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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

November/December 2010
Heshvan / Kislev / Tevet 5771

Cantor's Message
President's Message
Book Club
Progressive Sukkot Celebration: Have Lulav, Will Travel
I Remember When: Stories by Ann Isacoff
Chanukah Party - Talent Wanted
Gift Shop News
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

Cantor's Message

by Daniel Leeman

In a few short weeks, we will be going to the polls to select our leaders in a mid-term election. How do we choose? Are we looking for their position on issues, their leadership skills and experience, their moral values? What do we evaluate to inform our decisions? Perhaps the Torah can give us insight into making a wise choice among our existing candidates.

In the early chapters of Genesis, we encounter Adam, Eve, Noah and Abraham as potential leaders to carry G-d's message to the world. Why did G-d choose Abraham? Unlike Adam or Eve, who couldn't tow the line in the Garden of Eden, who hid and made excuses for their bad behavior, Abraham came from a tough beginning, in a home that worshiped idols, to search out and find a loving G-d, in whom he fully believed and served. Noah remained steadfast in a violent and troubled world, but only managed to save himself and his family in the flood. Abraham, by contrast, was not only faithful, but demonstrated compassion for others. He pleaded with G-d to have pity on the Sodomites, and save the righteous among them.

Abraham's response to the challenges of life was "Hineni" which can be translated or interpreted as "Here I am, ready to serve." He was prepared to do whatever he could to save his fellow human beings. Abraham was an active and eager volunteer, who was committed to Tikkun Olam, a desire to repair the world. Our sages in the Yalkut Shim'oni ask the question: "What did G-d see when he envisioned Abraham?" G-d said: "I have found the rock on which to build the world."

So as we ponder our choices this fall in the upcoming election, we may not be able to find a transformative figure, like an Abraham. But, we can look carefully and ask ourselves: "Are we likely to hear excuse after excuse from this candidate, like with Adam in the Garden? Are we going to hear evasion after evasion, like many politicians, about what's been done with our trust?" "Is this leader likely to be like Noah, who only serves his own interests and that of his inner circle?" "Does this person have the conviction he or she needs to serve the public good, as his or her position requires?" "Do I see the capacity for compassion in this candidate?" "Does this person's desire to serve come from a will to 'repair the world'?"

The answer to these questions will likely lead us to choose a candidate of a caliber that will bring a brighter future for Maine, as well as the rest of our nation, and the world.

President's Message

by Robert Gersh

Greetings! It was very nice to see so many of you during the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot events this Fall.

As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, we should all reflect on the many people and things in our lives for which we can be thankful. Then we should recognize the many people in our community, state, country, and abroad who are suffering and in need of assistance. Giving to charity, visiting the sick, and performing acts of kindness all contribute to the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, which roughly means 'Repairing the World.'

There are many local charities and non-profit agencies that could use your support, both now and throughout the year. For example, Jewish Family Services (JFS) is in need of non-perishable food items to help those people in need. JFS is part of the Jewish Community Alliance (JCA) of Southern Maine and they both help many of the less fortunate in our community and in Israel. You can learn more about JFS and the JCA at their website: Just like the JCA, the United Way of Midcoast Maine ( and MaineShare ( are now holding their 2010/2011 fundraising campaigns. Perhaps you can sign up to contribute to these charities through your job's payroll system, as my job does. I encourage you to go to these organizations' websites to learn more about the many ways that they help our community. On a smaller scale, check on your neighbors to see how they are doing. Volunteer your time in support of the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program ( or the Good Shepherd Food-Bank ( Each one of us can make a positive difference in the lives of others if we try. I encourage you to try. You and our community will be better for it!

Book Club

by Barbara Lenox

Please join us for our last two book club meetings of 2010. We will start the book club again in the spring when the weather will be better and it doesn't get dark so early. Our November meeting is scheduled for November 11th at 6:30 p.m. at the Minnie Brown Center. Our selection is A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel by Allis and Ronald Radosh. A quote on the book jacket states, "Impeccably researched and brilliantly told, based on never before used archival material, A Safe Haven is a suspenseful, moment-by-moment recreation of this crossroads in U.S.-Israeli relations and Middle Eastern politics." We will begin our meeting again with our very successful "share a salad" format, when everyone brings an ingredient to share. We thoroughly enjoyed our last meeting at which we tried this format and the wonderful salad we produced.

