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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

July/August 2012
Tammuz/Av/Elul 5772

Cantor's Message
Tisha B'Av Services
Dine Around
Summary of the Beth Israel Congregation Annual Meeting
Give and Go Sale Raises $1000 for Beth Israel
Membership Commitee
Hebrew School Scholarship Fund
Congratulations High School Graduates
High Holiday Schedule
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 Cantor Daniel Leeman

The shipbuilding boom, before and during WWI, attracted many Jewish merchants to the Bath area. Yet, when our synagogue building was built in 1922, we were not an affluent congregation. Many of our founding members were recent immigrants. Needless to say, providing funds for the new synagogue was a tremendous challenge. Thankfully, at the time of the construction of our building, relationships with local residents and merchants in the Bath community were so strong that the non-Jewish community made a significant donation to our fund-raising campaign.

I often think about this fact, and I am amazed and delighted to remind myself about the importance of a legacy of friendship in the Bath community. Just a couple of weeks ago, as I entered the Minnie Brown Center, I found my office door covered with notes, cards, posters and hand-made paintings. At the top of the door was a large paper sign entitled: "To the Hebrew School." At first, I was a bit concerned that the entrance way to my office was blocked. I quickly realized that this was a huge compilation of thank you notes from every student and teacher in the Unitarian Universalist religious school, who was using our building for the school year. My concern melted into delight, as I carefully disassembled the mini shrine-like offerings at my office door and began to read the messages.

To share a few messages with you, one note read as follows: "Thank you for sharing your building with us. It kept us warm, it kept us dry, it kept us together." Each note and message was lovelier than the last, as the students and teachers wished us a happy summer, and thanked us in a variety of artistic and thoughtful ways. There were notes from the pre-K, lower school, and upper school. As the ages advanced, the penmanship and spelling improved, but the sentiment was just as pure and beautiful. One interesting note from a teacher indicated hopes for our students to meet and share some of their learning experiences with one another.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, in one of his Jewish philosophical writings, wrote that the term "brotherhood" is something of a misnomer. He went on to explain that this term might be misunderstood as kindness to one's brother. This is not the true meaning of the idea, since one may automatically be inclined to act with kindness towards one's brother, or a fellow Jew, or a fellow member of one's own community. "True brotherhood" is expressed when one reaches beyond one's community, and acts with compassion and kindness to members of another community. Developing the capacity to reach out successfully with compassion to members or groups from a different religion, different culture, different race, or nations are how one may define "true brotherhood," according to Rabbi Heschel.

Just as our congregation was the grateful recipient of compassion 90 years ago, when we were struggling with a synagogue construction project, it is a great privilege to offer whatever assistance we can to the Unitarian Universalist church group that lost its building to a fire. It was gratifying to receive a thoughtful demonstration of "true brotherhood" from the Unitarian Universalist religious school, and it is my pleasure to share this experience with you, the members of the Beth Israel Congregation of Bath, Maine.

As we approach the July 4th celebration, and we reflect on the values and principles that were set in place at the time our nation was formed, let us remember the sacrifices made by our founders to offer us a national legacy based on religious pluralism and religious freedom. It attracted our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, many of whom came near the turn of the last century from many countries to come to be free and prosperous in America. May this promise continue for future generations. May all the citizens of our great nation, whatever their origin, culture or religion, be privileged to continue to form future bonds of "true brotherhood" within our nation and around the world. Nelech, MeHayil, LeHayil, and may we go from "strength to strength" in the future.

Tisha B'Av Services

by Daniel Leeman

Saturday, July 28th
7:00 p.m.

Please mark your calendars to attend the evening service commemorating the Fast of the Ninth of Av. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date. The service will take place on Saturday evening, July 28 at 7:00 pm. We will have an evening, Maariv Service, followed by the traditional reading of the Book of Lamentations.

Dine Around

by Lynn Frank

To be announced...

The Beth Israel women enjoyed another fun get together in June at Five Islands. Watch for your email from Barbara announcing the next Dine Around. If you are not on the email list, but would like to be, 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.

Summary of the Beth Israel Congregation Annual Meeting

by Lynn Frank

The Annual Meeting was held at the synagogue on June 17. Twenty people were present. Robert Gersh was thanked for setting up Quickbooks and handling our finances. New for 2011-2012, is the Hebrew School Scholarship Fund . The budget was approved and dues will remain the same for next year. There will be a book study group and beginning Hebrew classes on Wednesday nights. The Hebrew School had 24 students this year. We would like to increase the size of the Hebrew School for 2012-2013. Thanks to the Unitarian Universalists for being wonderful tenants. Heartfelt thank you's to every one who assisted on committees, organized events, and lent a helping hand in any way…without you we would cease to exist.

