RABBI ZOE KLEIN at WVRC on January 14th
May I begin with a wonderful story, please? This was reported at our Board Meeting earlier this week, and I am pleased to pass it along. As you know, MARSHA HUNT has a major involvement with a village in Uganda. At her urging, we voted to provide $3,000 toward support of her program. A member of Prince of Peace Church in Woodland Hills had earlier offered to match anything collected during this past December, up to $7,500. So she stood up in church during their announcements, and said that Westwood Village Rotary Club had just donated $3,000 thus they still needed $4,500. There are several people in her church who belong to other Rotary Clubs in the area, and they began to make donations. Together with others, on the last Sunday in December they came up with the needed $4,500, which of course then doubles to $15,000! To quote MARSHA, “At the beginning of December I was a little down because I felt we had not raised as much money as we needed to keep everything moving forward. But at the end of December, obviously I was thrilled. I am SOOOOO glad I am a Rotarian.” And MARSHA, you can be sure WVRC is so proud of you! We Thank You for all your effort.
PP BOB LUSK led the Pledge. Vice President ED JACKSON gave the Invocation: Since our Speaker today is a Rabbi, I have chosen a passage from Isaiah, in the Old Testament. “ Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “There am I. Send me.” Isaiah 6.8. Well chosen, ED. And, as night follows day, indefensible LENNY once again took up the cudgels, pending history and further instructions. Prexy ED let it be known that LENNY is perhaps not the tallest among us, but ED had a solution! Lo and behold, another HAT appeared, nicely designed to increase LENNY’S stature in his many conducting roles. With this fully demonstrated, LENNY then took us through God Bless America.
There were two visiting Rotarians, each exceptional in their own way. First was long-time-ago PP BILL BLOOMFIELD JR, now of the Manhattan Beach Club, and he was accompanied by Aliyah Levin, also presently a member of Manhattan Beach. Aliyah is with the federal government in some capacity, and has recently been transferred to our own Federal Building. While this structure will eventually be entirely taken over by the FBI, she will be there located for some time. Thus she is a Special Guest, even though PP BILL paid in full in cash for both their lunches! Providing we can excuse the dubious character of her sponsor, she certainly would be welcome to join WVRC, as I’m sure all will agree. Another Special Guest was Abraham Caroms, who is sponsored by PP MIKE GINTZ but was introduced by PP STEVE SCHERER. This is Abraham’s second visit, and he is with Morgan Stanley. SUNNY was of course with LENNY, and ALY SHOJI brought her father, Harry. Our Ambassadorial Scholar, MASAKI NAKODA was introduced by PP MIKE NEWMAN, and I believe MASAKI is now staying with the NEWMANS.
There were several announcements. MARK KRAUSE spoke of the recent formation of Christian Ministers in the Westwood area. They will be sponsoring a World Christian Community Service this Sunday, the 17th, 4 pm at St. Albans and of course, MARK, SUSAN KLINE, and JOHN WOODALL are members of this group. Prexy ED reminded us all that he, ED, only sings for money, so it isn’t certain if he will be present on Sunday or not…
On a much more serious note, Prexy ED reminded us that part of the reason for the extreme damage caused by the earthquake in Haiti is that the island is located at the confluence of two tectonic plates which of course impinge on each other. There are several relief groups who will be doing what they can, including the Red Cross, Rotary, and the federal government. We certainly should keep all Haitians in our prayers.
Tuesday January 19th, there will be a meeting at the Methodist Church about Certification of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, starting at 6pm Parking is available next door at Belmont Village.
We were reminded that DEBBY SHERER’S Father passed away recently.
PP HOWIE HENKES Memorial service will be held at the Westwood Hills Christian Church on Saturday January 23rd, starting at 11:30.
Looking ahead a bit, on February 5th (Friday-note) John Dean will speak at the Santa Monica Club, with which we are having a joint meeting. We will be dark here on the 4th.
DWIGHT HEIKKILA brought us up to date on our Rotaract Club. They are currently helping with Project Chicken Soup, feeding the homeless, on January 24th. A dance marathon is set for February 13th and 14th. Please call DWIGHT for details.
Our Valentine’s Day luncheon will take place at Lawry’s, as before, on Saturday the 13th of Feb, so save the date, please.
And these festivities ended with a raffle, won my MARIE ROLF, of a bottle of merlot apparently connected in some way to Lane Kiffen, the new coach at USC.
MARK ROGO introduced our Speaker, Rabbi Zoe Kline. He began with a touching story about the son who came home and proudly announced to his mother that he would be appearing in the local school play. When she learned his role was that of a Jewish husband, she suggested to her son that instead, he try for a speaking part. It’s only fair to report that this was well received.
MARK continued, Rabbi Kline is the senior Rabbi at Temple Isaiah, which is located on Pico Blvd, across from Rancho Park. She is his own spiritual leader, and has been in her present position for the past three years. He pointed out that those who belong to a congregation where the clergy makes you think are indeed fortunate, and he gave an example. His 16-year old daughter asked him who was preaching the sermon on Confirmation Sunday. When he told her it was Zoe, she replied that her whole class wanted to be there and getting any teenager’s attention is proof of success! She is multi-talented a Community Leader, married with three small children, who accompanied Mayor Villagarosa to Israel and leads a congregation of 1300 families. Rabbi Zoe has just written a book, which she will discuss.
