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Beth Israel Congregation

   
 
 
 

Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

July/August 2006
Tammuz/Av/Elul 5766


A Ritual Bath
New Synagogue President
Tish'ah B'Av
Synagogue Dedication Celebration
Building Renovation
Help Us Choose a Book
Auction News
Hebrew School News
Newsletter Changes
Welcome Newcomer
Get Ready For Next Year
Dump and Run
Return of the Summer Coffee Club
Donations

NOTE: It is our policy that no personal telephone numbers, email addresses or mailing addresses be contained in the web version of our newsletter. If you need to get in touch with one of our members please email us at info1@bethisrael-maine.org.


A Ritual Bath found at Beth Israel in Bath

by Daniel Leeman

During a recent renovation of the ground level facility at 862 Washington Street, a mikveh was found. Mikveh literally means "a gathering of waters." It is a ritual bath that is traditionally used for family purity (based on the laws in Leviticus), conversion, and for the ritual immersion of new utensils. Also many brides immerse in the mikveh on the night before their wedding day. Some men today continue to enjoy the custom of immersing in the mikveh on Erev Yom Kippur (the day before Yom Kippur) to prepare for the holiest day of the year. During Temple times, a mikveh was also used to spiritually purify those who had become ritually impure from happenings specified in the bible like contact with the dead, etc. Because of the destruction of the Holy Temple, we no longer concern ourselves with this latter type of spiritual impurity, as this type of fitness for service in the Temple won't be relevant until the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt. It is important however to stress that it was not a physical state of cleanliness at issue (no pun intended), but rather one of holiness and purity that has nothing to do with hygiene. The laws of mikveh both historically and today are based on a sincere effort to fulfill the requirements of the Torah.

Mayyim Hayyim is translated "living waters," as at least a significant portion of the water needed for a mikveh, must come from a natural source, rain water, river waters etc. In Cairo around 1912, a mikveh was built using certain pumps to keep it refreshed from the waters of the Nile. In our mikveh there were small pipes leading out to the earth, in non-metallic tubes as specified in Jewish law. Just as the archaeologists have found these nearly exact designs of remains in Masada, Maon, Herodium, from the times of the second Temple, they are almost exact prototypes of the baths outlined in the Mishnah and Talmud that are followed today and were followed in our community in the 1920's. It was part of the communal gathering and civic life of the community, especially creating powerful bonds among women. Their use extended to Italy and later all over Europe in the Middle Ages. For more information about the biblical origins of mikveh and the rabbinic laws associated with them, I commend Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's book, "The Waters of Eden." He describes how one emerges from the mikveh spiritually cleansed, experiences almost a rebirth, as if from the womb. He stressed the spiritual transformation that can occur and the revitalization of one's marital love life.

The remains of the mikveh at Beth Israel had been filled with stones and was covered by the wooden floor of our kitchen, which would have allowed access, should the need have arrived to reconstruct it. The building was built around 1922 and the mikveh was probably covered and replaced with a kitchen in the 1930's or early 1940's. Given the scope of our project, it was impossible to renovate the mikveh we found, as it had been mostly razed in the construction project in the 30's or 40's. Why the mitzvah of attending the mikveh had fallen into disuse in our community as it did throughout the non-orthodox community in the US at the time, is unclear. Now there is a resurgence of this beautiful, and spiritual practice throughout the country today, especially within the non-orthodox community. Please see Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters for a description of a new mikveh in the Boston area that is re-claiming this mitzvah for primarily the conservative, reconstructionist and reform communities. It's been in existence only a short time and already some eleven thousand are making use of the facility. Whether a newly constructed mikveh will be an option for our community in the future, isn't yet clear. So for now, you can find a kosher mikveh either in Portland on 76 Noyes Street (www.mainejewish.org), or in Bangor, at 336 Pine Street (www.jewishbangor.com).


New Synagogue President

by Marilyn Weinberg

At the June board meeting I handed over my gavel to Andy Hagler who will assume the role of Beth Israel president in July. Our by-laws limit the number of years a person can serve as president and I think that is a healthy thing.

No one person gives a synagogue life. It only works when we all pitch in. Although our membership is not large, there is the benefit in a small shul in that each person plays a very important role. When you come to services on a Friday night or Saturday morning, you make a difference. When you bring food for an oneg, you make a difference. When you help out at a Hebrew school function, you make a difference. There are so many opportunities to make a difference in our synagogue and make a real contribution to the life of our congregation.

