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Beth Israel Congregation

   
 
 
 

Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

May/June 2007
Iyar/Sivan/Tammuz 5767


Holocaust Remembrance Day
Meet the Board
News from the Hebrew School
Shavuot
Yom Hashoah Observed
Student Helpers
Chumashim
Community Seder
Purim Carnival
Upcoming Bat Mitzvahs
Medical Ethics Seminar
Panel Discussion
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.


Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Daniel Leeman

Since WWII Jewish leaders have pondered how best to commemorate the Holocaust. Some rabbis suggested that a Holocaust Remembrance Day should be integrated into the summer fast day of 'Tish'ah B'Av'. Tish'ah B'Av is a day dedicated to memorializing numerous catastrophes in Jewish history, most notably the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. Some suggest that a Holocaust observance should be placed near other 'fast days' on the calendar. The consensus decision seems to have arrived at naming the 27th of Nissan (this year April 15th 2007) as Yom Hashoah, the 'Day of Disaster'. Some prefer the Hebrew word 'Shoah' to the word 'Holocaust,' as the word 'Holocaust' implies 'sacrifice,' which poses some theological problems.

Why would such a day of mourning be placed in such close proximity to Passover, one of the most joyous festivals of the year? I would suggest one answer, which presents a powerful aesthetic and a call to action.

On Passover we linger at the Seder over the concept of freedom and all its implications and expressions. On Yom Hashoah we ponder the systemic restrictions of our freedoms in pre-war Nazi Europe, which led to the ultimate taking of our very lives, the mass murder of Europe's Jews.

Every year, more and more information about the Nazis is being uncovered, giving us a clearer picture of the organizational structure, theories and planning, that led to the spreading of bigotry and baseless hatred toward all Jews that resulted in genocide. Amazingly, this horror led the nations of the world to help the Jewish people (after the war) realize a two-thousand year-old dream of returning to Palestine. Who can forget the UN vote that gave us a mandate to live as a free people in our own land, the creation of the Modern State of Israel?

Here is a paraphrase from Menachem Begin's autobiographical book "The Revolt," which describes the early formation of the Jewish State: '...the world began to see a new breed of Jew. No longer was the image of the Jewish man depicted as the soft-spoken bearded scholar who struggled in the ghetto. Rather the world was seeing the 'fighting Jew', the one who would defend his right to his ancestral homeland from all threats to its security, and that of its citizenry.'

One could argue that the creation of the Jewish State, Modern Israel, is a direct reaction to the tyranny and oppression of the Nazi racists who senselessly blamed all Jews collectively for the world's problems. In addition to supporting Israel, Jewish people have taken the concept of Jewish freedom to heart. We have devoted ourselves to all manners of worthy endeavors to promote freedom throughout the world. Some have become careful students of history to understand the facts about all that has happened to the Jewish people in modern Europe and throughout the ages. Some have devoted themselves to interfaith dialogue as a source of peace to avoid future misunderstanding and mistrust. Some have devoted themselves to science and technology as a path toward righting the inequities of poverty and disease throughout the world. Some have devoted themselves to the Covenant of Israel and the words of our Torah, and the wisdom of the Rabbis. For many this path to freedom is seeking the Biblical truth about our people's Holy purpose in the world. Some have devoted themselves to social action, Tikkun Olam, healing the world, as a key to peace in every community.

Whatever the choices we make, Passover and its message of freedom will now be linked by the calendar to the ultimate stripping of our freedoms that the Shoah observance memorializes. This creates a powerful juxtaposition of purpose. Whatever path we choose in our striving for protecting our freedoms, and that of the innocent throughout the world, let us hope and pray that we will be guided by G-d to reach our own portions in this effort. One of the passages in the Sabbath Amidah includes the words: 'V'ten chelkeinu b'toratecha', may we each strive to reach our own potential in this critical struggle for peace and freedom for all people in our time.


Meet the Board

Who are the members of our Beth Israel board? What drives them to volunteer their time and talents? In the upcomming issues of the newsletter, we will feature biographies from your Beth Israel board. Perhaps, as you get to know them, you will become more active, attend a service, say "hello" during an oneg, or volunteer your time.

