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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

November/December 2013
Heshvan/Kislev/Tevet 5774

Cantor's Message
Avi Gersh's Bar Mitzvah
Community Hanukkah Celebration
Chanukah Shop
Thanksgiving Shabbat - A Musical Shabbat
News from the Hebrew School
What's Different?
Volunteering for Israel - Words Cannot Describe It!
A Special Thank You!
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Welcome to New Members
High Holiday Flowers

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

In the portion of Hayei Sarah, both Abraham and Sarah die, and we recognize a new generation of leaders, Isaac and Ishmael. We read: "Abraham willed all that he owned to Isaac. But to Abraham's sons by concubines Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and he sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the East" (Gen 25:5-6). Presumably, he gave valuable gifts to appease the sons of Hagar and Keturah. Because Abraham wanted it widely known, both inside and outside the family, that Isaac was his spiritual, material and undisputed heir, he compensated him and sent the sons of the concubines away to the East "while living" (Gen 25:6).

Nonetheless the Torah is explicit that Ishmael and Isaac came together to bury their father. The rabbis point to Ishmael's maturity in forgiving his father for sending him away. They praise Ishmael's desire to show his respect to his father upon his death and for doing the right thing at the funeral for the sake of peaceful family relations. But most importantly, they point to this reconciliation between the half brothers as something noteworthy and extraordinary.

In today's world, siblings also fight about their role within the family as both financial and spiritual heirs to their parents. The lesson we learn from this week's Torah portion is to recognize with gratitude the exemplary reconciliation of the two Patriarchs at the time of their father's death and thank them for pointing the way for all of us to follow. This is especially relevant when there is conflict within families around the time of the death and/or dying of a loved one. This idea can be expanded to include the nations of Israel and Palestine. If the fathers of our two peoples, Isaac, the father of future Israel, and Ishmael, the father of future Islam, chose to set aside their painful histories and claims so they may both honor their father, and make peace when times require it, we can too.

With the help of US mediation, the Jewish people as descendants of Isaac, and the leaders of Israel today, are meeting and talking with their long lost half brothers, the Islamic Arab Palestinians, descendants of Ishmael. May the leaders of both peoples choose to honor our worthy ancestors, and make another historic reconciliation and compromise. May G-d, and the beautiful soul of Abraham, our faithful forefather,(may his memory be a blessing to all of us), bless the just and rightful leaders and advisors of both peoples to do the same, for the sake of peace.

Avi Gersh's Bar Mitzvah

Saturday, November 2
9:30 a.m.
Beth Israel Synagogue

The Gersh-Horowitz family invites the Congregation to Avi's Bar Mitzvah and to the Kiddush luncheon and celebration to follow at the Minnie Brown Center.

Avi is an 8th grader at Bath Middle School where he plays trombone, runs track and is on the math team. He is also a huge fan of the British TV series Doctor Who, and is trying to figure out how to build his own TARDIS.

For his Mitzvah project, Avi and Robert, with able assistance from Campbell Clegg, built a beautiful new Sukkah that the congregation can put up and take down for many years to come. He chose to build the Sukkah because the old one had finally rotted away, and some of Avi's favorite memories of Hebrew school are of decorating and celebrating at Sukkot.

Community Hanukkah Celebration

by Marilyn Weinberg

Latkes for Thanksgiving? For the first time Hanukkah falls before Thanksgiving this year. And the next time it will happen will be in the year 79811. Amazing! So we need to have a really special celebration.

On Sunday, December 1, Beth Israel will celebrate Chanukah at 11:00 a.m. at the Minnie Brown Center. We will have our usual wonderful potluck brunch and enjoy delicious latkes cooked by Susan Horowitz and Donnie Boyd.

Following the lighting of our menorahs (don't forget to bring yours with candles) we will have some fun with a do-si-do and away we go. Yes, we are having a Hanukkah Hoedown. It will be fun for all ages. Even if you have never square danced, our professional caller will have you dancing in 60 seconds.

Our caller is George Krassner, recording artist, cruise ship performer, and the official caller for the U.S. Army Helicopter Square Dance Team (yes, there really was one). Wear comfortable shoes and join the fun.

Chanukah Shop

by Marina Singer

Wednesday, November 3, 20, 27
4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Minnie Brown Center

Chanukah begins on the evening of November 27, so I'll have Chanukah items, candles of all kinds, cards galore, wrapping paper, decorations, books, children's gifts, and more available for purchase.

