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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

January/February 2009
Tevet/Shevat/Adar 5769

A Blessing for a New President
You Can Help us Save Money
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Bath Food Pantry
News from the Hebrew School
Cooking Classes at Beth Israel
Bar Mitzvah Profiles
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

A Blessing for a New President

by Daniel Leeman
The upcoming inauguration of our 44th President on January 20th is fast approaching.

I've asked my family and friends repeatedly what their best wishes are for our new administration. I hear wonderful answers. They answer: "Let's close Guantanamo, make some critical choices about immigration, leave Iraq safely, create universal healthcare, restore our reputation around the world, improve the economy, revive citizen participation in every branch of government, ensure that Congress improves its bipartisanship and service, dramatically increasing its citizen approval rating, remembering that we are one nation."

Every conceivable improvement one can imagine has filled the hearts and minds of our community and Americans around the country in this time of change.

Personally, I have had a healthy dose of skepticism myself about how President-elect Obama would govern, and I still hold some doubts. Yet, these last few weeks have really given me confidence in the process. I have been wondering how Obama will fulfill his oath of office and how his election and service compare to those who were chosen and became leaders in the Bible.

I looked at several: Abraham, Moses, and Saul. None made any sense, or gave me insight for today. When I looked at David, my eyes widened.

When David became King of Israel the tribes were fighting amongst themselves. Our present political parties are fighting instead of working effectively to serve the public. When David became King, he was a successor to Saul, a disappointing leader. Our new president is succeeding a disappointing leader.

When David was selected, he was an incredibly unlikely choice. This year, who would have guessed that during a "war on terror" against Islamic fundamentalist radicals, a candidate with a middle name, Hussein, would be chosen for the presidency? Who would have thought that now of all times, would be the time for the first African American President to be elected?

David was descended from Ruth, a Moabite woman. Ruth was a famous proselyte and was an ancestress of a great leader of our people. Obama was born from a Kenyan father, and after being born a US citizen, and receiving an outstanding education, will soon become a world leader and our next US President.

In Samuel I: 22:2 it is written:
"In the run-up to his kingship, David was joined by everyone in distress, everyone in debt, everyone who was discontented and he became captain over them."

In the 2008 campaign, the run-up to his election, Obama was joined firmly by the lower and middle classes, those disenfranchised and distressed by debt, unemployment, a lack of adequate health care, a long war, and other things that caused discontent. Obama will become leader and "commander in chief" over them as well.

In Samuel II 5:3 it is written:
The elders of Israel went to David at Hebron, made a covenant with him and anointed him King over Israel.

Credible scholars and elders all over our nation have stood up remarkably over the last few weeks and made their offers to serve. Many of these have embraced Obama and will preside at his "oath of office" and inauguration.

According to our tradition, there is a blessing one recites when in the living presence of a king who rules lawfully. It is translated roughly as: "Blessed is the One who gives from His Honor to flesh and blood." According to some opinions it is appropriate to recite this blessing in the living presence of an elected national leader as well.

Anyone from our community who travels to DC to attend the inauguration may recite this blessing upon witnessing the oath of office being taken by our 44th incoming President: "Baruch ata Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam, shenatan mik'vodo l'vasar vadam."

Israel's national anthem is entitled Hatikvah, meaning hope. It was based on a hope that spanned two millennia to come to fruition. It was expressed in the modern State of Israel, a nation I believe still embodies humankind's greatest hope for our time.

The US is also a great nation founded on great ideals. We deserve faithful, honest, leaders, who will serve ordinary citizens. Is President elect Obama that man? I don't know for sure. Nonetheless, now is really a time for change. Now is the time to put our shoulders to the wheel in citizenship and service to our nation, so that we deserve the world's confidence, and G-dÔs Blessing. Now is also a time for great hope.

You Can Help us Save Money

by Lenore Frieldland

Our newsletter is always available online before you receive it in the mail. For those of you who would like to save the synagogue postage by using it online instead of receiving a hard copy, contact Marilyn or Fred Weinberg. For your security, Fred Weinberg never posts phone numbers or e-mail addresses online, so you need to have an up-to-date membership list for contact numbers.

