Welcome to our La Crosse Jewish community!
We are seniors, boomers, millennials, Generation X,Y Zers and Alphas.
We are families, couples, individuals.
We were born Jewish, chose to be Jewish, are on the path to becoming Jewish, live with Jewish people we love.
We are singers, listeners, teachers, learners, pray-ers, do-ers.
Come meet the CSOA family.
When we gather to worship… when we learn together at a class… when we volunteer in the community… when we unite to stand up for social justice… when we get together to enjoy one another’s company and socialize.
Become part of something special here in the Coulee Region. Help us create meaningful Jewish experiences for you and for our entire community. Find your Jewish home with us. We look forward to welcoming you.
A Welcoming Philosophy
The CSOA community is all-inclusive and invites everyone to join us for services.
CSOA is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). The URJ prides itself on welcoming all Jews and the important people in their lives, regardless of their prior Jewish affiliation, their gender or sexual orientation, the faith of their extended family, or any disability. We work hard to be a community mindful of the idea that each and every individual is created in the image of God, and believe that welcoming all Jews and their families strengthens the Jewish people. We invite you to visit CSOA to experience our special Jewish community for yourself!
CSOA is a fully-inclusive congregation that welcomes and supports individuals from all backgrounds. We welcome children from interfaith families and encourage sensitivity from our entire community to support our children even if they choose not to become Jewish themselves. Additionally, Rabbi Serle performs weddings for interfaith couples and LGBTQ couples.
Please contact Rabbi Serle: email@example.com
Call or text: 612-251-5045
My streaming gem: why you should watch Sand Storm
The latest in our series of writers highlighting underseen gems is a recommendation of an intimate drama set within Bedouin culture
So much of the drama in Elite Zexer’s quietly furious debut feature Sand Storm goes down while the Bedouin women in the film are attending to their chores.
They argue and seethe while preparing meals, doing the laundry or repairing generators. They drag out tensions while sweeping floors, even though the air in Negev, a southern region in Israel, will redistribute the desert dust in 10 minutes. Their family could be unraveling, but still they keep to these duties and maintain the order.
Sand Storm, an award winner at the 2016 Sundance film festival, embeds itself in Bedouin culture, closely observing the rich tribal traditions and concerning practices. The women in Zexer’s intimate and powerful drama simultaneously sustain and chafe against that culture. The film is about how they clash with each other while upholding the extremely patriarchal society that buries their voices.
The first people we meet in Sand Storm are doe-eyed Layla (Lamis Ammar) and her doting father, Suliman (Haitham Omari). She’s driving his pickup and discussing her college grades. Her education, skills behind the wheel and fashionably colour-coordinated hijabs set her apart as a modern Muslim woman within a conservative tribal culture.
But such signifiers of progress are deceiving. Layla is driving her father to his wedding celebration, which is being prepared by her mother, Jalila (Ruba Blal). Suliman is enjoying the spoils of polygamous practices by marrying a much younger second wife. He literally divides his home to accommodate these arrangements. Jalila bears it, though Blal’s precise performance suggests she’s containing a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. In a community where women can only do or say so much, the tiniest details echo like thunder.
The storm comes during those wedding celebrations, when Jalila intercepts a phone call from Layla’s secret boyfriend, Anwar (Jalal Masrwa).
Zexer has said in interviews that Sand Storm is based on something she experienced. Forbidden romances like this are not a particularly novel storyline in film, and especially in narratives about conservative cultures that practice arranged marriage. Sand Storm was at Sundance the year before Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V Gordon, brought The Big Sick to the festival, relating their own experience contending with arranged marriage.
But Sand Storm is not that kind of movie. Zexer isn’t really interested in exploring the romance between Layla and Anwar. We hear about him more than we see him. And he’s often shunned to the narrative’s corner. In a key image from the film that ended up on its poster, Anwar sneaks over to Layla and Jalila’s property. Layla covers Anwar’s mouth, silencing him and pushing him into the background as she stares off into the distance, listening for her mother.
That moment comes from a deftly choreographed set piece with the characters navigating rows of hanging laundry. Zexer doesn’t waste a frame. Anwar is pushed and tugged in different directions, as if in a balletic dance. Every glance and stare is precise and purposeful, as the drama unfolds between mother and daughter. In a fairly simple plot, their complicated relationship is the focus. Anwar is just a conduit, exposing the tension and connective tissue between the women.
Jalila may be pitched – at least at first – as Sand Storm’s chief aggressor. She’s the harsh matriarch doing the patriarchy’s bidding. Suliman suggests as much in the opening scene, when he tells Layla that her mother is going to kill her over some dust. But the dynamics are more complicated and Zexer nimbly wades through them.
Her exploration of the burdens women bear goes beyond the obvious and overt social restrictions in Bedouin society. She homes in on the microaggressions that are universally felt.
You don’t have to come from a conservative eastern culture to recognize the small, unspoken but insistent expectations men like Suliman place on women like Jalila; or the casual ways he undermines her decisions, even when it comes to the household he leaves her to run. Those little moments, and there are so many of them in this dense narrative, cut right to the soul.
But Sand Storm avoids the trap of being a simple, didactic and depressing look at systemic injustice. Its women, hardened as they become, resist.
Even in their most dire circumstances, Layla and Jalila’s can be passionate, snappy, empathetic, purposeful and steadfast. In Ruba Blal and Lamis Ammar’s revealing performances, we find hope. In Elite Zexer’s film, the women loom large.
- Sand Storm is available on Netflix in the US and UK
Our newest family moved into the La Crosse Jewish Community last week. Bud is the new Operations Manager of the Children’s Museum of La Crosse. Bud was very engaged at Congregation Cnesses Israel in Green Bay. Here at CSOA, Bud is very interested in adult education, cemetery & Chevra Kadisha, library, congregation archives, Shabbat services, among other interests. When you have a chance, stop in and welcome the Andrews family to La Crosse, and show them our La Crosse warmth and love!
All Yahrzeit Minyanim are at 7:30 PM on Zoom: Click Here to Join Minyan
Friday, December 10 Rosebetty Kaufman Short z”l, sister of Daniel Short, and
Samuel Nathan z”l, father of Betty Butler
Thursday, December 16 Mark Peacock z”l, brother of Laura Arndt, and
Sarah and Hyman Glickman z”l, grandparents of Ed Neumann
Friends, Passover begins on March 27.
CSOA Zoom Seder March 28.