Rachel and I arrived in the Bay Area from the East Coast at the same time and we worked closely together for a couple of years as Jewish educators at the Peninsula JCC. We shared a birthday and became dear friends. Here is my poem from 1998 that evokes Rachel’s sense of humor.
Little Rachel Brodie of Manhattan, Nu Yawk
Knew every bracha before she could tawk.
And Amy studied how to paint
Inhaling turpentine until she was faint.
So how in the world did we come to be
Wrangling for Jews at the PJCC?
Teaching God knows what to God knows who
And God knows why it’s what we do.
From translating Amichai, ain’t it absurd
To find for “Kwanzaa” a rhyming word?
From handling “The Suite” and talks about Zora
To light the lulav and shake the menorah?
It’s no kosher picnic, let me warn ‘ya
To be sluts for Torah in Northern California.
The Jews here are a funny lot.
Instead of salmon, they’re smoking pot.
It’s harder to locate a decent challah,
Than to find a class about Kabballah.
Nostalgia for “olden ways” is often the norm,
But here, “olden ways” means classic Reform.
This Torah reader with a beautiful voice?
Surprise, she’s a Japanese Jew-by-choice!
That aging hippie, feelin’ groovy?
Who would take him for a ba’al teshuvee?
It’s hard here to know what’s real from what’s myth.
But as sluts we must teach the ones we are with.
This means San Francisco Bay Area Jews.
(Just don’t make us go to Santa Cruz).
Amy Kassiola is a Jewish Educator who has taught in Family School programs and leads workshops on cultural traditions at synagogues and JCC’s throughout the Bay Area. She is also a professional artist whose work has been exhibited locally and on the East coast.