Shoshana, Yossi and Dan Fendel will teach at the East Bay JCC's Tikkun Leyl Shavuot
Shoshana, Yossi and Dan Fendel will teach at the East Bay JCC's Tikkun Leyl Shavuot

Three generations pulling Shavuot all-nighter in Berkeley

The all-night learning fest on Shavuot held at the JCC of the East Bay is a longtime favorite for Berkeley resident Yossi Fendel. He’s not even sure how many he’s been to.

“Dozens, at least. I think?” he said. “Maybe more than that.”

But this year it will be extra special. Not only will Fendel be there to learn, he’ll be there to teach. And so will his father. And so will his daughter.

In the overnight hours of June 8-9, in a first for the Fendel family, all three generations will be teaching at the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot event, which will run from sunset Saturday to sunrise on Sunday.

Now in its 31st year, the festival is a highlight on the East Bay Jewish holiday calendar, with people coming from synagogues and organizations from across the region to give talks on everything from Jewish poverty to matriarchs to Yiddish music. Visitors can come for an hour or stay all night, with a supervised sleeping room for children (registration required, no bedding included). An evening meal is provided by the JCC, and guests can bring kosher snacks to sustain them through the night.

“I’m a big fan of the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot,” Yossi Fendel said. “I think it’s a really valuable, unique addition to the East Bay Jewish community.”

Yossi, 46, a former staff member at Berkeley-Oakland Midrasha, is planning to discuss puzzles and the connection between discovery and revelation as a route to wisdom in a talk called “Solving at Sinai.”

His daughter, 16-year-old Berkeley High student Shoshana Fendel, helps with the b’nai mitzvah classes at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. “I wanted to teach a class with them,” she said. “I thought that would be fun.” Together, Shoshana and her students decided to focus on a Jewish response to climate change in “Was Moses an Environmentalist?”

“It’s really exciting,” said her grandfather (and Yossi’s father) Dan Fendel. “She’s quite a young lady, so I’m really proud of her — and my son, as well.”

Dan, 73, a Piedmont resident, will talk about death rituals, something he knows about through his many years as part of the chevra kadisha at Oakland’s Temple Sinai. His class is called “Who Is Talking to Whom in a Taharah Room?” Taharah is the ritual washing of the dead.

The JCC’s Tikkun Leyl Shavuot is an East Bay favorite for its friendly vibe and wide range of topics and speakers. It’s a place where you can see everyone from a Chabad rabbi (Berkeley’s Yehuda Ferris) to an academic (Naomi Seidman) to a Jewish Renewal rabbi (Lynn Gottlieb) under one roof — along with all of the people who are eager to hear them.

“For me, it’s a really good chance to hang out with friends and learn about Judaism,” Shoshana said.

Dan called the annual event the “most exciting educational opportunity I’ve ever encountered.”

Yossi, who came up with the idea of getting the generations together this year, noted that when the family was living abroad in Israel for one year, they missed the 2016 event.

“That was the one holiday where I was like, aww, I wish I were in Berkeley,” he said.

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot

6 p.m. Saturday, June 8 to 6 a.m. Sunday, June 9 at JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. Free, donations encouraged.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.