Our December meeting selection is The Covenant by Naomi Ragen. A quote from Kirkus Reviews states, "A scrupulously fair-minded and riveting tale of current Israel. A deft mix of past and present, the story's as much political thriller as conventional tale about ties of family and friendship." We will meet on December 9th at 6:30 p.m. at the Minnie Brown and again share a salad and light our Chanukah candles. Hope to see you all there!

For more information or questions, please call Barbara Lenox.

Progressive Sukkot Celebration: Have Lulav, Will Travel

by Marilyn Weinberg

The sun appeared and the air was crisp as we began our annual progressive Sukkot celebration on Sunday, September 26. More than sixty members and friends of Beth Israel Congregation broke bread, sipped soup, blessed the booths and enjoyed each other's company.

We began the festivities at the Libner-Bouchard sukkah in Brunswick, which was surrounded with bamboo. Cantor Daniel explained the significance of Sukkot and we all had an opportunity to shake the lulav and etrog and to say the blessing. We were able to cross the street to the Raker-VanSlyke sukkah, beautifully decorated with colorful cloths where we sampled some of Jim's delicious bread and enjoyed soups and other treats brought by our members. We then traveled to the "shore" for a visit and blessing of the Friedland's sukkah, which was decorated with bull rushes and beautiful greens. The scenery was lovely, the company enjoyable and the food was yummy.

Thank you to the Libner-Bouchard, Raker-VanSlyke and Friedland families for welcoming us and taking the time to build beautiful and unique sukkahs. And thank you to all members of our Beth Israel family who brought delicious food to share as well as Cantor Daniel for leading prayers, songs, and showing us all how to shake the lulav and etrog. It really has become one of our favorite celebrations.

I Remember When: Stories by Ann Isacoff

by Marilyn Weinberg

My mother, Ann Isacoff, was born in June of 1916. She always has wonderful stories about her years growing up in Chelsea, Massachussets. When the grandchildren were old enough, she began to share these stories with them as well. We asked her to write some of them down. The project began and then grew. She has now written three "books" and is finalizing her fourth. Two years ago she came and shared some of the family's favorites. We have asked her to return and share a few more. Please join us on Friday, November 19 at 7:00 pm. My mother will share some of her stories after a brief Shabbat service. These stories will be loved by people of all ages.

Chanukah Party - Talent Wanted

by Marilyn Weinberg

On Sunday, December 5th Beth Israel will celebrate Chanukah with our annual community party (see attached flyer). We will have our usual wonderful brunch and the lighting of the Chanukah candles. For the past three years we have been entertained by funny stories and skits acted out by our talented members. We have decided to try something a little different.

We would like you to share the talent that so many of you have. Some of you have great jokes and stories to tell. All you have to do is stand up and share one. Some of you sing or play an instrument. We thought we would give you an opportunity to share them with the group. Kind of like "Beth Israel's Got Talent." So we need you…people of all ages. You can even lead a sing-along or organize a group to sing or play together. Contact me to let me know what you would like to do in the show.

Gift Shop News

by Marina Singer

Chanukah begins on December 1st. The Gift Shop will have Chanukah items (e.g., wrapping paper, candles, napkins, paper plates and cups, decorations, dreydles, chocolate gelt, cards) beginning the week of November 7th. If you need many dreydles or gelt for children's parties, please let Marina Singer know by mid-November to be sure and get your order on time. Items will be on display during this time, but a good time to do some shopping would be on Wednesday afternoon while Hebrew School is in session. (No school on the 24th.) Give Marina a call if you cannot make it at that time and she will set up a time to let you shop.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hebrew school began on Wednesday, September 1st. We got an early start this year, having our first class even before the High Holidays. 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. We continue using "child-friendly" prayer books which this year include many parts of the Torah service. In the past we have focused on the afternoon (mincha) and morning (shacharit) service. This year we have an opportunity to focus on the Shabbat morning Torah 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 our students receive, Denise Tepler led our youth service on Rosh Hashana and Jim Raker led the youth service on Yom Kippur. This is a great way for the kids to have a "youth friendly" service, in which they can participate fully. Thank you to 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 Wednesday, September 22nd. Many thanks to Campbell Clegg who we count on each year to put the frame together. The children made decorations and hung them. Our congregation also enjoyed having the oneg in the sukkah following Friday night services.

Simchat Torah

Our Simchat Torah celebration was held on October 29th. Each of the groups (men, women and children) were 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 carrying the Torah scrolls, called hakafot, which means 'encirclements.' They are the vehicle for the expression of joy with the Torah. 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. All that wanted, were able to hold the Torah, and our last Hakafot was brought outside. A pot-luck dinner followed, with good spirit.

