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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

September/October 2004
Elul 5764 - Tishri/Heshvan 5765

President's Message
Cantor's Message
Outreach Program
High Holiday Flowers
Volunteers Needed
Minyan Needed
Friday Night Speakers
Sukkot Progressive Dinner
Yiskor Book Reminder
Building Committee Report
Hebrew School News
Thank you to all who gave...

President's Message

By the time you receive this newsletter, our summer, filled with visitors and travels will be ending and we will be back into a more regular routine. As the days get shorter and the nights cooler we are very aware of the changing seasons. What a perfect time for the High Holidays, with such an obvious awareness of change in the air.

As the days before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur draw near, I always feel blessed that we are given an opportunity to "take stock" of where we are and decide on those things we want to change. Personally, I value the instructions we are given to make peace with our friends and neighbors and to apologize for any "wrongdoing," whether intentional or unintentional. As Jews we do not retreat into cloistered seclusion for this introspection. On the contrary, we celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in public, as a community. This is an opportunity to look not at just ourselves, but also at our community and think about our focus, direction and commitment.

There has been quite a bit of change over the last few years. We have attempted to offer a traditional approach to ritual and practice while being egalitarian and open to critical thought. It has not been easy to find the right balance. Our goal for the year is to continue to work on these issues. Our synagogue stands for something, in part because of this struggle. Besides, who said this would be easy?

Since so many of us live far apart from each other, it is only through attending services and synagogue programs that we often can connect. I think we can retain our sense of community if many of us try to attend services or some of our functions. Better yet, volunteer to work on a committee. Make a New Year's resolution to attend some services this year. The Chai committee is planning some great speakers and programs. Plan on coming to our Progressive Sukkot Celebration in October to reconnect and meet new members. Each one of you is important to the survival of our synagogue.

May this year bring you and your family only the best.

L'Shana Tova

Cantor's Message

Yesterday was Rosh Hodesh Elul, the first day of the last month of the Jewish year. This month culminates with Rosh Hashanah, our New Year's celebration.

In the upcoming month of Elul we mark the beginning of a month long period of introspection. Traditionally, the shofar is sounded with a single blast series each day of the month following the weekday morning service. On the last day of Elul before Rosh Hashanah, there is no blast in silent preparation for the New Year celebration. On both days of Rosh Hashanah this year, we sound the shofar one hundred times. On day one, or on day two when the first day falls on Shabbat, we cast our sins into a body of water in the beautiful ceremony of Tashlich. Throughout this holiday month, except on the fast days of Tzom Gedaliah and of Yom Kippur, we enjoy apples and honey, honey cake and teiglach, to welcome the sweetness of a New Year. We all pray that this New Year will provide all of us a fresh opportunity to improve our world and ourselves.

Many Sephardim, (Jewish people whose 'middle age' ancestors originated in Spain) wake before dawn each morning of the month of Elul to recite special penitential prayers, known as Selihot. Throughout the month they prepare their hearts for the New Year observance.

Ashkenazim, (which represent most of the ancestry of our congregation's membership and United States' Jewry) begin a period of Selihot with a well known "Midnight Service" that always falls on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah.

Our observance of this "Midnight Selihot Service" begins at 10 pm on September 11th . This would also be a good time to remember the victims of 9/11. For those who are interested there will be a little discussion and overview of the ceremonies, customs and objectives of the ten day period known as "The Days of Awe", at 9:30 pm that evening immediately preceding the Selihot service. I will also teach a melody or two for beginners to participate in the joy of Rosh Hashanah.

Rabbi J.H. Hertz, the commentator of the bible edition in our pews at Beth Israel, has a beautiful message about this week's Haftarah. This week's Torah portion is "Shoftim," (translated as Judges) from the book of Deuteronomy. The Haftarah comes from the prophet Isaiah, and is the fourth of the Haftarot of consolation.

He goes on to explain that the Hebrew words "Lintoah Shamayim" are translated as "to plant a seed in heaven." So, just as we plant a fruit tree, which bears fruit and shelter for future generations, by teaching our children we seek a similar ideal, but this seed is planted in heaven.

Whenever we teach a child, by word or example, through a noble thought, deed, or way of life, we plant a seed in heaven via the pure and innocent souls of our children that will extend to future generations."