The Minnie Brown Center Chanukah store will be open during Hebrew School hours (4:00-6:00 p.m.) on Wednesdays, November 13, 20, and 27. If someone wants to purchase an item, they can call or email me to shop at another time. Anyone needing large numbers of dreidels or chocolate gelt please let me know by the end of October, so that I may order those items. When you buy your Chanukah products from the Congregation Gift shop, the Congregation benefits!

Thanksgiving Shabbat A Musical Shabbat

Friday, November 29
7:00 p.m.
Beth Israel Synagogue

There will be additional music and singing on Friday, November 29 at 7:00 p.m. We will have special Shabbat Zemirot (melodies) modified into 2 and 3-part harmonies. Some of you may be with families out of town. For those of you who are here in Maine hosting, please bring your families along for a relaxing way to unwind after a big Thanksgiving celebration.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hebrew school began on Wednesday, September 11. We are thrilled to begin our studies and have our students return from summer break.

This year our school-wide theme focuses on Peace. As part of that theme, we hope to connect our students with Torah themes around the concept of peace.

Our regular Hebrew school curriculum includes Judaica (Bible, Jewish Holidays, and Jewish History) and Hebrew language instruction (reading, writing and speaking). Before going to classes, our entire school assembles for Tphillah (prayer service). This year we are focusing on our Shacharit (morning) service. In years past, we have spent time during our Tphillah service focusing on parts of: the Kabbalat Shabbat service, the afternoon Mincha service, the Torah service and others. After Tphillah, we split into our classes; but we assemble as a school again at the end of the school day, and gather upstairs for the music curriculum. This includes holiday and prayer music.

It is our pleasure to welcome Eydie Rose Kaplan, daughter of Jennifer and Allan Kaplan, Judah and Micah Greenwald, sons of Liza and Aaron Greenwald, and Eric Ensel, son of Jennifer DeChant and Lou Ensel as new students to our school. They began their Hebrew studies with us this year. We are very excited about the new energy these students bring to our school.

High Holiday Youth Services

Monica Blatt and Marina Singer led the Yom Kippur youth service. The students were split into two groups by age and not only learned about Yom Kippur, but had an activity where they discussed peace and what they hope for. Each student listened closely and enjoyed participating. Thank you Monica and Marina for your thoughtful and interesting leadership of services. We are grateful for the way you engage our young people on one of the most important holidays of the year.


This year we were able to enjoy a brand new school Sukkah thanks to the Mitzvah project that Avi Gersh selected in honor of his Bar Mitzvah. Although our old Sukkah served our needs extremely well for ten years, it definitely wasn't in shape to make another year. Avi, with the help of his family, supplied us with the materials, directions for annual assembly and disassembly, and a beautifully built Sukkah. Our students made decorations and put them up on September 18. We enjoyed a snack inside the Sukkah as Cantor Daniel discussed the holiday, and gave an explanation of the lulav and etrog and what they represent. Susan Horowitz's class made adorable little Sukkot that they enjoyed eating as well.

Simchat Torah

On September 27, we marched around our sanctuary with our Torah scrolls dancing and singing in honor of Simchat Torah. The students who attended prepared a wonderful and interactive "Ki Mitzion" presentation ("Because from Zion comes the Torah") for all to join in and learn. Thank you Alina, for preparing our students for this special presentation. Each of the groups (Men, Women and Children) was called up to receive the honor of an Aliyah. The children received a blessing under a giant Tallit. Everyone who wanted to, carried the Torah in procession, called hakafot. Hakafot has been compared to traditional Jewish weddings, where it refers to the bride's circling the groom seven times. Many regard the hakafot of Simchat Torah as wedding circuits, symbolizing the marriage between Israel and the Law. We begin the year by starting the reading of the Torah once again. A pizza party followed the ceremony.

Mazel Tov!

Mazel Tov to Nadia Leiner who just celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on October 12. Nadia has attended our Hebrew school since she was in 1st grade. We are so proud of her accomplishments as she led us confidently in prayer.

Mazel Tov to Avi Gersh who's Bar Mitzvah is right around the corner. Avi has also been in our Hebrew school since 1st grade. It will be a pleasure to see him read his Torah and Haftorah portion, as well as lead our services during Shabbat.

Special Gift

This year our Hebrew school sent out a Hanukkah surprise package to each of our members. We wanted to share our Hanukkah joy with our community, and knew you would all share it with your friends and family.

What's Coming Up?