Lenore Friedland

I was born in The Big Apple - an exciting place to be, but I was not much of a city girl. My favorite memories of childhood are of the summers we spent in the Catskill Mountains, picking blueberries, finding swimming holes and watching the stars at night. I met Jay in Brooklyn College. We were married in July of 1969 and moved to Middletown NY (foot of Catskills) where he grew up. I taught first grade until our daughter, Michelle, was born in March of 1973. I was fortunate to be able to be a stay at home mom.

We moved to the south shore of Massachusetts in January of 1975, leaving all friends and family behind in New York. Craig was born in September of 1975 and we felt the need to be part of a Jewish community, even though neither of us was religious. We were active members of Congregation Sha aray Shalom in Hingham for 15 years. I was a substitute teacher in the elementary schools and life was good.

In 1988 we got tired of having to go to NY to get a good bagel and deli. We opened The Noshery, LTD . I ran the restaurant and Jay baked one day a week (starting at 1:00 am), was there every evening and held his full time position at the Bank of Boston. The Boston Globe wrote "A NY Deli Grows in Hingham." We cooked our own corned beef, turkey, roast beef, Jay's mom made chopped liver and stuffed cabbage, there was chicken soup and matzo balls on the menu everyday. Our rye breads, rolls, bagels, challah, rugglach and cakes were all made from scratch. It was an undertaking that, while very rewarding and successful, was burning us out quickly. In 1992 we sold it.

One of things that kept us going during that time was the rejuvenation we got every weekend in the summer. We would head north to our camp on Messalonskee Lake in Oakland. As we crossed the bridge from Portsmith to Kittery, we could feel the tension leave our bodies. We loved Maine. Michelle did too.

She went to Colby, married a local boy and lives in Topsham. As soon as Craig graduated from Hingham High and left for Boston University in 1994, Jay left the Bank of Boston, we moved to Scarborough and opened up The Northern Lites Cafe. I guess cooking is in our blood. We tried it, but it was a mistake. Jay went back into banking as a consultant.

In 1997, we moved to our present home in Brunswick. After we sold the restaurant in Scarborough and I was actually at home, I realized I didn't know a sole. With children all grown up, where do you meet people? A synagogue. In the summer of '99 I called Beth Israel and spoke to Rabbi Ruth Smith who was on maternity leave at the time, but put us on the mailing list for the newsletter. In August of that year, we came to a Friday night service and were impressed with the friendliness and warmth of the community. We liked the idea of a small shul where we might get to know everyone. We sat down in the back by ourselves as the service started. Then I saw a woman motioning frantically to us. It was Nonnie Soifer asking us to come and sit with her. We immediately felt welcome. I called a lady named Marilyn Weinberg to find out how to "purchase tickets" for the High Hoildays. I remember her voice being so warm and as we spoke she genuinely seemed interested in learning more about us. She had a son not only the same age as our son Craig, but a math major as well. After the high holiday service she introduced herself and asked us to come to her house for dinner, where we were made to feel part of the family of Beth Israel Congregation.

Ruth insisted that the way to meet people was to join a committee and become active and she was right. I joined the chai committee and when Rea Turet became treasurer, I took over her job as chair of chai where I have had the privilege of working with a wonderful, dedicated team. I have been on the board for five years.

In my spare time, I provide day care to my two wonderful grandsons Cole (7) and Kyle (4) who give me laughter and keep me young.


News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

It's been another great year at Hebrew school. We have had a busy year. Time goes by so quickly, and we try to make every school minute count. As I recall our year, I remember wonderful classroom discussions, great Friday night services with dinner and singing, interesting speakers, and informative and delicious seders (Tu B'shvat and Pesach). Mostly however, I remember the energy of our wonderful kids, wanting to help lead a prayer during our Tefillah (prayer service) each week, or answer a question during the Megillah reading or during a Seder. I recall the humming that I hear from the kids after school assemblies, and the joy on their faces each week, as they greet their fellow Jewish friends and teachers. It is our goal to help our Hebrew school continuously improve each year. Any comments or suggestions you may have, are always welcome.

