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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

January/February 2006
Tevet/Shevat 5766

President's Message
Cantor's Message
News from the Hebrew School
Upcoming Friday Night Services
Social Action Committee Needs Assistance
We Are Having An Auction
Did you ever have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?
The Tedford Shelter
Robert Gersh in Iraq
New Members
Social Action

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

President's Message

by Marilyn Weinberg

I recently read an article in Moment magazine that began with an anecdote that made me laugh and then stop and think. I will repeat it to you:

I recently read an article in Moment magazine that began with an anecdote that made me laugh and then stop and think. I will repeat it to you:

"When Golda Meir held the office of Prime Minister she tried to encourage Henry Kissinger to make Israel a top priority. He sent her a letter that read 'I would like to inform you that I am first an American citizen; second, Secretary of State; and third a Jew.' Golda responded, 'In Israel we read from right to left.' "

This story reminded me, especially this time of year, of the challenge we face deciding when to read from left to right or when to read from right to left. We are Jews in rural America and sometimes it is difficult to find a balance and an identity. It is part of our tradition to practice our religion as part of a community. I know sometimes that is difficult. Distance and busy schedules get in the way of any involvement. We do a wonderful job with our children in planting strong roots. To hear their sweet voices during their weekly service during Hebrew School is a joy. We know that for them, learning and playing together is a priority. We sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.

The Chai committee has been busy planning a variety of services and programs that might interest many of you. Come and enjoy and reconnect with each other. Read from right to left more often and discover the roots that were planted for you long ago.

Cantor's Message

by Cantor Daniel Leeman

At Hannukah we remember an ancient war that wasn't fought over land or spoils. It wasn't a response to a physical attack or invasion. Rather, the Maccabees fought against all odds to overthrow a force of spiritual tyranny to achieve religious freedom.

Whether we are Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, remembering this story sends a powerful message.

We publicize the Maccabees' miraculous and historic victory by lighting flames near a window for eight nights. We share these lights to create a spiritual enlightenment both inside and outside our homes. We pray these "lights" cause the Blessings of peace to come for all humanity.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hanukkah News

In December our Hebrew school, made their own Hanukkiot (Hanukkah menorahs) and painted them. Special thanks to Susan Horowitz who made all the dough. We are excited to light them together with those of the congregation to celebrate Chanukah with a community-wide Chanukah party on January 1st. Our community party will have fresh, hot sufganiyot (donuts), hot sizzling latkes, candle rolling, cookie decorating, Hanukkah games (including our famous Hanukkah Jeopardy), music and singing, and of course dinner (don't forget to bring a dairy dish to share).

Class Shabbats

Our Heh class Shabbat was postponed due to weather until January 13th. The students in this class are Quin Boyd, William Connelly, Sarah Gallimore, Lucy Maniscalco, Gina Maris and Zachary Miller. Following that will be 3rd/4th grade on February 10th with the Gimmel class. This class includes Shira Gersh, Jacob Hagler, Julian Ireland, Elliot Pressman, Jacob Schoenberg, Maisie Silverman, Myles Silverman, and Sophie Sreden. Each service begins at 7:00 pm. The class gathers earlier at 6:00 pm for a meal, when we have a chance to sing zmirot (Shabbat melodies) and learn some new blessings. We encourage members of our congregation and greater community to attend these special services. Your attendance and support inspires our students to continue their effort towards a quality Jewish education. Please mark your calendars.

Photo Wall

Deb Hagler is in the midst of creating a photo wall of our students. It will include school/class photos and others. If you have a special picture that you would like to have Deb consider, please contact her. (I will be happy to provide an email address.)

Bulletin Boards

Anna Boll is in the midst of decorating our school bulletin boards. If anyone has any ideas, or good items to display, please contact Anna. (Again, I will be happy to provide an email address.)

BabaGaNews Subscription

BabaGaNews, a Jewish youth magazine has started to come in again. Many thanks to the Boyd family for sponsoring this for the whole school two years in a row. They have many interesting articles and a great website at

New Tot Shabbat Services

This year we have scheduled five Tot Shabbat services throughout the year. We are very excited about keeping this as a regular option for families with very small kids. The second Tot Shabbat on December 2nd was led by Lauri Gallimore. A limited number of prayers were introduced to the kids. Some lively singing and a Shabbat story filled the air. Many thanks to Lauri for leading this during December. Our next Tot Shabbat is scheduled for January 27th. Please let anyone who has small kids know about this special service.

What's Coming Up?

Tu B'Shevat falls on February 13th this year and will be celebrated at Hebrew school during February.

For anyone who is interested, there is a parent group that meets at 4:30 pm during Hebrew school on the first Wednesday of each month. Our next meeting will be January 4th. We are always looking for new and exciting ideas to incorporate into our Hebrew school program.

Upcoming Friday Night Services

by Marilyn Weinberg

The Chai committee has been busy planning some great programs and services throughout January and February. All services begin at 7:00 pm unless otherwise noted.