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.

January Birthdays

  2   Daniel Leeman
  6   Barbara Leeman
  7   Julia Pols
  9   Mark Ireland
15   Isaac Daniel Ensel
25   Robert Gersh

February Birthdays

17   Julian Ireland
27   Avi Gersh
28   Christina Schoenberg

Bath Food Pantry

by Lenore Friedland

Beth Israel Congregation and its Hebrew School will be collecting non-perishable food items to help the Bath Area Food Pantry. The food pantry has mentioned that the following items are most helpful: pasta (in boxes), canned pasta, canned meat, bottled juice, cereal, coffee (regular) and diapers (disposable). However, all items are accepted and appreciated. There will be a box placed in the hallway of the Minnie Brown Center for the collection of the items. Hebrew school families will be chosen to deliver the food to the Pantry once a month throughout the year. The Hebrew School will be asked to donate items each week as part of the Tzedakah program, but anyone who would like to donate would be doing a mitzvah.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hanukkah Fun at Hebrew School

In December, besides our students continuing their Hebrew education, we had some time for a little Hanukkah fun. There was the favorite sweet activity of Hanukkah cookie decorating (thank you Deb Hagler and Susan Horowitz for your expert baking skills), a craft (thanks Campbell Clegg for the photos each child used), a paper chain menorah was created (thank you Josh Levy, Beth Pols and Virginia (Van Slyck) Raker for helping the kids with your creative talents), and some dreidel playing (thanks to Campbell Clegg, Kate Foye, Lou Ensel and all others that joined in). Donnie Boyd's homemade latkes left a wonderful scent in the Minnie Brown building, and everyone enjoyed the applesauce from Lisa Tessler. Cantor Daniel and Michael Brodsky helped the Heh and Daled class prepare more for their Shabbat service, while Alina Shumsky and Hannah Leeman helped some of our students put their Flat Shmuel photos onto poster board. All in all, we had a huge amount of involvement, and a wonderful break from our normal classroom activities.

Hanukkah Around Town and at the Blaine House

Many of our members shared the story of Hanukkah this year with our non-Jewish friends and neighbors. Programs were run at Fisher-Mitchell School and The Children's Schoolhouse in Bath and at the Patten Free Library children's room. I'm sure that many others from our congregation also presented or hosted Hanukkah programs. Isn't it wonderful that our local communities always reach out to include some learning about Hanukkah during this busy time of year?

A number of our Hebrew school families attended the annual Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Blaine house. They had the opportunity to meet and greet Governor Baldacci and his staff, as well as to greet Jewish leaders from several other Maine congregations for a candle lighting on the second night of Hanukkah. It was very gracious of the Governor to continue this tradition, started just a few years ago by Governor Angus King and his wife Mary Herman, thereby bringing the Jewish communities of Maine together.

Classroom News - Just a Few Notables

The Minnie Brown Center has some wonderful decorations thanks to the Aleph and Bet class. The Heh class has spent some time this month on the Ten Commandments, reading and understanding them in detail. The Daled class has been working on stories, which help to understand the meaning of the words in the Hanukkah prayers.

Flat Shmuel's Adventures

Flat Shmuel has returned from some amazing adventures. He visited New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, New Mexico, Israel, London, the Ukraine, and is now trying to see what Hong Kong and Newton, Massachusetts have in common. The kids are beginning to put the pictures of Flat Shmuel's adventures onto poster boards, so that everyone at the school can join together to reach out to Jewish communities everywhere.

Class Shabbats

Our Heh and Daled class Shabbat was scheduled for December 19th, but because of weather, it was postponed to January 16th. The students who are in the Heh class are Shira Gersh, Jacob Hagler, Julian Ireland, and Sophie Sreden. Those in the Daled class are Sullivan Boyd, Zelda Clegg, Arielle Leeman, Emma Miller, Henry Raker, and Noa Sreden. Each service begins at 7 pm. The class gathers earlier at 6 pm for a meal, where 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 honing their prayer and leadership skills. Please mark your calendars.

