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Beth Israel Congregation

   
 
 
 

Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

January - February 2003
Tevet/Shevat/Adar I 5763


Do We Want to Stand up Against Hate?
Why January 11 Matters
Update from the Rabbi Search Committee
Green Power for Maine
Tu B'Shevat is Coming
Temple Beth El Upcoming Events
A Letter and Plea from Israel
How to Help Israel
Justice
A Bit of Humor

Do We Want to Stand up Against Hate?

The answer that I believe this congregation would give is a unanimous "Yes!" Your chance to do so is here.

On January 11, white-supremacist groups will be staging a rally against the Somali immigrants in Lewiston. They plan on bussing people in from out-of-state to show that "Mainers" don't want people of color here. These groups - the World Church of the Creator and the National Alliance - hope to find long-term support for their hatred among Maine people, and are working very hard to win people over to their viewpoint.

Even more important, on January 11, 1-3 p.m., there will be a counter-rally. This will be preceded by a march that will start around noon. The Many and One Coalition is organizing the rally to support diversity and to counter the hatred espoused by the white-supremacist groups. The march and rally will be held in Lewiston, probably at Bates College, but locations have yet to be fully determined. The Beth Israel Congregation Board of Directors, who agreed that the newsletter should feature news of this event, encourages members of our congregation to attend this counter-rally to show support for the Somalis who have fled from war and terror to a new world. The Jewish people have faced similar circumstances throughout history. It is only fitting that we help those who are dealing with the same struggle.

The following information has been provided by Diane Gilman for updated information on the event. Please read on, then join us on January 11.

Carolyn Turcio-Gilman
Newsletter Editor

Here are some key things you can do.

  1. Join us at Beth Israel Synagogue for the 7 p.m. Shabbat service. At the end of the service at 8, we will be carrying lighted candles outside onto the steps to join others throughout the state in lighting candles to show support for diversity.
  2. If you work with young people in any capacity, gather a group of them to attend the rally.
  3. If you work with young people "at risk," help them understand the message we are putting forth here, and give them correct information about refugees. "At risk" young people are the primary target of white supremacist groups. Get these young people involved in planning the "Many and One" event.
  4. If you have access to funding, please contact the organizers. If you yourself can donate, please help. The Coalition will need money. All donations should be made payable to the Many and One Coalition and sent to:
    Many and One Coalition
    145 Lisbon Street, Suite 304
    Lewiston, ME 04240
  5. There will be opportunities to participate on many dates, in many ways. Many things you can do NOW.
  6. If you have access to a newsletter or e-mail list for your organization or any organization you belong to, make sure information about the event get out to them now so that people can plan to attend.

Flyers for store windows will be available. Start now to let shop owners know (all over the state) about the rally and ask them if they would be willing to put a flyer against hate, and in support of the event in their windows.

Have everyone you know save the date and come to the "Many and One" event.

Write letters to the editor in newspapers throughout the state saying Maine is no place for hate. Support the event. Make sure your local newspaper will include the insert about the event and help distribute them. Do not assume anyone else has contacted them. If the Times Record, PPH, Lewiston Sun Journal, etc. get 25 calls about support the event and including the insert, they will be sure to do it.

Get your neighbors involved. On 1/10 from 8-8:30, organizers want to coordinate a state-wide candle lighting event in which people will step outside of their homes and light a candle.

Get your church, synagogue, mosque, etc. to participate in this event as a community!!!

Contact your local TV, radio, cable channels and make sure they all have Public Service Announcements about the event.

CRUCIAL: DO NOT GO TO THE OTHER RALLY. Publicity must be focused on positive community support for diversity.

There are also pre-rally events. Here's a thumbnail sketch of two of these. Again, contact Diane Gilman for more information.

  • Wed. 1/8 from 6-9 there will be a panel on combating hate groups at Bates.
  • Friday 1/10 at 4:15, location to be determined. Steve Wessler will be doing a teach-in about participating in rallies that combat hate and how to do non-violent, non-confrontational resistance. Diane highly recommends attending this.


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Why January 11 Matters (but don't forget Tu B'Shevat)

The last time the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a map of the hate groups in the country, the Center knew of no groups in Maine. That may change, but we have an opportunity to promote a vision of Maine as pro diversity.

