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Beth Israel Congregation

   
 
 
 

Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

March/April 2003
Adar I/Adar II/Nisan 5763


A Time for Thought
From the Rabbi
The Search
Rabbi Candidate to Lead Feb. 28 Services
Open Letter to the Membership
Hebrew School Schedule Changes
Purim is Coming!
Yahrzeit Request
Purim Carnival Details
We Have a Website!
Youth Group News
Mazel Tov to the Michael Smith Family
We Mourn the Losses...
Synagogue Gift Shop
Maine Has Its Own Jewish Film Festival

A Time for Thought

These are turbulent times, times when we need to carefully analyze our values and weigh our actions against those values. The precepts of modern Judaism guide that formulation of values toward caring for our fellow human beings, respect for our environment, a love of peace, and an intolerance of evil. The difficulty arises when the values themselves appear to be in conflict, when it seems impossible to balance a love of peace with an intolerance of evil.

These matters demand considered thought. Each of you is invited to open a written dialog expressing such thoughts in the form of letters to the editor of this newsletter. This forum is being offered both in recognition of the need for us to find a balance for apparently-conflicting values and in light of the positive reaction to the activist nature of the previous newsletter.

We are a concerned congregation. This newsletter addresses the need for non-polluting energy and the mitzvah of caring for the hungry. Let us also use this newsletter as a vehicle to try to come to terms with the moral struggles we all face.

Carolyn Turcio-Gilman
Newsletter Editor

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From the Rabbi

When the Holy One created the first Man, God took him and led him around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him, "Behold my works, how beautiful, how splendid they are. All that I have created, I created for your sake. Take care that you do not destroy my world. For once you do, there is no one after you to set it right". (Ecclesiasties Rabbah)

Repairing the World

The word Tikkun Olam literally means to repair the world. In its original Kabbalistic context this was understood in a purely spiritually way. Through the doing of mitzvot (God's commandments), the Jew would bring the sparks of God together, and animate the Earth with God's presence. God was what needed repair.

In the contemporary Jewish community, we have taken the concept of Tikkun Olam and transformed it. Today many of us use Tikkun Olam to describe work that we do to repair what humans have done to our own societies. Some of us concentrate on correcting the inequitable distribution of resources, some work to improve human health through legislation or preventative programs. Lately, I have been working with an organization that is finding creative, market driven ways to help lessen the damage that human habitation does to the earth due to emissions from electricity.

Maine Interfaith Power and Light (MeIPL) was founded three years ago, when Maine deregulated its electricity. You may remember the commercials for Energy Atlantic. They were aimed at convincing the public to "sign up" with this Maine based electricity provider. However, because of the low rates for Maine's Standard Offer, no other supplier was able to enter Maine's residential electricity market. Since then, Maine's residential electricity customers have had no choices other than the Standard Offer.

Enter MEIPL. The idea was simple. Prove that there is a demand for renewable energy, that people in Maine are interested in spending the extra money to buy it, and through this find a supplier.

Most of us would agree that renewable energy is obviously preferable to burning fossil fuels, for many reasons: it has less emissions and relies on energy sources that are renewed naturally. With war looming on the horizon, we are also more aware of the practicality of renewable energy and the way that it would allow us to be less dependent on foreign oil.

Why form an organization aimed at the Interfaith community? The Faith community, has two important characteristics 1) it was already organized and 2) people would respond to a need to be stewards of God's Earth. MEIPL tapped into this "energy" (no pun intended) and signed over 1300 people up with letters of intent. You may have signed one.

I am writing to tell you that it worked. In response to the proven demand of these letters of intent, a new company took on the challenge of meeting this demand. This company is called Maine Renewable Energy. It was founded by a supplier with a two year track record in Maine. And now there is a role for you. Instead of buying regular "brown" electricity, with all the emissions made when it is produced, today, in Maine, you can actually buy electricity completely produced through renewable resources.

But will it work? The most frequently asked question is: "If I buy this new fangled product, will I always have electricity at my plug?" The answer is a resounding yes. BHE, MPS, CMP and all the other regulated distribution companies must continue to deliver your energy. In fact, with our current system, electricity from all generators just ends up on this single, large New England-wide grid. What changes is not the electricity at your plug, but whom you pay to get it. We can make a difference in the world. We can support Maine's small renewable energy community. The more people who join us, the more good we can do. Thanks to the work of MEIPL, there is a choice, there is a way to make a difference that matters. All one has to do is sign up online at www.MeIPL.org. Most households will pay about $100 more per year for electricity, or about 10% more than they pay now.

MEIPL has also developed another product. It is called Green Tags. The short explanation is that when you buy a "tag," you are paying the difference between what it costs to produce renewable energy and what it will go for on the open market. By buying a tag, you make it possible for a renewable producer to keep producing (and a "brown" or "dirty " producer will not produce). It is an important way to support renewable energy nationwide. Some people use it as a way to "off set" the energy they use in other ways besides electricity. For example, you could figure out how many miles you drive in a year and then "off set" this by buying a certain number of tags.

