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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

November/December 2007
Heshvan/Kislev/Tevet 5768

Caring Committee
Progressive Sukkot
Simchat Torah
News from the Hebrew School
Tot Shabbat Services
Gift Shop
New Members

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


by Daniel Leeman

The MATCH-MAKER: What has G-d been doing since the time of creation? A rabbinic midrash answers...

MATCHMAKING!! The rabbis give proof of this notion by asserting that the creation story only takes some 35 verses to be told, while the story of Abraham sending his trusted servant to find a bride for Isaac takes 67 verses. The complex process of matchmaking is demonstrated, by this cute logic, as more challenging than the creation of the whole world! Therefore, matchmaking must be the task which is occupying G-d constantly since then! This lovely little midrash hints at an important message.

In this week's Torah portion of Hayei Sarah, Abraham selected his most senior employee, and sent with him royal riches to a distant land to impress an appropriate candidate. This senior messenger prayed fervently for a kind, compassionate and generous woman. After an exhausting journey, when meeting with Rebecca's family, he refuses to eat a morsel until the family agrees to permit Rebecca to make a decision. The family blesses her as she decides to go. Isaac goes out to the fields to pray in the late afternoon as Rebecca arrives. Rebecca veils herself in a modest manner and they marry, and later fall in love. This entire episode, outlined in minute detail speaks of a world gone by and arranged marriages. It stands in stark contrast to the American Jewish dating scene.

The choice one makes when choosing a spouse is arguably the most important decision one can ever make. Yet, most of us devote our young adult life to career rather than shining a big light on the process of finding a mate. We often think a mate will fall from heaven. For fear of interfering or meddling in the personal lives of those we care about, many of us stay out of the matchmaking, personal introduction scene. When we read Abraham's story of finding a suitable wife for his son, Isaac, we learn about one parent's grand effort to find a good match for their child. The lesson we may learn from Abraham's determination is that when done well, considerately, and effectively, Jewish matchmaking can really be a way to repair the world.

The Caring Committee Needs You!

by Susan Horowitz

Under the weather? Need a ride? How about a strong back to help move something unwieldy? Had a baby and would just like a home-cooked meal?

We at Beth Israel are happy to announce the formation of The Caring Committee, a group dedicated to helping out those in our community that need a little help every now and then.

Do you know someone who needs to get somewhere and is without transportation, or someone who is ill or who needs a little TLC? Even a joyous occasion, like the birth of a baby can leave a family in need of some nourishment. I am making a list of those who are willing to help out in any way they can, even if on a limited basis. If you have a car, but don't cook, that's OK. Cook, but can't deliver, that's OK too. Available only once in a blue moon, we'll still take you! Whatever type of assistance you can offer, we will happily accept it.

Most importantly, we need to be notified if there is someone in our community who needs assistance. I am creating a list of those who are able to help, and if I get a call or e-mail that there is someone in need, I will go down my list until I find someone willing and able to supply the type of assistance needed.

Please call me, Susan Horowitz. I want to hear from those of you able to lend a hand and those of you who are in need or know someone who is in need.

We have a wonderful community here, and now we have the opportunity to help each other when times demand it!

Progressive Sukkot: Have Lulav, Will Travel

by Marilyn Weinberg

Over sixty members and friends of the Beth Israel Congregation spilled out of the Brown-Martel sukkah into the bright sunshine of a beautiful September day as Cantor Daniel explained the significance of Sukkot. This was the beginning a progressive Sukkot celebration that had families traveling from one unique sukkah to another. We broke bread, sipped soup, blessed the booths and enjoyed the company.

After the Brown-Martel home, we had a chance to sample the hospitality of the Haglers with a sukkah made of shrimp netting and the Pressmans with a lovely sukkah wrapped in cloth. The scenery was magnificent. Thank you to all the families for welcoming us, to all who brought delicious food to share and to Cantor Daniel for leading prayers, songs, and showing us all how to shake the lulav and etrog.

Simchat Torah

by Barbara Leeman

Our Simchat Torah celebration was held on October 3rd. Alina Shumsky worked with her Hebrew School class to beautifully present "Ki mi-tzion tey-tzey torah U-d'var Adonai mi-ru-shala-yim." They dissected this to describe the meaning of each word, and led the school in singing it during our Simchat Torah Service.

