Session II


  • Rabbi Mike Comins "Finding God in Nature"
  • Rabbi Shefa Gold & Atzilah Solot "The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming The Mind, Deepening Love"
  • Rabbi Mordecai Miller  “Texting – Rediscovering The Familiar”
  • Ira Steingroot - "Beautiful Symmetry: Kabbalah and the Jewish Calendar" 
  • Bonnie Weiss "The Man Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz: A Tribute to Lyricist/Humanitarian Yip Harburg"
  • Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky "Seven Fundamental, Mystical Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov that will Enhance your Life Today!"

Rabbi Mike Comins: "Finding God in Nature"

Whether on a trip to the Grand Canyon, or putting flowers on the Shabbat dinner table, we can all be moved by the power and beauty of God’s world—yet those who sense the sacred in nature are sometimes denigrated as primitive, pagan and un-Jewish. Rabbi Mike Comins, founder of TorahTrek will join us to discuss how the sublime experience of God’s presence in the physical world relates to Jewish thought and practice. Rabbi Mike Comins presents a “deep Jewish ecology” as the basis of a Jewish response to global climate change. And he’ll tell a few stories as to what it’s like to be the only rabbi in Wyoming.

Rabbi Mike Comins is the founder of The TorahTrek Center for Jewish Wilderness Spirituality ( and the author of A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways into Judaism (Jewish Lights Publishing; and Making Prayer Real: Leading Jewish Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer is Difficult and What to Do about It (Jewish Lights Publishing; A yeshiva-trained, Israeli-ordained Reform Rabbi and a licensed Israeli desert guide, he holds an M.A. in Jewish Education (Hebrew University) with an emphasis in contemporary philosophy. Mike participated in the Mindfulness Leadership Training program at Elat Chayyim, sat four- and six-week silent meditation retreats at Spirit Rock, and completed numerous solo wilderness retreats (“vision quests”). He was the first resident rabbi of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Rabbi Shefa Gold & Atzilah Solot: "The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love"  

It turns out that the magic words of creation, transformation, healing and the expression of our infinite depths have been hidden in plain sight in the words of our inheritance – words that lie sleeping on the page, just waiting for our love to arouse them. So many words, buried in books, seem all but dead. When I find the divine breath within me and resuscitate those words, they come alive and become vehicle of power and healing.  They become incantations.

 In this workshop, we will explore the power and magic of Hebrew Chant as we transform the words of prayer into spiritual practice.

Rabbi Shefa Gold is a leader in Aleph: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal and received her ordination both from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. She is the director of C-DEEP , The Center for Devotional, Energy and Ecstatic Practice in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Shefa composes and performs spiritual music, has produced ten albums, and her liturgies have been published in several new prayerbooks. She teaches workshops and retreats on the theory and art of Chanting, Devotional Healing, Spiritual Community Building, Meditation, and trains Chant Leaders in Kol Zimra, a two year program for rabbis, cantors and lay leaders. She is also on the faculty of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Shefa combines her grounding in Judaism with a background in Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and Native American spiritual traditions to make her uniquely qualified as a spiritual bridge celebrating the shared path of devotion. She is the author of Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land, and In the Fever of Love: An Illumination of the Song of Songs published by Ben Yehuda Press, and The Magic of Hebrew Chant: Healing the Spirit, Transforming the Mind, Deepening Love  published by Jewish Lights. For information about how to order CD’s and about Shefa’s teaching schedule, visit her website:

Ellen/Atzilah Solot, MA,CMT is a visual and improvisational performance artist and Body-Centered therapist dedicated to gently and playfully guiding others into their bodies to cultivate deep presence, creativity, satisfaction and joy. She is chant leader at Ner Shalom and a graduate of Kol Zimra, chant leadership training with Rabbi Shefa Gold. Homecomings: Creativity & Embodiment Resource Center 

Rabbi Mordecai Miller: "Texting - Rediscovering The Familiar"   

Using the siddur (Jewish book of prayer) and the TaNaCH (Bible) we'll examine a few well-known passages to discover what lies beneath the obvious. 


We'll look at: 

  1. The Shema, "Hear O Israel." Most people acknowledge this as the fundamental statement of Judaism, but what does it really mean?
  2.  "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob..." Why not  simply "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"? Why not "Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"?
  3. Time permitting: "Another look at the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden" How many special "trees" were in the Garden? What do we mean by the phrase "the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil"? And other pointers to an understanding of this remarkable story.

The class is designed for people of all backgrounds and to allow for give-and-take. "Burning Questions" are welcome!