Purim Carnival a Success

Each year I listen, and enjoy the Megillah reading. I reacquaint myself with the story of Esther as our Hebrew school students join in the fun of making as much noise as possible whenever Haman's name is called. Cantor Daniel read the Megillah in both English and Hebrew, engaged everyone in questions, and enthusiastically led us in joyful singing. The spirit and enthusiasm of our students invigorates all who come.

The carnival after the service was great fun. The kids paraded in costume around the shul, and marched down Washington Street to the Minnie Brown center. Many thanks go to Lauri Gallimore and Susan Horowitz, who planned and organized it, and got many members involved. There were games (some old favorites, and a few new ones), face painting, crafts, prizes and refreshments. The kids also made "Shaloch Manot" for exchange. The Wednesday right before the carnival (Feb. 28th), the kids made their own Hamentashen at Hebrew school. Everyone enjoyed tasting their creations. Thank you to our parent committee for bringing in the dough and for helping each of the kids. There were even some extra hamentashen to share with the Board for that evening's meeting. It was a wonderful school-wide effort.

Passover Seder

A huge thank you to Deb Hagler and Marie Pressman who provided homemade treats, including three different types of charoset (North African, Sephardic, and Turkish), along with homemade macaroons, and chocolate covered Matzah. Thank you all for making our school seder a great start to the holidays.

Tzedakah

The kids have been donating all year, and during the month of May, they will vote on the recipients of their Tzedakah dollars. Don't forget to bring in your ideas.

Class Shabbat Services

Despite the snowstorm that postponed our Daled service, this class still enthusiastically led our congregation on March 23rd. Each of the students led 3 Hebrew parts, and an English part as well. The members of this class are: Shira Gersh, Jacob Hagler, Julian Ireland, Elliot Pressman, Jacob Schoenberg, and Sophie Sreden. As always, we enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat meal prior to the service, with Zmirot (Shabbat melodies). Mazel Tov to everyone!

Our Aleph and Bet classes will lead us for Shabbat services on May 18th. This will be a combined class service, along with our last Tot Shabbat for the year. Aleph class are: Tobyn Blatt, Ethan Boll, Avi Gersh, Isabella Pols, and Leah Totman. In the Bet class, we have: Isaac Boll, Sullivan Boyd, Zelda Clegg, Nicholas Hagler, Arielle Leeman, Emma Miller, Sadie Pressman, Henry Raker, and Noa Sreden. Our Aleph/Bet Judaica class teacher is Anna Boll, and our Aleph/Bet Hebrew class teacher is Marina Singer. Jane Martell is the student helper in the class. We look forward to a spirited and sweet service.

Israeli Dancing

In honor of Yom Ha'Azmaut (Israel Independence day) we had an educational Israeli dancing session on April 25th. Thanks to Lisa Tessler!

What's in Store for May?

Lag B'Omer, May 9th, outdoor games following Hebrew school, on the Patten Free library lawn across the street. Our "Master of Fun," Campbell Clegg, will lead the kids again in another fun filled afternoon. Feel free to bring a picnic dinner and relax with us. Festivities begin at 5:30pm (as we are finishing up on our Hebrew school classes), and last for no more than 1 hour. If by chance we have rain, we will have indoor games that the kids will be able to have fun with.

Last day of School, May 23rd, also falls on Shavuot. We will be having a service and a discussion to learn about this important holiday. An ice cream party will end the day, as it is a tradition to eat dairy products on Shavuot.


Shavuot

by Barbara Leeman

Shavuot is celebrated on 5th day of Sivan, which occurs on May 23 of the civil calendar this year. It is known by several names: It is called Chag Shavuot, Festival of Weeks, concluding the 7 weeks since Passover, the Giving of Torah (Z'man Matan Torateinu), Festival of the First-Fruits (Chag HaBikurim), and Festival of the Harvest (Chag Hakazir). Shavuot commemorates the Revelation at Mount Sinai, when G-d gave Israel the Holy Torah, including the Ten Commandments and the 613 Mitzvah Observances.

