Holidays, Celebrations, and Commemorations

Holidays celebrated at Sha’ar Zahav are both the ones we may have learned about as children and those unfolding for us in our evolving world, such as LGBTQ Pride. We often create our own prayers and rituals reflecting how Judaism inspires us in our modern lives. For example, CSZ hosts an annual Transgender Remembrance Shabbat, comprised of readings from Siddur Sha’ar Zahav.

Sha’ar Zahav also celebrates the diversity of Jewish tradition by hosting Klezmer Shabbat and a Veterans Day commemoration service.

Upcoming Holiday Events

Sunday, May 16: Shavuot’s Night of Learning on Zoom

It is time for Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Night Torah Study for Shavuot) and everyone is invited!

Sessions start on the hour, and go for 50 minutes, with a 10-minute break in between. Come to one, two or as many as you’d like! The complete schedule is below. We hope you get excited with the list of topics taught by our in-house Sha’ar Zahav mavens, plus special guest antiquities expert Lenny Wolfe. Please contact Liliana Peliks if you have any questions.

Register for Shavuot’s Night of Learning Here

Welcoming at 6:45 PM

Sessions From 7:00 – 7:50 PM

  1. The Creation of Family Via Alternative Reproduction in Torah, taught by Ora Prochovnick
    As queers, we have long been creative in how we create, form, and define our families. This includes utilizing a variety of assisted reproduction approaches, as well as adoption and foster care and alternative parenting models. In this session we will study early examples of and role modeling for these approaches to parenting and family formation as found in Torah.
  2. The Book of Ruth: Making Queer Connections to the Torah, taught by Matt Rich
    This session will largely be an exploration of Ruth and the figures like her who can and have been claimed as queer over the years by jewish scholars and laypeople alike. Participants will be encouraged to share their own stories of queer resonance within Torah and to engage with the open mind as we explore the Torah as a living document, and modern interpretation as a part of the tradition of Oral Torah.
  3. Journeys Within: Diversity in Judaism and Jewish Practice, taught by Jonathon Thunderword
    An exploration and discussion of different beliefs and practices within Judaism and Jewish life, the ethical and moral principles that bring us all together, and the importance of an open heart and mind towards working together in community.

Sessions From 8:00 – 8:50 PM

  1. Creative Writing Workshop: Your Hinge Moment, taught by Zahra Axinn
    This will be an abridged creative writing workshop where we think about, write, and discuss stories from our own pasts as they relate to some of the themes of Shavuot. We will begin by writing about specific times in our lives where everything seemed to be about to change—a “hinge moment”. We will then take time to share writing and reflect on the themes raised.
  2. Yoga: Hearing the Revolution, taught by Stuart Dick
    The world changed with revelation, but not all change is accompanied by the great cacophony described in Torah. Join us as we relax the body and mind in order to accentuate our ‘hearing’ and open to potential insight gained from even the most subtle vibrations from within and without. (All abilities. Please bring a chair.)
  3. N’shamah Y’teirah – Our Sabbath Second Soul, taught by Cantor Sharon Bernstein
    It is said that, on Shabbat, we each receive a second soul, a n’shamah y’teirah, to help us delight in the Sabbath day. In this session, we will look at some Talmud and Kabbalah texts from the Torah, Talmud, and Kabbalah which discuss this second soul — how we receive it, what we can do with it, how to part with it — and delve into how we can play with our second soul each week.

Session From 9:00 – 9:50 PM

  1. Mother Goddesses in Largely Patriarchal Societies, taught by Guest Antiquities Expert, Lenny Wolfe 
    Antiquities expert Lenny Wolfe (Jerusalem) will discuss fertility goddesses in early Jewish and surrounding cultures, focusing on the importance of the mother goddess within patriarchal societies, the use of fertility statuettes as votives and talismans, and the magical powers attributed to these and other kinds of amulets.