Welcome to our Newest Families

We welcome back the Pressman family, and welcome the Zwaan family to our school. Sadie (Pressman) and Owen (Zwaan) join the Heh/Vav class. We are thrilled to welcome these bright students, and look forward to their participation in class. We of course welcome back our returning families as well. We are thrilled to have everyone back, learning and spending time with his or her 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.

Family Shabbat Services

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

The first Family Shabbat is scheduled for December 3rd. A limited number of prayers are introduced to the kids. Some lively singing and a story always keep them engaged. These Friday night services begin at 6:30 pm.

Our second Family Shabbat will take place on March 4th, just prior to Purim. Please let anyone who has small children know of this special service.

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 our students. We have cataloged all that we have received and made them available to the kids, who are enjoying borrowing them. We are still collecting more "gently used" books. Please bring them to the Minnie Brown Center or email Barbara, who will be happy to come and pick them up.

Special Thanks

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 children begin and end their lessons. Our teachers are clearly capturing their attention and we all are grateful.

In the coming weeks and months, 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 10th. This will be our oldest group.

On December 1st our Hebrew school will celebrate Chanukah, and will join the community-wide Chanukah party on December 5th. 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 approximately once a month. The next meeting will be November 17th. Please consider coming to join us. We look forward to a year of learning and fun.

Hebrew School Wish List

We thought we would start a wish list for our Hebrew school with this bulletin. 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.

  1. Empty egg cartons. Please save as many as possible, and bring to the Minnie Brown center.
  2. Our students continue to collect food/dry items to bring to the food bank. 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 is a box placed in the hallway of the Minnie Brown Center for the collection of the items.
  3. Any "gently used" 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.
  4. Someone who has time and would be willing to help categorize, catalog, and label books for our school library.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

November Birthdays November Anniversaries
1 Sophie Sreden   2 Cristina & Stacey Giulianti
2 Gordon Blatt   28 Ann & Ross Lewis
10 Rachel Clegg      
12 Dennis Westman      
16 Larry Loeb      
18 Eli Schoenberg      
21 Joan Fields      


December Birthdays December Anniversaries
2 Jennifer Kaplan   15 Joan & Jeremy Fields
22 Sam Leeman      
27 Ed Benedikt      
31 Cristina Giulianti      


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

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Steve and Marina Singer in memory of her mother, Henrietta Shapiro
  • Steve and Marina Singer in memory of his father, Isadore Singer
  • Lenore and Jay Friedland in memory of her parents, Israel & Esther Itzkowitz
  • Janice Povich in memory of Don Povich
  • Lisa Tessler and Mark Ireland in honor of Julian Ireland's Bar Mitzvah
  • Rea Turet and Sandy Polster in honor of the marriage of their daughter, Rebekah Chasen Polster to Timothy Hanson

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Portland Chevra Kadisha
  • Heidi Ayer Zwaan
  • Ray and Sheila Lucente
  • Joseph and Merna Guttentag
  • Barrett and Barbara Silver
  • Dr. William Gild
  • Richard and Sally Levie
  • Marji Greenhut in memory of her father, Herman Greenhut
  • Stephen and Ardith Garland
  • Dr. Gerald and Ellen Platock
  • Sandra Segal
  • Jack and Esther Kranton
  • Marcia and Leonard Klompus in memory of Dorice Povich Mensh
  • Miriam Kanton and Bruce Kapner
  • Henry Goldberg and Kim Hetherington
  • Mark and Ellen Zimmerman
  • Stanley and Pearl Taback
  • Priscilla Schwartz
  • Herbert and Joan Rowen

High Holiday Flowers

  • Lisa Tessler and Mark Ireland in memory of her mother, Eleanor Tessler
  • Judith Weisman in memory of her parents, Dorothy & Milton Gross
  • Susan Horowitz & Robert Gersh in memory of their uncle, Louis Horowtiz
  • Stephen & Marina Singer in memory of her sister, Grace Haigh
  • Raymond and Sheila Lucente
  • Heidi Ayer Zwaan in memory of her father, Charles Ayer
  • Susan Soto
  • Stephen and Barbara Baseman in memory of Esther Barron, Sam Axler, Isadore Baseman & Robert Baseman
  • Barbara and Robert Lenox in honor of their grandsons, Zachary and Jaydon Bronstein
  • Sharon Drake in memory of her father, Edward Kravitz