The power of this message can easily extend to all the nations of the world. The secret to a peaceful future across continents, race or religion, lies in the shining eyes and gentle hearts of our children.

Rabbi Hertz continues: "Teach humanity what are the true foundations of society; not blood and iron, but rather truth, justice and peace."

If we succeed in giving all our world's children (or at least ours at the Beth Israel Hebrew School) the understanding and idealism, then we know that, with the hope and confidence, it is not brick and mortar that protects us. Nor is it military might or political power, that lays the foundation of society. But rather it is the compassion and mercy, truth, justice and the pursuit of peace that "lay the foundation of the earth."

We, the people of Israel, and all teachers of good will who span the globe, can be true servants of G-d, if we take every opportunity to teach our children by both word and example, and thereby "plant the seeds of heaven" and "lay the foundation of the earth."

The Rabbis teach us how important it is to make your study and prayer a type of rigorous discipline, by designating a fixed time for them. Together with your family at meal time, and especially on the Sabbath or at Hebrew school, the children will follow your example.

Our Hebrew School needs your support. We request your time as volunteers. Whether you offer to help clean or care for our building, offer financial support for heat and light, offer food for afternoon snacks or any manner of supplies such as text books or writing exercise or workbooks.

We also need educators who are not Hebrew scholars, we need bible teachers, history teachers, ethics teachers. We of course also need people who can read and teach the Hebrew language, both conversational and biblical. Please become a class parent, or join our education committee and commit some time every week to help organize activities.

Please bring your children and stay to observe our method, and help us organize and improve what we offer our children. Please do everything you can to join with other parents to support a vision of community that enhances our children's Jewish identity and sense of belonging.

"And all your children shall be taught of the Lord;
And great shall be the peace of your children."
Isaiah 54:13

I hope to see you all at Selihot services on 9/11/2004.

Shabbat Shalom and L'Shana Tova
Cantor Daniel Leeman

Outreach Program - The Highlands at Topsham

On the second Shabbat of the month at 3:00 pm Friday afternoon a new program will be initiated this year to bring temple life to the home owners and residents of the Highlands at Topsham. This came about through the efforts of Channa Eberhart. She asked Daniel to join her in holding a brief gathering at the Highlands in Topsham. The purpose of this service is to welcome the Shabbat. Daniel will visit with them, tell stories, light Sabbath candles, and make Kiddush over some Manischevitz wine, and sing a few tunes. Then we share a Challah, making a Motzi blessing. Our hope is to bring Jewish life to these individuals. By all accounts, this is a fun and lively small group. Special thanks to Daniel and Channa for their efforts.

Donations for High Holiday Flowers Needed

Those who wish to donate money to purchase flowers for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur should contact Marina Singer.

Volunteers Needed to Help With Clean Up After Break the Fast

We will be having a community pot luck break fast at the end of the service on Yom Kippur. All food items brought into the shul, as always, should be dairy or vegetarian. We are asking for volunteers to stay a bit and help clean up afterwards. If we all do a little, it will help a lot and we all will be able to leave sooner. Anyone who would like to officially volunteer can call Lenore Friedland.

Minyan Needed

On Sunday, September 12 at 6:30 pm. we will be having a Yahrzeit service for Judyth Gatchell's father, Sy Chamoff. Please come and help us make sure we have a minyan. We will also be changing over books and getting the shul ready for the High Holidays.

Friday Night Speakers

The Chai Committee is lining up speakers for Friday night services for the coming year. We hope to have a speaker twice a month. If you would like to share an experience with us, religious or not, or know of someone who has an interesting story to share, please contact Lenore Friedland. We are hoping to start the program October 22.

The Chai Committee will meet on September 13, 5:30 PM at Bookland. In October the meeting is tentatively planned for October 4, same time and place.

Sukkot Progressive Dinner

A Sukkot Progressive Dinner will take place on Sunday October 3 from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm. More info will follow in a separate mailing. Please mark the date in your calendar and join us for this fun family event. Enjoy good food and good company and help bless each sukkah.

Yiskor Book Reminder

Lola Lea will be putting together the Yiskor booklet for Yom Kippur this year. If you have a loved one you'd like remembered, please send the name and any other appropriate information to Lola.

