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Beth Israel Congregation





Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

March/April 2008
Adar I/Adar II/Nisan 5768


Demographic Study
Meet the Board
Beth Israel Purim Celebration
Special Musical Evening Rescheduled
Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics
From Philadelphia To The Front
Fundraising Dinner
News from the Hebrew School
Synagogue Newsletter Editor
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.


Demographic Study Released about Southern Maine Jewry

by Cantor Daniel J. Leeman

I want to encourage everyone to take a good look at the Jewish population study of Southern Maine that was recently posted at the home page of mainejewish.org. (It's a PDF, so you'll want a free Adobe Reader to view it and/or save it.)

I was eagerly anticipating its release so I could learn about the orientation and composition of the unaffiliated families in our area in order to improve our outreach programs. I thought the intent of such an endeavor was to stop estimating and guessing, and get some good hard numbers to help us to keep realistic expectations about our Jewish community progress and development.

What I didn't expect was the vast and exhaustive analysis of nearly every possible criterion of Jewish identity and participation and how we compared to dozens, sometimes scores of other Jewish regions nation-wide that engaged this researcher and his team. I was also surprised at some of the methods and parameters used.

It appears that the JCA is considering a significant investment in creating a campus that could house some major Jewish institutions. In our case, it could mean a new home for the JCC, JCA, JFS, and perhaps several important local Jewish organizations in a lovely suburban setting, perhaps with sports facilities, beautiful grounds, etc. Based on the looks of the study, it would likely be built in what is described as the core area, Portland and its northern suburbs.

This study was meant to provide clear data for making such an important decision that would likely attract the unaffiliated. Such a campus could attract folks who may prefer the ethnic, cultural, and social aspects of our heritage. This could be an environment where the sometimes threatening aspects of religion and/or Hebrew language barriers wouldn't be an obstacle to feeling fully connected to the Jewish community.

Dr. Ira Sheskin, the lead statistician of the effort, makes some interesting observations and assertions as he interprets his report. In addition to endorsing the campus idea, he remarks about elder needs, dues and fee reductions for the indigent, expanded Jewish High School Programs, the identity and continuity impacts that accrue to the local US community from those who travel and spend time in Israel.

As helpful and insightful as many of these comments were, it's common among Jewish visitors to Maine from densely Jewish urban areas to view our community as quaint. They often perceive our small synagogue structures spread across our vast region as too diffuse, even symbolic or weak. They don't see how rural Jewish communities can possibly meet the critical mass to support the Jewish learning and observance objectives they see as common knowledge and practice. How could we have the resource base to achieve the Jewish academic and cultural programs they provide their communities?

Despite what the numbers indicate about various urban Jewish criteria, I think the study missed the gem that is Jewish Maine. We are small, but vibrant synagogues serving as an umbrella organization as best we can, where each family, each person can make a difference. Because of the small town living, there is no anonymity. We each act as ambassadors for the Jewish community and have earned the respect of our neighbors by doing good deeds through the years. Our communities began as Jewish merchants who came to serve the lumber, shoe and shipbuilding industries.

But we've done so much more through the years. We have synagogue communities serving the military bases, as well as the Maine colleges. How can you quantify the beautiful independent spirit that is Jewish Maine? How can you quantify the true environmentalist spirit of the Jewish Mainers that live here and protect our spectacular coastline and forests? How can you measure inculcating profound Jewish values to children growing in glorious, natural surroundings, with clear air, clean water, and clean streets, free of crime?

Nonetheless, the numbers don't lie. It's evident how far we must go to build and unify our Jewish community. But with important tools like this study, the pathway ahead is a lot clearer.

I want to offer my thanks to Dr. Sheskin, and to the generous sponsorship of the Sammy Cohen Foundation, the Gorman Family, and the JCA. I also want to thank the volunteer committee that coordinated the project.


