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Beth Israel Congregation

   
 
 
 

Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

May/June 2014
Iyyar/Sivan/Tammuz 5774


Iska Cole Talk: In Remembrance of the Holocaust
Urgently Needed: Your Opinion at the Annual Meeting
The History of the Jews in Bath
UUCB Bids a Fond Farewell
Beth Israel Synagogue Teen Group
Legislative Awareness Event at the State House
Cantor's Message
News from the Hebrew School
Bowdoin Give and Go
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Donations

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 info@bethisrael-maine.org.


Iska Cole Talk: In Remembrance of the Holocaust

by Marilyn Weinberg

Friday May 2
7:00 p.m.
Synagogue

On Friday, May 2, at 7:00 p.m. we will gather at the synagogue for a brief Shabbat service followed by a special presentation. Our speaker will be Iska Nemcekova Cole who grew up in Slovakia and has an amazing story to tell about bravery and fear during the German occupation of World War II. Iska escaped near death multiple times. We hope you can attend. It is important that we listen to these stories, for those that tell them will not always be with us.


Urgently Needed: Your Opinion at the Annual Meeting

by Denise Tepler

Like many small synagogues around the U.S., Beth Israel faces some daunting challenges in remaining a vibrant community in the years to come. A variety of problems beset our congregation: declining enrollment in the Hebrew School, few young families becoming members, an aging population in the area, how to approach inclusion of non-members, competition from the web (online Torah study!), how to be a big tent for disparate viewpoints about Judaism, and changing ideas about Jewish life.

The Board has looked at many of these issues with concern but without resolution. In an effort to create a plan to move us into the future in a positive fashion the board has looked carefully at the possibility of undertaking a strategic planning process. Having approached and looked at several possible facilitators, many members of the board were most impressed with the qualifications of Gary Stern, a Jewish facilitator who lives in Portland and has worked with many congregations, and with Rabbinic programs as well. Recently, he oversaw the development of a strategic plan at Temple Bet Ha'am in South Portland.

Strategic planning is not inexpensive, nor is it a short, quick process. If it works well, it should result in an action plan to make changes that will bring us toward where we want to be. For the result to be good, members of the congregation must participate in sharing their thoughts, and, to some extent, in the gathering of data. There must be communal buy-in. The strategic planning process is expected to take 12 to 18 months and cost around $10,000. With such a serious undertaking, the board has decided to invite the congregation to share their views and to see if enough congregants are interested in getting involved to make the process effective.

Gary Stern will be present at our annual meeting and will make a presentation to the congregation on his vision for a strategic process for our congregation. The board hopes that many members will be present and make their views known. Please join us; the future of Beth Israel Congregation is at stake.


The History of the Jews in Bath

by Marilyn Weinberg

Sunday, July 20
Beth Israel Synagogue

Set aside July 20 for a very special presentation of the Jewish History of Bath. There will be fascinating stories and information about the Jews who settled in Bath from the late 19th century to 1960. How did our synagogue begin? What role did all these people play in our community? All this information and more will be part of an exhibit that eventually will be displayed at the Jewish Museum in Portland. Don't miss it.


UUCB Bids a Fond Farewell

by Marilyn Weinberg

On Sunday, March 30, the Unitarian Universalists held their final service in our Minnie Brown Center. They have been wonderful guests in our building and we are all happy that we could be helpful to them after their building burned three years ago.

They left us the following message and poster:

Dear Beth Israel

We am writing to let you know that the UUCB Congregation has left a farewell message posted on the stage area of the Minnie Brown Center

This was a bittersweet day for us as we have grown to love your lovely, light, intimate space, and though we are eager to have our own church again, we have many attachments that have grown during our time there. We are so so grateful to you all.


Beth Israel Synagogue Teen Group

by Barbara Leeman

Since January, Jodi Kraushar and Hannah Broos, both first year students at Bowdoin College, have been organizing activities for our teenagers. They have invited our post Bar/Bat Mitzvah students that are members of Beth Israel, to join the group and have encouraged the teens to bring along any of their Jewish friends as well. This group serves as a fun and educational way to stay involved in Jewish life and hang out with other Jewish teenagers.