One explanation for eating dairy, is that when the Jews received the Torah on Shavuot, they were not ready with utensils for kosher meat preparation, so they ate dairy, which is relatively easy to prepare instead of meat.


Yom Hashoah Observed

by Barbara Leeman

On Wednesday, April 11th, the students had a chance to meet Manli Ho. Manli Ho's father, Dr. Fen Shan Ho, helped Jews escape from Austria during WWII. He was one of the first diplomats to help Jews by issuing them visas to escape to Shanghai. He was the Chinese Consul General in Vienna following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March of 1938. Ho is listed as one who is "Righteous Among Nations" at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust memorial. This program was a great opportunity for our students to hear another perspective about the Holocaust. It was a great way for our students to hear how one person can really make a difference, and help so many.


Our Deepest Gratitude to Our Graduating Student Helpers

by Barbara Leeman

For four years each, our Hebrew school has been the beneficiaries of two amazing student helpers. Alec Brodsky and Noah Lumsden, have been coming each week, initially helping a few students at a time, for additional tutoring, then helping in the classrooms more where needed. Both have developed great skill. Both have been incredibly easy going, and willing to step in, for ANY task. We have watched them grow, right alongside our students, and we will miss them next year, as they both leave for university. Both have been accepted to outstanding colleges, and will surely be an asset to those schools as they have been to ours. We wish them both success, and know their contributions to our school and synagogue will continue to be appreciated by parents and students for years to come. Thank you.


Special Thank You to the Branns

We have received 18 new Chumashim thanks to the generosity of David and Michelle Brann. These are the books containing the Torah and the Haftorah readings. Although the Hebrew in these books remains the same as our older ones, the English translations are very readable and provide commentary from a variety of modern scholars. As a service to the congregation, David and Michelle decided to donate money they received for their Bar/Bar Mitzvah to the congregation to purchase these new books. They hope that they will be the first of many who might want to donate funds to purchase additional books. Each one will make a difference. Thank you David and Michelle.


Thank you to Cantor Daniel Leeman

by Lenore Friedland

Thank you for leading a beautiful Passover community seder (the singing was joyous) and to the Weinbergs for doing the shopping and setting up the room and tables. There are so many details to doing this seder and they come through every year. This year we had record 80 people. The variety and quality of the food was wonderful. Thanks to all who helped from cleaning the kitchen of chummaz to taking home the trash.


Purim Carnival

by Lauri Gallimore and Susan Horowitz

We had another very successful Purim Carnival! Everyone had a great time enjoying games, prizes, good food and friends! We could not have done this without the help of the following people. Thanks to Donnie Speigelman for making the delicious Chili and volunteering the day of the carnival. Thanks to Ann Lewis for handling the ticket sales and money. Without the following people wewould couldn't have hada carnival as they ran all the games. Morgan and Allegra Boyd, Hannah and Sammy Leeman, Sarah Gallimore, Becca and Jessica Lewis, Rachel Schoenberg, Fred Weinberg, and Marie Pressman. Thanks to Marilyn Weinberg for running the prize table. Thanks to Donnie Speigelman and Rachel Gallimore for selling all the goodies. Lastly, thanks to Anna Boll for making the balloon animals. We so appreciate everyone's help, we could not have done it without all of you! If we forgot anyone we apologize, we appreciate you too.We made $160 which will be used for the Hebrew School. See you all next year!


Upcoming Bat Mitzvahs

During the months of May and June we have three Bat Mitzvahs to be celebrated at Beth Israel. Rachel Schoenberg will be called to the Torah on Saturday, May 12. Rebecca Lewis on May 26 and Hannah Leeman on June 9. All three families would like to invite all members of the congregation to come to these services and share the joy and accomplishments of these three young women. It means a lot to the families and to have you come and share their simcha.


Second Annual Medical Ethics Seminar

by Rea Polster

Should a 16-year-old male suffering from cancer be allowed to die? Should a functioning bipolar woman be part of a drug study? These were among the questions discussed at the second annual Maine Community Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics, on Sunday March 25, 2007 at the Minnie Brown Center.

The well-attended conference was organized and moderated by Dr. Irwin Brodsky, a Beth Israel member and a specialist in Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Maine Center for Diabetes of Maine Medical Center. Cantor Daniel Leeman made welcoming and introductory remarks.