Meet the Board: Every week I go to Florida!

by Campbell Clegg

As a stay at home dad, I have spent the past 14 years doing things that I never dreamed I would be doing. One of those things was being asked to submit a "Get to know the Board" article for our newsletter. It got me thinking and I started to make a list of all of the other things that I had been doing over the years that, looking back on it, I never would have anticipated, but which really give a great start to getting to know me:

  1. Going to the "Mother's Connection" - Just about 14 years ago, I decided to quit the traditional work force and stay home with our then only child, Rachel. One of the first surprising things I found myself doing was heading off to the "Mother's Connection." I would bundle Rachel up and we would head to West Falmouth to go to a playgroup in the basement of a church. The room would fill with mothers and their kids. And then there was me and one other father. John, the only other dad, and I would plop ourselves down in the middle of a pile of kids - excited to be playing with all the toys - only to find that the kids were all excited to be playing with a couple of dads! It was great fun.
  2. Roll the film - As a result of the time John and I spent on the floor, we created the father's connection! Picking up other dads along the way we soon numbered about a dozen and became the Southern Maine Home Dads. Channel 13 came to watch a bunch of men play with the kids at my house. A graduate student came up from Boston to study us. Rachel and I ended up on the front page of the Times Record for Father's Day! For some time there was much brouhaha.
  3. Learn how to ski - As a youth growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I never really had the chance to ski. The little snowfall we got would bring Asheville to a standstill. When Rachel started to learn how to ski, I started to learn. Now we all have a blast as we cruise the slopes!
  4. Swim - When Rachel was born I started imagining what sport I would watch her take up. Would I coach soccer or softball? Maybe basketball? At least for Rachel the answer is none of the above. Instead we spend our time in the pool and we get to go to the closest approximation of Florida's weather one can find year round in Maine! So all of you who long for the sunshine state this time of the year need to take a quick drive over to the Bath Y and spend some time in the pool stands. If you go during a meet, I can guarantee that you will be sweating in less than an hour! In addition to my trips to "Florida," however, I did get to coach my youngest, Zelda, in soccer!
  5. Help run Hebrew School - My Sunday school teacher would be most surprised by this though I suspect that Rev. Graham would not.
  6. Relax with some coffee - As the kids got older my dad started asking what I was going to do with my life. When was I going to get a real job, he wanted to know? I answered I thought I had one but when the opportunity to purchase Maine Roasters Coffee came up four and a half years ago, we jumped in with some friends. I would put my time in during the day when the kids were at school and then at 2:15 start driving somebody somewhere. In November the Freaky Bean bought us and has now left me with my next hill to climb.
I have loved all these new experiences. This list would go on for many pages but I do not want to bore anyone. There are too many projects around the house. Someday the garage may even be able to fit both of our cars! There you have it. I am a stay at home dad who's not afraid to get down on the floor to play with kids, loves to ski, spends a lot of time in the pool area, helps run the Hebrew school and loves coffee. Any questions?

Beth Israel Purim Celebration

Our Beth Israel Purim celebration will be held on Sunday, March 16th. We will have the Megilla Reading at 10:00 am at the synagogue followed by a Costume Parade to the Minnie Brown Center at 11:00 am. From 11:00 am - 1:00 pm we will have our annual Purim Carnival where there will be fun, food, games and prizes! Who can forget Esther's candles or Mordecai's beanbags? There will be homemade hamantaschen for sale as well as pizza and beverages!

If you have any questions, please call Susan Horowitz.


Special Musical Evening Rescheduled

Our special musical program called "Friday Night Kumsitz" has been rescheduled to Friday, March 21st at 7:00 pm. Although it was snowed out in February, the energy of our talented and spirited line-up of singers and instrumentalists is still growing as we all eagerly anticipate this now "first-day-of-spring" musical evening.

We invite all of you to come to this special event, and bring your friends. It's a great and innovative way to celebrate Shabbat and enjoy our talented congregation members. This evening is free and open to the public. We will meet at the Minnie Brown Center.


The 3rd Annual Maine Community Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics

by Irwin Brodsky

The Maine community is invited to attend the 3rd annual Maine Community Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics to be held Sunday, March 30th from 10am to 11:30am at the Minnie Brown Education Center of Beth Israel Congregation in Bath. Three distinguished rabbis, Rabbi Fred Nebel of Congregation Beth Abraham in Bangor, Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth El in Portland, and Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld of Synagogue Shaarey Tphiloh in Portland, hosted by Cantor Daniel Leeman of Beth Israel Congregation in Bath, will apply Jewish authority and thought to complex medical and social cases. The medical cases will be presented by three distinguished medical professionals, including Dr. Judith Weisman, a colorectal surgeon at Miles Hospital, Dr. Dmitry Opolinsky, a Nephrologist at Maine General Hospital, and Dr. Marc Herwitz (Lt. Commander), Head of Clinical Operations at the Naval Branch Health Clinic NAS Brunswick.