Rabbi Arthur Green, Contemporary Jewish philosopher and Chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at Brandeis University:

Whether our spirituality is Jewish or Christian, Buddhist or eclectic New Age, you will probably hear us talking about living in harmony with natural forces, following the voice of our deepest inward nature, and seeking to shape a human society that appreciates more and consumes less of nature's bounty, or of God's gifts. There is beginning to emerge a shared spiritual language of this age, one that transcends the borders of the traditions in which we live and where we may have gained our original impetus toward the spiritual life...we share a sense that the world urgently needs this new spirituality...in the coming century all the religions will have to be drawn upon to create a (religious) language (of ecology) in order to transform human consciousness for the very survival of our world.

(p. 8, "Restoring the Aleph: Judaism for the contemporary Seeker," Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education)

Maine Interfaith Power and Light gives us a practical way to go beyond language, and join others who share a sense of urgency about the environment. We can be part of a "human society" that ....consumes less of nature's resources." I encourage you to go to www.MeIPL.org or call 729-9665 and join in this important effort to make Maine and our planet, a cleaner place to live.

Rabbi Ruth

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The Search

The Torah portion for this week is Tetzaveh, which is found at Exodus 27:20 - 30:10. The Israelites have left Egypt and are still wandering in the desert. The portion continues the description of the mikdash, or sanctuary, which was begun in the preceding portion. Specifically, the portion begins with the commandment to "bring clear oil of beaten olives" for "continually burning light." This "ner tamid", or eternal light, "shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages."

In 2003, we have a synagogue in Bath, Maine and it has a "ner tamid".

As we progress through the process of choosing a new Rabbi for our congregation, it sometimes feels as though we are still wandering in the desert. Some of us have a clear vision of the ideal leadership we are seeking and some of us trust that we'll know it when we see it. (Of course, it is always easier to complain afterwards that our secret dreams have not been realized). Life also requires the reconciling of dreams with reality.

To me, it is a miracle that after all these millennia, a "ner tamid" continues to burn in our lovely synagogue in Bath as well as in synagogues throughout the world. Despite all that has happened historically, and the vastly divergent views of what it means to be Jewish that exist even in our small congregation, the "ner tamid" in our building is a symbol of agreement that Beth Israel Congregation is a Jewish religious community.

The shape and meaning of that statement are complex. The new religious leader we select will, hopefully, reflect our community's sensibility. Inevitably, he or she will alter our future interpretation of Jewish, religious and community.

I invite every member of our congregation to participate in the Rabbi search process. Please attend the services that candidates will be leading. Let the members of the Rabbi Search Committee hear your input.

For more than 80 years, the light in our lovely shul has been "burning continually." May it be unwavering for at least 100 more (ten times chai).

Nonny

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Rabbi Candidate to Lead Feb. 28 Services

Daniel Leeman, the first candidate for rabbi, is going to be leading services on Friday evening Feb. 28 and Saturday morning, March 1. He will also visit with the Hebrew school the following Wednesday, March 5.

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Open Letter to the Membership

In support of the MIDCOAST HUNGER PREVENTION PROGRAM

This region has a successful program to reach out to individuals and families with not enough food. The program serves meals at lunch in a "Soup Kitchen" and provides groceries for those registered in advance at the "Food Pantry." There is a program in both Brunswick and Bath. The Brunswick program has been hosted for the last 20 years at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, but the facilities no longer meet the needs because the number of people in need has increased steadily and because the facility was never designed for this specific purpose. I have volunteered at the soup kitchen and have personally observed the excellent services provided, services that are provided which respect the dignity of the clients.

In these difficult economic times we have seen a steady increase in the number of clients making use of this program.

The community has decided to build a new facility on donated land, a building that has sufficient space for all the needs and has modern and efficient kitchen facilities at a cost of $600,000.

I hope you will see the value of this effort and consider making a 3-year (tax deductible) pledge.

Rabbi Ruth will be sending out additional material on the Hunger Prevention Program in a few weeks. This material will include a pledge envelope for the Program. You can also send a check to me at 45 Harding Rd, Brunswick ME 04011 made out to the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program. I will make sure it is identified as coming from a Beth Israel Congregant.

Sincerely,
Ed Benedikt
Social Action Committee

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Hebrew School Schedule Changes

April 16
regular classes
April 23
school vacation
March 5
Daniel Lehman coming to Hebrew School. Parents encouraged to meet him.
May 28
At this time we will ritualize Rabbi Ruth's departure. We decided to use the metaphor of Havdalah to experience the moment and our feelings about saying goodbye. Israeli dancing could follow this.
June 6
graduation service
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Purim is Coming!

There are three Mitzvot of Purim:

  1. Shalach Manot: sending of gifts (of food) to friends

  2. Maot L'inuim: giving of coins to the poor

  3. Simcha: to be happy: to have a special meal at which you get so drunk that you don't know the difference between Haman and Mordechai.

