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
Tags >> Teens

Dear Rodef Sholom community,

On behalf of the 17 people who made the journey to New Orleans this year, we want to share with you what we did to help heal the Gulf Coastline as a result of the BP oil spill of 2010. Some of you contributed to the tzedakah effort and some of you held us in your hearts and your thoughts, sending us off as your emissaries of good will, because you yourself could not go. We went on behalf of all of us and we want to thank you for all the support you gave us.

We were originally assigned to work at The School at Blair Grocery, but at the last minute, the school became involved in a reorganization process, and could not accept volunteers at that time, so Jewish Funds for Justice (our partner organization) reassigned us to Gulf Coast restoration work. We were given a new assignment to work with two organizations called Bayou Rebirth and Common Ground.

Bayou Rebirth and Common Ground are two small non-profit grassroots organizations that recently joined forces in an effort to get the toxins out of the water in the area of the oil spill and simultaneously plant native grasses to rebuild the coastline and protect it against hurricanes at the same time as providing a healthy ecosystem for native birds and animals.

Click here to see many of the photos from New Orleans

Colleen Morgan of Bayou Rebirth, a hands-on wetlands conversation group, summed up the work when she described her goal in the project to get as many American hands into Louisiana dirt as possible...before it's too late. The more we come to see and understand the vitality of the Gulf for our country and our world - and to connect the environmental issues we see in Louisiana to those in our own communities - the more we will all be forced and empowered to think critically about our own energy use and environmental behavior. Click here to read more at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism blog.

Colleen taught us how to scientifically measure the health of water, while Common Ground volunteers taught us how to build ponds anywhere in the inner city that had a vacant lot so that we could propagate bayou grasses to be planted 2 hours South of New Orleans right on the Gulf Coastline. And so we were blessed to get our hands dirty in all of those ways. We not only dug ponds in the city and separated and replanted grasses into temporary ponds so that they would multiply, but we also drove two hours south to a place called Venice, LA, the place closest to the oil spill and bagged 2,000 pounds of humus, an organic combination of soil, microorganisms and manure that can house native plants and at the same time literally suck the toxins from the oil spill out of the water.

We got plenty dirty that week, and did a small part in a very large undertaking to restore the health and beauty of the bayous at the same as naturally protecting the coastline from future hurricane devastation. The purpose of work in our lifetime just does not get any better than that, dear friends. We hope that you will join us another year as we go out and get dirty on behalf of this beautiful G-d given earth. We are proud to be G-d's partners in that endeavor. Click on Leslie Laskin-Reese's blog above to see pictures of our work.

Many thanks from all of us,

Claire Mikowski, Cantor David Margules, Molly Baer, Hana Bellin, Jay Bellin, Scott Gerber, Merv Giacomini, Talia Guliasi, Aviva Hamel, Alex Landeck, Emily Laskin, Leslie Laskin-Reese, Joe Leonard, Elliot Levin, Benny Margules, Lexi Thompson, Steve Wasserman

On Friday, May 6th, we will be honoring the teachers of Rodef Sholom Religious School, their madrichim (assistants), and the NESS volunteers who have worked with such dedication over the last two years to re-envision the school to make it a more dynamic, inclusive and transformational experience for everyone involved.

NESS (Nurturing Excellence in Jewish Education) is a project of the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), and our NESS volunteers will also be honored at the BJE’s Annual Celebration on Thursday, May 19, 6-8 pm, Kanbar Hall at the San Francisco JCC, 3200 California Street, San Francisco. This celebration is free of charge and for more information, visit or call Irene Resnikoff, our director of education, at 479.3447.

Although Hurricane Katrina is old news and five and a half years later, New Orleans is dealing with the aftermath of the more recent oil spill, the city has still recovered from the great storm. At Rodef Sholom, we have not forgotten the struggle of the people there to rebuild. After 5 trips, they are no longer anonymous people -- many of them are our friends. This April, we are once again gathering congregants who want to go back to continue the sacred work of rebuilding the lost communities of this great city.