The first case was presented by Dr. Craig Hurwitz, a Pediatric Oncologist and Director of the Maine Center for Pain and Palliative Care at Maine Medical Center. It involved Adam, who was 13 when he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare type of malignant bone tumor. He was given intensive chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. He suffered severe side effects, as well as depression and isolation from his friends. At 15, the Ewing sarcoma had metastasized to Adam's lungs. This was successfully treated with chemotherapy. At 16, the tumor had returned to his leg; he was told that he could survive for a few years if he had his entire leg removed. He had only the tumor removed, and was again given chemotherapy. Six months later, the cancer had returned to both his lungs, and he was given pain killers. However, another blood clot was found on his lungs. Adam, after four years, decided that he wanted to end his life. His mother agreed, but his father did not. They met with a medical ethicist, and an IV medicine was administered so that Adam could sleep until his death. He died of a pulmonary embolism.

Rabbi Carolyn Braun, the rabbi of Temple Beth El in Portland and an advisor to the Cancer Community Center, said that according to Jewish law we don't have the right to end life: every life is quality; which is to say that no one is a useless person; a 90-year-old is as valued as a 16-year-old. Prolonging life versus letting nature take its course is one of the Jewish ethical issues of today. It is a question of duty to provide medical care: "God will take care of it all."

Then again, treatments sometime can kill a patient. In essence it is what the book says versus reality. The thrust is towards life. Yet, there are times when the text would say no, but hearts would say yes.

Dr. Robert Lenox, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, recently with CNS Drug Discovery at Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals, was doing a clinical research trial for a drug that would improve the stabilization of patients suffering from recurrent episodes of mania and depression. A schoolteacher and single mother of two children wanted to enter the case study. She was bi-polar and on lithium, and was functioning as a teacher and a mother. She wanted to be part of the trial test for the new medication. The team of doctors decided that to use this woman for the clinical trials would be too risky and would not be in her best interest. She would have to go off her medication for at least a week, and that could prove a detriment to her career and to her two young children.

Rabbi David Cantor is the Conservative rabbi at Congregation of Beth Israel in Bangor. He said that the Jewish point of view is that God created the universe, but we have an obligation to God's universe. The body belongs to God: take care of it, maintain it. We are not to put the self into danger. We are not to stand idly by, the obligation is to help others. The third premise is that you should help yourself before others, and not put your life in danger. All of this balances out with general principals. In the case of this woman, the ethic is that she has to take care of herself and her children.

The program led to questions from the audience, which included the ramifications of suicide in extreme circumstances. Rabbi Braun summed up the ethical quandary by saying that each situation is an individual case that has to be evaluated separately.


The State of Anti-Semitism in our Community Today

The Community Relations Committee of the JCA presents a panel discussion:

Monday, May 7th at 7:00 pm
Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh
76 Noyes Street, Portland

Panelists include Andrew Tarsey, Regional Director Anti-Defamation League; Jim Rudolph, Board Chair, Anti-Defamation League; Steve Wessler, Executive Director, Center for the Prevention of Hate Crimes Violence. The moderator will be Professor Abraham Peck.

This is an important community event. For more information, call the JCA at 772-1959 or visit their website at www.MaineJewish.org

Donations

We would like to thank the following for their donation to Beth Israel Congregation:

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Margaret & Peter Brann in memory of Helen Ruth Charney, mother
  • Peggy Brown and John Martell in memory of Harold Hershenhart, stepfather
  • Rachel and Michael Connelly in memory of Louis Sarazan, father
  • Matt and Karen Filler in memory of Gerald and Frances Feldman, and Morris and Gladys Filler, parents
  • Andy and Chris Schoenberg, in memory of Elayne Schoenberg, mother
  • Linda Silberstein and Larry Loeb, in memory of Joseph Silberstein, father
  • Sharon Drake

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Sumner and Gail Braunstein, Southampton, NY
  • Barbara Schwartz, East Meadow, NY
  • Lynne Miller and Larry Simon, in memory of Otis Simon, father