Shorts: Bay Area

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Something for everyone at East Bay PicnicFest

Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland will be transformed into a gigantic picnic for families, singles and everyone in between during the fifth annual PicnicFest from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 7.

While wandering around the grassy grounds, participants can listen to the Moshav Band perform, sip a glass of Hagafen wine in the beer and wine garden, and keep the kids entertained with an animal show, face painting and puppet theater.

Thirsty Bear Brewing Co. will pour complimentary beer, and Haagen Dazs will scoop free ice cream for all PicnicFest-goers.

More than 30 booths representing local Jewish schools, synagogues and agencies will dot the area, in addition to booths for social action groups and speed dating sponsored by HurryDate.

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s LGBT Alliance also will be on hand to celebrate newlyweds with wedding cake, a meet-and-greet and more.

Admission is free, and every adult who attends will be entered into a raffle. Drawings will be held throughout the day, and you must be present to win. Sign up online and receive an additional entry into the grand prize raffle.

For more information or for volunteer opportunities, contact the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay at (510) 839-2900, ext. 208 or visit

Sonoma JCC hosts pre-holiday retreat

To help people get their auras focused on the High Holy Days, the JCC, Sonoma County is offering a daylong retreat with noted meditation specialist Sylvia Boorstein and Rabbi George Gittleman.

Presented by the JCC’s Jewish Meditation and Spirituality Program and Congregation Shomrei Torah, the program is set for 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 21.

The JCC’s Web site explains that “through gaining insight into our own inner workings, our own hearts, we will walk into the New Year with open hearts.” The retreat will include prolonged periods of silence (with instruction), Feldenkrais movement and Hebrew chanting.

No meditation experience is necessary and the retreat, which costs $36, is open to all. It will be held at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa.

Boorstein is a co-founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre and the author of “It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness” and “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There.” Gittleman is the longtime spiritual leader of Shomrei Torah and is a fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

For more information or to register, contact Sheila Katz, (707) 528-4222 ext. 330, or [email protected].

JCCSF lecture looks at silent film era

Back in 1913, Max Aaronson — better known as Bronco Billy, America’s first cowboy movie star — launched the Essanay film studio in Niles, near Fremont. What happened next will be the subject of an upcoming lecture at the JCC of San Francisco on the Bay Area’s connection to the silent film era.

Local silent film experts Stephen Salmon and David Kiehn will show clips of stars like Charlie Chaplin, Lon Chaney and Bronco Billy, accompanied by Jewish pianist and film buff Bruce Loeb.

Sponsored by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, the event takes place 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at the JCCSF, 3200 California St., S.F. The event is free to members of the historical society, with a $5 donation asked of non-members. For more information, go to

Library of Congress honors novelist

Novelist Herman Wouk will receive the first Library of Congress Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction. The award will be presented Sept. 10, in Washington, D.C., in an event sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Wouk has published 12 novels as well as plays and works of nonfiction. Born in 1915 in N.Y., the Jewish writer won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Caine Mutiny” (1951). Wouk’s novels about World War II and the Holocaust, “The Winds of War” (1971) and “War and Remembrance” (1978), were made into award-winning television miniseries in 1983 and 1989.

Wouk will be donating his literary diaries, remaining manuscripts and correspondence to the library. The library already holds the manuscripts of five of his novels.

AJWS hosting ‘Lunch and Learn’ S.F. series

American Jewish World Service will launch a new Lunch and Learn series hosted by the western region director, Rabbi Lee Bycel, beginning Sept. 3.

The gatherings will combine dialogue, Jewish text study and stories of Bycel’s experience from the developing world.

The first meeting will focus on preparing for Rosh Hashanah, asking participants to consider: What role do we play in working toward a more just and humane world?

The Lunch and Learn will be from noon to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3 at the AJWS office, 131 Steuart St., Suite 200 in San Francisco. Bycel will also teach a Lunch and Learn on Nov. 12 about gratitude, and one Dec. 10 about Hanukkah.

The public is welcome to attend the series, but space is limited. RSVP to Elizabeth Friedman Branoff at (415) 593-3297 or [email protected].

S.F. Voice for Israel expands into E. Bay

San Francisco Voice for Israel has expanded its counterprotests against Bay Area Women in Black’s anti-Israel demonstrations to include Oakland and Berkeley.

Voice for Israel supporters now gather every Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater and from noon to 1 p.m. every Friday at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, the sites of regular Women in Black protests.

Voice for Israel spokesman Dan Kliman says the Berkeley protests can get “nasty and noisy,” much like the monthly Women in Black rallies at the Montgomery BART station in San Francisco.

“In Oakland it’s been really productive,” he says. “We have had great discussions with passers-by pretty consistently. We hand out informational fliers. People want to correct misconceptions.”

Kliman adds that Women in Black, a radical pro-Palestinian group, tried to get the Oakland police to shut down the Voice for Israel counterprotests because they claimed “we were confusing their message.” The police denied the group’s request.

“We wish we didn’t have to do this, but we do,” adds Kliman. “We’ll be there as long as they’re there.”

For more information, or to volunteer to stand with Voice for Israel, go to, or send an e-mail to [email protected].