  • Family Shabbat, November 15, 5:30 p.m., potluck vegetarian/dairy dinner.
  • On December 1, 11:00 a.m., our Hebrew school will join the community wide Hanukkah party for the Hanukkah Hoe Down. Everyone is encouraged to wear country attire and bring energy for country dancing. It is the same weekend as Thanksgiving, so bring all your visiting guests along. The more the merrier. We will continue our Hanukkah celebration at school on December 4 for our students to create some Hanukkah crafts and enjoy some treats.
  • I encourage our parents to join the parent committee. We like to plan many nice extras for our students to enjoy throughout the course of the year. We have only a few meetings throughout the year. These also provide an opportunity to share what the students are learning at Hebrew school. Our next meeting is scheduled for November 13 at 4:30 p.m. at the Minnie Brown center. Your attendance will help improve our school.
  • Parents are always welcome to stay and learn with our students during Hebrew school. The prayer services at the beginning of instruction, or the singing at the end, are perfect times to join our school kids. In addition, our teachers are always available for discussion if you are ever curious about some of your students work. Active Hebrew learners as parents, inspire our students to be more active as well.

What's Different?

by Lee Leiner

We have a bright new informational sign on the synagogue just to the left of the main doors.

The old sign was faded, and the letters didn't stay in place. The new sign is shiny and sharp with bigger and brighter lettering. Thanks to Ed Benedikt for keeping the sign up-to-date.

Come to the synagogue and check it out.

Volunteering for Israel Words Cannot Describe It!

by Barbara Leeman

Now that I have had a few months to reflect on my "Volunteers for Israel" (VFI) experience, I wanted to share some thoughts about the program.

Like most other first-time volunteers, we were not sure what to expect. We were told to report to the McDonalds at the Tel Aviv central bus station. No doubt that for those who had reported to duty with the US Army, reporting to duty at a McDonalds must have felt strange. Nevertheless, our first encounter with VFI (known as Sar-El in Israel) was with Pamela Lazarus. Pamela needed no uniform, but it was clear she was in charge. We were assigned to a base where we learned how to identify and replace faulty electronics parts used on many of the radio units for the tanks and jeeps. We disassembled and fixed broken antennae. We learned from a nineteen-year old IDF corporal who could easily have been our own son. Some retired military men also came back to volunteer, socialize with each other, and assist in teaching us our tasks at hand. It made for an environment of camaraderie and learning. Orders were communicated in a collegial and outcome-oriented way; we were all pulling in the same direction with no personal agendas. The soldiers, civilian supervisors and volunteers all knew the stakes; there were no slackers.

Our second week was spent at a medical base, packing medical supplies. These were to be shipped to locations throughout Israel. Knowing that the combat medics or field surgeons were going to open their backpacks and look in a specific pocket for trachea tubes, surgical gloves or gauze pads made us work hard to be error free. The work itself however, was not what motivated us. I hadn't been to Israel for twenty-eight years and yet I felt at home. I slept on a half inch thick worn out mattress, yet slept well. My barracks mates whom I had just met, were from all over the world, some Jewish, some not, yet I immediately liked them. The food was a shade less than gourmet, but that didn't matter. We weren't there for the ambiance or the cuisine. We all shared a common goal. We were all there to help Israel.

Each morning at flag rising, we joined the soldiers at lineup. One of our volunteers was chosen each day to hoist the blue and white Magen David into the air. The words of Hatikva somehow sounded different while standing in front of those troops serving Eretz Yisrael. Maybe it's just hard to sing while you're choked up. Our work stretched from Sunday to Thursday, with Shabbat off to explore Israel.

We came home from Israel with a Sar-El tee shirt, a hat and a pin. They are now among my favorite possessions. The graduation certificate along with my ID card and a few snap shots of Daniel and me wearing fatigues have already been framed. Most with whom we volunteered were there for their 4th, 5th, or 20th time. The connection I gained is hard to explain. Planting a tree in Israel will no longer suffice once you've made a contribution of Avodah (work).

For those of you looking to make a meaningful contribution to our fellow man, you will never feel better. I urge you to consider the discomfort of traveling over to show our young Israeli soldiers that they are not alone. Show that you are willing to pay your own way to work side by side with them for the elevating experience of laboring to protect our Jewish homeland. You too will have the chance to thank these fine young IDF soldiers in person for defending our land. You too will feel incredibly grateful, and come home with a sense of connection and fulfillment.

A Special Thank You!

by Lynn Frank

Thank you to Larry Loeb and Linda Silberstein for hosting a delightful wine and cheese party at their beautiful home on the Kennebec, Sunday October 13, from 3:005:30 p.m. Originally, they had planned to host the Sukkot at their home, but bad weather cancelled the event.

Most of us took a ferry from Fort Popham to their home on Long Island. However, there was a special charter boat piloted by Daniel Leeman for the true adventurers, There was a nice turnout and everyone had a fabulous time. We were really all secretly hoping to miss the ride home!

