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Our Rabbi

Rabbi Mehring grew up in the Reform movement with Jewish summer camp being responsible for her love of Judaism through music, community and creative prayer.  She completed her undergraduate education at UCLA, received a Master's degree in Physical Therapy from USC and for many years, had an orthopedic private practice before answering the call to become a rabbi. She sees this transformation as a perfect fit, moving from physical healing to spiritual healing.

Rabbi Mehring received a Master's degree in Rabbinic Studies and was ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion, CA, a transdenominational seminary for rabbis, cantors and chaplains.  In addition to her work on the pulpit, Rabbi Mehring also on the faculty of American Jewish University in Los Angeles where she teaches in the Miller Introduction to Judaism program.

 It is still through Jewish music that this 'singing rabbi' finds deep spiritual connection and depth. She has sung locally with the  San Luis Obispo Master Chorale and with Canzona, a women's vocal ensemble.  Rabbi Mehring is committed to understanding and dialogue amongst people of varied faith traditions. Her commitment to this work goes beyond finding what is common to our faith traditions, to working towards mutual respect and understanding of our differences. She works toward building a just world for all by service as a former board member for People of Faith for Justice,  Curriculum Committee and founding member of the Peace Academy of Science and the Arts,  Consultant for North County Neighboraid, Interfaith Liason for the Jewish Community Center of San Luis Obispo,  member of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association and the North County Clergy Group. 

(photo credit Caili Wilk) 

She is the rabbinic director for the Central Coast Community Hevra Kadisha,  a Board member of HospiceSLO, and a member of the San Luis Obispo County Vaccine Task Force. 

Rabbi Janice is available for all lifecyle events including weddings, baby namings and funerals.  She welcomes all people, including the LGBTQ+ community to participate fully in the cycles of a Jewish life and family.

The Jewish Community and Vaccination 

The Jewish community at large is clear regarding vaccination and other precautions against the pandemic. All the major denominations of Judaism are very clear that vaccination is a Jewish imperative when recommended by medical professionals.  Rabbi Micah Peltz of the Conservative movement wrote a teshuvah (rabbinic response) on this issue and notes that this imperative applies even when vaccines are approved quickly by an emergency process, as the COVID-19 vaccines have been. This vaccine meets the halakhic standards of a refuah b’dukah, an established treatment.

Jewish law is full of injunctions to protect our health and avoid danger. Moses instructs the Children of Israel, “Be careful and watch yourselves” (Deuteronomy 4:9).  The Torah even commands we put guardrails on our roofs to stay safe (Deuteronomy 22:8). From that directive, Moses Maimonides extrapolated that we should take measures to protect ourselves and others.   Leviticus (19:16) echoes these same messages, with its exhortation to “not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” This is understood in our tradition to mean that we do everything we can to safeguard the health of others.

Wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and washing hands are not just recommended but are obligated by Jewish law.  These preventive measures are considered mitzvot, spiritual obligations, and vaccines approved by government health agencies are seen as refuot b’dukot, established medical procedures. There is a strong consensus among mainstream Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Jews that it is our ethical obligations to pursue healthy living and to embrace established scientific practices that contribute to the well-being of all. Therefore, with proper medical guidance, Jews are obligated to be vaccinated.

I am fully vaccinated and I wear a button that tells people so.  Please consider being a vaccine advocate by setting an example that will encourage others to do the same. The only way we will end this awful pandemic, get to herd immunity, and be able to fully reopen and recover is to come together as a community and get vaccinated. The loss of over 560,000 people from this plague has been devastating but at this point in the pandemic no one else needs to die from Covid 19 because we have a vaccine. If you have concerns or questions, you are welcome to call me.  If you are still struggling with finding a vaccine appointment, please call me and I will help you.  SLO County has appointments available now as do local pharmacies and hospital clinics for anyone over the age of 12.

Please get vaccinated to take care of yourself, your family, your Jewish community and our community at large.                                                           

Zeh baZeh - These AND these are the holy words of God

I stand with all of you, horrified, saddened and grieving the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others before them. Racial injustice in our country has been a frontlet between our eyes in the past weeks from the disproportionate rate of COVID-19 deaths in communities of color to the pervasive racism playing out on our streets and in our institutions. Jewish tradition forbids us to remain silent in the face of such injustice. “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” (Leviticus 19:16). We must acknowledge the pain and respond in every way we can.

 

During these days of grieving, I listened to Claudia Rankine’s piece, “The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning.” Rankine, a poet, essayist and teacher at Yale University wrote this essay in June, 2015 in response to the slaughter of 9 African Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. In her article, Rankine asked a friend of hers, “What is it like to be the mother of a black son? Her friend answered bluntly, “The condition of black life is one of mourning.” Mourning lived in real time inside her and her son’s reality – that at any moment she might lose her reason for living. White parents worry when our children leave the house or when they move away and start their own lives but we cannot even fathom the level of fear and despair black parents face.

 

Rankine commented this week that the repetition of police brutality has not changed since 2015, but what has changed is the response to the killing. For the first time, there is mass protest on our streets due to grass roots organizing and mobilizing people of every racial group, age, and demographic. There is a calling for a collective ‘we’ and to ask the question, “What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States?” We are called on right now to dig deep inside to examine our own biases and the way racism informs our opinions, our judgments, our choices, our community, and our relationships. We must sit with our feelings of lament, confusion, grief, and rage as painful as they are. In our spiritual calendar, the summer season includes a period of communal mourning called the Three Weeks. That season of mourning reaches its low point with Tisha b'Av, the darkest day of the Jewish year. And Tisha b'Av, in turn, is our springboard into the season of teshuvah, introspection and change that leads us to the Days of Awe. It feels like we have entered these Three Weeks a month early as brokenness is apparent everywhere. But amidst the despair, it's our job as Americans and as Jews to work for a world of justice for all.

 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminded us that “morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty but all are responsible.” Let’s do this work together, tackling uncomfortable and painful truths about our own privilege and attempt to answer the question of what it means to be a citizen in this country.

I offer these resources:

 

URJ Ways Your Congregation Can Act Now for Racial Justice https://urj.org/justiceforall

Anti Racism Resources from T’ruah: https://www.truah.org/resources/anti-racism-resources/

 

Privilege Checklist from Jewish MultiRacial Network https://www.jewishmultiracialnetwork.org/privilege-checklist/

 

 

Rabbi Janice Mehring, Atascadero, CA June 10. 2020

 

Tue, October 19 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782