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Being there for one another: Making a Shiva Call

Several years ago, in one of my first ventures into the world of online writing, my friend Jackie Lieberman and I collaborated on a post about making shiva call.

Shiva is the period of mourning after a funeral, a time when friends and community members comfort the mourners.

While many of us want to be there for friends and loved ones, we often just aren’t sure what to do. So often we think that our job is to “fix” things; to make them better. Shiva is a powerful reminder that so often the most important thing we can do is to be there for one another.

Fortunately, paying a shiva call is a skill that can be learned. Jackie recently shared with me that our post has continued to be of help to many folks who are searching for Jewish ways to comfort friends and community members.

I don’t think I could say it much better than we did back then, so please see here for our list of shiva FAQs.



Returning Home to Camp Newman

Sharing the thank you letter I sent to the directors at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA following the wonderful summer I spent on faculty at my childhood camp. It was such an honor to be a camp rabbi!

Dear Ruben, Erin and Allie,

I wanted to write you all a (much) belated note and thank you so much for welcoming me and my family back home to Camp Newman last summer. We had such a wonderful time at camp.

I am grateful that I was able to give back to the community that is such a part of my identity. I loved every minute of being on faculty. Of course, nothing is like Shabbat at camp. But also, I loved the everyday camp minutes, so very many of them: going on the “Novernight” and telling stories at the campfire ring; participating in a Chayim girls cabin time; painting toenails with campers to prepare for Shabbat; checking in on a homesick camper; starting lanyards by the art tables; sitting with counselors and listening to their hopes and fears about college; mentoring rabbinic students as they prepared their first High Holy Day sermons; catching the “ah-ha” moments in the high school study sessions; working with campers to incorporate movement and art and storytelling into tefillah; getting to know and work with the talented and caring staff and counselors in my session and throughout camp. It was such a gift to be a part of camp.

Thank you also for caring so wonderfully for my children. The Camp Katan staff were so patient and understanding. My kids had a great time – and they still talk about camp all the time!

Writing this letter, next summer seems so very far away. But we know that it will come sooner than we might think – and we hope to be able to return home to Camp Newman again.

Wishing you all a shana tova,


Rabbi Leah Doberne-Schor

Mishloach Manot: Packaged Purim Love

Summer camp was a blast. Friends. Swimming Pool. Freedom. And yet… what was one of the most anticipated moments of the day?  Mail time! The counselors would go to the main office and return to the cabin, hopefully with a letter, or better yet, a care package from home. Yes, I might be far away from home.  But I was not forgotten.  Someone cared for me enough, missed me enough, to put together an entire package, box it up, and send it to me.

One of the best parts of Purim is the opportunity to send all the love of a summer camp care package, right in the middle of the year.

All ready to go! These beautiful mishloach manot baskets are for a congregational project run by my friend Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg. What a great idea to build community connection!

All ready to go! These beautiful mishloach manot baskets are for a congregational project run by my friend Rabbi Shoshanah Tornberg. What a great idea to build community connection!

These packages are called mishloach manot, which literally means “sending of portions.” Mishloach manot go all the way back to the Bible.  The Book of Esther, which tells the story of Purim, commands the Jewish people to observe the days of Purim “as days of feasting and gladness, and sending portions of food to one another, and gifts to the poor” (9:22).  The idea behind mishloach manot is to (a) make sure that everyone has something special to eat for Purim and (b) increase the love and connections amongst the members of the community.

Many people enjoy baking special Purim treats for their mishloach manot packages. But this is not required.  Chocolate bars, snack food and other pre-packaged treats are fine too.

You can send mishloach manot to friends in town. Or they can be a great way to reconnect with family and friends across the country. All that is required is your love, care and thoughtfulness!