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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

May/June 2009
Iyyar/Sivan/Tammuz 5769

Freedom for a Purpose in Modern Israel
Another Successful Purim Carnival
News from the Hebrew School
Birthdays and Anniversaries

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

Freedom for a Purpose in Modern Israel

by Daniel Leeman

Every Passover, we gather at the Seder table to linger over the concept of freedom. Many of us sing the old spiritual often sung by the gospel choirs of the south, "Let my People Go." Unfortunately the verse is cut short in the lyrics, and differs from the one repeated in the bible many times. In the Torah it reads as follows: "Let my people go, so they may worship Me." (Exodus: 7:16) The biblical version indicates not just a physical freedom from slavery, but the freedom to move purposefully to a better spiritual place.

Today, the modern state of Israel is in strife internally and under attack externally. Internally the nation is experiencing the strife of how to deal with the challenge of the peace process that started with the Oslo Accords.

Critics of Israel around the world, even in the US, are using the recent military action by Israel in Gaza, known as operation Cast Lead, as an excuse for all types of false and misleading allegations, as well as outright anti-Semitic propagation in the form of disgusting cartoons, and opinion pieces.

So amidst the bloodshed, fury, accusations, and confusion over the truth, what are people who love the State of Israel, and all it has achieved to think? What are US statesmen and diplomats, who are strong allies of Israel to think when approaching these competing interests?

We may find some insight by looking at the messages within the Festival of Freedom, the Passover we just observed. Let's ask ourselves: Why have we been granted this land of Israel as a Jewish homeland? Why are we there today? We are no longer the generation of the Holocaust survivors, who arrived on the shores of Tel Aviv, gaunt, starved, tortured and beaten down. We are their children and grandchildren, who are healthy and free, who have built a beautiful, diverse, and strong country, yet are being accused on all sides of unfairness and wrong doing, both within Israel and abroad. How can we renew a sense of purpose to our freedom and prosperity in the modern Israel of today?

The answer is to continue to search and achieve a moral high ground. Israel is certainly justified in defending her citizens, especially against uncivilized enemies of peace. Yet, the message of Passover compels us to renew our image of freedom to live in our own land of Israel, but with a revitalized purpose.

Yes, the nations of the world have double standards, always expecting Israel to set an example, above and beyond what is expected for other nations.

Nevertheless, as Jews, we simply cannot be a nation like every other nation. Because of our history and origins, we must set that example for the world. We can live up to the golden rule of "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Lev: 19:18) This mitzvah can be best understood when it applies to a brotherhood between nations.

Many would argue that Israel has done this in the past and present. Yet, it is still our great burden for the future. We can and we will succeed. By preserving this legacy, we will honor the memory of those who died in the Shoah. We will honor those on Yom Hazikaron, who died serving in the Israeli military, defending our Jewish national homeland. Then we will be free from accusation at home and abroad, deserving of the lovely description in the Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, "A people Beloved by G-d, and beloved by humanity. May it happen speedily and in our days."

Another Successful Purim Carnival

by Susan Horowitz

The Purim Carnival was a big success, due in large part to all the help I received from many willing volunteers. I'd like to thank:

Barbara Leeman for helping me set up between the rising and baking of her challah, Donnie Boyd for her chili, Cantor Dan, Fred and Marilyn Weinberg, Lee Leiner, Hal Sreden, Sam Leeman, Shira Gersh, Sophie Sreden and Terra Brazier (who had never been to a Purim carnival), Hannah Leeman, the sister act of Karen Totman and Beth Pols, Rachel Schoenberg and Becca Lewis, Marina Singer and anyone else I grabbed at the last minute.

A really big thanks to everyone who stayed and helped clean up at the end. You are all wonderful and very good sports!

The kids enjoyed all new prizes, which I am certain you are still finding all over your houses, and still get a charge out of playing all the old games. However, I would love to create some new games for next year. Please get in touch with me with ideas as they occur to you. Ask the kids what they think would be fun.

Thanks again for coming out to celebrate this festive holiday.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Another great year at Hebrew school is starting to wind down. It is a time to consider what has worked, and what new projects we would like to include for next year. Please send along any comments or suggestions to

Purim Carnival

Each year I listen to and enjoy the Megillah reading. I listen and reacquaint myself with the story of Esther, as I watch our Hebrew school students join in the fun of making as much noise as possible whenever Haman's name is called. This year Cantor Daniel read chapters of the Megillah in both English and Hebrew, engaged everyone in questions, and enthusiastically led us in joyful singing.

The carnival following was great fun. The kids paraded in costume around the shul, and marched down Washington Street to the Minnie Brown Center, where there were games, face painting, crafts, and refreshments. The kids also had a shaloch manot exchange. Many thanks go to Susan Horowitz, who planned and organized the carnival, and to all of her many helpers.

The Wednesday right before the carnival, the kids also made their own Hamantaschen at Hebrew school. Everyone enjoyed tasting the efforts. We thank all involved. It was a wonderful community effort.