Give and Go Sale Raises $1000 for Beth Israel

by Barbara Leeman

Each spring, our community awaits Bowdoin's legendary "Give and Go" sale. As Bowdoin College 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. The items are donated by students and then collected, sorted and sold by volunteers (us). This year, the "Give and Go" raised over $40,000 dollars for the local area non-profits. There were 22 organizations selected that helped work over 2000 hours. The profits are distributed to each organization based on the number of hours they contribute. Each hour was worth approximately $14 this year. Each year that amount changes. We are happy to say that Beth Israel volunteered about 65 hours and we will receive approximately $1000 for our efforts!

I am pleased to report that we had 14 different people who were able to volunteer their time to help Beth Israel. Each of the people below not only helped to raise money for Beth Israel and slow down the waste that fills the Brunswick landfill, but also had the opportunity to get some incredible bargains in the process. This year the sale moved from the Fort Andross Mill on Main Street in Brunswick to the old Times Record building on Industry Road. The main difference in the new facility was that the sale was actually split into many different rooms rather that the usual one big room. There were mixed feelings about this change initially, but ultimately the sale was a huge success. This is a good fundraiser for Beth Israel. Keep your eye out for the announcement to volunteer next year and consider signing up for a shift. I promise it's a real blast!

Thank you to the following people who all worked at the Give and Go this year: Allegra, Chris, Donnie, Morgan, and Quin Boyd, Campbell Clegg, Susan Horowitz, Rea Turet, Marilyn Weinberg, Jill Standish, Nonny Soifer, Barbara and Barrett Silver and Hannah, Sam and Barbara Leeman.

Membership Commitee

by Denise Tepler

The membership committee of Beth Israel is looking for people who want to help us build our community. The committee will be planning several events and reaching out to find new members. At the annual meeting extra dollars were put into the advertising budget to help increase our community visibility, but more effort will be needed as well. If you'd like to participate in the planning or if you have some ideas about events that might attract new members, or even if you simply know someone in particular we should reach out to, please e-mail Denise Tepler at It takes a kahal.

Hebrew School Scholarship Fund

by Robert Gersh

As we reported in our previous newsletters, 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 directly benefited from this scholarship fund. We really want to continue to provide financial help to those students who need it, but our fund is almost depleted.

Therefore, we invite donors in our community to step forward and contribute to our Hebrew School Scholarship Fund. The Hebrew School gives our children a foundation in their Jewish identity and helps ensure the future of our Congregation. You can make a real and positive 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 and enclose a short note. 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.

Congratulations High School Graduates

by Lynn Frank

We had three students graduate from high school this year. We are very proud of them and wish them the best in the future. Mazel Tov!

Becca Lewis graduated from Mt Ararat. She will be attending University of Maine at Orono to study Marine Biology.

Rachel Schoenberg graduated from Mt Ararat High School. She will be attending the University of Maine Farmington to study Elementary Education.

Hannah Leeman graduated from Morse High School. She will be attending Brandeis University.

High Holiday Schedule

by Marilyn Weinberg

Our High Holiday schedule is ready and will be published in the next newsletter. If you would like to look at it ahead of time to help with plans you are making, you will find it on our web site:

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hebrew school year has once again come to an end. We are extremely proud of our students. We know that striving to create fluent, Hebrew speaking Torah scholars, with a depth of understanding and commitment to our Jewish customs and values, is a high goal to set. We strive however, to reach that goal every week. Seeing each of these kids together each week, praying, studying, and singing, is a joy. There is a real camaraderie among them. We hope that our children will one day look back and appreciate their Hebrew school days. We hope they will remember the games, their friends, the parties, and hopefully even their studies. In addition, we hope that they will offer the same Hebrew education or better to their own children. Let us be confident that our children will speak with pride at the accomplishments they have achieved within our school.

What Did They Learn?

The Gan class (our pre-school class) finished up the year learning about Shavuot, enjoying many dairy foods and fruits, and hearing about the Ten Commandments, some for the first time. On June 10 we spent the last class of the season reviewing all the holidays we had explored during the year, with an emphasis on Shabbat. The kids got to play their favorite fishing game in honor of the delicious fish we all enjoy at Shabbat meals.

The Zahav class (our oldest class) spent most of their last few classes preparing for their graduation service, putting together remarks about their favorite prayers, polishing their skills at leading prayers, and making their own personal remarks about their memories of Hebrew School.

The Lavan students have been studying Bible heroes this year, and each student chose their favorite, wrote about him or her, and talked to the class about why they chose this particular Bible hero.

Each of the Lavan, Zahav and Kachol classes, enjoyed the fun of celebrating Shavuot and Lag B'Omer together. New songs were learned, outdoor games were played and a discussion of the Ten Commandments ensued. The Kachol class also contributed to beautifying the grounds of the Minnie Brown Center, by helping Morah Susan plant a wonderful new garden.

