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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

November/December 2008
Heshvan/Kislev/Tevet 5769

Cantor's Corner
Raffle Ticket
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Chanukah Supplies
News from the Hebrew School
Flowers for the High Holidays
The Building Committee Update
Donations and Welcomes

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

"The stone the builders rejected, became the cornerstone" Psalm 118

by Daniel Leeman

The rabbis interpret this verse to refer to the shepherd David, whom his fathers and brothers dismissed so thoroughly, that when Samuel visited Jesse's home to select a King of Israel from among Jesse's sons, Jesse, David's father, didn't even call David in from the fields! Could you imagine how shocked and dismayed his family must have been, when the young shepherd was chosen to be King!

This verse has taken on a special meaning for me. After college, my brother and I were unfortunately, in my opinion, victims of reverse discrimination. In New York City, when I was at my first corporate job, and my brother was a young medical intern, our desire to observe Shabbat and Jewish Holidays was received by our bosses as quaint, but unacceptable. We were among thousands of observant Jewish young people, entering the job markets in New York City, competing for positions. When I told my Jewish boss that I'd need to start leaving early on Fridays to be home in time for Shabbat, he made it clear that I would stay until 5pm, like everyone else, or I'd lose my job. Needless to say, when I left early on the first Friday when the Sabbath was beginning early; I came in on Monday, and was asked to clear out my desk.

Later, as a young Cantor, I honestly believed my usefulness to the Jewish community far outstripped what I could offer any corporate community. In my mind, I became the stone that the corporate leaders rejected. As Cantor, I became the stone the Jewish community decided to make into the cornerstone.

We chanted Hallel this past Shabbat morning, because it was Sukkot. Psalm 118 which included this special verse was chanted. The next day, I was reminded about it again as we held our Progressive Sukkot Celebration. I'll explain.

Before we purchased the Minnie Brown Center building, our Hebrew School was experiencing growing pains. There were no classrooms in the synagogue building. Fred Weinberg decided to help the school by creating dividers on wheels, so we could create temporary classroom cubicles to provide privacy. These were meant to help make learning advance more smoothly for students. Fred even attached "white board" material to the dividers, so they could double as "white boards" for teachers to use as learning tools and dividers.

After we acquired the new building, these useful, homemade dividers were stored for years at the synagogue. When the capital campaign and renovation took place a few years ago, the Building Committee and the Board decided that we could now part with these dividers. Chris Boyd, a member of our Building Committee, and a professional engineer, asked take them home rather than dispose of them. The board agreed.

It was so amazing to arrive at their home during our Progressive Sukkot Celebration, to see their Sukkah walls made from these dividers. The beams were made of natural wood from the Boyd property woods and the walls out of our old Hebrew School dividers! They were even decorated with poetry, written on the white boards by Morgan Boyd, in honor of the fall season and the Sukkot festival. These dividers, rejected by the Building Committee, became the remarkably beautiful Sukkah of the Boyd family of Woolwich, Maine.

This is a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of our members, and the love and sincerity that Fred must have added to these useful learning tools for our Hebrew School. This is why I believe they endured for a Holy purpose. Thanks to Fred for always being there for our synagogue, and also to the Boyd family for choosing materials for your Sukkah so wisely. So the Psalmist could have written: "the dividers that the synagogue builders rejected became the cornerstone of a Sukkah." Wow.

Raffle Ticket

by Lenore Frieldland

On November 21st Sam Leeman, who will become a Bar Mitzvah the following morning, will have the honor of drawing the winner of the Phoenix, Arizona time share week donated to the synagogue by Donna and Peter Rubin.

The gift is for the last week in February 2009 at the Marriot Canyon Villas in Phoenix, Arizona. The winner will receive a timeshare suite for three people. If we sell all 100 tickets, we will put $500 towards airfare.

There are still many raffle tickets, which need to be sold. The price is $50 per ticket. There are only 100 being sold, so your chances to win are good. If you are not interested in going, you can give the trip away as a gift. We need your help!

Please think of this as a donation to our synagogue. We need the support of all of you to make this successful.

Tickets are available from all board members as well as Barbara Leeman. For additional details call Stan Lane.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Listing the birthday's and anniversaries of those in our immediate family, creates a wonderful opportunity for our community/shul family to have an excuse to celebrate with each other. We have listed the few that we have. Please send along all birthdays and anniversaries of your family to Barbara Leeman so that they can be included with the next bulletin issue.

November Birthdays

1   Sophie Sreden
2   Gordon Blatt
18   Eli Schoenberg

December Birthdays

2   Sam Leeman

Chanukah Supplies

by Marina Singer

There will be Chanukah supplies available for sale beginning Wednesday, November 19th and every Wednesday between 3:30 and 6:00 pm through the 17th of December. If you need extra draydles or chocolate coins, let Marina Singer know by the middle of November.

