13, 2011, 7 pm
A special performance by the Axis Dance Company --
Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland (RSVP required)

•Song, Dance and Autism
February 16, 2011, 6:30 pm
“Autism the Musical,” a screening, talk and book signing by Elaine Hall, founder of the Miracle Project (
Temple Beth El, 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley

•Parents Night Out
February 22, 2011, 7 pm
Enjoy a lovely evening with wine and cheese
Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley

•Havdalah and musical concert with Jonathan Bayer
February 26, 2011, 7:45 pm
For children and adults of all ages and their families
Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

The last one was so great we’ve planned another special Shabbat Dinner just for you! Join us for a relaxing Shabbat dinner, a glass of wine and time with friends before our 8:00 pm Shabbat services, which will feature special music by Cantor David Margules and reflections on community. The cost of the dinner is $20 per person; RSVP by February 14 to Pete at 479.3441 or Adults only please!

Please join Howard Rachelson, Marin's master of trivia, for an evening of competition, entertainment, and maybe even enlightenment! Form your own team (limit 8 people) or just show up and join one. Your $20 ticket includes desserts, coffee, and your first glass of wine, and all proceeds benefit Rodef Sholom's religious school and adult education programs. Reservations are required by February 15. This event will take place in our social hall, and is sponsored by the Women of Rodef Sholom. Contact Suzanne Waterman at 721.7377 with any questions.

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Rabbi Oren Postrel is back!

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Stand up for REST!

It's time to find a permanent home for the Rotating Winter Shelter - learn more on May 15, 6:30 - 8:30 at Rodef Sholom. Click here.

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accessiblecongragationslogoThrough the efforts of our Kulanu/ Inclusion of Those with Disabilities Committee, Rodef Sholom has been acknowleded as an accessible congregation by the National Organization on Disability.