Birthdays and Anniversaries

November Birthdays November Anniversaries
1 Sophie Sreden   2 Cristina & Stacey Giulianti
2 Jill Cooper      
2 Gordon Blatt      
10 Rachel Clegg      
11 Judy Wolfe      
15 Alva Gandler      
15 Joyce Bellevue      
16 Larry Loeb      
18 Eli Schoenberg      
21 Joan Fields      


December Birthdays December Anniversaries
2 Jennifer Kaplan   15 Joan & Jeremy Fields
2 Bob Lobis      
6 Todd Gandler      
7 Nicholas Hagler      
13 Karen Filler      
22 Sam Leeman      
27 Ed Benedikt      
31 Christine Giulianti      
31 Michele Riley      

Welcome to New Members

  • Alex Greenberg attending The Hyde School in Bath from Glencoe, Illinois


We would like to thank the following people for their donations

Members of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Jay and Lenore Friedland
  • Morton and Evelyn Panish
  • Bob Lobis and Judy Wolfe in honor of their granddaughter, Claudia Esther Lobis
  • Drs. Allan and Jennifer Kaplan in loving memory of his father, Howard Kaplan
  • Herb and Harriet Paris
  • Dr. Irwin and Lori Brodsky
  • Peter and Donna Rubin in loving memory of Morris and Mary Petlock
  • Marina and Stephen Singer
  • Rea Turet in loving memory of Evelyn and Martin Polster, Rosaline Turet Lasher, and Lillian Turet
  • Jeff Cohen and Nancy Heiser
  • Chris and Anna Boll in appreciation for the High Holidays Services
  • Steven Stern and Arlene Morris
  • Chris and Andy Schoenberg in loving memory of his mother, Elayna Schoenberg
  • Janice Povich for sponsoring the Simchat Torah dinner at the Synagogue
  • Richard Smith in loving memory of his mother, Sara Smith
  • Morton and Evelyn Panish in loving memory of Henry Chaim
  • Marilyn and John Darack in appreciation for the Yom Kippur services
  • Jay and Lenore Friedland in honor of the High Holidays and in loving memory of her father, Israel Itzkowitz
  • Adaia and Alina Shumsky in loving memory of Abraham Shumsky
  • Dr. Hal and Mary Sreden
  • Jay and Lenore Friedland in loving memory of their mothers, Nettie Friedland and Esther Izkowitz
  • Michele Riley in loving memory of her father, Abraham Travers

Friends of Beth Israel Congregation

  • Ruth Benedikt
  • David and Shifra Kossman in appreciation for the High Holidays Services
  • Susan Rose in appreciation for the High Holidays Services
  • Joseph and Merna Guttentag in appreciation for the High Holidays Services
  • Wayne and Amy Gould in appreciation for the High Holidays Services
  • Jill Koufman
  • Laura and Bob Kaster in appreciation for the High Holidays Services
  • Henry Goldberg and Kim Hetherington in appreciation for the Rosh Hashanah Services
  • Niki K. Pugach in appreciation of the High Holidays Services
  • Helene and Elliot Lerner to the Hebrew School Scholarship Fund in loving memory of Jeffrey Robert Cherner
  • Darrell and Judy Cooper in honor of the naming of their granddaughter, Frances Roslyn Cooper
  • Arlene H. Hertz
  • Dr. Louis and Janet Gross
  • Steve and Sue Ochs in appreciation for the High Holidays services
  • David Freed in appreciation for the High Holidays services
  • George Schoenberg in honor of the High Holidays

High Holiday Flowers

We would like to thank the following people for their donations

  • Mitch Manin and Joyce Bellevue in memory of Milton and Annette Manin and George Bellevue
  • Barbara and Barrett Silver in memory of their parents, Milton and Rose Silver and Samuel and Jean Becker
  • Barbara and Robert Lenox in honor of their grandsons, Zachary and Jayden Bronstein
  • Barbara and Stephen Baseman in memory of Isadore Baseman, Esther Barron, Samuel Axler, and Robert Baseman
  • Rea Turet in memory of Sandor M. Polster, Rosaline Turet Lasher, Martin Polster, Evelyn Polster, Maurice Turet, and Lillian Turet
  • Linda Silberstein and Larry Loeb in honor of their 35th Wedding Anniversary
  • Donny Giulanti in memory of Leon and Barbara Berman, Nicholas and Elaine Giulanti, and Sarah and Morris Friedberg
  • Crissy and Marc Swartz