Since the end of January, the group has been meeting regularly. One of the favorite activities has been to enjoy gelato while discussing Jewish topics. They refer to these gatherings as "Latte and Learning." They also made Hamantashen with the teens, and attended the Zamir Chorale of Greater Boston performance, held at Bowdoin College. Teenagers have such busy lives with many activities and it has been hard to get all of those who are interested, to attend on the same night, but a core group continues to be involved.

Besides activities locally, creating opportunities to get together with other Jewish Youth groups regionally is also a goal. An upcoming bowling social on May 3, may serve as a joint activity with our Portland Jewish teens. A trip planned to "Jewish" Boston is in the near future, and may also serve as an opportunity for our teens to join a larger Jewish community in a fun holiday activity.

Jodi is from New York City and has been involved with various Jewish communities her whole life. She went to a Jewish summer camp, attended Hebrew school, and did some activities with NCSY (another Jewish Youth group).

Hannah is originally from New Jersey, served as a Hebrew schoolteacher in her own synagogue and was looking for a way to connect with a synagogue while at college. We are thrilled to have these two energetic college students connecting with our teens.

Jodi and Hannah were both able to join us at our community Seder. I hope some of you were able to meet and greet them. For any information about Youth group activities, please email: education@bethisrael-maine.org information.

Legislative Awareness Event at the State House

by Ed Benedikt

The Holocaust survivors' commemoration at the State Legislature on April 4 includes Congregation members Evelyn and Mort Panish. For more information about the event, please go to the blog post: hickmaninthehouse.blogspot.com/2014/04/holocaust-survivors-attend-state-house.html


Cantor's Message

by Cantor Daniel Leeman

We refer to Passover as the "Festival of Freedom," a time when we should love our neighbor. We linger at the Seder table over the topic of freedom and ask and answer many questions about how to use our freedom wisely.

On a recent Shabbat, we read the portion of Kedoshim, which contains the mitzvah from Leviticus 19:18, "Love your neighbor as yourself"? This mitzvah is arguably the most important mitzvah in the entire Torah, and could easily be interpreted as the most valuable way to focus our time and utilize our freedom.

I recently read a beautiful short story entitled: "The Three Questions" by Leo Tolstoy (1903), which demonstrates the profound nature of this idea, of loving your neighbor. Here's a brief synopsis of the story:

A certain king thought to himself, that he would never fail, if he knew three things:

  • When is the best time to do each thing?
  • Who are the most important people to work with?
  • What is the most important thing to do at all time?

Many educated men attempted to answer the king's questions, but they all came up with different answers.

The king decided that he needed to ask a wise hermit in a nearby village. The hermit would only see common folk, however, so the king disguised himself as a peasant, left his guards behind, and went to see the hermit. The hermit was digging flowerbeds when the king arrived. The king asked his questions, but the hermit went on digging rather laboriously. The king offered to dig for him for a while. After digging for some time, the king again asked the hermit his questions. Before the hermit could answer, a man emerged from the woods. He was bleeding from a terrible stomach wound.

The king tended to the wounded man, and they stayed the night in the hermit's hut. By the next day the wounded man was doing better, but was incredulous at the help he had received. The man confessed that he knew who the king was, and that the king had executed his brother and seized his property. He had come to kill the king, but the king's guards had wounded him. The man pledged allegiance to the king, and he went on his way.

The king asked the hermit again for his answers, and the hermit responded that he had just had his questions answered.

  • The most important time is now. The present is the only time over which we have power.
  • The most important person is whoever you are with.
  • The most important thing is to do good to the person you are with.

(The whole story is available online at the following link: www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2736/ )

In an essay written by Rabbi Herbert H. Rose, we can learn a timeless lesson. Here's an excerpt:

"The past has already been settled, and the future is yet to be, but the present is at hand. The present is the only time over which we have any power. Are we using our freedom properly? Are we helping our fellow human being? Have we learned that the most important activity in life, bar none, is the service of G-d through the love of our fellow human being? When we integrate these truths into our daily lives, we will learn the secret of freedom."

