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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

January/February 2012
Tevet/Shevat/Adar 5772

Cantor's Message
Come to the Beth Israel Tu B'Shvat Community Seder
Dine Around
Community Chanukah Party
Hebrew School Scholarship Fund
News from the Hebrew School
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

Cantor's Message

by Cantor Daniel Leeman

One Act of Kindness (Genesis 37:15-17)

At his father's request, Joseph traveled to Shechem to check on his brothers. When he arrived, he was unable to find them. In Shechem he met a stranger. The bible narrative does not give the stranger a name, and the commentators specify that we never hear of this stranger again. The bible refers to the stranger only as "a man," who happens upon Joseph, when Joseph was lost and wandering in a field, searching for his brothers.

The man asked Joseph: "What are you looking for?" Joseph responds: "I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are pasturing?" The man answers: "They have gone from here, for I heard them say: 'Let's go to Dothan'."

This concludes their encounter. The story occupies three short verses. Why would the Torah deem fit to include this seemingly mundane exchange?

Maimonides writes that this strange man was in fact an angel, sent by G-d to assure that Joseph would complete his mission, find his brothers, and later get sold into slavery in Egypt. Had Joseph given up his search, and gone home when his brothers left Shechem for Dothan, the entire history of our people would have gone differently.

I think one of the most important lessons we can take from this story, is to never underestimate the influence any human being could have on us. Neither should we underestimate the impact we may have on another's life, even in a casual interaction among strangers. Here with Joseph, we see how a simple act of kindness by a stranger changed his destiny and the course of history.

I also believe this story is meant to remind us that a simple helpful act, or even a word of kindness, can have immeasurable impact on one's future, and/or that of our neighbors.

The rabbis urge us in the Mishnah of Pirkei Avot (Chapter 2, Mishnah 1), the Ethics of the Fathers, to be as careful with simple mitzvot as we are with complex ones. The encounter described above between Joseph and the stranger sheds light on the rabbi's reasoning in this Mishnah. Our limited evaluations of the relative weight of big and small mitzvot and their resultant outcomes may be totally inadequate, especially when we consider the mystery of G-d's plans. When we do what is right, even in the tiniest way, we may change the world for the better in unimaginable ways.

Come to the Beth Israel Tu B'Shvat Community Seder

by Marilyn Weinberg

Minnie Brown Center
February 10, 2012
5:30 p.m.

Let us join together for a Tu B'Shvat Seder followed by a potluck dinner (no meat, but fish is OK).

Celebrate the New Year of the Trees. Sing songs and learn more about this Jewish environmental holiday!

We are supposed to eat fruits and grains grown in Israel. If you can bring something containing barley, dates, figs, grapes (or raisins), pomegranates, olives or wheat that would be great. Almonds and carob are also good options.

Contact Marilyn Weinberg at by February 1 to reserve your space. There will be a fee of $5.00 per person or $10.00 per family to cover our costs.

Dine Around

by Barbara Lenox

Scarlet Begonias
January 19, 2011
6:30 p.m.

The Beth Israel women enjoyed another get together at the December meeting of the Dine Around. Please join us for a delightful evening out on January 19th at 6:30 p.m. at Scarlet Begonias, 16 Station Ave., Brunswick. For further information, please call Barbara Lenox. The Dine Around is a wonderful way to network, share, and simply enjoy the friendship and sisterhood of our Beth Israel family.

Community Chanukah Party

by Marilyn Weinberg

Good food, good company, potato latkes, music and the lovely lights of our menorahs all came together for our wonderful community Chanukah celebration on Friday evening, December 23. More than seventy people of all ages attended what one person said was the best Chanukah party yet. Susan Horowitz and Donnie Spiegelman-Boyd cooked up piles of latkes to add to all the delicious food everybody brought. Matthew Schreiber played his accordion as we ate and then joined Cantor Dan to lead us in joyful song as we watched the candles burn. Robert Gersh said "What a lovely memory we made tonight!" Thanks to all who came and helped make it happen.

Hebrew School Scholarship Fund

by Robert Gersh

As we reported in our November/December 2011 Newsletter, thanks to the generosity of Lynn Frank, we have created a scholarship fund to help needy students in our Hebrew School with the cost of their tuition.

Many of our Hebrew School's students have benefited from this scholarship fund. We would like to continue to help those in our school who need it. We therefore invite other congregation members to come forward and contribute to our Hebrew School Scholarship Fund. The religious education of our children helps ensure the future of our Congregation.

You can make a real difference in our congregation by making a donation to this fund! Simply make your check payable to: Beth Israel Congregation and mail it to Beth Israel Congregation, Attn: Treasurer, 906 Washington Street, Bath, ME 04530. Please write "Hebrew School Scholarship Fund." in the memo section of your check. Your contribution is tax deductible and will be recognized in the Congregation newsletter, unless you wish to remain anonymous. Please contact our Treasurer, Robert Gersh, if you have any questions.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman


We have been guarding class time this year, hoping that fewer interruptions for enrichment activities, actually gives the kids an opportunity to make more progress in their studies. On December 21st however, we took a break to celebrate Hanukkah together and remember the miracles of today. We played some dreidel, decorated Hanukkah cookies, and ate some sufganiyot (donuts). Everybody had a great time.

Class Shabbats

Our first Shabbat of the school year was our Zahav (our 6th grade) class, on December 9th. The service began at 7:00 p.m. as usual. The class gathered earlier, at 6:00 p.m., for a meal where we had a chance to light the Shabbat candles together, and sing zmirot (Shabbat melodies).

Tot Shabbat Services

Tot Shabbat services are scheduled throughout the year. On November 18th we welcomed our youngest members to enjoy an abbreviated service. Some lively singing and a Shabbat story filled the air. Most of these young families have been coming once a month to a pre-school program led by Marina Singer and supported with help from the parents. They are learning about the holiday of the month, Shabbat, and the Synagogue by playing games, hearing stories, doing artwork, singing songs and eating the foods that reflect the holiday that is being explored that day. Marina, the children and the parents are getting to know each other in a casual environment full of Jewish tradition.

What's Coming Up?

Our Lavan class (a mix of 3rd-5th graders) is scheduled to have their class Shabbat service on February 17th. We have been preparing the Kabbalat Shabbat service at Hebrew school each week during Tphillah (prayer service), so they have had much more exposure to these prayers.

Purim is right around the corner. Our school always organizes a Purim carnival, which this year falls on March 11th. Come and bring friends. It's a fun time for the kids, and a wonderful opportunity to introduce others to our congregation. If there is anyone interested in getting involved and helping with the carnival, please contact Susan Horowitz.

Our next parent group meeting is at 4:30 p.m. during Hebrew school, on February 1st. All are welcome.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

January Birthdays January Anniversaries
2 Daniel Leeman   21 Diane Gilman & Arthur Davis
6 Barbara Leeman   27 Michele & Ed Riley
7 Julia Pols      
9 Mark Ireland      
15 Isaac Daniel Ensel      
17 Stacey Giulianti      
20 Eric Arthur Ensel      
25 Robert Gersh      
27 Gabriel Malseptic      


February Birthdays
1 Virginia Van Slyck      
2 Katherine Raker      
5 David Brann      
5 Michelle Brann      
11 Lynn Frank      
14 Ross Lewis      
15 Jim Raker      
17 Julian Ireland      
26 Sam Raker      
27 Avi Gersh      
27 Sandy Polster      
28 Christina Schoenberg      

Welcome to New Members

  • Rachel, Nathan, Molly, and Isla Tefft
  • Teresa, Todd, Alva, and Sam Gandler


Many thanks to the following people for their donations:

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Stacey and Cristina Giulianti
  • Lisa Tessler and Mark Ireland in memory of Ted Tessler
  • Stephen and Marina Singer in memory of Isadore Singer
  • Lenore and Jay Friedland in memory of Esther Itzkowitz and Nettie Friedland
  • Michelle Riley in memory of Abraham Travers
  • Judith Weisman in memory of Milton Gross
  • Marilyn and Fred Weinberg in memory of Selma Blatt
  • Donna and Peter Rubin in memory of her parents, Mary & Morris Petlock
  • Sharon Drake
  • Dr. Jim and Virginia Raker
  • Children of Selma Blatt in memory of Selma Blatt


  • Donna Schenker
  • Steven and Stacy Guttentag
  • Helene and Elliot Lerner
  • Henry Goldberg and Kim Hetherington
  • Stan & Cathy Tetenman in memory of Selma Blatt
  • Barbara and Neil Shapiro in memory of Selma Blatt
  • Estelle and Irwin Metviner in memory of Selma Blatt
  • Ed and Sue Kline in memory of Selma Blatt
  • Deborah Finn & Family in memory of Selma Blatt
  • Brian and Rachel Scheff
  • Margery Bean in memory of her aunt Selma Blatt
  • Richard Cohen and Elizabeth Gouverneur