Category Archives: News

BZC Celebrates First Half Century

On September 30 around 200 people attended BZC’s gala Fiftieth Anniversary celebration at the Jack London Aquatic Center in Oakland.

In February 1967 Sojun Mel Weitsman, with help and encouragement from his teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, rented a big house on Dwight Way in Berkeley and founded Berkeley Zen Center. Our fiftieth anniversary as a sangha also joyously celebrates fifty years of Sojun Roshi’s warm-hearted and continuing leadership. Partygoers ranged from the earliest years on Dwight Way to folks who have only recently found their way to our current Russell Street location. The energy was palpable. There was no shortage of smiles and lively warm conversations in the main hall, with pleasant live music in the background. Separate smaller rooms were set aside for viewing past images of BZC and for remembering and honoring those BZC stalwarts who are no longer with us. An outside balcony area was also a popular place to hang out during the balmy early autumn evening.

Liz reminisces about early days on Dwight Avenue.

Following a tasty light dinner, a lavish birthday cake was presented, and the speeches soon commenced. Master of Ceremonies Hozan Alan Senauke introduced a series of speakers, beginning with Sojun Roshi, whose reminiscences received a prolonged standing ovation. His wife Liz Horowitz then shared stories about early temple life with Sojun, followed by several other folks from across the decades who spoke from the heart about what BZC and Sojun have meant in their lives.

Sojun asks, “Who was there during the 1960s? Stand up!”

With speeches concluded and toasts made, people lingered to talk some more and then say their goodbyes. As they filed out they were handed a beautiful, lovingly compiled Fiftieth Anniversary booklet, full of captioned photos and insightful pieces written by dozens of our members from across the years.

(The booklet can be viewed or downloaded at

Ken Berman admits he was there.

It was indeed an evening to savor and remember. Innumerable bows to the more than fifty volunteers who contributed many long hours toward making this semicentennial event a wonderful time together!

Here are just a few photos from the event. Many more will soon be available on the BZC photo site.

Family Practice at BZC

Our Family Practice program is in transition; we are not sure what we will be offering during the rest of this year. We’d love to hear from you what you want and need.
We also have a Yahoo email group devoted to family practice issues. We only send at most one email a week. To join the group or to send any other comments or queries, please contact Laurie Senauke at


Jizo Ceremony for Those Who Have Died

The loss of a loved one often opens a well of profound grief. No matter whether the loved one dies suddenly or slowly, whether through illness, accident, miscarriage, abortion, or suicide, our sorrow is deep and may be long-lasting. To help families and friends in their process of grief, we will honor our lost loved ones in a ceremony in our Jizo garden on Saturday, October 14, 1:00-3:00 pm.
Jizo, the Earth Store Bodhisattva, is viewed as a guide and protector for those who are enduring the loss of a loved one, particularly a child lost in miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or in early life. Jizo’s vow is to remain in the world until all beings are free from suffering, and he accompanies children when they pass out of this world.
Before the ceremony we will spend time making a personal memorial for a lost one, by writing a message or by making a simple necklace, a robe for our Jizo statue, or other offering. Attendees are also invited to bring a picture of their loved one or other personal tokens of remembrance for our altar.
The ceremony will be led by two BZC priests, Gerry Oliva and Judy Fleischman. All BZC members, members of other Zen groups, and neighborhood residents are invited to attend. A more detailed description will be posted on the BZC courtyard bulletin board. There is no fee but offerings of dana are welcome. We will not have a sign-up sheet, but request that those attending let us know in advance so that we can have adequate supplies and refreshments. For more information or to let us know that you’re coming, contact Gerry Oliva at or (520) 652-7217.

Oryoki Training

Are you ready to deepen your formal meal practice in the zendo? Would you like to explore and learn how to use oryoki bowls with cloths? Please look for flyers on the bulletin board for monthly half-hour trainings. Upcoming instructions will be happening Saturday, September 23, 11:30 a.m. to noon; and Friday, October 20, 4:30-5:00 p.m. You can also contact Sue Oehser at (510) 339-0243 or to arrange some other time.
Mary Stares from San Francisco Zen Center gave a wonderful talk about the spirit of oryoki which you can find at

Men’s Shelter Dinner: Join Us!

A BZC crew cooks and serves Friday night dinner at the Berkeley Men’s Shelter twice a month, every month—and we’ve been doing it for 20 years! Lance Shows and Laurie Senauke take turns being head cook. Every time, they need two or three volunteers to be assistant cooks, four more people to serve food and clean up the shelter kitchen at the end of the meal, and someone to provide dessert.
It’s satisfying work, a good way to get to know other BZC members, and a chance to contribute to the well-being of others. More help is always needed. Sign up on the community room porch bulletin board or let Lance and Laurie know that you are interested and we will send you a reminder a few days before the next date: or

Caregiver Support Meeting

Are you helping a loved one with health challenges or to do things that they used to do for themselves? Many in our sangha are doing so. Being responsible for another can be an unrelenting practice. Sangha Support is sponsoring a gathering to share experiences, tips, and resources to support your efforts, facilitated by Laurie Senauke and Debbie Schley. All are welcome to come on Sunday, September 17, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., at the Senauke house, 1933 Russell. Please RSVP at the contact info below (there won’t be a sign-up sheet for this). Also contact us if you’d like more information, or if this topic is of interest but you will not be able to attend. Please contact Debbie at or (503) 505-4282.