I remember my involvement first began when I helped out in the kitchen at a synagogue brunch. Little did I know how much time I would be spending in that kitchen. But I felt needed and a part of something. It didn't take much to do something that made a difference.

I want to thank all the board members and community members who have contributed to the ongoing life of Beth Israel. And thanks to Andy Hagler for making a difference.


Tish'ah B'Av

by Daniel Leeman

Tish'ah B'Av services are scheduled for Wednesday evening August 2nd at 7:00 pm at the Chapel.

On the ninth of Av we remember the tragedies and calamities that have befallen the Jewish people through-out the ages on this date. Both in 586 BCE and in 70 CE the Temples were destroyed on the ninth of the month of Av. Many other horrible experiences like the decree of the expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492 occured on this date.

We will meet for a brief evening Marriv, weekday service followed by the reading of the Book of Lamentations and a short discussion. Services will begin at 7:00 pm and end by 8:30 pm. There won't be refreshments as it will be a day of fasting.


Synagogue Dedication Celebration

by Lenore Friedland

On Saturday evening, September 9th, we will have a special celebration to officially dedicate the new renovation at the synagogue. Although many of you will have seen our "kitchen improvement" during this summer, we want to have a special event to thank all those people whose generous donations made it possible. Please put the date on your calendar for this joyous occasion. More information will come in your next newsletter.


Building Renovation Nearing Completion

by Marilyn Weinberg

The Capital Campaign has provided needed funds for repairs to a number of projects in our buildings. The largest project so far has been the renovation to the kitchen and function room at the synagogue. It has been both exciting and exhausting to follow this project through. John Martell and I have been at the site every day to monitor the progress and make the daily decisions. It was an emotional experience to see the original structure as the walls were torn down. I think viewing the remnants of the mikvah was the highlight. Many of us could imagine our founders and their families as they began their lives as Jews in Bath, Maine.

If you have not had an opportunity to do so, go to the Beth Israel web site and click on the renovation icon to see all the work that has been done. Thanks to all of you who have made contributions. If you have not yet been able to make a donation, it is not too late.


Help Us Choose a Book

by Lenore Friedland

A donation has been offered to us to acquire new Humashim (books containing the Torah and Haftorah readings). We can either purchase additional copies of the book we presently use or select a newer, more up to date book. Daniel presented four different versions to the Chai committee. After comparing the size of type, ease of reading, English translations and commentary, the committee selected two books to view and compare to our current publication. During services on August 18th and 19th and August 25th and 26th, Daniel will present the new books and you will have a chance to give your opinion as to which you like the best. We hope you will join us and have a voice in the decision.


Auction News

by Marilyn Weinberg

The Synagogue auction gala held on April 29 was a great success, earning us over $3,000 for our beleaguered budget. Over 60 people filled the Minnie Brown Center to enjoy delicious food and compete with each other in bidding for more than 100 items. Andy Schoenberg kept us laughing and the bidding active. Dinners cooked and served by members and boat trips were just a few of the most popular bid item that brought out some heavy competition. Many thanks to Lenore Friedland and her Chai committee for putting together a memorable evening.

Our thanks to the following businesses for generously donating items or gift certificates. We hope you will visit these establishments and thank them for their contributions.

  • Squire Tarbox Inn
  • Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
  • Maine Coffee Roasters
  • Azure Cafe
  • Shaws
  • Hannafords
  • Bohemian Coffee House
  • Maine State Music Theatre
  • Skillins Greenhouse
  • Now You're Cooking
  • Clay Play
  • Springer's Jewelers
  • Magnolia Gifts
  • Funky Pretty Jewelry Design
  • Maine Maritime Museum
  • Bath Natural Market
  • Reflections
  • Humble Gourmet
  • Bookland
  • Gulf of Maine Book Store
  • Mid Coast Laser Aesthetics

Hebrew School News

by Barbara Leeman

At this time of the year, we have the opportunity to reflect on our Hebrew school year. With just a few hours a week, we try to accomplish so much. We know that striving to create fluent, Hebrew speaking Torah scholars, with a depth of understanding and commitment to our Jewish customs and values, is a high goal to set. Yet we always strive to reach that. The commitment that our families make to bring our students to classes each week, contributes to the success of our program. So many of our parents also give generously of their time to help our school. The commitment that our teachers make to provide a quality Jewish education is heart-warming. Our children will one day look back and compare their Hebrew school days to those available for their own children. Let us hope that they speak with pride and confidence. Seeing each of these kids together each week, praying, studying, creating, and singing is a joy. Anyone is welcome to drop in to our school at any time. Please feel free.