She began by reminding us how vulnerable we all are, living as we do on this fragile globe. Groups like Rotary are leaders in helping where we can, and she is very pleased to be able to speak to us. She is assisted by two other Rabbis’, plus a Cantor, and there are many responsibilities with such a large congregation. People often ask her how she balances her job, as a Rabbi, writing, and raising three children but they seldom ask about another part of her life, being a wife! She grew up in Connecticut, and her father was a serious artist. The family was not particularly religious she graduated from a Presbyterian high school, for instance. She grew up with her family sharing magic, and mystery with her. She recalls a specific time when she ran out into the nearby field, attached a note to a helium balloon, and let it go. Her father, who was watching from an upstairs window, came running out to her. “What did you just do?” he asked and then “No, don’t tell me. You did something beautiful let it be yours, mystery is beautiful”. Once she awakened, after losing a tooth, and there were feathers all over her room. No one would admit to placing the feathers another magical moment.
She feels that the ability to pray is helped by the ability to say, “WOW”. Her family was very spiritual, although not formally religious. Artists are very aware of spirituality they are always trying to perfect an already-perfect canvas, for instance. They talk about perception, and mortality. Her father is currently engaged in building a giant castle of cardboard, which will be left outside to rot and filmed in the process. Her father shared a trait that many artists have necrophobia, or fear of death. People who are creative are often driven by the passage of time.
This phobia is hereditary, and can be passed on. Her brother would run downstairs fearful that there was a monster under his bed, which can be solved by simply looking under the bed. However, her fear was that she would die someday, and this was tougher to discuss. Now, as a Rabbi, she is exposed to death, even more than most veterans. This occurs not only at bedside, but graveside you are there, but not a part of it, really. She said to her father, “I want to be a writer” and he replied, “When you bring me your first book, you will be a writer not before. “
This is based on the fact that it is absolutely necessary that you finish the book starting with an idea, and then bringing it to a conclusion. When in college, she did indeed present him with her first book, which was never published but she was then accepted as a writer, by him.
The novel she wrote recently is called, “Drawing in the Dust”. It is partially due to her overwhelming love for the Prophet Jeremiah-which she pointed out to her husband before they were married and it was OK with him! Jeremiah is an extraordinary brooder, and a most unhappy man. But from this came a voice of the most prophetic order. He even challenges God sometime. “You created us imperfectly and then condemn us for acting imperfectly.” As an example of his contrariness, he purposely bought land as he was leaving Israel, since he was convinced that the Israelis would return some day. So in her book she brings him a woman to be his lover who saw him as a man, to be idolized. She feels that her role is to usher people into a better place, but she remains fixed in her own place. You are right at the heart of people’s major transitions, but you are not part of those transitions. While you are very public, and very social, the truth is that no one is interested in the fact that you had a fight with your husband that morning! You are very loved, but you get confused by that loneliness. She actually wrote a 52 chapter scroll of the life of Jeremiah. Since the scroll was never ‘discovered’ she had to take it to the next step and write a book about it. She is always pleased to receive comments from non-Jews about how they liked the book. The main character is Catholic, an archaeologist, who discovers a tomb under the home of a Muslim family and in that tomb they find the remains of Jerimiah with his arms around a woman. She feels that the job of a Rabbi is to find a way to piece together the many parts of a community.
She is not a fan of eulogies. You are asked, in a few words, to sum up a person’s life, and of course that is impossible. There are very few clergy Rabbis included who write works of fiction. She believes that fiction opens up our heart in a way that nothing else can. An example a woman came to her who had had a double mastectomy. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she hated herself. So Zoe suggested they try to find a metaphor that might be helpful. After many attempts, they did and the woman no longer hates her own body. If someone dug up two volumes about you a millennium from now, what would be more useful the record of your studies, your records, or the other, a record of your dreams? She strongly feels that dreams would count most.
PP STEVE SCHERER asked how her fear of death manifests itself in her spiritual development? Sometimes a person will cry about death, not because they are afraid of it, but because they so love life. She tried hypnotism but the therapist couldn’t get her to stop talking so he could hypnotize her! We went to a geriatric psychologist she was 35 at the time. He asked why she was there, and she said she had a man standing behind her with an axe, and eventually he will fling it. Apparently he called her Brenda, so that didn’t go anywhere. When driving recently, she spotted a lovely cascade of flowers at a signal and she began to realize that life is beautiful and death is your invitation to be a part of it. Suddenly, the man with the axe became an escort, instead, carrying a rose. STEVE PETTISE asked how she felt about the plight of Israel? Particularly on her visit with the our Mayor, when they met with several senior leaders, she believes that Israel is ultimately hopeful they are on the cutting edge of possible solutions there, and she feels they will succeed. They care about oil, and water, and both of these are major problems. That can be solved. The only enemy is fanaticism and this must be dealt with.
Rabbi Zoe Klein, thank you for a most thought-provoking and interesting visit.- come back anytime!
Closing comment Don’t have negative thoughts on things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment..