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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

March/April 2011
Adar I/Adar II/Nisan 5771

A Kingdom of Priests
President's Message
Episcopal Initiative and Dialogue
Special Family Shabbat
Dine Around
Purim Carnival
Jewish Medical Ethics
Special Documentary Film Comes To Bath
Discover Maine's Jewish History
Community Passover Seder
Book Club Book Sale
Call for Volunteers
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Welcome to New Members

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 Kingdom of Priests

by Daniel Leeman

Jewish people believe in democracy.

So, why do Jews have a priestly class? Why does this small group, similar to an aristocracy, get special privileges? Why do we need a hierarchy where some community members get called first to the Torah, based on their birthright? Is there a purpose for this select group? Is this role meaningful in our time?

Following are two sections from the Bible about the priesthood that may shed some light on these questions.

The High Priest, who served in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, wore a gold plate that hung over his forehead with the words: "Holy to G-d." Our sages teach that this plate was not only to remind him of his sacred duty to the people, but also to remind anyone who saw him that his role had special significance in the community.

Today, the tefillin "shel rosh," or phylacteries for the head, that hangs above the hairline in between our eyes is meant to serve a similar purpose to the gold plate. The gold plate was originally reserved for priests only, but the tefillin shape introduced by the Rabbis has been equally extended to the entire community. The purpose has stayed the same and it is worn between the eyes in the same manner. This symbol is meant to remind both the one who wears the tefillin, and those who see it, that Jewish people have obligations to one another, to G-d, and to all humankind for Tikkun Olam, to repair the world. This example of Jewish law and observance that may have been originally intended only for priests now has been democratically extended to all Jews.

In 29:20 of Exodus, the priests are anointed on their ear, thumb, and big toe. The Midrash on this passage teaches us that the body parts symbolize obligations. The Midrash says, "The priests should listen (ear) to the people, act (thumb) on their behalf, and go forth (big toe) among them."

Today, we all can live as spiritual descendants of the priests. We can make its message relevant. If we listen carefully to one another, do what is right, and go out into the community to make a better world, we can become a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation." So may it be G-d' s will.

President's Message

by Robert Gersh

Greetings! I hope that you have been keeping warm through this cold and snow-filled winter. It is certainly easy to get down if you have been cooped up inside your home waiting for it to thaw outside and for spring to come. Well, I' m happy to report that we have the answer to your winter doldrums! Our congregation is sponsoring or hosting many exciting and interesting events in the coming months. I encourage you to read through this newsletter and look over the calendars located at the end of the newsletter to identify activities of interest for you to attend.

As I have said in my previous messages, our congregation is what you make of it! In addition to attending our Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services, I encourage you to participate in our additional events, including but not limited to our Book Club, our Purim Carnival on March 20, our Medical Ethics Seminar on March 27, and our Community Passover Seder on April 19. We are also having a special Family Shabbat program on March 4 and a documentary film debut on April 2. It' s amazing how busy our little synagogue is. You can find these and other events posted on our outstanding Beth Israel Congregation website operated by Fred Weinberg.

If you have an idea for a new event that you would like to see or have feedback about an existing event, please contact me, one of the other Board Members. Contact information for Board Members is provided in the newsletter. We hope to see you at our congregation events soon!

Episcopal Initiative and Dialogue

by Daniel Leeman

Over the years, during the course of my work here in Bath, I' ve come to know a number of the religious leaders in town. In some cases, they' ve shown themselves to be extraordinary people, especially in their understanding and respect for our Jewish community.

One such person has been Rev. Mike Ambler of the Grace Episcopal Church on Washington Street in Bath. One of the Deacons of the same church, Rev. Carol Huntington, recently approached me about a project they are launching. She asked for help from me and from members of our synagogue.

Together with some sixty Episcopalian organizations in our region, they are launching an initiative to promote Arab/Israeli peace. They' ve developed a simple mission statement and charter, which she shared with me, that seems well crafted and narrow enough in scope to appear reasonable. They have agreed that they would not move forward with the program without adequate and knowledgeable Jewish voices that fairly represent Israel' s side of the conflict. This alone is a respectful position that makes me hopeful about their efforts, and wanting to engage them.

She and I viewed a number of films as a launching point for discussion. The goal would be ultimately to determine possible ways we may work together to help promote peace. Rev. Huntington and I agreed upon a newly released film entitled Little Town of Bethlehem. It is a film made to highlight a Palestinian group dedicated to non-violence. We both believe this is a good place to start our dialogue.

We' ve been given a link, username, and password by the filmmaker. Members of our congregation interested in engaging in this work may preview the film online. I would ask for a group of volunteers, who after viewing the film would be willing to attend several meetings to plan and execute such a dialogue with our Episcopalian neighbors. If you are interested in viewing the film, and perhaps volunteering, please contact me for the username, password and link as soon as possible. The password will only be valid until the end of February. The best way to receive the information is to send an email to me at

Special Family Shabbat

by Marilyn Weinberg

Friday, March 4, 2011
5:30 pm
Beth Israel Synagogue

In place of our regular Tot Shabbat service on March 4th, we will be having a special Family Shabbat program at 5:30 pm at the Synagogue.

There will be pizza and veggies to eat, with drinks and a dessert provided by the Liza and Aaron Greenwald. This will be an opportunity for families with young children to get together, sing songs, have a story read to the children and say the Shabbat blessings. It will be a nice way to relax at the end of a busy week and to introduce our children to Shabbat customs.

Contact Marilyn at if you might be coming so we can order enough pizza.

