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Beth Israel Congregation

Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

March/April 2010
Adar/Nisan/Iyyar 5770

President's Message
Issac's Labor
Passover Cooking Class
Book Club
Jewish Medical Ethics
Community Read
Call for Volunteers
News from the Hebrew School
To the Beth Israel Community
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

President's Message

by Marilyn Weinberg

Many wonderful things have been going on at Beth Israel. So many of you braved the cold weather to come to our community Tu B'Shevat seder. The music was beautiful and it was inspiring for all involved. In addition, our services led by our Hebrew School students have been fun. Our children are very talented.

The next few months are filled with a variety of events and activities. On March 7th, Denise Tepler will teach our first Beth Israel cooking class. The theme will be healthy Passover cooking. Denise has been writing cooking columns for a number of years and has been developing healthy cooking tips that she would like to share with us. The number of participants will be limited, so make sure you sign up quickly. We hope our "cooking classes" will become a regular activity at Beth Israel.

Dr. Irwin Brodsky is organizing our annual forum on Jewish medical ethics, which will be held this year on March 21st. I don't think there is anything else like this in the state of Maine. If you find our teachings and traditions too ancient to feel any significance in your life, this conference will help you discover how they connect to significant choices we make on a regular basis. This event will provide thought provoking and riveting presentations. I hope you will come.

And finally, on March 30th we will be celebrating Passover with our community Passover seder. During the seder, our Haggadah uses the word "mitzrayim" (Hebrew word used for Egypt) and defines it as "the narrow place - the place that squeezes the life out of a human soul and body." So many people in the world are still living in a "mitzrayim." It's important each year to celebrate our search for freedom and to never forget all those whose lives and minds are ruled by fear. Please come to our community seder on the second night of Passover, to share this tradition of remembrance and hope together.

None of these programs would happen without the many hours of work contributed by the members of Chai committee and the extra time given by Cantor Dan. Thanks to everybody who volunteers their time to contribute to the active life of Beth Israel.

Issac's Labor

by Cantor Daniel J. Leeman

Both America and Israel have become very unpopular around the world in recent years. Much of this, I believe is unjustified. One could argue that it is based on both the misguided policies and uses of force of the previous administrations in both countries. Some of it is based on the crushing poverty around the world, and on good, old-fashioned jealousy about the prosperity, educational opportunities, health, safety and leisure time of both Americans and many Israelis. Some of the disdain of world opinion is justifiably based on some indulgences and moral depravity of a minority of citizens in these two countries that we treasure.

Nonetheless, there is volatility and uncertainty in both currency, equity, financial and real estate markets. There is high unemployment, gridlock in Congress, and the aforementioned low world opinion of both the US and Israel. This has made for an incredibly distressed and disgruntled electorate, both Jew and gentile in America. How should we respond to this crisis in confidence?

If we look to the life choices of Isaac, our patriarch, in Genesis 26:13-22, we may get some insight into at least the economic portion of our distresses.

In spite of the radical Islamic propaganda machine, most moderates around the world recognize the achievements and moral leadership in both Israel and America. Yes, we've had recent lapses, but these can be restored, and our reputations can be redeemed through steady, hard work, both on the diplomatic and economic front. We must recognize the wonderful force for good both countries have been throughout their short lives.

So what lesson can we learn from Isaac our patriarch?

Isaac was expelled by the Philistines because they believed he had become too rich in their area. They stopped up the water wells dug by his father, Abraham. At first, in my opinion, to honor the honesty and integrity of his father, Isaac tried to re-open these wells, in keeping with his father's effort and will. But we learn this was not enough. There was still strife and discord, and the neighbors continued to fight over these wells. He needed to establish his own, new way. Did Isaac fight or use force to solve this problem with his adversaries? No. Some say he should have defended his rightful property, but he didn't. What did he do? He went to another area and kept digging new wells. Eventually, through hard work and determination, he arrived at peaceful prosperity with undisputed ownership of a new well at Rehovot, which means "the wide places," with broad horizons of opportunity.

This is exactly what we need right now. The government cannot spend its way out of the dull economic realities. Nor can we conquer terror through violence. We must work our way through them. We can really do this. Our politicians and diplomats both on the domestic and international front can apply this same hard work and ingenuity.

By putting our shoulders to the wheel of hard, smart work, using our heads and maximizing our marginal utility, in each of our labor lives, natural leaders with good diplomatic and entrepreneurial ideas will rise to the top and lead us through this long recession, back to prosperity and full employment.

Over time, our economic adversaries will grow to respect us. As we respond to this crisis with thoughtful, hard work, instead of aggression, our enemies will see that there are problem solving methods employing peaceful means. They will learn by our example, G-d willing, as previous generations of adversaries did with Isaac.

Passover Cooking Class

by Denise Tepler

Do all the Passover foods you can think of seem heavy and monotonous? Want to avoid the post-Seder cholesterol perils and matzah madness? Please join us as Denise Tepler teaches a "Simply Healthy" Passover Cooking Class on March 7th from 10:00 a.m. to noon at the synagogue. A lighter Passover menu including whole-wheat and lower-cholesterol matzo balls, fish with lemon sauce, green beans Mediterranean style, quinoa risotto, spinach with pine nuts and raisins, and orange salad will be demonstrated and tasted, and recipes provided. $15/per person. Please contact Marilyn Weinberg to reserve a space or for more information.

Book Club

by Barbara Lenox

We all seemed to enjoy our last book, Rashi's Daughters, Book I: Joheved. For those of you who couldn't join us, this is a good read. Our next meeting will be on our usual third Thursday, March 18th at 7:00 p.m. at the Minnie Brown Center. We will finally get to discuss the book, Moses: A Memoir, by Joel Cohen. There is only one copy available in the library system but it is available at Amazon in the used book section for very reasonable prices.

Our April selection takes us in a completely different direction. We have chosen The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva. This is the first book in a series about Israeli intelligence operatives. It is fast-paced and filled with international terrorism and intrigue. A welcome change from are usual reading pleasure. The April meeting will be on Tax Day, the 15th, at 7:00 p.m. at the Minnie Brown Center. This book has been out for some time and is available at the library, used book stores, or coupons from Borders.

For our May selection, we have tentatively selected Mort Panish's recommendation of Strange Haven: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Shanghai by Sigmund Tobias. There is only one copy in the library system, but it is available in paper back from Amazon. At least three people have a copy of the book, so between the library system and sharing, we may be ready to meet and discuss by May 20th. If we have problems getting the book, we can postpone to a later date.

The following books have been recommended. Please check these selections out on line as possible future books.

Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor by Judith Magyar Isaacson
Honest Sid: Memoir of a Gambling Man by Ronald Probstein
See Under: Love: A Novel by David Grossman
The Yellow Wind by David Grossman
A Bag of Marbles by Joseph Joffo

As always, your recommendations or comments are welcomed.

The 5th Annual Maine Community Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics

by Irwin Brodsky

Beth Israel Congregation and Cantor Daniel Leeman will host the 5th annual Maine Community Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics from 10:00 am-11:30 am on Sunday, March 21, 2010. Rabbis will evaluate genuine medical cases and apply Jewish authority to negotiate the difficult ethical dilemmas they pose. Physicians on the panel will include Hal Sreden, MD, Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Specialist at the Midcoast Medical Group, and Linda Silberstein, MD, Internist in Port Chester, New York and the Yale New Haven Health System. The conference will be moderated by Irwin Brodsky, MD, MPH. Diverse problems to be discussed include doctors' conflict of interest deriving from insurance incentive payments for having patients with only healthy habits and whether doctors can use a "don't ask, don't tell" approach when their patients do not ask about bad clinical news. The entire community is welcome to attend free of charge. The conference will take place in the Minnie Brown Educational Center at 906 Washington Street, Bath.

Doors will open at 9:30 am for refreshments.
Case presentations will begin at 10:00 am.
We look forward to seeing you there.

Community Read

by Barbara Lenox

Beth Israel Synagogue has planned a new Community Read event. The entire congregation will read one book and we all will meet to discuss this book with the author. For our first event, we have chosen the book, Out of Vienna by local Maine author, Ernie Weiss. He will join us for breakfast and a discussion of the book on Sunday morning, May 2nd. This book is his personal story of the family's flight through thirteen countries to escape the Nazis. This is a remarkable journey and story of a family's resourcefulness and survival. Please mark your calendars now, and plan to join us in May. The book is available at the library and local book stores. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the breakfast.

Call for Volunteers

by Barbara Leeman

It's that time of year again - time to start planning for Bowdoin's Give and Go 2010 - the big end of the year student move-out program. As students are clearing out their dorm rooms and returning home for the summer, they find there are many items they don't need or want. These items get donated by the students, and then collected, sorted and sold by volunteers (us). The whole community benefits. The number volunteer hours we are able to provide will determine how big a percentage of the profits comes back to Beth Israel. For those of you who have participated before, you know it is a lot of work, but a great way to raise money for our congregation while also keeping a lot of usable goods out of the Brunswick landfill. It also provides great deals for people in the community. It's really a win-win situation.

The "call for volunteers" letter from Bowdoin has gone out and shifts will begin to fill up beginning the 3rd week in April. The shifts go VERY fast. There will be 3 1/2 hour shifts: 9:00 am-12:30 pm and 1:30 pm-5:00 pm, starting on May 20th, and going through June 13th. The actual day of the sale is Saturday, June 12th. As volunteers, you are invited to attend the pre-sale on Thursday, June 10th. In an effort to have many Beth Israel people there on the same day, I will be requesting blocks of shifts. Once we have been awarded time, I will send emails, asking our community to fill those. Please be on the lookout for those emails in April.

Many people were able to give of their time generously last year. Some had so much fun they took more than one shift. I look forward to talking with many of you as the sale nears.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hebrew School Kids Led Shabbat Services

Our Heh class led our Shabbat service on February 5th. The Heh class members are Isaac Boll, Sullivan Boyd, Zelda Clegg, Arielle Leeman, Emma Miller, Henry Raker, and Noa Sreden. Alina Shumsky and Cantor Daniel are their dedicated teachers. We enjoy seeing each of our students rise to the occasion and shine with knowledge and excitement. Each of the class Shabbat services includes a potluck dinner prior to the service. The children and parents alike make the brachot (blessings) over washing hands, blessing the children, singing zmirot (Shabbat melodies), and then benching (grace) following our meal. 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.

Coming soon, the Daled class is scheduled to lead our Shabbat service on March 12th. This will be a nice time to join the class for services, as our children take over the bima. Our Daled class includes Avi Gersh, Nicholas Hagler, Isabella Pols, and Leah Totman.

Tu B'shvat Celebrated

Our Hebrew school kids had a chance to celebrate Tu B'shvat (the birthday of the trees) on Friday, January 29th with our Beth Israel community. We had many different fruits representing different types of personalities. Some fruits had hard skins (people who may be hard to get to know), some had hard pits (those who may be tough on the inside), etc. We mixed the red and white grape juices to represent the different seasons. We had our students, as well as our talented members singing, playing instruments, and making our Seder a wonderful musical gathering for all that came.

Tot Shabbat Services

Tot Shabbat services are scheduled throughout the year. Our next Tot Shabbat is scheduled for March 5th. Please let anyone who has small children know about this special service.

Library a Success

Our kids have been borrowing books from our Hebrew school library. The best part is not that they are reading books about Jewish topics, but they are excited to come in and share what they've read with the whole school. Each week after Tfillah (our prayer service), we have volunteers get up to describe the book they've enjoyed for the whole group.

School Pictures

Hebrew school pictures are scheduled for March 10th. Please try to get to Hebrew school on time.

Passover is Coming

Our Model Passover Seder is scheduled for March 24th. This is always a fun time for our students to ask many questions about our Jewish traditions. It will take place during Hebrew school hours.

Celebrate Purim, Hear the Megillah Reading, Come to the Carnival, Make Hamantashen

Our next upcoming special celebration will be the Megillah reading and our annual Purim carnival on Sunday, February 28th. Each of the children can fulfill the mitzvah of "sending portions one to another" as Mordechai instructed. Traditionally, shalach manot are delivered through a messenger and not given personally. Therefore we "send" these "bags" at the Purim carnival for the children to exchange. These bags should contain at least two food items and other small items (gently used little toys does the trick) to exchange with one another. The Megillah reading will take place at 10:00 am at the synagogue, with a parade of costumes at 11:00 am, and a procession to the Minnie Brown Center for the carnival. Anyone with friends who are interested in learning more about our Hebrew school should feel free to bring them along.

Yom Ha'azmaut

Yom Ha'azmaut is rapidly approaching. We look forward to celebrating Israel's Independence Day by learning new Israeli dance steps. This is currently scheduled for April 14th.

Parent Group

The next parent group meeting is scheduled for March 10th. The meetings take place at 4:30 pm during Hebrew school. Anyone is welcome to join in, at any time.