When the mayor of Lewiston wrote a letter to Somalian leaders asking them to stem the tide of Somalian immigrants to the city, a furor ensued. Hate organizers saw an opportunity. The World Church of the Creator and the National Alliance, both white supremacist groups, hope that the incident has increased ethnic tension in the city, the kind of tension that promotes membership in their organization.

In a front-page article in the Portland Press-Herald on Sunday Dec. 22, David Connerty-Moran, formerly the chair of the Portland Jewish film Festival, wrote about the incident and about the groups that are sponsoring a rally on January 11. He also wrote about a rally that opposes these groups. The pro-diversity group called The Many and The One Coalition is forming to create an alternative event at the same time as the hate groups' event. The Many and the One is a coalition of many organizations and individuals and it led by members of the Lewiston community. Over 100 people attended a planning meeting of this group on Dec. 13. This group does not want to confront their opponents. The idea is to mobilize hundreds of people to show that there are many more people who reject the hate groups than embrace it. This is the approach that the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) supports. The idea is not to incite violence or even draw attention to the other rally, but to provide an alternative outlet and a message that the majority of Mainers embrace the increased diversity in our state.

There are those who support the message of the alternative rally yet doubt whether it is a good idea. These people counsel, "stay away, don't pay attention, and they will just go away." While this line of thought is tempting, I believe it is not fruitful. Maine is at a crossroads. One of the reasons that there has not been much hate in our state is because there has not been so much diversity here. As the diversity increases in the country, it is also increasing here in Maine. In a declining economy, the odd ones out can become targeted. It is important for us to stand against this kind of targeting and to highlight the advantages of diversity.

This is reason enough to be involved. However, as Jews, of course, we have even more reason to promote diversity. To me, the fact that at this point the controversy does not specifically involve Jews is the very reason for us to be involved as Jews. It is important for Jews to be a part of a pro-diversity coalition and to promote it when it isn't about us specifically. Our support now increases our credibility as a group that cares about these issues. We can't ask for others' support when we are attacked if we don't offer support when it is asked of us. Our involvement now also helps us to know the players and how to mobilize them when we need them.

There has been a lot of planning involved on the pro-diversity side. However, not all the plans have been finalized [Editor's Note: the plans have finalized since this writing] There may be a march at noon on January 11. I plan to attend our service, which will end at noon, and then attend the rally at 1:00 with my Kippah still on my head. The event will last until 3 pm. The venue has not yet been finalized, but our congregation's board has agreed that we can use our e-mail list (which only goes to members) to inform people about the exact times and place. If you have any questions, and particularly if you are not on our e-mail list, please contact Diane Gilman at dgilman@gwi.net or 882-8022. If you would like to be on her mailing list to be kept abreast of other such activities in Maine, let her know that as well.

It is important for us to be counted among those who support diversity. I hope that all of you will do what you can to support this cause. There are ways to help in the newsletter. I also hope that you will read the article about Tu B'Shvat, another way to make this world a better place.

Rabbi Ruth

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Update from the Rabbi Search Committee

The Rabbi Search Committee has been busy. We have advertised and received several resumes. We hope to have some specific information out to you soon.

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Green Power for Maine

Beth Israel Congregation has supported Maine Interfaith Power & Light, Inc. (MeIPL) since its inception. That support, along with the support of many others in Maine, has begun to bear fruit. MeIPL is sponsoring the purchase of "green tags," which are certificates attesting that renewable electricity has been generated on behalf of the person purchasing the tag. Buying such tags effectively forces the 'traditional' electricity generator to cut back their electricity production. The environmental effect is the same as if you switched your electricity supplier.

Green Tags are sold in blocks that correspond to the amount of dirty electricity you wish to offset. Over the course of a year, the average Maine home uses 7,200 kWh (kilo-watt hours). A Green Tag purchase is denominated in blocks of 1,000 kWh. The average Maine home, therefore, could offset 100% of the environmental impact of its electricity use through the purchase of 7 Green Tags. Each Green Tag costs $20.

The flyer with more information and the order form for Green Tags is inserted in this newsletter. Please consider purchasing one or more tags to keep the environment of Maine clean and healthy.

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Tu B'Shevat is Coming!!!

