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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

July/August 2004
Tamuz/Av/Elul 5764

President's Message
New Summer Hours for Friday Night Services
Cantor's Corner
Torah Scroll Covers - Please Help
Fund Raising Committee
Dike Newell School
Hawthorne House
News from the Hebrew School
Annual Meeting
Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program

President's Message

      by Marilyn Weinberg

When I first attended High Holiday services at Beth Israel in the fall of 1976, I met a wonderful older gentleman (close to 90 years old). He was our president Abe Kramer and had served in that capacity for the previous 40 years! His job was to find somebody to lead High Holiday services (no easy feat) and run a yartzeit service when needed. At that time there was a women's group that ran rummage sales and held suppers to raise money that was used by the men's group to spend on the upkeep of the building. There was no board of directors and no Hebrew school.

Our board is a fairly new institution at Beth Israel. In our wisdom (or we might say the "Abe Kramer clause") we have written a term limit into our by-laws so that no one person has to feel obligated to serve in a leadership role for more than two terms. Each term lasts for three years. So even though we have just lost some wonderful board members in Nonny Soifer, Tinker Hannaford, Joanne Rosenthal and Carolyn Gilman, we have gained four very capable new board members. Peggy Brown, Dan Levey, Irwin Brodsky and Stan Lane have all agreed to volunteer their time to serve on the board for the next three years. They each bring new ideas and a fresh perspective on how we function.

As we approach the next few months please take time to say thank you to those who have served on the board and to communicate your ideas with the present board members so we can try to make Beth Israel serve the needs of all of our members. Abe Kramer would be proud of what we have accomplished in recent years.

New Summer Hours for Friday Night Services

Please note that the time for Friday night services has been changed from 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm. This will continue through the High Holidays with the chance of continuing next year if the congregation prefers the later time.

This fall, we will continue having speakers, hopefully twice a month, starting in October. This program has been very successful. If anyone would like to speak on a subject they are comfortable with, or could suggest someone, please call Lenore Friedland.

Cantor's Corner

      by Cantor Daniel Leeman

Honest Leadership

The story of the revolt of Korah and his followers is about true leadership. Korach poses as a champion of the people and challenges Moses and Aaron by accusing them of nepotism.

Moses is ultimately vindicated by the unusual story of the earth opening up and swallowing Korach and his followers. Aaron's leadership is also divinely confirmed by the remarkable story of his "staff" from the tribe of Levi flowering overnight, while the other tribal staffs (belonging to the other 11 princes of each tribe) did not.

The dramatic Divine intervention in these stories is not as fascinating and beautiful to me as the simple and refreshing answers of an impeccable Jewish leader to his critics and accusers.

Moses begs G-d not to respect the offerings of Korach and his followers. He said: "I have not taken one donkey from any of them, nor have I wronged them." Numbers 16:15: They could not justify their accusations of tyranny because Moses never abused his power! The Bible even attests to this fact by describing Moses as the humblest of all.

Over the next several months our country is embarking one of the most hotly partisan presidential elections in my lifetime. There will be many accusations and many responses. It is our job to judge the responses.

The rabbis describe Korach's revolt, "Shelo L'sheym Shamayim" (not for the sake of Heaven). They did not hesitate to condemn the controversy, which brought so much harm to all concerned. On the other hand the Talmud is filled with argument and debate to search for the truth to arrive at what is peaceful and best for the community. Judaism recognizes the validity of respectful disagreement that is rooted in idealism and/or other justifiable motivations.

So let's let the Torah and the wisdom of the rabbis guide us in both the process and parameters of the future debates that will elect a leader to our nation's highest office. Let's evaluate our candidates' leadership ability on how the issues are framed and the nature of their responses.

Korach was as a master of language. He knew how to sway and how to persuade with slogans and speeches.

As we listen carefully to many speeches and debates in the upcoming dialogues, let's keep our focus on the fundamental principles and policies that will shape our future. Let us be careful not to allow our ideals to be squashed and replaced with rhetoric that plays on our fears. And certainly Israel must not become a pawn in the process.

