Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter
January - February 2003
Tevet/Shevat/Adar I 5763
Do We Want to Stand up Against Hate?
January 11 Matters
Update from the Rabbi Search Committee
Power for Maine
B'Shevat is Coming
Temple Beth El Upcoming Events
A Letter and Plea from Israel
Bit of Humor
Do We Want to Stand up
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.
Here are some key things you can
- 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
- If you work with young people in any
capacity, gather a group of them to attend the
- 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
- 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
- There will be opportunities to participate on
many dates, in many ways. Many things you can do
- 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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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Update from the Rabbi
The Rabbi Search Committee has been busy. We
have advertised and received several resumes. We
hope to have some specific information out to you
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Green Power for
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
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
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Temple Beth El Upcoming
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
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A Letter and Plea from
The following letter was forwarded to Rabbi
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
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
email@example.com 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
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
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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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.
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
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center
HUNDREDS OF MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS ROUNDED UP IN US
Hundreds of Muslim Immigrants Rounded Up in
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
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.
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
"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
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
Officials declined to give figures for those
arrested or for the numbers of people who turned up
to register, be fingerprinted and have their
"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
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
"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
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."
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
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
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
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Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center
A Bit of
- EWBILATION n. Pride in finding out that one's
favorite celebrity is Jewish.
- TORAHFIED n. Inability to remember one's
lines when called to read from the Torah at one's
Bar or Bat mitzvah.
- SANTA-SHMANTA n. The explanation Jewish
children get for why they celebrate Hanukah while
the rest of the neighbors celebrate
- MATZILATION v. Smashing a piece of matzo to
bits while trying to butter it.
- BUBBEGUM n. Candy one's mother gives to her
grandchildren that she never gave to her own
- CHUTZPAPA n. A father who wakes his wife at
4:00 a.m. so she can change the baby's
- DEJA NU n. Having the feeling you've seen the
same exasperated look on your mother's face but
not knowing exactly when.
- DISORIYENTA n. When Aunt Sadie gets lost in a
department store and strikes up a conversation
with everyone she passes.
- GOYFER n. A Gentile messenger.
- HEBORT vb. To forget all the Hebrew one ever
learned immediately after one's Bar Mitzvah.
- JEWDO n. A traditional form of self defense
based on talking one's way out of a tight
- MAMATZAH BALLS n. Matzo balls that are as
good as mother used to make.
- MEINSTEIN - slang. "My son, the genius,"
- 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
- RE-SHTETLEMENT n. Moving from Brooklyn to
Miami and finding all your old neighbors live in
the same condo as you.
- ROSH HASHANA-NA-NA n. A rock 'n roll band
- YIDENTIFY v. To be able to determine ethnic
origins of celebrities even though their names
might be St. John, Curtis, Davis, or Taylor.
- MINYASTICS n. Going to incredible lengths and
troubles to find a tenth person to complete a
- FEELAWFUL n. Indigestion from eating Israeli
- 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
- IMPASTA n. A Jew who starts eating leavened
foods before the end of Passover.
- KINDERS SHLEP v. To transport other kids in
your car besides yours.
- SHOFARSOGUT n. The relief you feel when after
many attempts the shofar is finally blown at the
end of Yom Kippur.
- TRAYFFIC ACCIDENT n. An appetizer one later
finds out has pork.
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