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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

March/April 2005
Adar I/Adar II/Nisan 5765

President's Message
Passover Seder
News from the Hebrew School
Friday Night Guest Speakers
Auction and Brunch a Huge Success
Capital Campaign Update
Prayer Book Selected
Chair Lift
Social Action
Megillah Reading & Purim Carnival

President's Message

by Marilyn Weinberg

Although our membership is not large, our little synagogue is alive and thriving. During the cold month of January, people braved the frigid temperatures and snowy weather to join together for thoughtful discussion and some fun.

I was so impressed with the turnout for Shabbat services as we sampled the different prayer books. Members took the extra time to attend the services and either e-mail me or fill out the evaluation form to let me know their preference. People really cared. For the night of the discussion we had a great turnout and many people had an opportunity to speak. It was clear by the end of the evening that a decision could be made that would satisfy just about everybody. When does that ever happen?

On January 30th we held our winter brunch and auction. We had a big turnout with people of all ages. Everybody who attended had a part in its success. The children not only held a bake sale, but also were great bidders in the auction. Andy Schoenberg kept us laughing throughout the morning with his auctioneer's talent for making the oddest item seem interesting. The Chai Committee fed us with yummy food and in the end everybody stayed to clean up. Each person who was there left not only with something they might not have planned to take home, but also with a strong sense of community and belonging.

Passover Seder

Mark your calendars for Sunday, April 24th, for our annual Beth Israel Community Seder. We will gather together to celebrate the second night of Passover with a traditional seder, followed by a wonderful potluck dinner. You will be getting a separate flyer in the mail in late March with the details.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Amidst Snowstorms We Planted Trees!

Despite the many inches of snow that January brought, we managed to hold a Tu B'shvat seder during Hebrew school. The kids tried many fruits all representing different types of personalities. Some with hard skins and some with hard pits. Ask them to describe this for you. They mixed juices representing the different seasons. All classes participated and each of the students planted their own apple tree following the seder. So many parents helped to make this a success. Our thanks goes to everyone who contributed food items and to all those who helped to make it a success by being available to help during school. What a great team.

Class Shabbats

Our Heh class Shabbat was postponed due to weather until January 14th. With snow still threatening, and new prayer books to select, this class did a fantastic job. The service was led by Sam Leeman, Becca Lewis, Sarah Neuren, Dylan Osmun, Rachel Schoenberg and Kaela Winneg. On February 11th, the Gimmel/Daled (3rd/4th grades) class also did a fantastic job leading our service. This service was led by Quin Boyd, William Connelly, Isabella Jones, Gina Maris, Zachary Miller and Sarah Winneg. Mazel Tov!

Each class has had a potluck dinner prior to the service, when we have our traditional washing before the meal, our blessings over the food and lots of zmirot (Shabbat melodies) following the 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 toward a quality Jewish education. Please mark your calendars. Our next class Shabbat will be the Bet class on March 11, 2005.

Book Orders Make Their Way Into Hebrew School

BabaGaNews has made its way into our school. They have wonderful magazines each month designed for the grade 3-7 age group, and a website ( that all ages can enjoy. Most recently, we have had an opportunity to join their BabaGaBooks as well. This is a Book order program for Jewish books at discount prices. If you are interested in this, and are not receiving the order sheet through the school, please call the office (443-4606) and we will make sure you have one available.

Mitzvah News

The Mitzvah Club has been doing more mitzvot during the months of January and February. They have sponsored a can drive to help some victims of the Tsunami disaster. There is now a large water bottle located at the Minnie Brown center to collect pennies for Mid-Coast hunger. Mittens have also been collected to benefit local Maine children. Please be on the lookout for upcoming events.

Hebrew School Kids Head For The Hills

A number of Hebrew School students went tubing together at Pine Haven Winter Park during February break. This family fun day was scheduled to give the kids more opportunities to socialize outside of the Minnie Brown building. Lots of fun was had by all.

What's in Store for March and April?

The Purim carnival is always a favorite event amongst the kids. On March 16th at Hebrew School we will be making hamantashen and decorating Shalach Manot bags for the kids to bring home and fill. They will bring back the bag to exchange with other students on Sunday during the carnival. The Megillah reading begins at 10:00 am (at the synagogue). BRING YOUR NOISEMAKERS! We will parade down in costume to the Minnie Brown center for the carnival (approximately 11:15-1:15 pm).

A flyer is enclosed as a reminder for this great school event.

April brings Passover, and again we will have a model seder at Hebrew School. This year our seder will be a bit early due to April vacation. The model seder will be on April 13th, during Hebrew school (4:00-6:00 pm). For those younger kids coming just once a month, or those unable to come each week, please make time and feel free to join us.

Parent Group

For anyone who is interested, there is a parent group that meets at 4:30 pm during Hebrew school, the first Wednesday of each month. Our next meeting will be March 2nd and then April 6th. Purim and Passover will be on the agenda. Please consider coming to join us.

Friday Night Guest Speakers

On Friday, March 4th Robert Gersh will be our guest speaker. Robert's father was in the Air Force, so his experiences have been global. Robert was born in Hawaii, then moved to Louisiana and Ohio. His Bar Mitzvah was in the Rashi Synagogue in Worms, Germany. He went to high school in London, then received his undergraduate degree at Tufts University, after which he was commissioned into the Navy. While he was stationed in Japan, he led Friday night services because there was no rabbi or cantor. He is a civil engineer and construction contract administrator at BNAS. Robert will speak about what it was like growing up as a Jew in the Air Force and living as a Jew in the Navy. He recently attended a Lay Leader Conference in Norfolk, Virginia.

On Friday, March 18th, Jim Raker will be our speaker.

Our Chai committee is planning on speakers for April, which they hope to announce soon by email.