Torah Scroll Covers - Please Help

We need your help: Our Torah scrolls are dressed for the High Holy Days year round. We are in need of burgundy colored "everyday" mantles for our Torah scrolls to wear during the rest of the year. The cost of a mantle is about $250. Please consider the mitzvah of making a donation to dress our Torah scrolls. Torah mantles can be embroidered with a dedication. This is a lovely way to honor a loved one. If you are interested in making a donation for a Torah mantle, please contact Peggy Brown or Daniel Leeman.

Fund Raising Committee

As we grow and manage all of our programs and buildings, we find that we are less able to support these programs through our annual dues. We will be forming an activities based fund raising committee and need people who can participate in the creative process of conceiving fund raising programs and help implement your ideas. Any and all suggestions are welcome. If you are interested in participating in this committee, please call or e-mail Marilyn Weinberg or Dan Levey.

Cantor Dan's Visit to the Dike Newell School

Daniel was asked to present the cello to the entire 3rd and 4th grade classes at Dike Newell School on June 14th. Mrs. Susan Cyr, music director, asked Daniel to visit.

While there, he presented the cello as an instrument. In his presentation, he described how a cello is constructed, its component parts and its acoustical characteristics. He also performed a Vivaldi Sonata and was accompanied by Mrs. Cyr.

After he played, he told the students about some of his personal experiences in orchestras, chamber music groups, and solo performances around the world.

One important message that he conveyed to the children was the importance having a dream and making a commitment to realizing that dream. Another key message is that it takes personal disciple to learn a musical instrument as in any other life endeavor.

In Daniel's case, he had other dreams as these students will certainly have, however, it is important to dream and have goals.

When Daniel was in his early teen years, not much older than the students in Mrs. Cyr's class, he had decided that he wanted to be a musician and began to prepare himself for that career. According to Daniel, the cello has been a life-long source of joy and delight for me and he is glad that at that time in life he had that dream.

Cantor Dan's Visit to Hawthorne House, an Assisted Living Facility in Freeport Maine

      by Cantor Daniel Leeman

Last week, I received a call from Paula Kappell, activities director at Hawthorne House. She explained that there were a number of Jewish residents there and she asked for a visit from me.

Although I did not recognize any of their names, I decided to go see them. It turns out that some of the residents were grandparents of students of mine during my years serving in Portland. I stopped in to spend an hour or two talking with five Jewish residents.

Some of the units housed Alzheimer residents who had difficulty remembering much of their past experience. Yet one engineer from Chicago who had difficulty remembering, had been a prolific writer. We ended up gathering a small group and reading several of his delightful Jewish stories from Chicago in the 40's and 50's. They were about his beloved rabbi and extended Jewish family.

It was a real pleasure to share time and hopefully bring a little happiness into the lives of a few elderly Jewish residents of Freeport.

If anyone would be interested in visiting this home, please let me know. It certainly would be a very worthwhile activity for our Hebrew School and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

News from the Hebrew School

      by Barbara Leeman

Our Hebrew school year has come to an end. Please email me if you have not had a chance to see our Web based PhotoShow of the year. We are very proud of our students, and we have high hopes and expectations for the future.

Israeli Dancing

On April 28th, Marie Wendt, a local dance instructor, (and wife of Steve Gruverman of the Casco Bay Tummlers) came to teach our students some traditional Israeli dance steps, in honor of Yom Ha'Azmaut (Israel Independence day). Many parents also joined in and much fun was had by all. The kids all learned Hatikva (Israel's national anthem), with Cantor Daniel teaching, singing and playing the piano, also in honor of Yom Ha'Azmaut.

Lag B'Omer

On May 12th, following Hebrew school, everyone enjoyed making their own ice cream sundaes. The weather couldn't have been better, and some families brought a picnic dinner. The kids participated in a variety of games across the street in the Patten Free library park. We have some very good potato sack jumpers, relay racers, and the potato catching with a fork was a big hit. Many thanks to Campbell Clegg for organizing the Lag B'Omer games.