The public is invited free of charge. Doors will open at 9:30 am for refreshments. Case presentations will begin at 10:00 am and be interspersed with audience interaction. The Minnie Brown Center is located at 906 Washington St. in Bath.


From Philadelphia To The Front: Film to be shown at Beth Israel

by Marilyn Weinberg

Last year the short film From Philadelphia to the Front was featured at the Maine Jewish Film Festival. We are fortunate that the writer/director will be visiting Maine and showing her film at our own Beth Israel Congregation.

On Saturday evening, April 12, Judy Gelles will present her award winning film at the Minnie Brown Center. The screening will begin at 7:30 pm, followed by a question and answer period. A reception will follow.

One of the few documentaries to explore the stories of Jewish-American World War II soldiers, this film focuses on six Philadelphia veterans in their 80's. It follows their individual experiences during the war and a bittersweet reunion they share in their old age. For Jews, the war to defeat Hitler had deeply personal significance. Combined with photographs from the men's personal collections, the film includes rare archival footage, stills, and newsreels including Jewish soldiers celebrating Shabbat and Passover during wartime and the first Jewish service at Dachau after it was liberated. Milton Dank, a noted physicist and historian who flew glider planes in Word War II, contributed hundreds of photographs he took on the front lines.


Fundraising Dinner

by Marilyn Weinberg

On Saturday, May 17, we will be having our first ever community fundraising dinner. For a fee of $30 per person, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious three-course meal at a member's home. At the end of the evening we will join together at the Minnie Brown Center for dessert, music and a silent auction. More information will follow, but mark your calendars now.


News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Tu B'Shvat Celebrated!

Despite the many inches of snow that January brought, we celebrated Tu B'shvat (the Birthday of the trees) during Hebrew school. The kids tried many fruits all representing different types of personalities. Some with hard skins, some with hard pits, etc. Ask them to describe this for you. They mixed juices representing the different seasons. All classes participated and each of the students planted parsley following the Seder. We hope to see the parsley grow tall enough by Passover, to use at our Passover Seder. One of our Hebrew school parents delighted in telling us that the apple seed her daughter planted at Hebrew school a few years ago, is a strong apple tree seedling now. Thank you to all those who helped to make it a success by being available to help during school.

Hebrew School to Lead Shabbat Services

Our Vav and Heh class Shabbats were postponed until March 7th. With the snow dictating much of our winter schedule, it has been a bit tough to keep these on track. The students in these classes are Quin Boyd, William Connelly, Shira Gersh, Jacob Hagler, Julian Ireland, and Sophie Sreden. We look forward to seeing each of our students rise to the occasion and shine with knowledge and excitement. On April 11th, the Gimmel (3rd grade) class will also have a chance to lead our Shabbat service. The students in this class are Sullivan Boyd, Zelda Clegg, Arielle Leeman, Emma Miller, Henry Raker, and Noa Sreden. Alina Shumsky and Cantor Daniel are the teachers for these classes. Each of the class Shabbat services include a potluck dinner prior, where the children and parents alike, make the brachot (blessings) over washing hands, blessing the children, singing zmirot (shabbat melodies), and then benching (grace) following our meal. We encourage every member of our congregation and greater community to attend these special services. Your attendance and support will inspire our students to continue their effort towards a quality Jewish education. Please mark your calendars. Also coming soon, the Aleph and Bet class is scheduled to lead our Shabbat service on April 18th, not April 11th as originally planned. This will be an especially nice time to join the class for services, as our youngest group takes over the bima. For those who normally come to our Tot Shabbat service (last Tot Shabbat scheduled for the same night) please join this group for not only a child friendly service, but also the potluck dinner preceding it. Dinner will begin at 6:00 pm and services will begin at 7:00 pm.

School Pictures

Hebrew school pictures are scheduled for April 16th. This is also the same day as our Model Passover Seder. Our model Seder will begin immediately as we arrive at Hebrew school, and the pictures will follow.