Session From 10:00 – 10:50 PM

  1. MIDRASH: An interpretation of Genesis, taught by Barbara Leff
    According to the medieval Jewish scholar, Rashi, it is the duty of each new generation to reinterpret the Torah. My collection of poems, AND GOD SAID . . . A Brief History of Creation, does just that through dramatic monologues from the viewpoints of well-known and lesser characters, animate and inanimate.My varied experiences reading and discussing the poems with Torah study groups across the US and Canada have validated the need for each of us to discover the lessons ourselves. I welcome you to join me as we explore what the text has to say to each of us at this moment.
  2. Lilith: From Goddess to Demoness, taught by Rabbi Mychal Copeland 
    We’ll follow Lilith’s career through text and art, from guardian of the night to demoness, through Tanakh, Talmud, Zohar and amulets.

Session From 11:00 – 11:50 PM

  1. Mountain Fire in Your Soul: Poetry Readings & Writing Workshop, taught by Carey Averbook and Elias Ramer
    In our time together, the two of us will be sharing stories, biblical sources, and quotations. Then we’ll guide you into a period of writing about the mountain fire in your soul—about the Torah, the message for the world that you’re receiving in this time.Come to connect with the fire in you, whether you’ve been writing your whole life or never have before. The more tired you are the better, the easier it will be for the fire to come through!
  2. Interpreting Babel, taught by Erika Katske
    Join us for a close reading and lively discussion of the thought-provoking nine verses in Genesis that tell the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Desire, ambition, confusion of languages… What does the text reveal about what happens at Babel? What interpretations persist in our cultural understanding of the story? How are those interpretations supported (or not) by the text itself? What insight might new readings of this story offer us in our current tower-building era?

Register for Shavuot’s Night of Learning Here


Signature Sha’ar Zahav Celebrations

Recovery Shabbat

Springtime is a period of rebirth in the natural world, and in the Jewish calendar. The holidays of Tu BiSh’vatPurim and Pesach all share motifs of redemption and rebirth. CSZ has long recognized that recovery from alcoholism and similar diseases is also a form of personal rebirth and redemption, and in recent years the congregation has developed an annual Shabbat service around this theme. Recovery Shabbat is celebrated in April, tying it both to Pesach‘s redemption theme and also to National Alcohol Awareness Month in the United States.

Yom HaShoah

On Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Commemoration Day, the 27th of Nisan), we remember the millions of Jewish and LGBTQ people and their allies who died at the hands of the Nazis. The Yizkor prayer includes memorials for Jewish martyrs and for those who perished in the Holocaust. Other appropriate readings include the “Blessing for Social Action,” Communal Prayer of Remembrance” and the memorial blessing for heroes and community activist.

Yom HaAtzma’ut

Yom HaAtzma’ut is Israel Independence Day, the fifth day of Iyar. In 1948, this was the day on which the State of Israel was born, following Britain’s withdrawal from the region and the UN’s recognition of the new country. Readings for this day may reflect the significance of Eretz Yisrael, the beauty and natural features of the land, or the political issues that continue to affect the region. Several appropriate selections are found in Siddur Sha’ar Zahav, such as Psalms of Hallel and songs in the Shirim section.

Transgender Celebration Shabbat

The third Shabbat evening in May was first celebrated as Transgender Celebration Shabbat at CSZ in San Francisco in 2006. This annual holiday is a community-wide Festival honoring the transgender and gender-queer community and the living diversity of creation. Transgender Celebration Shabbat joyously acknowledges the bravery and uniqueness of the living members of our community.

LGBTQIQ Pride Shabbat

The Shabbat preceding the last Sunday in June commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City on June 27, 1969, when gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people and other queer people rose up in an expression of bravery, freedom and pride. Today, decades later and with considerable progress made in securing equal rights for all citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender, LGBTQIQ community honors diversity of all forms with Pride celebrations. Appropriate readings are sprinkled throughout our siddur.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we hold a service in memory of all those who were killed because of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. It has been observed at Sha’ar Zahav on the Shabbat preceding the November 20 anniversary of the murder of Rita Hester, a transgender person killed on that date in 1998.

Holiday Memories

Here’s a look at a few special moments from Hanukkah 2017.