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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on September 18, 2019

As parents, we try to learn from the vast wisdom of others and to teach our children to behave with care and compassion.  I remember the years, not too long ago, when we helped our young children learn the word ‘share.’ Fearing that their developing maturity would prompt long, scream-filled battles with their older siblings while claiming, “Mine!” we thought “Share” would be the best response. Much to our surprise, they took to the word beautifully, and now use the word “Share” every time they really want to say, “Mine!” 

“Share! Share! Share!”...

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on September 11, 2019

There is a story that haunts me this time of year. It haunts every rabbi I know.

It is the story of a young Jew who lived in Germany at the beginning of the century -- a brilliant student of philosophy at the university in Berlin. All of his cousins, and all his colleagues and acquaintances had converted to Christianity, as was so common among young Jews at the time. His professors urged him to convert as well to assure himself a position in German academic life. Inasmuch as Judaism meant so very little to him, he agreed to become a Christian. But the young man had a sense of history, and decided that were he to become a Christian, it had to be as the first Christians  -- he had to do so as a Jew. So for one last time, he stepped into a synagogue on Kol Nidre night -- planning to receive baptism the very next morning... 

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Posted by Member Spotlight on June 18, 2019

On Shavuot, we invite people who have converted to Judaism to share their story -- how they came to Judaism, why it touched them, how they celebrate being Jewish.

Good morning. When invited to speak today, I started about five different documents on my computer with various tangents discussing different aspects of my journey here today. I had so many thoughts and ways to tell this story, but only having an hour to talk (just kidding), I wanted to get to the core of what I believe, so will be starting with what I know...

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on June 12, 2019

A rabbi I know once brought a nursery school class into the synagogue sanctuary for a tour. He showed them the bima, the ner tamid, the cantor"s and rabbi's lecterns. Finally, the tiny kids stood before the huge doors of the Holy Ark.

"What do you suppose is in there?" he asked them.
"Nothing!" one child answered, "It's empty. There’s nothing in there."
"It’s a new car!" another shouted.
"An old, old Torah!" responded another.
"I know! I know" one child insisted, "It's a mirror!"

Each of the kids was right.

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Posted by Rabbi Noah Farkas on June 5, 2019

This past weekend I performed a wedding at the most amazing mansion I’ve ever seen.  From the very top of Malibu I saw the mountains and rolling hills and the mists upon the sea.  The wedding ceremony itself was on the house’s helipad - because Malibu. This being Los Angeles, I heard that movies had been filmed there. I’m not going to lie, it was stunning.

The wedding couple was so much fun to be with, and their family and friends were just lovely.  But this wasn’t their house. They were renting the place for the wedding and the owners were nowhere to be seen... 

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Posted by Member Spotlight on May 29, 2019

Sometimes, personal interaction and establishing a relationship can make a tremendous difference for new members. That’s exactly what happened when Stephanie and Allan Walsh attended synagogue and school events and got to spend time speaking with Rabbis Feinstein and Hoffman, shortly after they joined VBS about 13 years ago.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on May 29, 2019

B.D.S., warring factions in the Knesset, the Nation-State Bill, Gaza, Muslims in Congress, antisemitism in Europe and America, hate speech on US college campuses, and on and on.  It’s difficult to hear anything else beyond the shouts and murmurs about the State of Israel and the fate of Jews in the world. These past months there have also been an abundance of celebration in Israel, from talented musical expression in the Eurovision awards, to examples of religious tolerance and pluralism, to attempts to land on the moon, and on and on too...

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Posted by Rabbi Avi Taff on May 22, 2019


Last Shabbat in Parashat Emor we read about the command to create a shabbaton (a day of complete rest, a sacred occasion) and that is exactly what we did. 26 families from our day school community descended upon Camp Ramah for our 5th annual Youdai Family Camp.  Children and families celebrating Shabbat, singing and dancing, appreciating nature, overcoming fears, bonding as a community, putting away all that distracts us (yes, that means our cell phones and other screens!) from what is most important and just being present; giving us the opportunity to experience and think about how we create sacred time.  Shabbat is a precious gift; a blueprint for connection to that which is most important and recognition of life’s greatest blessings...

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on May 15, 2019

This week, Israel hosts “Eurovision,” the international song competition. Performers from across the globe are gathering in Tel Aviv to present the best of contemporary music. For Israel, Eurovision eclipses everything. Domestic political struggles, the conflict with hostile neighbors, international affairs, all recede in the presence of the music. In fact, Israel has always had a special relationship with music. The history of Zionism, Israel’s birth, its flourishing, its anguish and its victories, are represented by its songs. Here is a brief glimpse at the history of Israel through its songs...

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Posted by Rabbi Noah Farkas on May 8, 2019

Hate is like a drug. It makes those who hate feel good because it gives them an escape from their own problems for a little while. You can get high on hate.  Hating another person gives you power. You can take back what you thought you’ve lost.
You can own someone because you feel owned.
You can troll so you don’t feel out of control.
It is a drug. You can get high on hate...

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