Our Vav class, which includes; Sumner Blatt, Alle Boyd, Michael Brodsky, Rachel Clegg, and Max Weiss officially graduated on May 21st. Most of the graduating students led the service that evening, and gave a brief dvar torah describing something that they enjoyed about their experience at Hebrew school. As our Hebrew school says "goodbye" to this group, our congregation says "hello." We look forward to seeing each of them participating more in our shul following their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.


All year long the kids have brought in money to give toward a charity. With many excellent choices to vote on, the two "winning" charities were The Mid-coast Hunger project, and a charity that provides pizza for Israeli soldiers. supports IDF troops on active duty in Israel. The soldiers enjoy a special treat of pizza and soda and the knowledge that people support and care for them. The pizza is purchased from eleven pizzerias and eateries which are given business during troubled times when tourism is nonexistent. The Midcoast Hunger Project provides food assistance to people in the Greater Brunswick area. It is nice that the kids chose one local charity, and one beyond our borders. Next year we look forward to planning more tzedakah and chesed projects, with the teachers, parent committee and student body.

Each charity received a check for $100. Thank you to all the Hebrew School families who have made these gifts possible!

Many thanks

We want to extend many thanks to Simone Martell, a gifted photographer, who came to take pictures of each class. Thanks so much for helping us.

Also, we are extending a big thank you to Roberta Brezinski, Campbell Clegg, and Terry Winneg, who all year long, went above and beyond to help our school run so effectively. Todah Rabah.

To all our teachers another big thanks. Rachel Connelly, Daniel Leeman, Tinker Hannaford, Alina Shumsky, Marina Singer, Jill Standish, Neal Urwitz, and our classroom aides, Carl Boyd, Rozi Eberhart, and Noah Lumsden for inspiring our students week after week, and teaching about our Jewish heritage with love.

Photo Show/Pictures

Class pictures are available through email. Anyone interested in having a copy of his/her own, please send me an email. There is also a Photo Show of our school year. This is purposely not being published on our Beth Israel website because our policy states that photos will be published onto the web only with the parent's permission. Since many of the photos are group shots, it made publishing these impossible. Please contact me if you have not received it, and would like a copy through email.

Last day of school

Our last day of school was May 19th. More information will come shortly to prepare for next year. To get a jump on enrollment, please print and fill out an enrollment form. Forms can be forwarded to Beth Israel Congregation 906 Washington St. Bath, ME 04530.

Annual Meeting
June 6, 2004

      submitted by Joanne Rosenthal
  1. Introduction from our President, Marilyn Weinberg. Marilyn introduced the Board of Directors made sure that everyone understood and agreed with the agenda.

  2. Cantor's Report: Cantor Leeman reported on the year's activities, including: High holiday and other services, a Passover Seder and Shavuous services and Weekly Shabbat services every Friday night and Saturday morning.

    Daniel has officiated at several life cycle events, made hospital calls and pastoral visits to community residents. He has held adult Hebrew and language and Introduction to Judaism classes. In our community Daniel has attended Interfaith Council meetings, worked with Hospice, and attended a Rotary meeting. Daniel has implemented an "open door policy" and welcomes visitors to his office.

  3. Treasurer's Report: Marilyn Weinberg presented a report prepared by the treasurer, Rea Turet. This report included a spreadsheet showing actual expenses and revenues for 2003-04 and projections for 2004-05. Specific explanations noted the costs associated with the replacement of the windows at the Minnie Brown Center, the purchase of cemetery plots from the endowment fund, and the lack of salary to Barbara Leeman for organizing the school. The budget does not include any capital improvement items with minimal amounts set aside for repair of buildings.