Classroom News

Cantor Dan's Judaica Heh/Vav class is making steady progress through the "Torah and You" series, learning modified bible stories, together with several wonderful values clarification exercises for each story. We've made it through Joseph and his brothers, and now are continuing with Moses and the Exodus through the spring season.

Marina's Aleph and Bet Hebrew classes have been busy. In Aleph, the Aleph-Bet is being introduced using various mediums. Each week a new letter is introduced using a book called "The Aleph-Bet Story Book." There is a delightful story about each letter of the alphabet. That is the letter of the day, and then the kids do selected activities around that letter. Music, art forms such as play doh, picture sheets, crayons, markers and paint, as well as word and prayer ideas taken from Torah Tots and Aklah on the internet, games from the teachers guide, "Look Listen and Read Alefbet by Sol Scharfstein, flash cards, and teacher made games. In Bet, our second graders are using a Aleph Bet workbook, flash cards, games, songs, word pages from Aklah, another workbook that uses rhythm called, "Let's Read Alefbet and Vowels" by Sol Scharfstein, and prayers from the prayer book.

Susan is enjoying the eager and enthusiastic Alef and Bet students for Judaica. She started the year learning about the High Holy days and Shabbat. She's focused on many wonderful crafts including making mini-challahs, menorahs, a giant Star of David, and trees for Tu B'shvat. She also has explained the concept of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, and drew pictures and read stories illustrating how everyone can make the world a better place, even kids.

Purim Celebration

Celebrate Purim, Hear the Megillah Reading, Come to the Carnival, Make Hamantashen!

Our next upcoming special celebration will be the Megillah reading and our annual Purim carnival on Sun. March 16th. Each of the children can fulfill the mitzvah of "sending portions one to another" as Mordechai instructed. Traditionally, shalach manot are delivered through a messenger and not given personally. Therefore we "send" these "bags" at the Purim carnival, for the children to exchange. These bags should contain at least two food items and other small items (gently used little toys does the trick), to exchange with one another. The kids will also make hamantashen during school on March 12th.

Yom Haazmaut

Yom Haazmaut is rapidly approaching. We look forward to celebrating Israel's independence day with some special activities.

Parent Group

The next parent group meeting is scheduled for April 2nd. The meetings take place at 4:30 pm during Hebrew school. Anyone is welcome to join in, at any time.


WANTED: Synagogue Newsletter Editor

by Anna Boll

The new editor will take over in June 2008 for the July/August issue of the newsletter. Job includes gathering, laying out and editing articles. Must be familiar with desktop publishing and Jewish guilt. This is a two-year position. Editing the newsletter is a great way to stay involved. If you have a new vision for the newsletter, please contact Marilyn.




Donations

Many thanks to the following people for their donations to Beth Israel Congregation

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Margaret and Peter Brann, in memory of Helen Ruth Charney, mother
  • Peggy Brown and John Martell, in memory of Solomon Wernick, grandfather
  • Jeremy and Joan Fields in memory of David Fields, father
  • Karen and Matthew Filler in memory of Frances Feldman, mother
  • Barbara and Robert Lenox in memory of Freda Selig, mother
  • Barbara and Robert Lenox in memory of Mishael Selig, father
  • Barbara and Robert Lenox in memory of Fred Lenox, father
  • James Raker and Virginia Van Slyke in memory of Harry Raker, father
  • Donna and Peter Rubin in memory of her parents
  • Fred and Marilyn Weinberg in memory of Marvin and Frances Weinberg, parents
  • Judith Weisman in memory of Susan M. Furnberg, friend
  • Judith Weisman in memory of Irving Weisman, father
  • Fred and Marilyn Weinberg in honor of Robert GershŐs retirement
  • Selma Blatt in honor of her great-grandchildŐs baby naming: Archer Cooper Stillwell
  • Joan and Jeremy Fields in honor of their grandchildŐs baby naming: Archer Cooper Stillwell Tonia Gould
  • Maurie Libner

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Lynda and Greg Kelly, in memory of Harold and Ann Lempert, parents
  • Joseph and Loren Stillwell in honor of their childŐs baby naming: Archer Cooper Stillwell

Welcome New Members

  • Stephen Blatt, Lynn Krauss and Lucy Blatt of Cumberland
  • Tonia Gould of Waldoboro
  • Donna and Peter Rubin of Scarborough