We will have a large supply of Chanukah cards, bags, wrapping paper and decorations this year at excellent prices.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hebrew school began on Wednesday September 10th. 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, including reading, writing and speaking. Before going to classes, our entire school assembles for a short prayer service. We continue using the new child-friendly prayer books that Cantor Daniel put together last year. 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, incluiding Israeli Folk, prayer and holiday melodies.

Children's Cemetery Rededication

Just after school began, we had our first opportunity for a mitzvah project. We couldn't think of a better mitzvah than to give without ever expecting anything in return. That is what a few students did by helping to clean up and rededicate the children's section of the Jewish cemetery in Portland. The overgrowth was removed. Cantor Daniel led the rededication ceremony, and stones were placed on the graves of those who died. Sand from the Land of Israel was also sprinkled. Darrell Cooper, the head of the Jewish burial society, provided the gloves, rakes, and inspiration to make this meaningful mitzvah happen. Thanks to all who came out on this rainy day.

High Holiday Youth Services

Besides the classroom instruction our students receive, Denise Tepler led our Youth service on Rosh Hashanah 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.


In honor of Sukkot, the children have had an opportunity to build and decorate a beautiful sukkah. Our school sukkah was put together on Sunday, October 12th. Many thanks go to Campbell Clegg whose expertise helped put the frame together in less than ten minutes. Many children came to help and add decorations with care. That following Wednesday, October 15th, our school had a busy day with the observation of Sukkot. Cantor Daniel gave the students an interesting description of what the lulav and etrog represent, we sang Sukkot songs, went to the synagogue to read the Torah portion for Sukkot (each of the children were given an Aliyah), and then we returned to the Minnie Brown center to enjoy a delicious snack in the sukkah. Our Gan class, stayed behind and made edible Sukkahs. Can't beat that.

Simchat Torah

Our Simchat Torah celebration was held on October 22nd. Each of the groups (men, women and children) was 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 encirclement, it is the vehicle for the expression of joy with the Torah. Hakafot is also referred to in traditional Jewish weddings, where it signifies the bride's circling the groom seven times. Many regard the hakafot of Simchat Torah as wedding circuits, symbolizing the 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. The rain stopped in plenty of time for us to enjoy the fresh brisk air. A potluck dinner followed, with good spirit.

Flat Schmuel

You may be familiar with the story of Flat Stanley, a boy who became flat and was able to travel the world by mail. Alina Shumsky, one of our Hebrew school teachers thought it would be a neat activity for our Hebrew school to do a variation of Flat Stanley, called Flat Schmuel. On the first day of school, each child colored in a Flat Schmuel cutout. The following week they brought in addresses to send it to friends or family around the world, with the request that Schmuel be included in family life there, and that photos of Schumer's visit are returned to us. Flat Schmuel might participate in Jewish worship/ritual, as well as in everyday activities. As the pictures return, we will be creating a bulletin board depicting the breadth and diversity of Jewish life outside our own community.

Welcome to our Newest Families

We welcome the Foye, Levy and Pietraho families to our school. Kate and Colin Foye have three children, and live in Bath. We are thrilled to welcome back Kate who used to teach at Beth Israel many years ago. Leslie and Josh Levy have two children and moved to Brunswick just a few years ago. Jennifer and Thomas Pietraho also with two children come in from Brunswick to join our Gan (kindergarten) class. We of course welcome back our returning families as well. We are thrilled to be back, learning and making new friends.

Welcome Back Teachers

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). Our school is lucky to have such qualified and caring teachers. Our newest teacher, Kate Foye works with our Gan class meeting every other week. Beth Pols is also helping the Gan class. What a lucky group to have two such talented teachers.

Student Teachers Bring Great Energy

We are fortunate to have such talented student teachers. This is the 4th year we have Michael Brodsky helping our students, and Hannah Leeman's second year. Michael helps with the older students, and Hannah helps with the younger kids. Both bring wonderful spirit and knowledge to our school.

Tot Shabbat Services

Our Tot Shabbat services continue this year, welcoming our youngest members, to join in for our very short (one-half hour) service. Four 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.

Monica Blatt led the first Tot Shabbat on October 17th. Monica's enthusiasm and spirit is completely contagious. Every book she reads to the kids, comes completely alive. A limited number of prayers were introduced to the kids. Some lively singing and a story about Sukkot 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 go to Monica for getting the Tot Shabbat's off the ground this year.

Our second Tot Shabbat takes place on December 19th to help us welcome Chanukah. Please let anyone who has small kids know about this special service.

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.

  • Left over paints, for a painting party to improve the looks of the downstairs
  • Any books of a Jewish theme that your children have outgrown, or are ready to share, in order to build our new Hebrew school lending library
  • VCR/DVD player for educational videos

New Hebrew School Library

A special thank you to those families that have already donated stories to our new Hebrew school library. We will have fun reading and translating the Hebrew stories for the kids. We are in the process of cataloging these books, and making them available to the kids for borrowing.