Our Graduates

This year we had six students graduate from the Hebrew School who will move into the next phase of learning as they begin meeting one-on-one with Cantor Daniel to prepare for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Congratulations to Josie Adolf, Tobyn Blatt, Avi Gersh, Nicholas Hagler, Isabella Pols, and Leah Totman.

As part of their graduation ceremony, which took place on May 24th, each student wrote their own interpretations of specific prayers; as well as speeches regarding what they appreciated about their time at Hebrew School, and why they love being Jewish. Some quotes from those writings are:

"The Shema has always been one of my favorite prayers. I have learned that it is the centerpiece or most important part of a prayer service. It means that we only have one God and he will be our God forever. After the Shema we recite the V'ahavta , which tells us that you should love the Lord. It reminds you to follow the commandments and remember them every day and night. It tells us that when we have children you teach them the commandments and let them do that same that you did. I remember learning the V'ahavta from memory since I sang it every Wednesday. I will never forget the Shema!"

"I feel I understand more about Judaism and hope to strengthen my commitment to Judaism as I continue to study for my Bar Mitzvah."

One of our newer students noted:
"Although I have not been here long, from the first day I got here I noticed how important Hebrew School was to those who work and go here. I couldn't wait to start learning!"

Finally the graduates reflected on their own Jewish values, their personal Jewish identities and what they love about being Jewish. Some commented on their love of the music, while others like the traditional foods we eat. One was able to appreciate the Torah and much of Judaism's literature and history. Another loved many of the Jewish ideas discussed in classes and all of the hidden meanings of how to live a good life that can be found in the Torah.

The graduation ceremony revealed our young students as respectful and even funny. They took pride in what they had accomplished. They are certainly on their way to doing great things as they move towards becoming an adult member of our community.

Class Shabbat Services

This year we had class Shabbat services for each of our three classes Zahav (Gold), Lavan (White) and Kachol (Blue). The students had lots of energy and everyone got involved in the singing and the prayers. Preceding each service, we had a Shabbat meal with Zmirot (singing). These wonder kids are our future, and a very bright future it will be.

The Annual Tzedakah Gift

The kids donated all year to a Tzedakah (charity) fund, and during the month of May, they voted on whom they wanted as the recipient of their Tzedakah dollars. This year the winner is the Maine Diabetes Foundation.

People in Maine are increasingly feeling the effects of diabetes as thousands of people suffer from the disease, and many others may have diabetes and not even know it! It is estimated that one out of every three children born after 2000 in the United States will be directly affected by diabetes. That is why the American Diabetes Association's Portland office is so committed to educating the public about how to stop diabetes and support those living with this disease. We are incredibly happy to support this organization. We are hopeful that our Tzedakah collected over the year will be able to help support those with diabetes and prevent the further spread of this debilitating disease.

Special Thanks

The end of the year is always a great time to thank our teachers for all their efforts. Our teachers, Cantor Daniel, Alina Shumsky, Marina Singer, and Susan Horowitz prepared thoughtful lessons each week, and instilled a love of Judaism into each of our students. Many thanks again to you all. We are lucky to be able to count on so many of our parents who help each year to plan extra activities for our kids above and beyond the curriculum. Many thanks.

Next Year

More information will be posted on our website to prepare for next year. To get a jump on enrollment, please print and fill out the enrollment form. Forms can be forwarded to Beth Israel Congregation 906 Washington St., Bath, ME 04530 or to


Birthdays and Anniversaries

Listing the birthdays 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. If you notice that someone in your family isn't listed, please send along all information to Barbara Leeman so that they can be included with the next issue of the newsletter.

July Birthdays July Anniversaries
4 Hannah Leeman   23 Marina & Steve Singer
8 Margaret Brann   26 Lenore & Jay Friedland
8 Linda Silberstein   27 Jennifer DeChant & Lou Ensel
11 Becca Lewis      
18 Judy Weisman      
21 Marina Singer      
22 Jay Friedland      


August Birthdays August Anniversaries
10 Emma Miller   17 Ruth & Ed Benedikt
14 Henry Raker   20 Evelyn & Mort Panish
15 Arielle Leeman   30 Virginia Van Slyck & Jim Raker
16 Marilyn Weinberg      


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

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Chico & Crissy Swartz
  • John Martell & Peggy Brown in memory of Lucille Hershenhart
  • Marina & Steve Singer in memory of her father, Victor Shapiro, and her brother, Samuel Shapiro
  • Jay & Lenore Friedland in memory of Edward Friedland
  • Mort & Evelyn Panish in memory of Bertl Meyz
  • Dr. Jim & Virginia Raker in memory of David Raker

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Debbie & Kermit Smyth in honor of Passover
  • Darrell Cooper in honor of Israeli Independence Day
  • Jerrold Lurie in memory of Celia and Phillip Lurie
  • Daniel Morgenstern & Moriah Moser in memory of Frederic Morgenstern