January 6 We will have a special music service. The service will take place at the Minnie Brown Center where Daniel Leeman can have access to a piano. In addition to the usual tunes, Daniel will add some new music and sing some others we all know. Come and learn some new songs and sing along. It should be great.
January 13
The Heh class will lead services.
January 20
The Rosenthal-Katz family will talk to us about their experiences they had in New Orleans during their December visit. I can't wait to hear about it.
January 27
At 6:30, will be our third Tot Shabbat service.
February 3
At 6:00 pm we will have a community potluck Shabbat dinner followed by a brief service. The Hebrew school children have a dinner before their services and we thought it would be nice to have a dinner that we all might attend. We will sing songs and share good food.
February 10
The Dalet/Gimmel class will lead services.
February 17
Diane Gilman will be speaking on diversity and inclusion. This is a topic Diane speaks about all over the country, so we are lucky to have her speak to us.
February 24
We will be having a regular Friday night service (if there is such thing as a regular service!).

Social Action Committee Needs Assistance

by Jill Standish

Meals are needed for a member of our community. Please contact Joanne Rosenthal if you are able to help. Thank you.

The Sunday morning food project with the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program is underway. More volunteers are needed for a once a month commitment. Please contact Jill Standish to learn more.

We Are Having An Auction

by Marilyn Weinberg

Please save April 29th on your calendar for our fantastic upcoming auction. If you came to our auction last year, you know how much fun they can be. We hope this one will be even better. We need to raise money to help pay the oil bill and other expenses that we are challenged to meet. Start thinking now about what you might be able to donate. It can be a service you can offer, some artwork or maybe a vacation weekend at your family retreat. You will be hearing from our committee soon.

Did you ever have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?

by Cantor Daniel and Barbara Leeman

At Beth Israel this year, all adult members who never had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, are invited to participate in a special Bar/Bat Mitzvah study program designed for adults and offered by Cantor Daniel and Barbara Leeman.

Weekly studies will culminate in a group service and party in honor of the graduates in the spring.

You will be introduced to the Hebrew language, learn the basic blessings and melodies, be called to the Torah for an aliyah, and learn to feel comfortable on the bima leading portions of the service.

You will receive a cassette tape, a checklist, and a study schedule to help you progress quickly. Weekly preparation will be minimal and the joy and satisfaction of being able to participate fully at services will be a thrill.

Everyone at any age, or Jewish background is encouraged to attend. The program will span over the next year with breaks for holidays.

Now that everyone has thought about New Year's resolutions, why not make a commitment for Jewish learning that will be a blessing to you and our community.

For more information, please contact Cantor Daniel or Barbara.

An informational meeting will be held Tuesday, January 17th from 7:00-8:00 pm at the Minnie Brown Center.

The Tedford Shelter: Homelessness to Hope

by Ed & Ruth Benedikt

The Tedford Shelter "Homelessness to Hope" initiative represents a giant step forward from the traditional shelter programs which provide temporary lodgings for the homeless. Anyone working in this field quickly learns that a significant portion of the homeless population cycles in and out of such last-hope facilities, as their fragile grip on housing repeatedly falls before the same personal problems and inadequacies. This new project in the Bath-Brunswick area is designed to combine rooms or apartments with centrally based counseling and referral services that help address problems of substance abuse, mental illness, lack of job skills and behaviors, illiteracy, etc.

It is a basic tenet of tzedakah that the highest and noblest form of charity is to enable people to be self-sufficient. For that reason, although many members of Congregation Beth Israel have already been involved in the Tedford Shelter's ambitious project to combat homelessness, we think it would be helpful and appropriate for the Beth Israel Congregation to give a warm endorsement of this project.

Since many of our members live in the communities in which these new units will be built, this could be, in part, a gesture of welcome. Every one of us must make our own choices on the amount and the recipients of our personal charitable contributions, but we can all be a part of endorsing this remarkable project and of expressing our organizational approval and support.

Let's get involved. Contact Ed or Ruth to find out how.

Robert Gersh in Iraq

by Susan Horowitz

Please write to him and let him know we are thinking about him.

Here is his latest note:
"I am now officially more than halfway through my 6-month deployment to Iraq. Time has gone by very quickly because I have been so busy working on my job as a Contracting Officer for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Attached is a small photo spread that I put together that I think you might like. I hope that you've been reading my web log at My web master has promised me that she's going to update it soon with photos that I sent her from Thanksgiving Day. Thanks to those of you who have left messages in my guestbook there."

New Members

by Marilyn Weinberg

We would like to welcome three new members to the Beth Israel Congregation. Jerrold Lurie from East Boothbay, Leslie Boylan and her husband Kevin from Bath, and Dr. Aaron Greenwald and his wife Liza from Brunswick.

Social Action

by Ed & Ruth Benedikt

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 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?