Auction and Brunch a Huge Success

by Lenore Friedland

After having been postponed a week because of stormy weather, the Trash to Treasure Auction and Brunch was held on Sunday, January 30th. Thanks to all who donated items and those who so generously bid, the Synagogue made $821.

Not only did we enjoy a most delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs (cooked up by chefs Fred Weinberg and Jay Friedland), bagels, cream cheese, lox, maple walnut French toast, blueberry blintz soufflŽ and delicious baked items, but we had a chance to laugh up a storm thanks to the wonderful job Andy Schoenberg did as our auctioneer. There was something for everyone from art to Cuisinart. Even the youngsters found items to bid on (and caused quite a bidding war). The Hebrew school moms got in the action by offering delicious baked goodies to bring home. Thank you to jewelry designer Deb Panish, who donated beautiful necklaces and several pairs of earrings. You can find her jewelry on the Internet at Thank you to Norma Dreyfus, Stanley Lane and the Friedlands for the donation of food. We all had fun and made money for the shul. What could be better?

Capital Campaign Update

by Jeff Cohen & Sharon Drake
Co-chairs, Capital Campaign

The capital campaign has been active and is getting ready to hit full stride. So far we have raised $77,000 towards our goal of $250,000. This includes gifts of $10,000 from several member families, and a number of gifts from $3,000 to $7,500 from other members.

Beth Israel is already beginning to see the fruits of the campaign. Thanks to a member's donation we now have a new, motorized lift chair, making the sanctuary accessible to the handicapped. Another member has donated money for a new set of prayer books for the congregation. And soon, we will begin to undertake some major, much needed capital improvements.

In the coming weeks, representatives of the campaign committee will be contacting most of the remaining members of Beth Israel for a pledge to the campaign. We recognize that some families cannot afford to give at the levels mentioned above. We also understand that there are demands on all of us for contributions to many worthwhile charitable organizations. Nevertheless, Beth Israel holds a special place in the life of our community. We are counting on you to open your hearts, stretch your wallets and make the most generous pledge possible. The future of the synagogue depends on it.

Prayer Book Selected

by Marilyn Weinberg

We are happy to announce that the prayer book committee has made a final decision and we will soon have new prayer books at the synagogue. During the month of January we had the opportunity to try out two different books during our Friday evening and Saturday morning services. Attendance was very good. Many people took the opportunity to try out each book and took the time to fill out evaluation sheets and mail them in.

On Friday, February 4th, we had an open discussion where the pros and cons of each book were debated. Although Siddur Sim Shalom had some merits, it was clear that Siddur Hadash met the needs of more people. There is a great deal of transliteration, the language is thoughtful and the readings speak to the heart. The Chai committee met the following week and voted unanimously to purchase Siddur Hadash. This book is the companion to our High Holiday book.

The purchase of these books is made possible through a generous donation from Richard Smith. Rick grew up in Bath and has been a member of our congregation for many years. The books are given in memory of his parents, Jacob and Sara Smith.

Chair Lift

by Margaret Brann

This past fall I had ankle surgery and was in a cast for 8 weeks. Because an electric chair was installed in the synagogue I was able to attend the Vav Hebrew class Shabbat dinner and services and watch my children David and Michelle participate.

Without the new chair, it would have been very difficult for me to crutch up and down the stairs and I probably would have been forced to stay at home. Thank you to those members that made the installation of the chair possible and I hope it is enjoyed by other congregants in the future.


We thank the following people who donated to Beth Israel Congregation

  • Lucille Hershenhart, Peggy Brown and John Martell in memory of Solomon Wernick, Sonia Wernick, Dinah Wernick and Harold Hershenhart.
  • Fred and Marilyn Weinberg in memory of his father, Marvin Weinberg
  • Cara and Mike Davis in memory of her father, Isear Greenblatt
  • Karen and Matt Filler in memory of her mother, Frances Feldman
  • Lynda and Greg Kelly in memory of her mother, Ann Lempert
  • Janice Povich in memory of her husband, Don Povich
  • Anonymous

Social Action - Seeking Volunteers to Help with Rides for the Less Fortunate

by Ed Benedict

For the last eighteen months, the Mid-Coast Collaborative for Access to Transportation (A Brunswick-Topsham Community Action Group) has been looking at the issues related to transportation in the Brunswick and Topsham area. Particularly we have been focusing on the needs of individuals who have difficulty or inability to drive themselves, for whatever reason. We are now in a position where we know much more than we did at the outset about the issues and have proposed some possible solutions that includes partnerships with non-profit and religious groups.

There is a widespread acknowledgment that the lack of public transportation has effects that are deeply felt throughout our communities. We have heard from people who felt isolated and unable to participate in the activities that make for a meaningful life because they could not afford a ride.

One solution that has been suggested would address the off-hour, weekend and more spontaneous needs that have been repeatedly raised by many residents. This solution could take a number of forms, but it would develop a volunteer network, and the capacity to link people needing rides with those providing them. The Town of Brunswick, the Maine DOT, Coastal Transport, many community groups and the Brunswick Area Interfaith Council (on which I represent Beth Israel) has been wonderfully supportive throughout, and we believe a successful partnership using volunteers can happen here.

Are any members of our congregation from Brunswick or Topsham willing to provide rides to those less fortunate?

Megillah Reading & Purim Carnival

Megillah Reading & Purim Carnival Sunday, March 20th 2005 10:00 am - 11:00 am Megillah Reading at the Synagogue Parade of Costumes to the carnival 11:15 am - 1:15 pm Purim Carnival at Minnie Brown Center Games and Prizes Family Basket Exchange Children's Bag Exchange Pizza for sale and beverages provided Bring your groggers! Fulfill the mitzvah, come make some noise and have fun!