Class Shabbat Services

In April, our Aleph and Bet classes led our congregation in Shabbat services. Each of the students learned a new Hebrew prayer and helped make our Shabbat service special. Members of the Aleph class include Nadia Leiner, Julia Pols, Abigail Sreden and Zoe Sreden. The Bet class students are Tobyn Blatt, Connor Foye, Avi Gersh, Nicholas Hagler, Isabella Pols and Leah Totman. As always, we enjoyed a wonderful Shabbat meal prior to the service, with Zmirot (Shabbat melodies). Our Aleph and Bet class teachers are Marina Singer and Susan Horowitz. Our student teacher for these classes is Hannah Leeman. Mazel tov to everyone.

Tot Shabbat on May 15th

The last scheduled Tot Shabbat for this calendar year will be held on May 15th. We have had this program running for several years, and schedule about four Tot Shabbat services each year. It is a wonderful program for our youngest members (tots). If you know of anyone with small children that you think would benefit from this, please let them know. If you have young kids of your own, and have suggestions of other things, perhaps you have seen in other cities, please send an email or call Barbara Leeman to share your ideas.

Passover Seder

On April 1st, our school got into the Passover spirit with a model Seder. Cantor Daniel led the Seder and our students chimed in with many prayers and songs. The Heh and Vav classes provided a great rendition of Ehad MeeYode-ah. A huge thank you goes to so many of our school families who brought items in to complete our Seder plates and meal. Thank you all for making our school Seder a great start to the holidays.

Special Thanks

We wish special thanks to Quin Boyd for making a special Kosher for Passover snack during the holiday for our students.

Yom Hashoah Observed

On Sunday, April 26th, a few of our students traveled to Augusta to participate in a Yom Hashoah program at the Michael Klahr Center, the Holocaust and Human Rights Center. The program included "The Thinking Heart," an ensemble work of two voices with a cello. It was based on the writings of Etty Hillesum, a Jewish victim of the Nazis. There was recognition of survivors, liberators, and second-generation survivors as well. Following the formal program, Phyllis Jalbert spoke to our group about Michael Klahr, and about why she made such a substantial gift in his honor to create the Michael Klahr Center.

School Pictures

School pictures will be taken on April 29th. Copies can be sent to each family through email when they are available.

Israeli Dancing

In honor of Yom Ha'Azmaut (Israel Independence Day) we are going to have an educational Israeli dancing session on April 29th. The kids have learned several basic Israeli dances over the last few years. Lisa Tessler will be elaborating on these, while introducing more this year. This is a favorite event (not to be missed) amongst our kids.

Last Day of School

Due to some snow days that cancelled our Hebrew school classes during the winter, our last day of school will be May 27th instead of May 20th.

Lag B'Omer

We will celebrate Lag B'Omer on May 27th, by having our outdoor games following Hebrew school on the Patten Free library lawn across the street. Campbell Clegg, will lead the kids again in another fun filled afternoon. We will follow with a potluck picnic dinner together. Festivities begin at 5:30 pm (as we are finishing up on our Hebrew school classes), and will last approximately one hour. An ice cream party will end the day, as we celebrate the end of our school year. If by chance we have rain, we will have indoor games for the kids to enjoy.


The kids have been donating all year, and during the month of May, they will vote on the recipients of their Tzedakah dollars. Don't forget to bring in your ideas.

Graduating Students

We have four students who have attended our Hebrew school for years, will finish their classroom study this year, and move into individual study, working toward their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. We look forward to having them lead our Shavuot Service on May 29th. This group, our Heh class includes Shira Gersh, Jacob Hagler, Julian Ireland and Sophie Sreden.

Graduating Student Helper

For the past five years, our school has been lucky to have Michael Brodsky help each week in the classrooms. Michael has been incredibly easy to work with, and has always been willing to step in, for any task. He has tutored students individually, taken over a whole class, made up educational Jewish games for the kids, led Tefillah (prayer service) sometimes with no warning, and from Michael, we have never heard a complaint. We have watched him grow, right alongside our students, and we will undoubtedly miss him next year as he heads off to Northwestern University. We wish him success, and know that his contributions to our school will continue to be appreciated by parents and students in his absence.

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 newsletter issue.

May Birthdays

9   Steve Singer
12   Rachel Schoenberg

June Birthdays

2   Isabella Pols
5   Michele Miller


27   Michele and Matt Miller
27   Susan Horowitz and Robert Gersh
31   Beth and Benet Pols


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

  • Penelope Markle
  • Barbara & Robert Lenox in memory of Mishael Selig
  • Karen & Matthew Filler in memory of Frances & Gerard Feldman
  • Margaret Brann in memory of Helen Ruth Carney
  • Riva Gotlib in memory of her sister Ada Y Greenblatt
  • Donald & Mara Giulianti in memory of Elaine Giulianti
  • Peggy Brown & John Martell in memory of Harold Hershenhart
  • Daniel & Barbara Leeman
  • Matthew & Karen Filler in memory of Morris and Gladys Filler
  • Rea Turet & Sandor Polster in memory of Maurice Turet
  • Beth & Dennis Westman
  • Peggy Brown & John Martell - thank you for the new faucet