Building Committee Report

The next time you enter the synagogue, look up as you reach the top step and look at the beautiful old semi-circular sign over the door. Each Hebrew letter is hand carved. The sign is showing its age - the letters are cracked and have lost any protective coating of paint they had. Some of the letters look as if they are about to fall apart. We had Al Buonaiuto of Carrot Signs come and take a look at it to see if it could be restored or replaced. He thinks restoration is possible, but is worried that those letters will fall into pieces once the sign comes down for work. He could reproduce the sign but can't do the hand carving of the letters himself. One option he mentioned is to reproduce it "flat," losing the relief of the carved letters but keeping the general design. All of the options are expensive, ranging from $1,000 to $3000. If you know of anyone capable of carving Hebrew letters out of wood, please let me know! In the meantime, the Board is postponing making a decision until we can take care of some other building needs.

Those other building needs, as you may be aware, include fixing up the bathrooms and kitchen area downstairs at the shul. We've been talking about doing something for a long time, but it never seems to be the right time. Now that we have the Minnie Brown Center we no longer have the same use needs at the synagogue, but we still need to have a place to prepare for Oneg on Friday nights and to meet after services. A fresh coat of paint and new carpet would make a world of difference. These changes would cost us some money. Just installing a kitchen sink with a cabinet would cost us approximately $1100, money we don't currently have. Please consider a donation to help us make the needed improvements to our lovely building.

In the meantime we have undertaken some projects that are either completed or in progress. We have contracted with Moore Painting of Brunswick to paint the outside of the synagogue and the wood trim on the windows at the Minnie Brown Center. The concrete steps at the synagogue have been repaired. There are beautiful new windows at the Minnie Brown Center and mini blinds in the cantor's office. Marilyn, Fred, John and I joined forces on a muggy day in July to clear out the closet at the synagogue. We hauled away more stuff than you can imagine. It was a time capsule of Jewish litter. Ed Benedikt is working toward getting us a handicapped seat that will slide along the stair case for those who find the stairs an insurmountable obstacle.

And finally, we are in the process of acquiring beautiful new Torah mantles and belts. Two of our Torot had only the white high holy day mantles, which they wore all year long. All of the belts for our torot were worn out. We had some generous contributions which allowed us to purchase maroon "every day" mantles for the Torot, a wooden case for our megillah and belts for all of the torot Thank you to Cara Greenblatt Davis, Nancy Greenblatt, Janice Povich and Marina Singer for their generosity. Thank you to Cantor Daniel Leeman for helping with the measuring, giving valuable advice and for making the trip to the Israel Book Shop in Brookline, Mass. to take care of this!

If you haven't joined a committee yet, the Building Committee would love to have you! Call or e-mail me.

Peggy Brown

Hebrew School News

      by Campbell Clegg
      Chairman Hebrew School Parent Committee

We are all getting ready for the first day of school, Wednesday, September 8th. Snack starts at 3:45 pm. Daniel starts his service at 4 pm sharp. Mark your calendars! Barbara has been meeting with teachers and ordering supplies. We have been getting the calendar set and color-coded. Packets will soon be mailed to our school families. Information for registration is also available on our website (

The first meeting of the Hebrew School Parent Committee will take place the Wednesday before school starts. Our committee ensures that the school is running smoothly and events are planned and coordinated. We usually meet the first Wednesday of the month during Hebrew School. We are always looking for more help in running the school. If you are interested in helping give me a call.

It looks like there will be several new families to welcome at school this year. I believe we will have a slightly larger school population this year. I am excited for the year to begin and look forward to seeing you at school.

Thank you to all who gave...


Ann Marks of Sarasota, Florida
in honor of Michael Brodsky's Bar Mitzvah

Susan and Dan Levey
in memory of his father, Leo Levey
in memory of his mother, Shirley Levey

Norma Dreyfus
in memory of her father, Dr. Morris Goldberg

Rea Turet and Sandy Polster
in memory of her step-mother, Lillian Turet
in memory of his father, Martin Polster

Janice Povich
in memory of her husband, Don Povich
in memory of her father, Harry Goldstein

Cara Greenblatt Davis, Nancy Greenblatt, Janice Povich, Marina Singer for their generous donations which allowed us to purchase maroon "every day" mantles for the Torot, a wooden case for our megillah and belts for all of the torot.