Class Shabbat Services

Our Gan class (kindergarten class) led our service on May 19th. Their wonderful energy was contagious. Preceding our service, we had our Shabbat meal with lots of zmirot (singing). Susan Horowitz our Gan class teacher, and Donna Maniscalco who has been helping this class each week, read a story for the kids during the sermon. The service was merged with our last Tot Shabbat, and led by Monica Blatt. Thank you Susan, Donna and Monica. This wonderful group of kids is our future, and a very bright future it will be. The Gan class members are Tobyn Blatt, Avi Gersh, Rebecca Maniscalco, Ethan Boll, Abigail Sreden, and Zoe Sreden.

School Pictures

School and class pictures were taken during May. Copies are being sent to each family through email. Anyone else interested in a copy, please request one at education@bethisrael-maine.org.

Photo Show

Just as last year, a Photo Show will be created of our school year. It should be available by late July at our synagogue website.

Israeli Dancing

In honor of Yom Ha'Azmaut (Israel Independence day) Lisa Tessler, a member of our Beth Israel community and wonderful dance instructor came to teach some Israeli dances to our students. Lisa made it easy for everyone to join in, and managed to combine the youngest and oldest groups of students into an exciting joint dance. Many thanks Lisa for a lively fun way to bring our school year to an end.

Tzedakah

The kids donated all year to a Tzedakah fund, and during the month of May, they voted on the recipients of their Tzedakah dollars. This year the winners were Magen David Adom and Chewonki Foundation. Just as last year, we are very pleased that their choice was split between one local charity and one in Israel. There is so much to say about these two charities, but to very briefly summarize, below is a bit more information.

Magen David Adom is the second line of defense in Israel and provides all Emergency Medical Services in times of peace and war. Magen David Adom provides all blood services to all of the hospitals and to the populace of Israel, as well as to the Israel Defense Force Medical Service. Magen David Adom is recognized as the "outstanding volunteer organization of Israel" and has helped other Red Cross organizations around the world.

The Chewonki Foundation is a nonprofit educational institution organized in 1962. The Chewonki Foundation is dedicated to helping people grow individually and in community with others by providing educational experiences that foster an understanding and appreciation of the natural world and that emphasize the power of focused, collective effort.

Our Graduates

Our Vav class led our Shabbat service on June 2nd. Each led Hebrew and English parts, and chose a Hebrew prayer to discuss. Each student was also asked to speak for a few minutes about a particularly special moment they had at Hebrew school, or about something that may have inspired them, with regard to their Hebrew school experience. Our graduates include Ethan Blatt, Hannah Leeman, Sam Leeman, Rebecca Lewis, Sarah Neuren, Nina Maris, and Rachel Schoenberg. Some students have already begun their Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons, and others will be starting their studies soon.

Mazel Tov!

Special Thanks

The end of the year is always a great time to thank our teachers for all their efforts. Our teachers, Tinker Hannaford, Susan Horowitz, Cantor Daniel, Alina Shumsky, Marina Singer, and Neal Urwitz prepare thoughtful lessons each week, and instill a love of Judiasm into each of our students. Our student teachers, Allegra Boyd, Alec Brodsky, Michael Brodsky, Noah Lumsden, and Jane Martell were a huge help to our teachers. Each week in their own quiet way, they helped to make things at Hebrew school run more smoothly. Many thanks again to you all.

Tinker Hannaford is retiring after many years of teaching our Aleph class (1st grade). She has started so many of our students off on the right foot. On behalf of our entire faculty and staff, we offer our sincere appreciation to Tinker for her years of thoughtful and loving lessons for our Aleph students. We will miss her, and we wish her well, as she now will have more time to spend with her grandchildren.