Beth Israel Congregation will hold a Tu B'Shevat Seder on Friday, January 17 at 6 p.m. Come celebrate the New Year of the Trees with a community pot luck supper and Friday night services. Please see the enclosed flyer for more details.

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Temple Beth El Upcoming Events

Prof. Arthur Green will present "Time for a New Hasidism?" on Sunday evening, February 9 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Temple Beth El. Admission is free and open to the public.

Also, Beth El will be having a Shabbat with Storahtelling, a New York-based group that seeks to revitalize the ancient public art of Torah reading by means of music, drama, and dance. They will be at Temple Beth El Friday evening, April 11 at 5:30 and again the next morning for Shacharit starting at 9:30. All are welcome. For more information, check out www.storahtelling.org.

Temple Beth El is located at 400 Deering Avenue, Portland. Call (207) 774-2649 or visit their web-site at www.templebethel-maine.org for further information.

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A Letter and Plea from Israel

The following letter was forwarded to Rabbi Ruth.

Dear Friends,

Last Thursday a bus bomb blew up in front of our daughter, Edie's apartment building. She was awoken by the blast and called us immed-iately to tell us that she was Ok. for those of you who do not know, Edie is volunteering this year in Kiryat Menachem, one of Jerusalem's poorest neighborhoods. She is participating in a pre-army volunteer option called Shanat Sherut which has become very a very popular choice as a bridge between high school and army (Edie will enter the army next fall). It is difficult to explain the complexities of one's emotions when something so horrific happens so close to someone you love so much. On one hand, she and her friends were fine, physically. On the other hand they saw body bags on their front lawn and were witness to agonizing screaming and crying. We are all traumatized by what happened and by what could have happened. The bus stop in front of her house has become yet another memorial and monument to the dead. Picking Edie up that day was emotional enough but seeing young people hug each other, clutching pictures of the deceased in addition to insightful graffiti, already posted at the bus stop, promises to avenge the deaths with blood, all of these things created an atmosphere of sadness and evil all wrapped up together. Kiryat Menachem is a very troubled neighborhood and for us this day became even more personal as we learned that the daughter of a friend was injured on the bus.

Ilana Sonanes' picture was on CNN, BBC and the cover of all the Israeli newspapers. She lives in Kiryat Menachem and when she heard the blast she headed straight for the bus because she just knew hew 17 year old daughter was on the bus. Ravid, her 12 year old is a friend of Matan's and goes to school with him. Ilana is a single mother who earns 1,000 dollars a month. She has three children and is desperate to create a better life for them. Disenchanted with the violence in neighbor-hood school she decided to send her son to our school. Her daughter suffered chest wounds and burns on her hands and face. She had shrapnel pulled out of her face and has under-gone plastic surgery. She was two meters from the terrorist and was literally blasted through the window. Our friend Ilana has no idea how she will mange her daughters' recovery and continue to care for her other two children with her financial burdens.

Ilana's son is a student at the Jerusalem Democratic School, a new school which we started this year. I am currently the principal. We have a modest tuition fee, similar to those of many Israeli public schools, but due to a very limited budget we do not have any funds available this year for scholarships.

Because we feel fortunate that our daughter was not at that bus stop outside her house that morning and because Ilana is such a decent hardworking person with limited resources we have set up an emergency scholarship fund at the Jerusalem Democratic School. We are committed to raising the tuition for Ilana's two younger children (she would like to enroll her youngest as well) so that they may attend our school and thus relieve financial pressure on the family.

Donations from North America are tax deductible and should be made through PEF; a form is attached. Please notify us via email to this address rbenor@bezeqint.net once the donation has been sent so that we may follow-up.

In the end of the day we are ever grateful for being spared. Thank you for reading this.

Yehudit Ben Or

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How to Help Israel

This month we celebrate the New Year of the trees, Tu B'shevat. It is a celebration of the earth, and in particularly of the land to which we Jews have been attached in spirit through-out our history, the land of Israel. This year those of us who love Israel look with pain on this land which is soaked with blood, blood of innocents on both sides.

The situation in Israel is so painful that it is easier to look the other way, but as Jews we cannot. Some brave souls have made the pilgrimage there, and we admire them. But many of us, even those of us who consider ourselves to be Zionists, are fearful about traveling to Israel right now. As a result, tourism has practically disappeared and the economic effects are devastating for Israelis who are just trying to live their lives.

