Proud to be LGBTQI and Interfaith

Rabbi Mychal Copeland served as director of IFF/Bay Area until June, 2017 and is now the rabbi at Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. When I met my first girlfriend at 22 years old, I fell head over heels. My mind was swirling for at least a year—processing how this person would change my life, when and […]

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How Jewish Do I Need to Be…If I’m Not Actually Jewish?

I met Jeremy and Lisa at a coffee shop to plan their upcoming wedding. We had covered most of the usual pre-ceremony topics: communication, values and balancing work and home life. Lisa had a strong Jewish sense of self from her upbringing and was excited that Jeremy, who didn’t follow any particular religious tradition, was […]

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Why a Raisin Has Never Tasted So Good

I always spend some time as Rabbi in Residence at Camp Tawonga in California each summer, and it is always a highlight of my year. Camp’s Jewish theme changes each time, and this year we are focusing on the word from Torah “Hineni,” which means “I am present.” Many biblical heroes, notably Moses at the […]

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Who Will Marry Us?

You have chosen the date, the place, the guest list. But who will officiate at your ceremony? A family member? Friend? Clergy person? Justice of the peace? A celebrant? Asking friends or relatives to officiate at wedding ceremonies is a relatively recent phenomenon with numbers rising in just the last decade with the advent of […]

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Thank You, Source of Stuff: A Gratitude Practice for Kids

When my kids were young, I introduced them to the practice of saying the Hebrew blessing, the motzi, before eating. Thank you, God, who brings forth bread from the earth. My older child instantly connected not only to the routine of the ritual but the theological aspect as well. But a few years ago, my […]

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Five Lessons for Couples from The Big Bang Theory

Two of the hit TV show The Big Bang Theory’s main characters, Howard and Bernadette, announced that they are having a baby. Mere moments after hearing the news, the father-to-be was fretting about how they would raise their child since they come from different religious backgrounds. “How’s this all going to work? You’re Catholic, I’m […]

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Does Spirituality Have to Mean God?

Last week, my son started wondering about the edge of the universe. What is at the end? Is there an end? What does the word “everything” really mean? Is there anything outside of “everything”? I could tell as we talked that his mind was trying to expand enough to picture our expanding universe. We weren’t […]

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Why We Should Come Out as Interfaith Professionals on College Campuses

Last month, I sat with 25 people who gathered over breakfast to talk about being part of interfaith families. As the Director of an InterfaithFamily community, there is nothing new or remarkable about that; I bring interfaith couples together regularly to share stories and support one another as they explore religious life. What is noteworthy […]

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Did Zooey Deschanel Convert For Her Husband? Is That a Bad Thing?

Is converting to Judaism “for” someone so bad after all? As an avid follower of the hit show, New Girl, I couldn’t pass up an article in Us Weekly about its star, Zooey Deschanel, converting to Judaism. The headline revealed that she converted for her husband, producer Jacob Pechenik. “The things we do for love!” […]

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My Mom and Her Hanukkah Angels

When I was growing up, my parents threw the most elegant Hanukkah parties. My mom is a decorator at her core and relished the opportunity to throw a party with pizazz. There was fancy juice for the kids, our best dresses and most of all, a gorgeously decorated house. Down the bannister streamed a garland she would […]

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Keep Judaism Wonderfully Weird

Years ago, a colleague of mine told me that as a rabbi, I should try to make Judaism, “cool,” At the time, I knew I was put off by this comment, but only years later do I fully understand why. What I love about Judaism is that it is generally “uncool.” In fact, it is […]

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When sacred text hurts others, how do we apologize?

This essay was reprinted with permission from J. Weekly. Earlier this month I was the rabbi at the Fellowship for Affirming Ministries’ biennial conference at City of Refuge Church in Oakland. I was invited to blow the shofar for the new Hebrew month of Av, and I lit candles to usher in Shabbat before the […]

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How to Be Good People … Together

Kurt Vonnegut wrote in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—’God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’” […]

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Let’s Celebrate Fellow Travelers on Shavuot

This post is based on an article by Rabbi Copeland that originally appeared on jweekly.com There have always been Jews-by-association. Nowadays this term, JBA for short, is becoming well known as a catch-all category for people who hang out with Jews, including people who gravitate toward Judaism, have many Jewish friends, or are partnered with […]

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Walk The Talk: Parenting as a Role Model

My kid taught me a good lesson today. I was pulling out of our driveway as the usual flood of people were walking by, oblivious to my own tight morning schedule. I muttered to myself how they should be paying attention to the cars rather than being engrossed in their conversations and that I had […]

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Who Gets to Criticize Your Religion?

I remember the day I introduced our kids to The Prince of Egypt.  I loved this movie, and I was excited to be sharing it with them. Then my partner entered the living room: “How can we teach our kids these stories?!” The slavery, the plagues, and worse, God as a killer of babies. Suddenly, […]

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Is there a connection between Easter eggs and the afikomen?

When I was little, my mom made a huge deal of the Passover afikomen hunt. The prize for finding the broken pieces of matzah throughout the house was the hot toy of the day (I vividly remember the year of the Beanie Baby craze).  She also created an elaborate Easter egg hiding game in which […]

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God and The Tooth Fairy

My 7-year-old lost another tooth last night. Since we have been through many of these over the last couple of years, the two of us agreed to put aside any pretention that it would end up under his pillow. He is a non-believer and finds the story of the tooth fairy to be the most […]

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Time to Junk Jewish Jargon?