Mordecai Miller was born in Greenwich CT to Rabbi Meyer & Shulamith Miller.  At the tender age of thirteen months he moved with his family to Durban, South Africa.  He graduated the University of Natal in December, 1970 and went on to study for the rabbinate at HUC-JIR ('74) in Cincinnati, OH.  He has occupied pulpits in St. Paul, MN ('74-'81), Canton OH ('81 - '90), St. Louis MO ('91- '12). He and his wife Susan, daughter Sarah, and grandson Miles, arrived in Santa Rosa in July, 2012 where he serves as the current rabbi of Congregation Beth Ami.

Ira Steingroot:  "Beautiful Symmetry: Kabbalah and the Jewish Calendar" 

Christianity has been described as Jewish wine in a pagan vessel. Likewise, the classical monotheistic grapes of Jewish history and law were grafted on to hardy mythic and magical rootstock, the agricultural year as a mirror of heaven. The medieval Kabbalists were able to link their mystical understanding of Jewish belief to these ancient pagan roots in ways that deepened the meaning of our traditional holidays and observances. Mystical texts like the Zohar did this not just for the mystics themselves, but for the average devout Jew who found cold comfort in Jewish philosophy. This workshop will explore the magical, numerological, astrological and mystical depths hidden within our own normative Jewish practice with the intention of reconnecting us to the life of the earth.

Ira Steingroot is the author of Keeping Passover (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), All-Purpose Yiddish Knowledge Cards, Jewish Mysticism: the Language of the Kabbalah Knowledge Cards, Jewish Ceremonies and Holidays Knowledge Cards, The Ten Sefirot of the Kabbalah Classic Poster, and All-Purpose Yiddish Calendar 2002 and 2003.  He has been writing about music, especially jazz, since 1973 and giving classes on kabbalah  since 1978.

Bonnie Weiss: "The Man Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz: A Tribute to Lyricist/Humanitarian Yip Harburg"

2014 is the 75th anniversary of the beloved film The Wizard of Oz. Yip Harburg is the man who wrote the enchanting lyrics to all the fabulous songs in the film. The American Film Institute ranked one of those songs "Over the Rainbow," the number one song to emerge from a Hollywood film. Harburg also penned the words to the legendary Depression-era song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" (music by Jay Gorney), and the hit Broadway musical Finian’s Rainbow (with composer Burton Lane). With Harold Arlen, who composed the melodies to all the songs in The Wizard of Oz, Harburg also wrote the lyrics to such classics as “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe,” and the Groucho Marx comic gem, “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” With composer Vernon Duke, Harburg penned the words to the haunting "April in Paris."

In this presentation you’ll learn about Yip’s early years as a poor Jewish kid growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and how it influenced his efforts to fight for social justice. You'll see how his vision is expressed through his lyrics and will also get to see Yip, himself, performing many of his own songs in an engaging and charming manner. Plus you’ll see rare interviews of Yip describing how he brought The Wizard of Oz to the screen and wrote the lyrics to two of its most famous songs. What’s more, you’ll see performances of his work by such legends of the stage and screen as Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Groucho Marx, plus Tony Award winners Barbara Cook and Audra McDonald. Best of all, you’ll hear Yip relate fascinating stories about how and why he wrote his marvelous words to these great tunes.

Bonnie Weiss is a seasoned theatre educator, writer, radio and cabaret producer. She teaches musical theatre appreciation for Bay Area Classic Learning Road Scholar (Elder Hostel) programs and for S.F. State, Santa Clara, and Dominican University OLLI. She also lectures at retirement communities throughout California. Among the many educational and community organizations through which she has offered her acclaimed presentations are San Francisco Conservatory of Music, The Concordia-Argonaut and Commonwealth Clubs, Masonic Lodges, The Stanford Women’s Alumni Association, U.C. Berkeley Extension, the Colleges of Marin and San Mateo and the Blackhawk, Oakland and Palace of the Legion of Honor Museums.

Bonnie also writes feature stories and reviews for The Sondheim Review. From 1983 to 1991 she co-produced and hosted a radio show "Front Row Center" on KALW-FM, "Two for the Show" on KEST-AM and "Open Ear" on KQED-FM. She has also produced and acted as Master of Ceremonies for 12 sold-out cabaret shows in San Francisco and San Mateo.

 Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky "Seven Fundamental, Mystical Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov that will Enhance your Life Today!"

Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (literally: "master of the good name," also known by the acronym "Besht") was the Eastern-European 18th century founder of the chassidic movement. The Baal Shem Tov was a leader who revolutionized Jewish thought and breathed new life into a fainting nation. The effects of his teachings continue to be felt today—both by his direct followers, known as chassidim, and by followers of all other streams of Jewish thought, who've been deeply impacted by his teachings and philosophy. 

Rabbi Mendel is the director of the Chabad Jewish Center and has been teaching Torah extensively throughout Sonoma County for the past 12 years.