What can we do to help Israel survive right now? A small and simple act is to buy Israeli products. Lamey Wellehan in downtown Augusta sells Naot shoes and hand cream. Shaw's in Augusta sells Telma and Elite food products. We can buy Carmel wine for Shabbat. We can purchase these products and thank the stores for carrying them. We can buy other Israeli products online through web sites such as www.shopinisrael.com. Wonderful Israeli products include Ahava skin care items, 778 jams and jellies, and children's knitwear.

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Justice

Injustice abounds. The following article was submitted by Diane Gilman on 12/20/02.

***********************************

Yesterday, in California, the INS came for Iranians, Moslems, the Arabs, arresting between 500 and 1,000 men who were simply coming forward to fulfill a new requirement to register again with the INS. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Friends Service Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union and others are racing to respond as quickly as we can. Please read below Rabbi Arthur Waskow's introductory note and the Reuters report on these arrests. Rabbi Waskow's draft letter to the editor provides one model for action. PLEASE call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, sending letters to the editor, and integrating calls to have these men set free, and please integrate solidarity work with these people into the peace organizing that you are doing.

More than five decades ago, Pastor Martin Niemoller reflected that "First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out.... Then they came for me, and there was no one to speak out for me." We know the pain and suffering caused by the indefensible internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Please act now.

***********************************

Dear Friends,

I hope that across the conventional boundaries, many Americans will feel it crucial to speak out about this event, reported below. After the Reuters report, I have appended the letter to the editor that I have sent to the Jewish and general press.

B'virkat shalom,
Arthur
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center

***********************************

HUNDREDS OF MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS ROUNDED UP IN US SWEEP
Hundreds of Muslim Immigrants Rounded Up in Calif.
Wed December 18, 2002 08:47 PM ET
By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hundreds of Iranian and other Middle East citizens were in southern California jails on Wednesday after coming forward to comply with a new rule to register with immigration authorities only to wind up handcuffed and behind bars.

Shocked and frustrated Islamic and immigrant groups estimate that more than 500 people have been arrested in Los Angeles, neighboring Orange County and San Diego in the past three days under a new nationwide anti-terrorism program. Some unconfirmed reports put the figure as high as 1,000.

The arrests sparked a demonstration by hundreds of Iranians outside a Los Angeles immigration office. The protesters carried banners saying "What's next? Concentration camps?" and "What happened to liberty and justice?." A spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service said no numbers of people arrested would be made public. A Justice Department spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The head of the southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union compared the arrests to the internment of Japanese Americans in camps during the Second World War.

"I think it is shocking what is happening. It is reminiscent of what happened in the past with the internment of Japanese Americans. We are getting a lot of telephone calls from people. We are hearing that people went down wanting to cooperate and then they were detained," said Ramona Ripston, the ACLU's executive director.

JAILS OVERFLOWING

One activist said local jails were so overcrowded that the immigrants could be sent to Arizona, where they could face weeks or months in prisons awaiting hearings before immigration judges or deportation.

"It is a shock. You don't expect this to happen. It is really putting fright and apprehension in the community. People who come from these countries - this is what they expect from their government. Not from America," said Sabiha Khan of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

The arrests were part of a post Sept. 11 program that requires all males over 16 from a list of 20 Arab or Middle East countries, who do not have permanent resident status in the United States, to register with U.S. immigration authorities.

Monday was the deadline for men from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan. News of the mass arrests came first in southern California, which is home to more than 600,000Iranian exiles and their families.

Officials declined to give figures for those arrested or for the numbers of people who turned up to register, be fingerprinted and have their photographs taken.

"We are not releasing any numbers," said Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) spokesman Francisco Arcaute.

CALLS FOR HELP

Islamic groups and the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said they had been swamped with calls for help. INS spokesman Arcaute said those arrested had violated immigration laws, overstayed their visas, or were wanted for crimes. The program was prompted by concern about the lack of records on tourists, students and other visitors to the United States after the Sept. 11 hijack plane attacks on New York and Washington.

Islamic community leaders said many of the detainees had been living, working and paying taxes in the United States for five or 10 years, and had families here.

"Terrorists most likely wouldn't come to the INS to register. It is really a bad way to go about it. They are being treated as criminals and that really goes against American ideals of fairness, and justice and democracy," Khan said.