  4. Chai Committee: A written report from Lenore Friedland (read by Marilyn) thanked the community for hosting weekly onegs. The Chai committee held a family life program on Interfaith Parenting, and developed a questionnaire asking members to rank priorities for future programs. Next year the Chai committee will merge with the Ritual committee. Lenore will continue to chair this committee which meets the first Monday at Bookland at 5:30. Under consideration is to resume lay led services on a biweekly basis.

  5. Education: Campbell Clegg, the chair of this committee, reported that He, Roberta Brezinski and Terry Winneg have met one times a month during Hebrew School. The services that precede classes have become a more integral part of the weekly routine; monthly Friday night services with a potluck dinner have been successful; teachers are needed for next year; workbooks (as companions to textbooks) have been requested by Daniel and some of the teachers.

  6. Building Committee: John Martell and Peggy Brown presented a comprehensive overview of the building's status with recommendations.

    The top outside stairs at 862 have been repaired for $389.00. Options for a long term solution to this problem include permanently replacing the steps with solid granite ($16,000-$17,000), pre-cast replacement steps ($5,000-$9,000) or repairing the steps as necessary with sealer. Other needs identified included a sink upgrade with plumbing and carpentry at 862 (estimated cost of $1100; painting at both buildings, boiler maintenance at both buildings; consideration of the installation of an alarm system at 906. Inside painting of trim at 906 is scheduled for this summer. Roofing options were discussed for 862. John recommended that the painting of the outside of the Synagogue should become our first priority. Since the Minnie Brown Center needs a total paint job as well, the issue of how to pay for all these items arose and was discussed.

  7. Handicapped Access: Presentation by Ed Benedikt. The overall goal of this effort is to better service the needs of the membership. The presentation and discussion included information about different elevator options, code requirements and the experiences of other institutions that have installed these units. Ed concluded that his research led him to the recommendation that a "chair glide" system be installed in the side entryway. Such a system would allow more discreet access to both the sanctuary and basement from the driveway entrance. The estimated cost is $10,000. There was a consensus among the members present that this should be taken care of soon.

  8. Membership: Stanley Lane will continue to chair this committee, but would like someone to work with.

  9. Cemetery: Although some plots have been sold. The number is far less than expected. Many people said they were interested in buying plots and as of yet have not come forward. Andy Hagler has graciously agreed to continue to head this committee.

  10. Finance Committee: Report given by Jeff Cohen. The committee has met and defines its mission as follows:

    Develop an investment strategy.
    Recommend fundraising activities for specific capital expenses.

    The committee has begun this process by reviewing a set of proposals from A.G. Edwards; "risk adversity" and social responsibility will be taken into consideration.

  11. Newsletter: Carolyn Gilman has resigned; Susan and Dan Levey have agreed to take on the task. All of us are very grateful.

  12. Fundraising: This will become a primary goal of the Board for the upcoming year.

  13. Social Action: New members are being recruited. They will collaborate with the interfaith group on selected projects.

  14. New Business: The Board made a motion to increase the dues structure by 10% for the 2004-05 year. The motion passed unanimously by the members present.

  15. Nominations: The following individuals have served two terms on the board and are therefore "term limited" off the board following this meeting: Joanne Rosenthal, Tinker Hannaford, Nonny Soifer and Carolyn Gilman.

    The following individuals were unanimously elected to the Board: Daniel Levey, Peggy Brown, Irwin Brodsky and Stanley Lane.

  16. Other news: Beginning June 11th, Friday evening services will begin at 7:30. This will continue for the summer and re-evaluated in the fall.

Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program

      by Ed Benedikt

This region has a program to reach out to individuals and families with not enough food and household supplies. The program serves meals at lunch and provides groceries and other essential supplies for those registered in advance at a food pantry. Amazingly, the number of eligible families with needs has been growing consistently month-by-month over the last few years.

The needs from the community are continually changing, depending on market resources. The need right now is for feminine hygiene supplies. I hope you will see the value of this effort and consider making a donation. You can drop this off at 84A Union Street in Brunswick or by sending a check to me made out to the Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program. I will make sure it is identified as coming from a Beth Israel Congregant.