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.

A special thank you to the Boyd family for delivering our "new" refrigerator to the Minnie Brown center, and for "making it fit" too. Removing the old one was a big help too.

Thanks also to 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.

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 12th. This will be our oldest group.

On December 17th our Hebrew school, will celebrate Chanukah, and will join the community wide Chanukah party on December 21st. 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 12th. Please consider coming to join us. We look forward to a year of learning and fun.

Flowers for the High Holidays

Our appreciation to the following for contributing to the lovely flowers for our holidays

  • Karen and Matthew Filler, in memory of their parents, Gerald & Frances Feldman and Morris & Gladys Filler
  • Linda Silberstein and Larry Loeb, in honor of their son Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, who is joining us for Kol Nidre this year
  • Maurice Libner, in honor of his former Hebrew School Teacher, Elisa Teles
  • Lynn Frank, in honor of the wedding of her niece, Elizabeth Jerome Applebaum
  • Barbara and Robert Lenox in memory of their parents, Fred & Milly Lenox and Mishael & Freda Selig
  • Joan and Jeremy Fields, in honor of the Fields and Blatt families
  • Diane Gilman, in memory of her father, Harold Gilman and grandfather, Benjamin Kaplan
  • Sharon Drake, in memory of her father, Edward Kravitz
  • Lee Leiner and Lisa Trembley
  • Barbara and Daniel Leeman

The Building Committee Update

by Peggy Brown

Our two buildings, the synagogue at 862 Washington Street and the Minnie Brown Center at 906, are cared for by a small group of volunteers who do their best to keep things in repair and looking good. Here are some of the smaller jobs we do

  • Replace burned out light bulbs
  • Fix broken doors, thermostats, windows (and anything else which gets broken)
  • Replace worn out window sash cords
  • Get carpets cleaned
  • Hang plaques
  • Call the plumber
  • Order new tables and chairs
  • Remove and replace the old refrigerator at the Minnie Brown Center

Over the years we've taken care of some bigger projects as well. The big renovation of the community room at the synagogue was one of those projects. We've had new roofs put on both buildings, had the interior of the synagogue painted, cleaned up the flooded basement of the Minnie Brown Center. We've replaced the stained glass windows at the Minnie Brown, replaced the carpet in the sanctuary and updated the security system at the synagogue. New furnaces have been installed in both buildings.

This year has been no different. Last spring we had Northeast Security install a full fire alarm system at the Minnie Brown Center. (We happen to know it works, too, because a small child, in the building for the book sale during the Bath Heritage Days, made a mistake and pulled the alarm. The fire department came a calling to find that all was well.) Soon the old concrete steps at the synagogue will be replaced. This project will be a big one. The old stairs will be demolished and removed. Then a new precast cement staircase will be put in place. The new stairs will not be as steep and will have a center rail. There will be a wider platform at the top and an intermediate landing about half way up. We should be seeing that work begin in early November.

Thanks go to our small but dedicated group of building committee members and volunteer helpers

  • John Martell
  • Fred Weinberg
  • Marilyn Weinberg
  • Stan Lane
  • Robert Gersh
  • Susan Horowitz
  • Chris Boyd
  • Donnie Spiegleman

We welcome anyone interested in joining us in this important work for the good of the community.

Donations and Welcomes

We would like to thank the following people for their donations

  • Daniel & Barbara Leeman
  • Jeremy & Joan Fields in memory of Ruth Fields
  • Dan & Judy Gatchell in memory of Seymour Chamoff
  • Gordon & Monica Blatt in memory of Arthur Blatt
  • Leslie & Doris Shaw
  • Judy Weisman in memory of Dorothy Gross
  • Adele & Barry Faber
  • Herb & Harriet Paris
  • Lynn Frank
  • Jill Standish in memory of Estelle Paperno
  • Maurice Libner
  • Gertrude Rosner in memory of Francis Rosner
  • Robert & Barbara Lenox
  • Linda Silberstein & Larry Loeb
  • Fred & Marilyn Weinberg
  • Ansel & Zira Schiffer
  • Janice Povich
  • Sharon Drake in memory of Edward Kravitz
  • Corey Coutu in honor of David Scharff
  • Andrew & Deborah Hagler
  • Dan & Susan Levey in memory of Bertha Applebaum
  • Joseph & Merna Guttentag
  • Miriam Kranton & Bruce Kapner
  • Stephen & Barbara Baseman
  • Jerrold Lurie in memory of Celia, Phillip, Marshall, Ira & Burton Lurie
  • Lenore & Jay Friedland in memory of Esther Itzkowitz
  • Mort & Evelyn Panish in memory of Isadore Panish
  • Marilyn Pressman
  • Marilyn Shapiro
  • Nettie Friedland
  • Karen & Matthew Filler
  • Richard Cohen & Elizabeth Gouverneur
  • Robert Abrams & Deborah Rabinowitz