Each of the groups (men, women and children) were each called up to receive the honor of an Aliyah. A highlight of the Simchat Torah observance is a series of seven ceremonial processions around the synagogue in which people take turns at carrying the Torah scrolls. Called hakafot, which means encirclements, they are the vehicle for the expression of joy with the Torah. Hakafot has been compared to traditional Jewish weddings, where it refers to the bride's circling the groom seven times. Many regard the hakafot of Simchat Torah as wedding circuits, symbolizing marriage between Israel and the Law.

Everyone danced around the shul with the Torahs, waving flags, singing and rejoicing as Cantor Daniel led us in many different joyous songs. Everyone that wanted, was able to hold the Torah, and our last Hakafot was brought outside. A few drivers' heads turned as we enjoyed the beautiful weather, and our covenant with G-d. A potluck dinner followed, with good spirit.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hebrew school began on Wednesday September 19th. It is always nice to have the kids back, allowing the Minnie Brown Center to come alive. Our Hebrew school schedule includes time for Judaica, which includes Bible, Jewish Holidays, and Jewish History; and time for Hebrew language instruction, reading, writing and speaking. Before going to classes, our entire school assembles for a short prayer service. This year Cantor Dan put together new "child-friendly" prayer books for each child. They include many parts of the morning (shacharit) service. In the past we have focused on the afternoon (mincha) service, so this is a wonderful way to introduce the kids to the Shabbat morning service. We assemble again at the end of the school day, and gather upstairs for Jewish Song: Israeli Folk, prayer and holiday melodies.

High Holiday Youth Services

Besides the classroom instruction, Denise Tepler led our Youth service on Rosh Hashana and Jim Raker led the Youth service on Yom Kippur. Both were well attended, and the kids listened closely and jumped at the opportunities to participate. We thank both Denise and Jim for their thoughtful and interesting leadership of services, and for engaging our young people to participate. Morgan Boyd was asked to run the baby sitting before and after the youth service, and we are especially grateful that she was available. This is a wonderful service, made available for free to families, so that they can enjoy the adult services without interruption. Many thanks to all.


In honor of Sukkot, the children have had an opportunity to build and decorate a beautiful sukkah. We put our school sukkah together on September 26th. Many thanks to Campbell Clegg whose expertise can put the frame together in less than 10 minutes. Each class made the famous paper chains, and many other decorations. One neat item we can save , were the wonderfully decorated banners provided by Susan Horowitz that the students hung to create walls. While in the Sukkah, Cantor Daniel gave the students an interesting description of what the lulav and etrog represent, and then a delicious snack was shared by all.

In the coming weeks and months, each of the Hebrew school classes will have a chance to demonstrate their accomplishments by leading a Friday night Shabbat service. 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 for our first one on December 14th.

On December 5th our Hebrew school, will celebrate Chanukah, and will join the community wide Chanukah party on December 9th. Please mark your calendars. More information on that will be passed along as it is available.

For anyone who is interested, there is a parent group that meets at 4:30 pm during Hebrew school, once a month. The next meeting will be November 14th. Please consider coming to join us. We look forward to a year of learning and fun.

Welcome Back

Welcome to the DeChant/Ensel family. Their son Isaac Daniel has joined our Gan (kindergarten) class. We also welcome back our other returning families. We welcome back our wonderful teachers who return from last year. Alina Shumsky and Cantor Daniel, split the Hebrew and Judaica classes and work with our older kids (4th-6th grade) classes while Marina Singer and Susan Horowitz split the Hebrew and Judaica portions of the younger classes (1st-3rd grade).

Student Teachers Bring Great Energy

We are fortunate to have such talented student teachers. This is the fourth year we have Jane Martell helping our students, and Michael Brodsky's third year. Jane and Michael both help with the older students. This year Hannah Leeman also joins our school and helps with the younger kids. All bring wonderful spirit and knowledge to our school.

Special Thanks

Our many thanks go to those parents who have already been so involved and helpful with so many of the extras we normally take for granted. Susan Horowitz has been providing snacks weekly for the kids. Campbell Clegg's leadership with the parent committee amongst so many other things is always appreciated. Deb Hagler is always available to help, and has just started enlarging some of the prayers we sing with the kids during prayer service onto large poster board, to be used as a teaching tool. Lisa Tessler is putting together a plan of action for a big Yom Ha'Azmaut celebration.