Now that Passover is over, let's all use our freedom wisely, and do G-d's work by "loving the one we're with."


News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

After a considerably cold winter, we are all happy to be enjoying some spring weather. With that, comes a whole host of festive Jewish holidays that give way to many good teaching moments at our school. Our school year is winding down, but we are always thinking of what to continue or change for the next year. If you have any suggestions, please consider sending those along to: education@bethisrael-maine.org information.

Class Shabbat Services

At the end of February, our students led our congregation in Shabbat services. Each of the students learned Hebrew prayers and helped make our Shabbat service special. We enjoyed a delicious Shabbat meal prior to the service, with traditional candle lighting, hand washing, Motzi (blessing over the bread) and Zmirot (Shabbat melodies). Our teachers Alina Shumsky, Marina Singer, Susan Horowitz and Cantor Daniel worked diligently with our students to prepare them. Our students left proud of their accomplishments.

Purim Carnival

Our Megillah reading took place on March 16. As we listened to the story of Esther, I enjoyed watching our Hebrew school students join in the fun of making as much noise as possible whenever Haman's name was called. Cantor Daniel read chapters of the Megillah in both English and Hebrew, and enthusiastically led us in joyful singing.

The kids paraded in costume around the shul, and then marched down Washington Street to the Minnie Brown Center, where there were games, crafts, and refreshments. The carnival was great fun. The kids also had a Mishloah Manot exchange. These are small packages or bags with treats. Many thanks go to Susan Horowitz, who planned and organized the carnival, and to all of her many helpers.

The Wednesday right before the carnival, the kids also made their own Hamantashen at Hebrew school. There were many flavors and everyone enjoyed tasting their efforts.

Passover Seder

On April 9, our school got into the Passover spirit with a model Seder. Cantor Daniel led the Seder and our students chimed in with many prayers and songs. Someone stole our Afikomen, but luckily it was found when an ice cream party was promised for Lag B'Omer as a prize.

Our Seder included a skit from Morah Alina's older class where they encouraged us to all join in crossing the Red Sea. The waters actually "split" for us, and then swallowed up our Egyptian pursuers as we continued our journey through the desert. Our students also did a special interactive presentation of the 4 questions.

A huge thank you goes to our teachers and the many families who brought items in to complete our Seder plates and meal. Thank you all for making our school Seder a great start to the holidays.

Yom Hashoah Observance

On Wednesday, April 30, Thyle Shartar, a member of our congregation and daughter of a survivor, will be speaking to our students about how memories of the holocaust affected her as a child of a survivor. We also have a community wide Yom Hashoah speaker (Iska Cole) coming on May 2, 2014 to our Friday evening service (separate article in this newsletter). Please make every effort to come out and hear the stories of this dark time in history. We do not have many left who were actually alive during this time. If we do not remember these stories, it has been proven that history will repeat itself.

Israeli Dancing

In honor of Yom Ha'Azmaut (Israel Independence Day) we are going to have an educational Israeli dancing session on May 7. Lisa Tessler, a board member and long time member of our congregation, will be introducing several basic Israeli dances to the students. This is a favorite event (not to be missed) where the kids not only love to learn the dances, but also love to watch their parents joining the fun.

Lag B'Omer and Last Day of School

We will celebrate Lag B'Omer on May 21, by having our outdoor games following Hebrew school on the Patten Free library lawn across the street. Some of our teenagers have offered to lead the kids with some fun filled games. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. (as we are finishing up on our Hebrew school classes), and will last approximately one hour, which includes an ice cream party to end the day as we celebrate the end of our school year. If by chance we have rain, we will have indoor games for the kids to enjoy.

Tzedakah

The kids have been donating all year, and during the month of May, they will vote on the recipients of their Tzedakah dollars. We will be asking the students for ideas. If you want to share your ideas with them ahead of time, please feel free.