Tot Shabbat Services Continue

This year we have scheduled Tot Shabbat services on alternate months throughout the year. We are very excited about keeping this as a regular option for families with very small kids to stimulate our schools continued growth. The last Tot Shabbat, December 19th, was cancelled due to weather. We encourage all Tot Shabbat families to join us on January 16th, when the Heh and Daled class will lead us. This will be very child friendly with a brief service and some lively singing. Please invite families you know with small kids to join us.

Hebrew School Library

We continue to collect and catalog books for our new Hebrew school library. Please remember to separate any books with Jewish content that your children may have outgrown or are ready to part with, so that we can share them with others at the school. Books can be brought to the Minnie Brown center, or can be picked up by sending a message to

Special Thank You's

In our last newsletter, our Hebrew school wish list mentioned that a VCR/DVD player would be a useful item for our school, as we occasionally have educational Jewish films that we would like to show our students. Alina Shumsky went right out to the store and bought our school a new one. We are very grateful for her generosity and we are lucky to have her teaching in our school. Thank you.

What's Coming Up?

For anyone who is interested, our next parent group meeting is at 4:30 pm during Hebrew school on January 7th. This is the best way for anyone interested to see more of what is going on during Hebrew School and to be more involved. We are always looking for new and exciting ideas to incorporate into our Hebrew School program.

Cooking Classes at Beth Israel

by Lenore Friedland

Love to cook, but need new recipes or a new technique? Hate to cook and want to learn? Just want to have fun on a winter morning with friends and taste something new?

Starting Sunday, January 25th, members of our synagogue will be demonstrating their best dishes. Lessons will start at 10:30 am at the shul. Participants will help to make the dish, get to eat the finished product and receive the recipe. Classes will cost $10 per person and will be limited to twelve people. If you would like to participate, call Lenore Friedland. Checks should be made out to Beth Israel Congregation and sent to Marilyn Weinberg after you speak to Lenore.

The first session, Sunday, January 25th, will be Hot and Cold Hors D'oeuvres, and will be demonstrated by Jay and Lenore Friedland and Marilyn Weinberg.

The date for the second session is February 22nd. Check the website and your e-mail as we get closer for the announcement as to which one of our many exceptional cooks will prepare their specialty.

If you have a dish or two that you would like to demonstrate please call Lenore.

Of course, all dishes will be fish, dairy or vegetarian in keeping with our kosher kitchen.

Sign up here for the class.

Bar Mitzvah Profiles

by Rea Turet

Zach Miller
Bar Mitzvah Date, September 13, 2008

Zach attends Brunswick Junior High School. His favorite subjects are math and reading. He is on the Math Team and in the School Band. He likes to read, build robots and do computer programming. His bar mitzvah community project was to volunteer at the Brunswick Curtis Memorial Library. His parents are Matt and Michele Miller, long time members of Beth Israel Congregation

Sam Leeman
Bar Mitzvah Date, November 22, 2008

Sam attends Bath Middle School. His favorite subjects are math and science. Sam is in the band, jazz band, District III honors band, President of National Junior Honor Society, science/engineering mentor program and Southern Maine Children's Choir. He is active in swimming, baseball, tennis, skiing and likes to play ultimate frisbee. Sam likes to rock climb, play the trumpet, sing and whittle wood. His bar mitzvah community project was to clean and rededicate the children's section of the Jewish cemetery in Portland, and the remember us program, remembering a child from the Holocaust. His parents are Cantor Daniel and Barbara Leeman, Cantor Leeman is the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation.

Donations and Welcomes

We would like to thank the following people for their donations

  • Lynn Frank in memory of Esther Friedman
  • Jerrold Lurie in honor of Daniel Leeman
  • Judith Weisman in memory of Irving Weisman
  • Judith & David Falk
  • Estelle Metviner
  • Tinker & Reggie Hannaford
  • Janice Povich in memory of Lillian Goldstein
  • Rea Turet & Sandy Polster in memory of Sidney Lasher
  • Special thanks to Samuel Leeman who donated a portion of his Bar Mitzvah money to purchase some new bibles for the synagogue.