Just Out! Vol. 1 of Sojun Roshi’s Lectures

For BZC’s 50th anniversary we have produced a thumb drive with 80 digitized lectures—Volume 1 of Sojun Mel Weitsman’s recorded dharma talks at Berkeley Zen Center. The first recording is a talk by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi at BZC in January 1970. The remaining files cover Sojun Roshi’s first recorded lectures at Russell Street, given between November 1980 and May 1983.
This set of recordings represents the first step in the proposed digitization of all Sojun Roshi’s lectures, and those of other BZC teachers. In the long run, we would like to create a searchable library of transcribed texts. These recordings offer a vivid picture of Sojun Roshi’s dharma, extending the Zen essence he received from Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.
This elegant and portable thumb drive will be available for the nominal price of $10.

Nominations for the BZC Board

Every year the sangha elects three of six members-at-large to terms of two years to the BZC Board. There is a two-term limit. Elections take place in October and the new term starts in January 2018. The Board will present its three nominees at the all-sangha meeting on Tuesday evening, September 12. Other nominations can be made by sangha members at that time from the floor. Two current members-at-large who are now serving their first term, Katy Guimond and Mary Beth Lamb, have agreed to be Board nominees for a second term. Laurie Senauke, another current member-at-large, has been appointed by the Board and Sojun to be the BZC treasurer, so her seat is open. The Board will thus be considering whom to nominate to fill the one vacant member-at-large position. We would like to receive suggestions from BZC members. If you have a suggested candidate or are yourself interested in being nominated, please contact the Board Recruitment and Elections Committee chair, Stan Dewey, at Please include any relevant information about why you think the person you mention would be a good BZC Board member.

Words of Appreciation from the Board President

In the past few months there has been some significant changing of the guard regarding those involved in BZC administration.
First, after ably serving as Office Manager for three years, Tamar Enoch has stepped down from that important position. During her tenure as OM, Tamar worked long hours first with Treasurer Paul Farber and then with Paul’s successor, Walter Kieser, to develop and implement an updated and streamlined accounting system. This was a huge project and took a lot of extra work and dedication to make it happen. Tamar worked hand in hand with both Paul and Walter to develop realistic budgets, and she went far beyond her job description to search for ways to eliminate waste at BZC and to save the sangha money—thousands of dollars in fact. Tamar has also worked closely with her successor, Bruce Coughran, to facilitate a seamless transition. We wish Tamar the best in her new endeavors, and we are pleased to have Bruce on board as our new OM.
After serving as Treasurer for the past two and a quarter years, Walter has left his position to relocate to Sonoma County, where he has recently built a new home in the town of Geyserville. The Board has approved Laurie Senauke to serve as acting Treasurer until her name can be placed on the October ballot for Sangha confirmation.
Walter’s service on the Board goes back many years. He served as Recording Secretary in 2005, as a Member-at-Large from 2006-2012, and as Treasurer from 2015 into 2017, thus being on the Board in one capacity or another for over eight years.
Walter was also Project Manager during a time when multiple problems with BZC’s buildings were manifesting. In this role he completely streamlined and codified policies and procedures and put together a highly functional and enthusiastic team, which became known as the Building Committee. He pushed for doing as much as we could with volunteers, and he himself always made it a point to pitch in on sangha work days, even memorably breaking his arm during one volunteer stint while doing seismic retrofitting on the community room porch. He worked closely with our Finance and Development Committees to oversee a five-year plan to address the needs of aging (and in some cases failing) BZC buildings and infrastructure.
After a two-year break from the Board, Walter was recruited by Sojun to serve as Treasurer during a particularly difficult administrative time. As Treasurer, Walter worked closely with Tamar as Office Manager to overhaul and literally reboot the accounting system. One reason BZC continues to be in excellent financial shape is certainly attributable to Walter’s expertise, diligence, and care while serving as Treasurer.
Finally, he continues to make himself available for consultation to Laurie now that she has become our acting Treasurer. We extend great appreciation to Walter for his many years of service and his extraordinary contributions to the BZC community, and wish him much joy and peace in his new home.

Aspects of Practice October 7 through November 4, 2017

We invite you to join the 2017 Aspects of Practice period—four weeks of practice, renewal, study, and discussion led by Hozan Alan Senauke and BZC practice leaders. Aspects of Practice has traditionally encouraged newer students to root their Zen practice. It also includes the wider BZC community who wish to refresh themselves and make a sustainable commitment to practice.
This year we will draw from Suzuki Roshi’s Not Always So. Practice leaders will lecture on Saturdays, lead Monday morning discussions, and offer a class on four successive Thursdays. All of these events are open to everyone. In addition, there will be informal teas and regular practice discussion. Each sangha participant is strongly encouraged to meet with Hozan Sensei or a practice leader at least once during Aspects. Your interest, support, and encouragement can be of help to the whole sangha. For further details, please look carefully at the zendo events bulletin board.
Aspects of Practice will begin with a one-day sesshin on Saturday, October 7, and end with a one-day sesshin on Saturday, November 4. For information on either sesshin, please contact the sesshin director, Ken Powelson, at