The Iranian protesters said many of those detained were victims of official delays in processing visa and green card requests.

"My father, they just took him in," one young man told reporters. "They've been treating him like an animal. They put him in a room with, like, 50 other people and no bed or anything."

Khan said one of those in jail was a doctor, who was being sponsored for U.S. citizenship when his sponsor died.

One Syrian man said he went to register in Orange County with a dozen friends. He was the only one to come out of the INS office. "All my friends are inside right now," M.M. Trapici, 45, told reporters. "I have to visit the family for each one today. Most of them have small kids."

***********************************

Dear Editor,

Today the news is spreading that yesterday, hundreds of Iranian and other Middle East citizens wound up handcuffed and behind bars in southern California jails after coming forward to comply with a new rule to register with immigration authorities.

Muslims are being targeted.

The ancient rabbis long ago interpreted the story of Sodom and Gomorra as describing the sin of hatred and contempt for foreigners. Sodom, they taught, had a law against welcoming foreign guests into the city. That was why the Sodomites tried to rape Lot's guests - not out of homosexual lust but out of hatred for immigrants.

Far more recently, one of the great rabbis of Vilna described as the "laws of Sodom" an attempt by officials of his own Jewish community to prohibit the immigration of poor Polish Jews into Vilna. When he spoke out, the officials retreated.

From the deepest Jewish values as well as our own experience of what it means to be rounded up and imprisoned for being who we are -- ethnically and religiously -- we must with all vigor protest this roundup in California. It should bring about the resignation of every Federal official who authorized it.

Shalom,
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center

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A Bit of Humor

  1. EWBILATION n. Pride in finding out that one's favorite celebrity is Jewish.
  2. TORAHFIED n. Inability to remember one's lines when called to read from the Torah at one's Bar or Bat mitzvah.
  3. SANTA-SHMANTA n. The explanation Jewish children get for why they celebrate Hanukah while the rest of the neighbors celebrate Christmas.
  4. MATZILATION v. Smashing a piece of matzo to bits while trying to butter it.
  5. BUBBEGUM n. Candy one's mother gives to her grandchildren that she never gave to her own children.
  6. CHUTZPAPA n. A father who wakes his wife at 4:00 a.m. so she can change the baby's diaper.
  7. DEJA NU n. Having the feeling you've seen the same exasperated look on your mother's face but not knowing exactly when.
  8. DISORIYENTA n. When Aunt Sadie gets lost in a department store and strikes up a conversation with everyone she passes.
  9. GOYFER n. A Gentile messenger.
  10. HEBORT vb. To forget all the Hebrew one ever learned immediately after one's Bar Mitzvah.
  11. JEWDO n. A traditional form of self defense based on talking one's way out of a tight spot.
  12. MAMATZAH BALLS n. Matzo balls that are as good as mother used to make.
  13. MEINSTEIN - slang. "My son, the genius,"
  14. MISHPOCHADOTS n. The assorted lipstick and make-up stains found on one's face and collar after kissing all one's aunts and cousins at a reception.
  15. RE-SHTETLEMENT n. Moving from Brooklyn to Miami and finding all your old neighbors live in the same condo as you.
  16. ROSH HASHANA-NA-NA n. A rock 'n roll band from Brooklyn.
  17. YIDENTIFY v. To be able to determine ethnic origins of celebrities even though their names might be St. John, Curtis, Davis, or Taylor.
  18. MINYASTICS n. Going to incredible lengths and troubles to find a tenth person to complete a minyan.
  19. FEELAWFUL n. Indigestion from eating Israeli street food.
  20. DIS-KVELLIFIED vb. To drop out of law school, med. school or business as seen through the eyes of parents, grandparents, and Uncle Sid. In extreme cases, simply choosing to major in art history when Irv's son, David, is majoring in biology, is sufficient grounds for diskvellification.
  21. IMPASTA n. A Jew who starts eating leavened foods before the end of Passover.
  22. KINDERS SHLEP v. To transport other kids in your car besides yours.
  23. SHOFARSOGUT n. The relief you feel when after many attempts the shofar is finally blown at the end of Yom Kippur.
  24. TRAYFFIC ACCIDENT n. An appetizer one later finds out has pork.


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