A special thanks to Campbell Clegg, Deb Hagler, Susan Horowitz, Ann Lewis, Chris Schoenberg and Anna Boll who came all year to parent committee meetings to plan extra activities for our kids above and beyond the curriculum.

A special thank you to Lynn Frank who donated many prizes to get us ready for next years Purim Carnival.


Newsletter Changes

by Anna Boll

For the last two years, Dan Levy has kept Beth Israel members informed about synagogue news. Dan has been responsible for formating and printing the newsletter. We thank Dan for his time and efforts which brought us all closer together through the written word.

In his stead, I will be charge of newsletter layout. I have made a few changes intended to make the newsletter more readable. Please expect more tweaking until I am able to establish a workable template.

The newsletter is published every other month. If you have an article for the newsletter, please note the deadlines below. Send your article in 12 point, Times New Roman font in the text of an email to Anna Boll.

  • September/October by August 20th
  • November/December by October 20th
  • January/February by December 20th
  • March/April by February 20th
  • May/June by April 20th
  • July/August by June 20th

Welcome Newcomer

by Joanne Rosenthal

A recent New York transplant to Brunswick is hoping to meet others in the Jewish community who share her love of the arts (especially theater & dance), current events and the Yankees. She is a widow and has some health problems that limit her mobility. Please call Joanne Rosenthal at Jewish Family Services (871-0508), to help welcome this new member of our community.


Get Ready For Next Year

by Barbara Leeman

To get a jump on Hebrew school enrollment, please print and fill out last year's enrollment form.

Forms can be forwarded to Beth Israel Congregation 906 Washington St. Bath, ME 04530 or to education@bethisrael-maine.org

We wish everyone a healthy, productive and enjoyable summer, and we eagerly look forward to our students' return in the fall. Our first day back will be Wednesday, September 13th. A complete calendar will be sent out over the summer.

Have a great summer!


Dump and Run raises $1000 for Beth Israel

by Barbara Leeman

Each spring, Bowdoin College mounts a Dump and Run and the whole community benefits. As students clear out their dorm rooms for the summer, they donate the items they no longer need or want to the Dump and Run. Volunteers collect, sort, and sell the items. This year, the Bowdoin Dump and Run raised approximately $38,000 dollars for area non-profits. There were over 30 organizations that helped work just over 2000 hours. The profits are distributed to each organization based on the number of hours they contribute. Each hour was worth approximately $15 this year. Each year that amount changes. We are so pleased to say that Beth Israel volunteered 70 hours and will receive approximately $1000 for our efforts.

I am so pleased to report that we had 18 people who were able to volunteer some time to help Beth Israel. Special thanks to Susan Horowitz and Harriet Paris for working more than one shift. Each of these people not only helped to raise money for Beth Israel and slow down the waste that fills the Brunswick landfill, but also had the opportunity to get some incredible bargains in the process. This was an easy fundraiser, one that I would like to have Beth Israel participate in again next year. When you see the announcement next year, please consider signing up for a shift. You'll be amazed at how much fun you'll have.

Thank you to the following people who all worked at the Dump and Run.


Return of the Summer Coffee Club

by Donnie Boyd

Women of the congregation are invited to attend a summer Friday morning coffee club.  Come and meet, have a bite to eat, enjoy a cup of coffee/tea, and sit and talk with friends.  No need to RSVP.  Questions, call Marilyn Weinberg or Donnie Boyd.  Mothers - don't have a sitter?  Give Donnie a call and we will see what can be done so you can join the group.  We will meet on the following schedule through the summer:

  • July 14th, 9:00 am at Mae's Cafe (Bath)
  • July 28th, 9:00 am at Starlight Cafe (Bath)
  • August 11, 9:00 am at Cafe Creme(Bath)
  • August 25, 9:00 am at Wild Oats (Brunswick)
    (Pick up some challah too)

Donations

Thanks to the following members for their donations:

  • Andy and Deb Hagler
  • Dan & Sue Levey in memory of her father, Milton Applebaum
  • Larry Simon and Lynne Miller in memory of her mother, Lillian Simon
  • Peggy Brown and John Martell in memory of her parents, Lucille & Harold Hersenhart
  • Marina Singer in memory of her father, Victor Shapiro
  • Jerrold Lurie in memory of his father, Phillip Lurie