When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls
And the stars begin to twinkle in the sky.....
It must have been about 5:30 PM. We'd been working in the kitchen of the Berkeley Veterans' Memorial Building on Center Street since about 4:30. I grabbed the full compost container and took it outside to the west parking lot in order to empty it into the large green bin. Luckily I looked up. The clear sky was in that liminal space between twilight and night: deep purple, three-day old crescent moon, and the evening star shining so brightly it brought tears to my eyes. I urged the other volunteers to drop everything, come outside and look up! Josh and a few others came out. Helen called out that she saw the same view from her apartment window every night so she was just going to keep on chopping. Everybody simmered down. Back to work.
Because it was New Year's Day, we had planned to make a festive space in the dining room for the men who were residents. Rabbi Dorothy Richman, Michael Steinman, Shai, Levi and Yael set about transforming the day room. They put brightly colored round tablecloths on each of the tables at which the men would sit, wrapped eating utensils into holiday napkins and tied them with brightly colored ribbon. The men noticed it right away and several made of point of thanking us for making a special effort.
Weeks prior, Dani had suggested making turkey sliders for the dinner. It sounded like a lot of work: 45 men, 3 sliders per man: 135 sliders. I set about locating and pricing the ingredients. We lucked into a sale of ground turkey that really "saved our bacon". Dani knew that Trader Joe's sold slider buns with sesame seeds. They were quite inexpensive and TJ's told me I could return any of the unopened packages for a refund if we over-bought (we did and they did). The sliders were a combination of turkey meat, pinto beans, brown rice (successfully pre-cooked in the oven a la Vicky Kelman), and spices. Served alongside the sliders was roasted broccoli, roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, green salad, iced tea. This was all put together expeditiously and with good cheer by Dani Levy-Wolins, Yonit Levy, CJ Kingsley, President Josh Gressel, Helen Schneider, and Joan Alexander.
Ruth Konoff prepared the dessert in her home and brought it to the Shelter. There was an audible gasp (!) when the boxes of dessert were opened. Ruth made Cranberry-Citrus Cream Trifle placed in individual compostable cups. The layers were lemon pound cake, sweetened whipped cream, cranberry/orange syrup, lemon curd spread, blueberries and raspberries arranged on top. Ruth prepared enough for every resident, the resident manager, and our volunteers, too. Some of us marked the start of 2017 with tell-tale marks of whipped cream and lemon curd on our lips.
I had a beautiful day today. I stood with my sister, a passionate rabbi serving the U.S. Navy as a chaplain, at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. We remembered our grandfather of blessed memory, who fought for America and shared hard-earned wisdom with his children and grandchildren.
I looked to my right and saw the Washington Monument. Looked to my left at the Lincoln Memorial. I read quotes engraved on massive stones. And I felt, to my core, one sad feeling: too much war.
Too. Much. War.
The quotes and certain retellings of history would have me believe that we fought for pure purposes: we fought for religious freedom, we fought to end slavery, we fought for freedom for all humanity, we fought to end tyranny. But it's also true that we fought (and fight) for economic interests. It&…