The Lower Ninth Ward is one of those lost communities, with acres of seemingly empty overgrown fields. When you look closer, every 30 to 40 feet you come across a slab of concrete where a home once stood. People who lived there for generations have scattered across the country to find refuge with family and friends in safer places. Now, many of the people who moved back into the neighborhood are poor and have found other ways to make a living, many of which are illegal. Although drug deals now take place on many street corners, on one corner there is a most unusual sight. It is a small run-down building that used to be a black-owned grocery store next to a big community garden. Parked behind the garden is a funky blue and orange graffiti painted bus that reads NY2NO (New York to New Orleans). It is powered by bio-diesel fuel, and gives social justice tours of the levies and neighborhoods. 

Two years ago, Rodef Sholom booked a tour on that bus, and learned about the amazing project that a visionary educator from Manhattan founded. His name is Nat Turner, and he carries the legacy of the 19th century Nat Turner who led a slave rebellion. The Nat Turner of today is an African-American man who had a teaching position in a cushy Manhattan high school. Tired of seeing the pictures on the news of struggling black people in Louisiana, who did not know how to help themselves out of poverty and lack of education, he decided to focus on poor black high school students who had dropped out of public school. He sold everything he had in New York and drove down to New Orleans to make a difference by using his own education and teaching skills to bring an end to the vicious cycle of poverty of one neighborhood. The lucky recipients are the kids of the Lower Ninth Ward.

Nat Turner so inspired our teens that they independently came home and raised $1,000 to buy the teens at Our School at Blair Grocery an air conditioner. We delivered that check the following year and met with Turner to see what progress had been made in a year’s time. Recently, the New York Times wrote an article about Nat Turner and Our School at Blair Grocery (click here to read it). And this year we are going back to New Orleans with an organization called Jewish Funds for Justice to work directly with Nat Turner at his school, Our School at Blair Grocery!

We are now a group of 16 lucky people who leave for New Orleans on April 10, 2011. There is room for four more people. Are you with us? The blessings that you will take home at the end of a week will last you a lifetime.

If you can’t come with us, you can still help
When we travel to New Orleans, we will not be going alone. We are going on behalf of the entire congregation. With your help we can lighten the burden and bring healing and redemption to many broken lives.

We are asking you to join us in this holy effort by contributing tzedakah for the rebuilding of this community. It is our goal to bring $3,000 with us to New Orleans. Many of you were so supportive last year, and the people you helped were so grateful. This year’s money will be used to buy appliances and other necessary household items for the school we are repairing so that we can bring comfort and dignity to the students who will learn in it. We want Congregation Rodef Sholom, to make the greatest impact possible.

We want to make a real difference in the lives of the people we meet there, and be proud of the work we do and the contribution we make. You can make your checks out to Congregation Rodef Sholom, with “New Orleans” in the memo, and bring them to the office.

Thank you, 

Claire Mikowski

March 18-20, 2011

Taking community service a notch higher through leadership!

Get inspired to take action by the vibe of two of San Francisco's most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods:  Union Square and the Tenderloin. Through group activities, drama games, leadership workshops, meeting with people who made a difference, and experiencing the streets of San Francisco, this weekend's goal is to inspire you to take action and to provide you with tools to make a difference. You are invited to be a part of this elite leadership weekend retreat in San Francisco, because you have the potential to make the world a better place during your time on this planet.

The weekend costs $180, and you can register with Claire by January 15th by downloading the forms on our website here and other information you need to return to the religious school office.  Please contact Claire at or 479.3447 with any questions.

More experiential learning brought to you from the Rodef Sholom religious school!

Friday, November 5, 6:15 pm Shabbat services and Sunday, November 7, 11:15 am Religious School Tefillah: Teens from the Hand in Hand School in Israel to speak at Shabbat Services and Sunday School

Last year, we had the two co-founders of Hand in Hand, Lee Gordon, Executive Director of American Friends, and Amin Khalaf, Director in Israel, come and speak about their inspiring school. This year, we get to hear from two 11th graders! Yael Keinan, who is Jewish, and Sewar Eid, who is Arab, will speak about their personal experience studying in Israel's only integrated Jewish-Arab high school. Yael and Sewar are outstanding representatives of their school, and Hand in Hand's mission for coexistence and partnership between Israeli Arabs and Jews. For more information about Hand in Hand, please visit

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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.