You’re at a social or family gathering when someone starts throwing around a bunch of Jewish gobblygook you don’t understand. One guy is talking about a cool, new “minyan” in town and you’re picturing this guy. Someone else is talking about her “boobie” and you wonder if this is really too intimate a conversation for […]

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A Hanukkah Giving Ritual Takes the Competition Out of The Season

Years ago, I struggled with how I was going to do Hanukkah in our home. Christmas was already set. We visit my partner’s parents who aren’t Jewish for the holiday season. I tell our kids, as many Jewish parents in interfaith relationships do, that we are helping their grandparents celebrate Christmas. It may sound a […]

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Do parents need to present a united front…about God?

Many parents avoid being divided on issues big and small with our kids. We particularly try to present a united front about discipline, decision making and responsibilities and attempt to not get triangulated. But what about God? Do we need to believe the same thing, or at least tell our kids we do? My partner […]

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Why are We Terrified to Teach Our Kids about Religion?

When it comes to religion, many parents don’t want to choose for their kids. Their hesitation isn’t just about choosing a single religion over another—they are hesitant to make any choices about religious education for their children at all. What I most often hear is that people want to allow their kids to choose for […]

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Sukkot Reminds Us to Treat All Visitors as Honored Guests

This blog post was reprinted with permission from j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.  I recently visited a San Francisco synagogue for the first time. I rang the bell and a teenage girl came to let me in.  She wasn’t working there; she was just doing her homework. She welcomed me with a […]

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Bring Leonard Cohen into Your High Holy Days

The most chilling song I have ever heard is Leonard Cohen’s “Who by Fire.” His deep, haunting voice is perfect for the lyrics, which acknowledge that none of us knows how our lives will come to an end. In case we are morbidly curious, the song lists some possibilities: “Who by fire, who by water, […]

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Ask the Big Questions

When I was young, my sister taught me one of the most important things I needed to know about the High Holy Days: Always ask the big questions. As kids, we attended services with the adults since child-friendly services hadn’t been invented yet. It was long. Really long. Now I lead services and understand why […]

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Jewish Genes: Are They in Our DNA or in Our Stories?

Where are you from? It seems an innocent enough question. But as our families become more and more diverse, the answer can get wonderfully complicated. Recently at a “Saturdays Unplugged” event at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco, I asked attendees about their ancestry and invited them to place pins in a world map marking […]

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Amidst Fighting…Intermarried Jews and Muslims Express Their Hopes for Peace

Do you need a little lift amidst the conflict in the Middle East? A growing movement of Tweeters are telling the world that “JewsandArabsRefuseToBeEnemies.” Documented in the article, “Under Muslim-Jewish Hashtag, Sharing a Message of People Over Politics” by Maayan Jaffe, the campaign was started by two college students from Hunter College in New York. […]

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Breaking Bread with the In-Laws

Last Friday night, I watched as my kids lit Shabbat candles and said the prayers at our table with my in-laws standing by. My partner’s parents are not Jewish, and I felt a deep appreciation for them in this moment. When we all met, none of us could have imagined this scene. Nearly two decades […]

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We’re Mostly Jewish

I spent last week at California’s Camp Tawonga as the rabbi on staff for their “Taste of Camp” (a six-day introduction to the camp experience for kids who aren’t ready for a longer session yet). I overheard two 8- or 9-year-olds getting to know each other’s backgrounds on the way back to the cabin. Excitedly, […]

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5 Things I Hope Rebecca Ferguson Knows Before Starring in The Red Tent

If you haven’t read Anita Diamant’s bestselling novel, The Red Tent, here is some extra incentive. Lifetime is launching what they call an “epic movie event” on December 7, starring Rebecca Ferguson, Minnie Driver, Morena Baccarin and Debra Winger based on the book. Even if it doesn’t go on your summer reading list, here are five […]

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It’s Not Only About the Kids

The first commandment in the Torah is to be fruitful and multiply. Judaism takes that very seriously. One blog sums it up this way: “Jewish mothers like to bug their kids about ‘hurrying up and getting married and giving me some grandchildren already before I die because I’m not going to be around forever you […]

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Lilith: The Quintessential Jewish Outsider

I went to an edgy opera recently called, Lilith the Night Demon in One Lewd Act. Lilith isn’t mentioned in the book of Genesis, but the opera based itself on early Jewish tales of a woman who was created before Eve in the Garden of Eden. Unlike Eve, who was born out of Adam’s side, […]

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My Marriage Choice Doesn’t Dictate My Jewish Commitment

When I was in college, I had a serious boyfriend who wasn’t Jewish.  At that time I also got involved as a leader with Hillel, the Jewish campus organization. For me, these two major preoccupations with my time were not in conflict. In fact, I brought him frequently to Hillel events and was the first […]

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My Wife Eats Cereal in The Garage

We have been through 20 Passovers together. My wife does pretty well with the eating restrictions but somewhere around the middle of the holiday, there she is eating cereal in the garage. That’s where I store the chametz, the bread products that are off-limits during Passover, to make the rest of the house ready for […]

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How I Met the Mother of My Children

Divinity school is an unlikely place for a rabbi to meet her spouse. In my first week of graduate school, I became friends with a Coptic nun from Egypt, a Southern Baptist minister, a Jewish Buddhist and a young scholar of Early Christianity. The last would one day become my wife. I was one of […]

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