The Hebrew School will do these mitzvot in a little different way:

  1. We will be having a basket exchange at the carnival. Everyone who brings a basket will be able to take one home. These baskets have at least two different kinds of foods in them (so that you could say at least two different blessings over them). Some people really get into making these baskets, so this year the school committee wanted to put a $12-15 limit on it (though less is OK as well).

  2. The giving of a coin took place in a time when you knew the poor person. Most of us don't know who is poor, and anyhow, anonymous giving is said to be a higher form of tzadakah anyway. Some people give to charitable organizations, particularly those that deal with poverty (Jewish fund for Justice and the Shefa fund and Mazon are some examples-- you can find them on the web). The school will be doing a drive for unopened toiletries and personal items to give to Tedford Shelter residents. Bring these to school or to the Carnival.

  3. Simcha: One way to do this is to attend the carnival, especially in costume. We will have a prize for all those who come in costume. However, to really fulfill the Mitzvah you want to celebrate on Purim. We will be having a Megilla reading on Tuesday March 18 at 7 p.m. There will be prizes for coming in costume for this holiday as well. This is a time to experience a very different side of Judaism. If you think of synagogue as a place to be thoughtful and meditative, Purim is a time to turn this on its head, and do things differently. The more people the more fun, so join us. By the way, little children may not do great with this event. But they are welcome.
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Yahrzeit Request

Within the next two months, we will begin sending out reminders for those observing a yahrzeit (we finally got some cards printed). Marilyn Weinberg has quite a bit of information, but she knows she is not up to date. If you have lost a family member during the last few years and would like to have a an annual reminder of the day to light a memorial candle and possibly attend a service to say Kaddish, please call or e-mail Marilyn with the information. All she needs is the person's name and relationship to you as well as the date the person passed away (we can determine the Hebrew date.). Please e-mail weinberg@suscom-maine.net

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Purim Carnival Details

The Youth Group's play will be first on the agenda followed by a costume parade, with prizes to anyone that comes dressed up. There will be a craft table and a "Silly Surprise Center" featuring goop. People will be encouraged to bring a Shalach Manot basket but to keep the cost under $15. Also, it is customary to give a personal gift to someone you know. To avoid privacy issues we are asking people to bring small "personal items" to be given to the Tedford Shelter and distributed by the staff and volunteers.

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We Have a Website!

Beth Israel has developed a web site thanks to the hard work of Fred Weinberg. By the time you receive this newsletter, the web site will be up and running. You will be able to check for dates and times of services, Hebrew school programs and a good deal of general synagogue background and information. Make a bookmark at www.bethisrael-maine.org and check it out. We would appreciate your feedback and suggestions.

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Youth Group News

The Beth Israel Youth group made a lot of plans at its last meeting. Scheduled activities include:

  • Making Hamentaschen on March 8, time and place to be announced;
  • Doing a play ("Casablanca") for the Purim Carnival on March 16 and helping with the carnival.

Also, on the weekend of March 28, 6 members are planning to go to the teen retreat in Vermont run by the Conference on Judaism in Rural New England.

For more information about all of these activities, please contact Simone Martell or Rabbi Ruth.

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Mazel Tov to the Michael Smith Family

Michael Smith sent us this joyous announcement of a new addition to his family:

Sue and I are thrilled to announce that our newest family member has finally arrived and is a little boy! Aaron Benjamin Smith was born on Tuesday of this week, January 28 at 12:30 in the afternoon, weighing in at 7 lbs. 8 oz and 21 inches. And, he looks like Shayna! He is also exactly 26 months to the day younger than she is. Shayna seems to think he's pretty cool! We just got home from the hospital Thursday pm. Labor was quick (not quite 90 minutes). We of course hope you all can meet him at some point soon.

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We Mourn the Losses...

Of Chinka Rosenman, who passed away on January 28 at Amenity Manor. Many of us had the opportunity to see Chinka at the Schoenberg brit millah.

Of Dorice Frances Levine, who died on January 26, 2003 at the age of 93. The burial service was held at Mount Sinai Cemetery in Portland on Jan. 30, 2003. Dorice is the daughter of Abraham Miller and Ida Povich. She is survived by her siblings Alex, Louis and Sadie Miller, Estella Rines and Jennie Lait, and by her nephew John Rines of Topsham.

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Synagogue Gift Shop

The synagogue gift shop is now being managed by Marina Singer. Although we have some items in our gift case at the synagogue, a wide variety of things can be purchased through our gift shop. You can order a new talit or kippa for yourself or for a gift for another. All types of jewelry are available as well as lovely mezzuzot and kiddush cups. You can purchase Chanukah gifts, Bar/Bat Mitzvah presents, or just a treat for yourself. Call Marina Singer for more information.

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Maine Has Its Own Jewish Film Festival

And it's coming to Portland this March 8-13! The festival opens with a pre-show party at Greenhut Galleries at 6:30 p.m., then moves to a showing of "The Believer," a prize-winner at last year's Sundance Film Festival. There are a total of 20 other films shown during the next several days. For detailed information, go to www.mjff.org or call 831-7495.

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