Dine Around

by Barbara Lenox

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
6:30 pm
El Camino Restaurant

Our new Beth Israel club Dine Around is going strong. Our second meeting was held at the Sea Dog in Topsham. We all had a wonderful evening and enjoyed getting together between snow storms. Our next gathering will be at El Camino Restaurant, 15 Cushing Street, Brunswick.

We are trying a Wednesday night meeting instead of a Thursday night because some people have expressed problems with conflicts on Thursday evenings. I hope this makes it easier for more of you to join us. Come on out and enjoy a warm evening with friends. To make a reservation, email Barbara Lenox.

Purim Carnival

Please join us on Sunday, March 20th for our community Purim carnival.

Come in costume.

10:00 - 11:00 am - Megillah reading at the synagogue
11:00 am - Parade of costumes to the carnival
11:00 am - 1:00 pm - Purim carnival at the Minnie Brown Center

There will be new games, lots of new prizes, hamantaschen, pizza, drinks and fun for kids of all ages.

The 6th Annual Maine Community Forum on Jewish Medical Ethics

by Irwin Brodsky

Sunday, March 27, 2011
10:00 am
Minnie Brown Center

The 6th Annual Maine Community Forum on Jewish Medical Ethics will be held Sunday morning, March 27th from 10:00-11:30 am at the Minnie Brown Center of Beth Israel Congregation at 906 Washington Street in Bath. Doors will open at 9:30 for refreshments.

We are honored to have Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld of Shaarey T'philoh Synagogue in Portland and Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth El in Portland join our panel of Jewish clergy, reviewing medical cases and applying Jewish approaches to ethical dilemmas. Presenting the vexing medical cases this year, we are privileged to have Dr. William Gild of the Department of Anesthesiology and Dr. Aaron Greenwald of the Department of Psychiatry at the Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center.

The entire Maine community is invited to attend and participate in the discussion with panel members. Admission is free to all. We look forward to seeing you there.

Special Documentary Film Comes To Bath

by Marilyn Weinberg

Saturday, April 2, 2011
7:00 pm
Minnie Brown Center

Many of you remember Nathan Cogan, who visited with us two years ago and spoke about the history of the Jews in Bath. Nathan grew up in Bath and will be visiting us again in early April.

Nathan traveled to Lithuania on a Fulbright grant. With his son, he created a film based on the story of his Aunt Fanya and other Holocaust survivors. The documentary is called The Last Remnants of Lithuanian Jewry. He will be showing his film on Saturday, April 2nd at the Minnie Brown Center at 7:00 pm. This will be a great chance to not only see an engaging film, but to also talk to Nathan about his family and his experiences in Lithuania.

Discover Maine's Jewish History

by Marilyn Weinberg

Sunday, April 3, 2011
10:00 am-4:00 pm
Roberts Union, Colby College

Explore the richness of Jewish life in Maine at The Second Maine Jewish History Conference featuring community, professional, and student historians. Learn about early Jews in Lewiston and Jewish back-to-the-landers, anti-Semitism in Portland and openness in Eastport, communal life in Old Town, social life in Old Orchard Beach, and much more. Hasia Diner (author of The Jews of the United States, 1654-2000) and Lee Shai Weissbach (author of Jewish Life in Small-Town America) will place the experiences of Maine' s Jews within the broader context of American Jewish history.

For more Information visit

Community Passover Seder

by Marilyn Weinberg

Tuesday, April 19th
5:00 pm

You are invited to join family and friends for a potluck Community Passover Seder.

Reservations required by April 12.
Please e-mail

To cover expenses:
$5.00 per person/$10.00 per family for members
$15.00 for non-members

Book Club Book Sale

by Barbara Lenox

Sunday, May 1, 2010
10:00 am-Noon
Minnie Brown Center

Our Book Club is sponsoring a book sale on May 1st, from 10:00 am to12:00 pm noon at the Minnie Brown Center. All money raised will be used to support scholarships for the Hebrew School. Please help us by putting aside any books, puzzles, games, movies, etc., that you would be willing to donate to this good cause.

Please drop off donations to Minnie Brown in well-marked bags or boxes. Label the boxes "Book Sale" or call Barbara Lenox to arrange a pick up. Thank you for your support.

Call for Volunteers

by Barbara Leeman

It's that time of year again to start planning for Bowdoin's Give and Go 2011. This event is 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 entire community benefits from this event. The number of 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.

Many shifts are available from the 3rd week in May through the 2nd week of June. Many people were able to give of their time generously last year. Some had so much fun they took more than one shift. If this is something you are interested in, please call or email me. I look forward to talking with many of you as the sale nears.

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      
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      

Welcome to New Members

Doris and Leslie Shaw


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

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Donna and Peter Rubin in memory of her parents, Morris and Mary Petlock
  • Jeremy and Joan fields in memory of his father, David Fields
  • Karen and Matthew Filler in memory of her mother, Frances Feldman
  • Marilyn and Fred Weinberg in memory of Frances and Marvin Weinberg
  • George Isaacson and Margaret McGaughey
  • Jim Raker and Virginia Van Slyke in memory of his father, Harry Raker
  • Lynn Frank in memory of Esther Friedman and Dean Milkes
  • Peggy Brown and John Martell in memory of Sonia and Sol Wernick
  • Judith Weiman in memory of her friend, Susan Furnberg
  • Robert and Barbara Lenox in memory of her father, Mishael Selig
  • Margaret Brann for new tables

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • David and Shifra Kossman
  • Lynda and Greg Kelley in memory of her parents, Ann and Harold Lampert
  • Dr. Matthew Budd and Rosalind Gorin
  • Lillian and Paul Karass
  • David and Beth Westman
  • Patricia Klingenstein in memory of her mother, Sadie Davis