Graduating Students

Three students, who have attended our Hebrew school for years, will finish their classroom study this year, and move into individual study, working toward preparing for their Bat Mitzvah. We look forward to having all our students lead our Shabbat Service on May 23, while our graduating students will take a special leadership role. Members of this class include: Julia Pols, Abigail Sreden and Zoe Sreden. Mazel Tov to them!

New Students

We are always eager to welcome new students. If you find that your son or daughter is ready for Hebrew school or you know someone that may be interested in additional information regarding a Jewish education, please contact us at: education@bethisrael-maine.org information.


Bowdoin Give and Go

by Barbara Leeman

After a successful 12-year run, the Bowdoin Give and Go (giant yard sale) has decided to partner with Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. Rather than have area non-profits collect, clean, test, sort and price the goods that the Bowdoin students leave behind, Goodwill will use their expertise and existing retail stores to sell the donated items. Students donate many items, from clothing to electronics to furniture and household appliances.

While this is very good for Goodwill, and will certainly trickle down to many recipients in Maine, it will mean that one of our Beth Israel fundraisers will be going away. Beth Israel has actually been involved in the Give and Go for 10 of the 12 years. We have had many members of Beth Israel who have been involved with this activity year after year and feel it was their way of contributing to our congregation. Many other non-profits in the community gathered their own volunteers together and not only saw this as a great fundraiser, but a great benefit to the mid-coast community, as it provided items they personally could use at great prices.

This partnership with Goodwill is not necessarily a permanent thing. If you feel strongly about keeping the profits the sale has traditionally made ($50,000+), in the mid-coast area, consider writing a letter to Bowdoin's Sustainability Office at Bowdoin College (3725 College St. Brunswick, ME 04011). The more Bowdoin hears from the members of the mid-coast community, the more they will consider giving our area non-profits a chance to be involved with this again.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

May Birthdays May Anniversaries
6 Daniel Giulianti   21 John & Marilyn Darack
9 Steve Singer   25 Barbara & Robert Lenox
11 Stephen Cohen   27 Susan Horowitz & Robert Gersh
12 Rachel Schoenberg   29 Mara & Donny Giulianti
12 Connie Povich   31 Beth & Benet Pols
19 Ruth Benedikt      
24 Alex Greenberg      
31 Marilyn Darack      

 

June Birthdays June Anniversaries
1 Lenore Friedland   7 Marilyn & Fred Weinberg
3 Mara Giulianti   7 Peggy Brown & John Martell
8 David Povich   14 Karen & Matt Filler
16 Isabella Pols   14 Barbara & Daniel Leeman
28 Rea Turet   14 Connie & David Povich
      16 Todd & Teresa Gandler
      18 Monica & Gordon Blatt
      22 Christina & Andrew Schoenberg

Donations

We would like to thank the following people for their donations:

Members

  • Linda Silberstein and Larry Loeb in loving memory of her father, Joseph Silberstein
  • Robert Gersh and Susan Horowitz in loving memory of his father, Fred Gersh
  • Norma Dreyfus and Stan Lane in memory of Marilyn Weinberg's mother, Ann Verner Isacoff
  • Karen and Matthew Filler in loving memory of their parents, Frances and Gerald Feldman and Gladys and Morris Filler
  • Donald and Mara Giulianti in loving memory of his mother, Elaine Giulianti
  • Stephen and Barbara Baseman in loving memory of his father, Isadore Baseman
  • Monica and Gordon Blatt in celebration of Passover
  • Marc and Crissy Swartz in memory of Marilyn Weinberg's mother, Ann Verner Isacoff
  • Diane Gilman in loving memory of her father, Harold Gilman

Friends

  • Larry and Chris Reese in memory of Ann Verner Isacoff, beloved mother of Marilyn Weinberg
  • Rebecca Rosow in loving memory of her mother, Constance Hoffert
  • Sheila and Ray Lucente in celebration of the Spring Holidays
  • Marcia and Lenny Klompus in loving memory of her son, Jeffrey Robert Cherner
  • Kermit and Deborah Smyth in honor of Passover