To the Beth Israel Community

I am writing this letter to thank the friends from our Beth Israel Congregation community who came to our home for a memorial service for my mother who died November 21st. It was a snowy, windy night, and I am grateful for the extraordinary kindness shown by the Leeman family, the Weinberg family, the Boyd family, and Dick Garrity who traveled in bad weather and in the dark of a midwinter night for the occasion.

If the congregation would indulge me, I would like to place your generosity in a larger context. I want to express appreciation for the Jewish life that Beth Israel has provided for our family. Jewish ritual is fine, but it does not comprise the entirety of a Jewish life. A Jewish life is simple and beautiful, but the work and preparation required to live a Jewish life is very complicated. That years of Torah and Mishna study by our Cantor, years of laborious stewardship of our congregation by Marilyn Weinberg, and years of volunteerism by the whole of the congregation led to the deceptively simple recognition that the 30-day remembrance of my mother's passing could be marked by a memorial service in my home does not surprise me. Great people always make complicated tasks look easy.

Judaism almost uniquely recognizes that a good life does not require a mere declaration of faith but rather a lifetime of work and study, peppered by question and argument. Mainers know this too, though via different traditions. Simple friendship and neighborliness is hard work, but necessary. Self-indulgence is much easier. Judaism recognizes one more thing about our blessings-that they should acknowledged together with one's community, with a Minyan. Our family sought out this small, remarkable Jewish community in Maine and are grateful for it. Thank you, again, Beth Israel Congregation for providing that Minyan so my family and I could recite Kaddish, acknowledging our blessings and sanctifying God at the most difficult of times.

With appreciation
Irwin, Lori, Alec, and Michael Brodsky

Birthdays and Anniversaries

March Birthdays March Anniversaries
3 Donny Giulianti 15 Jennie & Campbell Clegg
4 Robert Lenox
9 Andrew Schoenberg
10 Monica Blatt
11 Nicholas Giulianti
12 Ethan Blatt
12 Tobyn Blatt
13 Jennie Clegg
13 Corey Coutu
17 Dana Malseptic
23 Ben Raker
27 Noa Sreden
28 Campbell Clegg

April Birthdays
2 Lisa Tessler
5 Nadia Leiner
7 Sumner Blatt
8 Mort Panish
9 Susan Horowitz
9 Jessica Lewis
29 Matt Miller


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

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Mara and Don Giulianti in memory of Leon Berman
  • Donna and Peter Rubin in memory of her parents, Mary Petlock and Morris Petlock
  • Judith Weisman in memory of her father, Irving Weisman
  • Judith Weisman in memory of her friend, Susan Furnberg
  • Stanley Lane and Norma Dreyfus in memory of his mother, Janet Lane
  • Mort and Evelyn Panish in memory of her mother, Else Chaim
  • Mort and Evelyn Panish in memory of his mother, Fanny Panish
  • Mort and Evelyn Panish in memory of his stepfather, Alex Hutterpezl
  • Jeremy and Joan Fields in memory of his father, David Fields
  • Peggy Brown and John Martell in memory of her grandparents, Solomon Wernick and Sonia Wernick
  • Margaret Brann in memory of her mother, Helen Ruth Charney
  • Fred and Marilyn Weinberg in memory of his parents, Marvin and Frances Weinberg
  • Rea Turet and Sandy Polster in memory of her aunt, Dorothy Liberty Karson
  • Rea Turet and Sandy Polster in memory of her father, Maurice Turet
  • Matthew and Karen Fuller in memory of Frances Feldman
  • Matthew and Karen Fuller in memory of Sarah Lang
  • Karen and Matthew Filler
  • Alan & Tonia Gould Family Foundation
  • Sheldon and Denise Tepler
  • Cantor Daniel and Barbara Leeman
  • Jake Schoenberg in honor of the Beth Israel community and his bar mitzvah

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Ann Marks in memory of Faye Brodsky, Irwin Brodsky's mother
  • Lynda Kelly in memory of her mother, Ann Lempert
  • Patricia Klingenstein in memory of her mother, Sadye Davis
  • Sherwood and Jennifer Burton
  • Ray and Sheila Lucente
  • Charles and Robin Blatt
  • Shifra and David Kossman
  • Dan and Susan Levey
  • Lillian and Paul Karas