Shavuot the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Rabbis planning the Tikkun Leil Shavuot at San Francisco’s Congregation Beth Israel Judea were still working out the agenda as of early this week. But they already had a battle cry: “Torah, Torah, Torah!”

Appropriate, since Torah is what tikkuns — Shavuot study sessions that go all night, or at least well into it — are all about.

In this case, four San Francisco synagogues have joined forces to stage a May 26 tikkun: Congregations B’nai Emunah and Ner Tamid (both Conservative), Or Shalom Jewish Community (Reconstruc-tionist) and Beth Israel Judea (Reform).

Rabbi Katie Mizrahi

“It’s a nice synergy between the communities,” said Rabbi Mark Melamut of B’nai Emunah. “We’re all located south of [Golden Gate Park], most of us fairly small. Though we are different streams, this gives us a lot of variety in terms of what we bring to the table.”

Adds Rabbi Katie Mizrahi of Or Shalom, “Each of us is a solo pulpit rabbi, so we’re on our own most of the time, rabbinically speaking. So it’s a joy to put our heads together and support each other.”

The 5 p.m.–to-midnight event begins with a dairy and fish potluck dinner, followed by three blocks of learning opportunities. Melamut will teach a class titled “Torah of Torah,” in which he will examine how Jews have approached their most sacred text over the millennia.

In other words, a Torah study about Torah study.

“People take for granted it’s rolled up scrolls,” Melamut said, “but there is much deeper meaning.”

Rabi Mark Melamut

In addition to Melamut and Mizrahi, Ner Tamid’s Rabbi Moshe Levin and Beth Israel Judea’s Rabbi Danny Gottlieb will lead study sessions.

Moreover, the rabbis said this won’t be the last time they collaborate. In the coming year, the synagogues plan to team up again for adult education opportunities, starting with a three-part summer class to help prepare for the High Holy Days.

Mizrahi thinks the cross-fertilization is good for the synagogues, good for the rabbis and, most importantly, good for the students in attendance.

She used an agricultural metaphor to make her point.

“If you plant just one plant, and only that plant, you’re vulnerable in certain ways because you have only one strategy for survival, and you miss out on potential creative innovations,” she said. “The Jewish community has always been a multi-denominational phenomenon.”

And if the plant metaphor doesn’t work for you, there’s always ice cream. After all, it’s Shavuot, and Beth Israel Judea will have a dairy dessert and ice cream bar on the premises.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.