A special thank you to Beth and Dennis Westman for donating four children's stories to our Hebrew school, which are written completely in Hebrew. We will have fun reading and translating these for the kids.

Those parents who stay during the prayer service, or come early to hear the singing leave with nachas and joy at the excitement with which the kids begin and end their lessons. Our teachers are clearly capturing their attention and we all are grateful.

Hebrew School Wish List

We thought we would start a wish list this bulletin, for our Hebrew school. We will add to this list as ideas come up. As we all clean our homes, we may find things that the school will find useful.

  • A couch in good condition that we can use in a lounge area at the Minnie Brown center (downstairs classroom). Possibilities include: student book club, student/teen lounge, etc.
  • End table for lounge area
  • A Internet ready computer, that our students can use for research, learning, and activities
  • Left over paints, for a painting party to improve the looks of the downstairs
  • Jewish Holiday books to start a library for Tot Shabbats
  • VCR/DVD player for educational videos

Tot Shabbat Services

by Barbara Leeman

Our Tot Shabbat services continue this year, welcoming our youngest members, to join in for our very short (1/2 hour) service. Five Tot Shabbat services have been scheduled throughout the year. We are very excited about keeping this as a regular option for families with very small kids. This service is designed for kids from 1-8 years old, however anyone is always welcome to join in.

The first Tot Shabbat, September 28th, was led by Monica Blatt. Monica's enthusiasm and spirit is completely contagious. A limited number of prayers were introduced to the kids. Some lively singing, and a story about Sukkot and Simchat Torah kept the kids completely consumed. We took a "field trip" down to the Minnie Brown center to have our oneg in the sukkah. Everyone enjoyed being together on a clear night. Many thanks to Monica for getting the Tot Shabbat's off the ground each year.

Our second Tot Shabbat (October 19th) was well attended considering the weather. Michelle Brann and Hannah Leeman (two fairly recent graduates) led the service, and encouraged each of the kids there, to help lead different prayers. Michelle and Hannah made this a fun Shabbat, and gave the Bim Bam prayer a whole new perspective after reading a story about two friends (Bim and Bam). Please let anyone who has small kids know of this special service.

The next Tot Shabbat takes place on December 7th, during Chanukkah.

Gift Shop

by Marina Singer

The gift shop has calendars, mezuzahs and other Judaica for sale. We will be selling Chanukah items on the three Wednesday afternoons in November preceding Chanukah which begins on December 5th this year.

Welcome To Our New Members!

  • Joan and Jeremy Fields of Freeport. Joan is the sister of Donny Blatt
  • Bob and Barbara Lenox of Harpswell
  • Allan Kaplan and Jennifer Hine and their new daughter of Freeport
  • Judith Weisman and family of Damariscotta
  • Lee and Margie Silverman of Brunswick


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

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Mort & Evelyn Panish in memory of Isadore Panish, father & Henry Chaim, father
  • Steve & Marina Singer in memory of Bessie Singer, mother & Henrietta Shapiro, mother
  • Chris & Andy Schoenberg in memory of Elayne Schoenberg, mother
  • Susan and Dan Levey in memory of Bertha Applebaum, mother
  • Jay & Lenore Friedland in memory of Israel Itzkowitz, father & Esther Itzkowitz, mother
  • Judith Weisman, in memory of Milton Gross, father
  • Marilyn and Fred Weinberg in memory of Frances Weinberg, mother, Max Isacoff, father, and Marvin Weinberg, father
  • Rea Turet and Sandor M. Polster in memory of Evelyn Polster, mother
  • Steven Stern and Arlene Morris
  • Matthew and Karen Filler
  • Norma Dreyfus and Stan Lane
  • Lee Leiner and Lisa Trembly
  • Fred and Marilyn Weinberg in honor of the wedding of Rachel Weinberg and Alan Mecklenburger
  • Maurie Libner and Sharon Bouchard for High Holiday flowers

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Sheldon and Denise Iskow of Rockville, MD
  • Nettie Friedland
  • Paul and Susan Linet of Freeport
  • Brian Schwarzbrott of Chicago, IL
  • Frederick and Micki Gersh of Alexandria, VA
  • Sarah Wood of Brunswick
  • Robert P. Smith and Salwa Smith
  • Judythe and Dan Gatchell in memory of Seymour Chanoff, father
  • Lois Littman in memory of Rosaline Lasher